As the years go by in my retirement from classroom teaching, I am still reminded of important issues surrounding young children. One of these issues is the concern that many parents have about teaching their children good study habits during those delicate years when homework becomes part of the daily routine. Somehow, conversations still sound very similar when parents discuss their ideas. How much homework should my child do? Where should he/she study? Is it a good idea for him/her to have a computer in his/her room? Should I correct the homework before it goes back to school so the teacher will see how capable he/she is?
During my 15 years teaching second graders, these topics were always part of parent-teacher conferences or back-to-school meetings. When parents felt shy about bringing the subject forth, the questions were often in the form of an email or a call. Every parent seemed to feel that they knew the answers to these questions, but they were almost always happy to have the following input which I will share with you.
At my school, homework increased in time by the developmental age of the child. In Kindergarten, homework was usually a read aloud book which the parent was to read with the child.
In first grade, the homework increased to perhaps 10 minutes of work that was connected to the classroom curriculum. By second grade, I gave the children four nights of homework in reading, math, social studies and language arts, all of which should have taken about 15 minutes to complete. Since one of the biggest lessons to be learned by young children is self-reliance and independence, I made sure to give clear instructions before the children took the work home. I expected them to go home, have a snack and then get their work done before dinnertime.
After dinner, the children were too tired, and therefore the quality of the homework suffered. I explained to the parents that the habits created in these years would set a precedent for the grades ahead which would bring greater expectations. Some parents felt that the kitchen table was the right place for the children to begin. I'm sure that was because of some anxiety on the parent's part, but I gently told them that young children need a quiet place to work independently, either at a desk in their room or a room that was void of distractions. Homework to be done on the computer should be done in a public place (like the kitchen) if the children were allowed to use the web, because that needs to be monitored for safety reasons. I actually had some children figure out ways around the parental controls at the ripe old age of 7!
If parents are constantly including themselves in the homework process, they are basically saying to the child that he or she is not able to do it by him or herself. It is the teacher's responsibility to track and correct the child's work, not the parent's. Take pleasure in reinforcing the work that is well done or not perfect when it is brought home completed and corrected. That is how children learn -- by seeing their mistakes and correcting them! As parents, we need to support and guide our children, but we have already done the work! Now it is their turn!
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