I don’t understand homework in elementary school. My past, and likely yours, too, had many hours devoted to homework…but I never did any, had any, until middle school. And I settled myself after school at the kitchen table with paper and pencil because teachers told us do this at home and turn it in tomorrow, and I did (yes, I was one of those kids…). But it’s a different ballgame today for families: homework comes home for our elementary schoolers, and they really need some supervision, unlike (mostly) the older kids. It can be a time-consuming process, especially when kids are tired and may also have after-school activities. It’s a lot to fit together in a short amount of late afternoon and evening time. And often, in our family’s experience anyway, homework is like a moving target…some teachers give it every week, some give it out sporadically, and others don’t give it out at all. (And some is given and it never makes it home…) So I need some help. The why of homework…well, I’m interested, but it’s not my most pressing issue. The when to do it is individual. But here’s what tops my need-to-know list:
Am I supposed to check my kids’ homework? And if I do, do I help my kids correct their mistakes?
You are probably thinking why the heck don’t I just ask the teacher, and why am I asking now, more than halfway through the school year. Well, here again, I have found these answers to also be a moving target. Because sometimes the homework returns checked by the teacher. Ok, easy. At other times…we never see it again so we don’t know what happens to it, or how important it is to our kids’ learning.
Yes, asking the teachers is my best option. But I confess that I don’t unless there is a real problem. And I believe that is because I have a firm idea in my head about the ritual of homework. My own belief, no other reason than that and I’m finding it’s not my best move. My feeling is I don’t think I should check it, much less correct errors. My parents didn’t check mine unless I needed help…and that was because my teachers did, or when I got older, we ‘traded’ papers in class and checked each others. But as I mentioned before, some of our homework goes into a black hole when it leaves the house, never to be seen again. And my kids are, well, kids. Keeping track of “miscellaneous” papers is not their strong suit. (Unless it’s a party invitation or a field trip consent.)
But I’m having second thoughts about my decision to not check my kids’ homework. And I’ve created yet another hot mess inside my brain thinking about it so much. Which is one reason I write. So I’ve listed below both sides of my mental debate: should I or should I not check and help correct homework:
“Pro” the checking of homework:
~Knowing what my kids are learning in school.
~Better awareness about my kids’ academic strengths and weaknesses.
~Demonstrating interest in my kids’ education.
~Letting my kids know education is important.
~Encouraging my kids that practice makes improvement.
“Against” the checking of homework:
~newsletters and access to online curricula help me stay up-to-date with what my kids are learning. These sources help considerably when I get the “nothing” answer to “What did you do at school today?”
~helicopter parent! Looking over my kids’ shoulders at homework does not help them learn responsibility. If they ask for help, I definitely give it, but otherwise I feel my best course of action is to help my kids become independent and learn to manage their time. Which may mean learning the hard way if they lose privileges for not finishing assignments.
~it’s more important my kids learn the routine of homework that “getting it all right.”
~If I help my kids correct homework mistakes, teachers won’t know if my kids are struggling (which is why I help with homework). Of course, I can always shoot a teacher an email giving them a heads up…but that seems awkward when the teachers are the ones spending all day with my kids.
~teachers don’t ask us parents to correct homework so I figure that means they don’t want us to (but I have been wrong on that point more than once). That’s the way it was when I was in grade school. So I go with it.
Those are my confused thoughts. But what do you think? I’d love some advice and wisdom from teachers, other parents, and those of you who are on both sides of the equation…who teach and who are the parents of elementary students, too. What should I be doing when the homework comes home?