Some parents share homework horror stories, such as their kindergartener coming home with packets of worksheets to agonize over for hours at night. Many parents question whether any homework should be given in the early elementary grades, K-3, at all. Others raise concern about the kind of homework their children should be given. Along with varied options and experiences, there are varied philosophies.
No homework is the best homework
Jenny Turner, a fourth grade teacher in Saline, has had two children go through K-3 grades in the Ann Arbor Public Schools (AAPS). Turner said she was generally satisfied with the amount of homework her children were given in the early elementary years but still questions the necessity of homework generally.
“I don’t think young children should have homework,” said Turner. “Maybe in middle school they could start to get homework, but in elementary school it is not appropriate. Children need to be children. They will never be the age they are again. They should be playing and doing other things after school.”
Turner added that she does not see much positive outcomes to homework. “As a teacher, there is no benefit for me to give homework,” said Turner. “I can’t know how much help the student is getting at home or if they did the work on their own. Some kids struggle and then homework becomes a battle for the child and the parent. Being frustrated at home is not going to help the student. I believe children should read and, maybe practice math facts at home, but that would be it. For some, it may be counterproductive to give homework.”
Creative, open-ended homework ideas
Caroline Sutton has four children who have attended elementary school, one who is currently in fourth grade, and noted how homework has changed through the years within the Ann Arbor Public Schools. Overall, Sutton is happy with the creative homework her children have received. “Both of my younger children have had teachers from K-3 who put a strong emphasis on reading and writing,” said Sutton. “In kindergarten there was a book cart rolled in every day and this was the mainstay of homework– taking a different book home each day to read with or to a parent and talk about. We adored this.”
Sutton said in first grade a wonderful teacher they had would send them home with stuffed animals as optional “extra homework” to write an adventure story about the animal that students could then read to the class. “In general, I am noticing many different types of open-ended projects that allow the children to be creative and practice skills that can’t be developed via a worksheet, and which also allow for parental guidance but don’t mandate it,” added Sutton.
Learning should be fun
Katherine Dorairaj has two children, one of whom attended in the Chelsea School District. She thinks the amount of homework that her older child received while in grades K-3 was generally fair. “Honestly, grades K-3 were just fine in the homework arena. Maybe 10 minutes one to three times a week; this was not a problem,” said Dorairaj. However, she believes that learning material in general should motivate students.
“My homework philosophy: I believe learning should be fun and excite the student,” said Dorairaj. “Or at least, they should move towards things they are passionate about, maybe guided toward topics they would otherwise not have discovered on their own, but discover through other processes and remain open to learning new things.
To practice skill or demonstrate knowledge
According to Dawn Linden, executive director of elementary education for AAPS, for students in grades K-3 homework assignments that last 10 to 15 minutes a night, in addition to daily reading, are appropriate. Linden added that there are particular functions for homework.
“The primary function is to practice skills or demonstrate knowledge of what has been learned. It is not intended to introduce new material,” described Linden. “Homework also serves as a parent engagement tool. Homework gives parents a chance to engage with their children, showing them the importance of school and learning. It also provides them with information about what children are learning and allows for conversation and enrichment to occur at home.”
“We cannot stress enough the importance of reading at home every night,” said Linden. “Reading with your child is one critical element that leads to success in school and beyond. A recent study found that one in six children who are not reading proficiently in third grade do not graduate from high school on time, a rate four times greater than that for proficient readers.”
While there are varied perspectives from parents about homework, Linden recommends that parents who have concerns about the kind or amount of homework assigned should contact their child’s teacher immediately.