Some homework important for “learning”

There seems to be a battle brewing on the homework front, possibly due to a misunderstanding by those on both sides of this debate. Here, for example, are some links to articles about parents fighting back — particularly Tom and Shelli Milley who just signed a “no homework” pact with the Calgary Catholic School District.

Yet, lost in this whole argument seems to be a misunderstanding of what “learning” is all about and what internal/cognitive strategies children and youth need to acquire skills and knowledge — technically referred to as assimilating and accommodating new learning.

So, for me, as a former learning specialist, the key point I want to make here is to explain that all students (no matter what their age) need time to learn “how to learn” strategies that many of us take for granted — like repeated readings, repetition and verbal rehearsal. And, small amounts of homework — depending on a child’s age — could accommodate that requirement.

Now, for those who are asking themselves why teachers can’t simply do all this during school hours, the answer is that it is no longer possible to do so (if it ever was). I mean, schools used to be about language arts, math, phys ed, social studies and science.

Now, however, teachers must also teach about dental hygiene, keyboarding, navigating the Internet, sex education, equity and inclusive education, world religions, and no doubt subject areas I don’t even know about.  Yet, there are still only so many hours in a school day!

So, the crux of the matter is that homework can be and, in fact, should be a very important tool for “assimilating” what is learned at school. What it shouldn’t be, however, is an either/or battle between family life and school. Because, some targeted homework can serve a very important purpose.  

Something both parents and teachers should think about because the consequences later in life could be profound. In other words, do I disagree with the Milley’s contract? You bet I do and for very important reasons.

 

20 thoughts on “Some homework important for “learning”

  1. Pingback: Jack's Newswatch » Blog Archive » Some homework important for “learning” (4)

  2. Pingback: Jack's Newswatch » Blog Archive » Some homework important for “learning” (4)

  3. Hi Sandy et al,

    My guide for the right amount of homework time is ten minutes per grade per evening usually Monday to Thursday. That means on average 10 minutes in grade one and 120 minutes in grade 12. For the primary grades, homework should mainly consist of reading to someone. Junior grades (four and up) may include work not finished in class. Group work should not be performed outside of class time other than gathering common materials around the home to bring to school.

    The curriculum expectations (outcomes) for each subject get reviewed about every five years. Some things get added and deleted. I haven’t seen any evidence of the curriculum getting dumbed down. Sometimes, a few expectations get combined so that students can learn a general expectation and then further explore other areas of personal interests.

    The balanced school day has been implemented in many schools. This means that instead of having a 15 minute recess in the morning and afternoon, there is now a 20 or 20 minute recess in the morning and a later lunch. There is usually an opportunity for students to have a snack before or during recess. The balanced school day was introduced to cut down on the transition time before and after breaks. Around the year 2000, students would go outside for afternoon recess, take five or ten minutes to remove winter coats and boots, then finish a 40 minute lesson. Since ten minutes were already used up, only 30 minutes remained. Of those 30 minutes, ten or 20 minutes would be needed for completing agendas, stacking chairs, and putting on coats so that students could catch their buses home. Try teaching a full period of work in 10 to 30 minutes. It’s extremely difficult. That’s why there is a balanced day. Also, some educational assistants can be used to assist students for the primary, junior, and intermediate literacy blocks for 1/3 of the day each.

    There is both a written and hidden curriculum in our schools. The written curriculum includes the expectations/outcomes that the provincial government wants the students to achieve; the hidden curriculum consists of character education, fundraising, cultural diversity education which may include Black History Month, South Asian and Chinese history months, and Holocaust studies where there may be a higher than average Jewish population. Also in the hidden curriculum are the priorities of different subjects. Language Arts and Mathematics are high priorities. Science and Social Studies are medium. Phys. Ed., Music, Art, Drama, Dance, and French rank low. Officially, no one mentions this; unofficially, everyone knows it.

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  4. Hi Sandy et al,

    My guide for the right amount of homework time is ten minutes per grade per evening usually Monday to Thursday. That means on average 10 minutes in grade one and 120 minutes in grade 12. For the primary grades, homework should mainly consist of reading to someone. Junior grades (four and up) may include work not finished in class. Group work should not be performed outside of class time other than gathering common materials around the home to bring to school.

    The curriculum expectations (outcomes) for each subject get reviewed about every five years. Some things get added and deleted. I haven’t seen any evidence of the curriculum getting dumbed down. Sometimes, a few expectations get combined so that students can learn a general expectation and then further explore other areas of personal interests.

    The balanced school day has been implemented in many schools. This means that instead of having a 15 minute recess in the morning and afternoon, there is now a 20 or 20 minute recess in the morning and a later lunch. There is usually an opportunity for students to have a snack before or during recess. The balanced school day was introduced to cut down on the transition time before and after breaks. Around the year 2000, students would go outside for afternoon recess, take five or ten minutes to remove winter coats and boots, then finish a 40 minute lesson. Since ten minutes were already used up, only 30 minutes remained. Of those 30 minutes, ten or 20 minutes would be needed for completing agendas, stacking chairs, and putting on coats so that students could catch their buses home. Try teaching a full period of work in 10 to 30 minutes. It’s extremely difficult. That’s why there is a balanced day. Also, some educational assistants can be used to assist students for the primary, junior, and intermediate literacy blocks for 1/3 of the day each.

    There is both a written and hidden curriculum in our schools. The written curriculum includes the expectations/outcomes that the provincial government wants the students to achieve; the hidden curriculum consists of character education, fundraising, cultural diversity education which may include Black History Month, South Asian and Chinese history months, and Holocaust studies where there may be a higher than average Jewish population. Also in the hidden curriculum are the priorities of different subjects. Language Arts and Mathematics are high priorities. Science and Social Studies are medium. Phys. Ed., Music, Art, Drama, Dance, and French rank low. Officially, no one mentions this; unofficially, everyone knows it.

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  5. Ah yes, the hidden curriculum. So, Skinny Dipper, do teachers actually like the balanced school day? If so, and yes I can well remember the putting the coats on and off and how long that took (even in Grades 3, 4 and 5), so I’ll take it back that it was for more prep time. But, does it help organize the prep time in bigger blocks of time?

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  6. Ah yes, the hidden curriculum. So, Skinny Dipper, do teachers actually like the balanced school day? If so, and yes I can well remember the putting the coats on and off and how long that took (even in Grades 3, 4 and 5), so I’ll take it back that it was for more prep time. But, does it help organize the prep time in bigger blocks of time?

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  7. Skinny Dipper — You sound like a good teacher and one that is well informed. I just don’t understand why you haven’t got a full-time contract yet. Have you considered moving out of the Toronto area — which is where I assume you supply teach?

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  8. Skinny Dipper — You sound like a good teacher and one that is well informed. I just don’t understand why you haven’t got a full-time contract yet. Have you considered moving out of the Toronto area — which is where I assume you supply teach?

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  9. The Milley children, still do evening homework. just not the ‘busy’ type that has become common and very unpopular with parents.
    The children from this story, excelled in the subjects that they were spending 2+ hours on completing work sheet after worksheet. Their weak subject, extra curricular activities and important family time was suffering causing the children stress.

    I believe good and active parents, engage in regular academic review with their kids daily anyway and that HOMEWORK, is being sent home in an inefficient manner mostly for those kids that haven’t active parenting.
    Unfortunately, with that method, all kids are being painted with the same brush and nothing has really been accomplished, taught or learned.

    I too believe in homework but I admire the initiative of the Milley family and support their reaction and efficient process. If more kids had that responsible parenting advantage, homework would not be even necessary, it would be a part of the family time.

    Like

  10. The Milley children, still do evening homework. just not the ‘busy’ type that has become common and very unpopular with parents.
    The children from this story, excelled in the subjects that they were spending 2+ hours on completing work sheet after worksheet. Their weak subject, extra curricular activities and important family time was suffering causing the children stress.

    I believe good and active parents, engage in regular academic review with their kids daily anyway and that HOMEWORK, is being sent home in an inefficient manner mostly for those kids that haven’t active parenting.
    Unfortunately, with that method, all kids are being painted with the same brush and nothing has really been accomplished, taught or learned.

    I too believe in homework but I admire the initiative of the Milley family and support their reaction and efficient process. If more kids had that responsible parenting advantage, homework would not be even necessary, it would be a part of the family time.

    Like

  11. Pingback: Homework can improve academic achievement « Crux-of-the-Matter

  12. Pingback: Homework can improve academic achievement « Crux-of-the-Matter

  13. I agree that “learning out side of the class room” is essential.

    But, The state has my children in their clutches for enough time, they will not continue to encroach on mine. I don’t get to tell them what I think is appropriate work or topics covered in their time they can scratch telling me what to do with mine. The message sent along with the homework is that the state’s goals supersede those of the family. Stuff that load of malarkey!

    The state curriculum is structured to the lowest common denominator and I will not waste one iota of our time doing that boring for wrote nonsense,which sucks the joy of learning out of a child’s soul. we read, we find an activity or topic that captures the interest of MY child and we research and learn as much as possible about said topic.

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  14. I agree that “learning out side of the class room” is essential.

    But, The state has my children in their clutches for enough time, they will not continue to encroach on mine. I don’t get to tell them what I think is appropriate work or topics covered in their time they can scratch telling me what to do with mine. The message sent along with the homework is that the state’s goals supersede those of the family. Stuff that load of malarkey!

    The state curriculum is structured to the lowest common denominator and I will not waste one iota of our time doing that boring for wrote nonsense,which sucks the joy of learning out of a child’s soul. we read, we find an activity or topic that captures the interest of MY child and we research and learn as much as possible about said topic.

    Like

  15. Obviously Nonny Mouse — I don’t agree with your message — that the “state” sponsored school system is somehow to be distrusted. Since I have been on Ontario gov’t curriculum committees, I can guarantee that most study guidelines are not structured to the lowest common denominator. But, what if it was, are slower children or those with special needs, not important too. Rote is also not nonsense. That is how our memories work by using repetition and recall. In other words, let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater.

    However, to each his or her own opinion. You would definitely be a good candidate for parent choice — whereby you get a voucher or similar system and send your children to a school of your choice, perhaps private. A private school or alternative public school does not have to be all things to all people.

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  16. Obviously Nonny Mouse — I don’t agree with your message — that the “state” sponsored school system is somehow to be distrusted. Since I have been on Ontario gov’t curriculum committees, I can guarantee that most study guidelines are not structured to the lowest common denominator. But, what if it was, are slower children or those with special needs, not important too. Rote is also not nonsense. That is how our memories work by using repetition and recall. In other words, let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater.

    However, to each his or her own opinion. You would definitely be a good candidate for parent choice — whereby you get a voucher or similar system and send your children to a school of your choice, perhaps private. A private school or alternative public school does not have to be all things to all people.

    Like

  17. What great comments, but I don’t think any of them address the issue of the difference between the role of parents and the role of teachers.

    Parents need to ‘set the scene’ for the learning that takes place in school. Teachers need to take responsibility for stuff they teach (I know all about having to do too much with too few resources believe me.)

    Kids need help from BOTH parents and teachers or they will miss out. I learned all about parent involvement and how it helps kids, and it does, but I do not think that parents supporting the work of the school through bake sales, volunteering or HOMEWORK really helps kids.

    Parents need to help their children develop the basic skills they need to be able to learn (see my site for more info on this). They need to do this because teachers are too busy teaching the stuff in the curriculum to be able to concentrate on helping kids get these basic skills.

    Let teachers teach, let parents know how to help kids learn, pick up the kids that are struggling in school and watch the way learning soars.

    Test scores as a measure of learning? Don’t get me started!

    Like

  18. What great comments, but I don’t think any of them address the issue of the difference between the role of parents and the role of teachers.

    Parents need to ‘set the scene’ for the learning that takes place in school. Teachers need to take responsibility for stuff they teach (I know all about having to do too much with too few resources believe me.)

    Kids need help from BOTH parents and teachers or they will miss out. I learned all about parent involvement and how it helps kids, and it does, but I do not think that parents supporting the work of the school through bake sales, volunteering or HOMEWORK really helps kids.

    Parents need to help their children develop the basic skills they need to be able to learn (see my site for more info on this). They need to do this because teachers are too busy teaching the stuff in the curriculum to be able to concentrate on helping kids get these basic skills.

    Let teachers teach, let parents know how to help kids learn, pick up the kids that are struggling in school and watch the way learning soars.

    Test scores as a measure of learning? Don’t get me started!

    Like

  19. Patricia — Thanks for your input. It is appreciated.

    Bec, my apologies, but I put my reply to your comment today on this thread by mistake. I will copy it, delete it here and post it where it should be.

    Like

  20. Patricia — Thanks for your input. It is appreciated.

    Bec, my apologies, but I put my reply to your comment today on this thread by mistake. I will copy it, delete it here and post it where it should be.

    Like

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