Our mother was a teacher. Our grandmother was a teacher too. Our family is pro-teacher. My sister does not want the teacher to feel blamed or insulted. She knows it could negatively impact her son Unique’s experience during his next one hundred plus days in the third grade. My sister and I do some homework of our own, searching online for answers, and develop a strategy.
1. Know what Expert Educators Recommend (Follow Directions)
The National Parents and Teachers Association (PTA) recommends 10-20 minutes per night in the first grade, and an additional 10 minutes per grade level thereafter. So, if my math is correct, in the third grade, my nephew should be assigned 30-40 minutes of homework per night. On the night my sister calls me, my nephew has 140 minutes more homework than the National PTA recommends. Whoa!
Of course, children, AND parents, AND grand-parents for that matter, should be reading at least twenty minutes per night. Consider reading as your daily homework assignment as a citizen of Mothership Earth. Read.
2. Do Less Homework (Demand Recess)
Ever since the beginning of third grade, Unique is left feeling bad about his work load on most nights. The next day in school he is penalized for not completing all of his assignments. My sister feels compelled to conspire with her eight-year old son on which assignments to complete, which ones to fake complete, and which ones to boldly omit. There is a difference between homework that is meant to reinforce what’s going on in the classroom and busy work. Not being a parent, this is the first time I truly recognize the pressure that comes with being seen as a bad parent.
We found this opinion piece in The Washington Post advocating for parents to do less homework as a form of passive resistance. More importantly, it suggests that families create their own homework policy. For example, my sister could let her son know that he will do one hour of homework each night and no more. Once his hour is done, homework is over.
Write an email or note to your child’s teacher, and cc the principal, explaining your family’s homework policy. While you are not being graded, you still need to be specific. You don’t have to write an essay but you should provide supporting evidence. Explain the impact too much homework has on your child and family. Talk about your child’s regular after-school activities. Remember, as a parent, you represent a constituency. A good teacher will always want to know how their assignments are impacting one of their students.
4. Be ‘Good’ at Math (Ethics)
According to The Metlife Survey of The American Teacher (2007), teachers with less than five years experience assign more homework than teachers with more experience. Do not mention this in your note or in your conversation. No good can come of it. While you may have to be good at math to read statistics, you need to be wise to know when, and when not, to use them.
5. Check Less Homework (Homework)
According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, while Black (6.3 hours per week) and Latino (6.4 hours per week) students do approximately the same amount of homework per week as their White counterparts (6.8 hours per week), their parents check their homework significantly more. This is why my sister is so upset. After coming home from working jobs numbers one and two, she has to check three hours of homework.
Stop checking so much homework. This does not make you a bad parent. Research shows that parental involvement does not always have a positive impact, and sometimes can be a hindrance. Instead, set your child up for success by developing good homework practices, and then let them be.
It is time for my sister and I to wrap up our homework assignment. One more question remains: Is more homework a good thing? Every expert agrees, an increase in homework is associated with neutral, and sometimes negative effects on student achievement. My sister’s homework for the next Parent Teacher Conference is complete.
As for my nephew’s homework, he goes to Zen Masters everyday after school to practice Tae Kwon Do. He is also an avid Lego aficionado watching YouTube videos as he constructs his latest masterpiece. In these two daily activities, he studies and practices philosophy, physical education, mathematics and design. He learns, not to compete with the world’s children, but, to be the best he can be.