Thursday, March 10, 2011

Homework is Hell, or is it? How to Accommodate

Today's word is Accommodate.  It's one of those commonly misspelled words that once you learn it (AC*COM*MO*DATE), you never misspell it again.

I recently helped T1 have a better attitude about his homework.  For 7 months, he has been doing the same homework assignment every week.  Write the spelling words on Monday (5 times each), use each word in a sentence on Wednesday, and do the math and language arts sheets in between.  Turn in the homework on Friday.  Week after week after week after week.  Seven months--no wonder he finally rebelled.

Said rebellion occurred on a week when 25 spelling words came home.  Twenty-five words times 5 times each is 125 words.  Are you kiddin' me?!?  The school district has a policy that students should do 10 minutes of homework per grade level per night, so for second grade, that's 20 minutes.  I don't know about you, but I don't think even I could write fast enough to complete 125 words (legibly) in 20 minutes.  T1 was crestfallen.  Head hanging, lip quivering, he said, "That's going to take me so long, I won't have time to play."

Okay, no ridiculous, busy-work assignment is going to get in the way of my sensitive boy's need to PLAY.  He's 8 years old.  Eight-year-old boys NEED to play.

My solemn proclamations that he did NOT have to do this assignment were half-heartedly met with a strong desire to not have to do it, grappling with the need to fulfill his teachers' requirements (T1 has two part-time teachers who share the class.  I know. Don't even get me started on this one).  He was torn.  I find it so interesting that here's a boy who doesn't want to do the homework that he feels is useless, but one who also is either afraid of the consequences of not getting it done or compelled to be deemed worthy by doing what he's told.

I told him I'd okay a change with the teacher.  I wrote an email stating (not requesting) that we were changing the homework.  I referenced the district policy (figured they couldn't really argue with that) and let them know that from now on, T1 would be writing his spelling words only once and the ones he knew on the first day (seriously--words like "do" and "eat) he wouldn't have to write again.  Right?  If you know how to spell something, you know it; writing it five times will not help you know better something that you already know.  I would give him a spelling test every day, and those words that he didn't know, we would study.  And by study I mean study effectively looking at phonics and mnemonics to actually LEARN the nuances of the spelling.

Both teachers emailed a highly accommodating response.  No problem, they said.  You can modify homework in what ever way you think is appropriate to facilitate learning.  As long as he knows the concepts, how he gets there is okay by them.  Now T1 is challenged by the daily testing.  It feels like a game to see how many he can get right without studying them at all (answer is not very many) and how many he can learn as the week goes by (answer is all of them).  He's been getting 100% on his spelling tests ever since.  I even heard him say to another boy who was lamenting having to write the spelling words 5 times each, "Just do it my way.  It's tons more fun, and I learn the words too! Have your mom send an email!"

What this really brings up for me is the whole concept of homework in elementary school at all, but that's a post for another day.  Lord knows, as an educator who studies how the brain learns and effective pedagogical practices daily, I have a LOT to say on this topic.  Stay tuned for that, but for now, the message is that homework does not need to be the hassle that I hear parents complain about on the park bench or at the dance studio or karate studio.  It's a conversation that people are having constantly. 

While I'm not saying that teachers don't know what they're doing, and that you can make whatever homework assignment you want for your kids, you don't have to look at it as such a rigid, black and white task. I do believe that teachers have many legitimate reasons why they assign the homework they do, but in my experience, teachers are flexible, and what do they want really most of all?  They want their students to succeed--to walk out of their classes having learned something.  They're not homework pushers getting off on watching your kid suffer.  Talk to them.  Work out a solution that works for your family's quality of life and for your child's maximum learning.

1 comment:

clueless but hopeful mama said...

This post is SO inspiring to me! And now I know who to turn to when homework starts out in a few years (next year?!).

I love that you found a way to help him that isn't a cop out but actually facilitates his learning. THANK GOODNESS he has you as a mom, as well as reasonable teachers.