Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Homework: A Letter to Parents and Family Members

Dear Parents and Family Members,

I've been reading a lot about homework lately.  There are many points of view related to the subject.  The one point that almost everyone agrees with is that homework needs to be tailored to the individual student.  Now that's difficult for a teacher to do if he or she is working with a large number of students each day, but if teachers, parents and students work as a team, it's doable.

Let's think about your child for a minute.  How does he or she come home from school each day?  Is he really tired or is she raring for more academic work? Does she immediately want to go outside and play or does he find a cozy nook and read a book?  Every family member's answer to these questions will differ as every child meets school with his or her unique perspective, stamina, interest and skill.

So with respect to homework, I say, let's work together.  I'll post a learning list that's updated regularly.  It will include the main, independent practice skills students need to master as well as projects that can be worked on in and out of class.  I'll leave it up to you to make your child's schedule, and to modify as you see appropriate.  If you're not quite sure or have some other ideas for me and/or your child, let's meet to discuss it.

Studies show that math practice homework makes a difference, but most other homework doesn't make a significant difference.  Yet, we all know that those that read often do better on most tests and acquire tremendous knowledge building a strong foundation for future learning.  Therefore reading and math practice should top the list.  Keyboarding is another must-have and I believe fourth grade is a good time to master that skill.  You might need to reward your developing typist with an incentive here and there to foster nightly practice.  We also know that those that write often develop as better writers, and that's why I expect students to post comments on classroom blogs and write regularly as part of their classroom/project work.  There's room for additional writing on the ePortfolio free write page, NING forum discussions and bonus work too.

Some of you have budding dancers, athletes, artists, and other specialty skills--those matter too, and should count as "homework."  If your child is passionate about the violin and he/she practices every night a week for thirty minutes--that should be considered as part of their overall effort and study.  The goal for parents is to find a just right balance of play, learning, passions, family and other important aspects of a child's life.

The overall goal is engagement, love of learning and enthusiasm.  Enthusiastic, self confident, positive students will go much further than overworked, frustrated, exhausted and defeated students.  Learning, whether it's at home, in school or in other venues, like parenting is a dance, a give-and-take, a set of stepping stones to life long learning, happiness and success.

This is a start to a much bigger conversation.  I welcome your comments and ideas.  Don't hesitate to contact me or comment below.

Maureen Devlin
Your Child's Teacher

Excellent Article about the Homework Balance