Homework and Solutions Part 2

Last week we talked about the research on homework and listed four steps that families can take to smooth the process.  Here are the first two steps.

The first step is to find out if there is an official homework policy.  In my school system, it’s under School Board Policies on the system website.  If you can’t find it, ask the teacher.  If there isn’t one, it is an excellent project to suggest to the principal, the superintendent, or a school board member.  The homework policy lets you know how much time your child should be spending on homework, how it affects grades, and what the expectations are for students, teachers, and parents.

The second step is to schedule a parent/teacher conference.  Teachers want children to complete assignments and learn the material, but they also want children and families to have time at home to relax.  Your goal at the conference is to find out two things:

  • How much time does the teacher expect the students to spend on homework every night?
  • What’s going on in class that’s causing the problem if your child’s homework load is a problem at home?

Then it’s your turn!  Tell the teacher how much time your child’s homework is actually taking, and share any observations you have about your child’s work or work habits.  If your child is forgetting to bring home assignments and books, ask about setting up a check-out system at the end of each day.  If your child is fooling around all day and not completing work, suggest a home/school behavior plan.  If your child is struggling with the work, ask about academic interventions and progress-monitoring.  Write down the plan, and schedule a follow-up conference.  Be clear about what the teacher will do and what you will do.  Involve student support staff (school psychologist, guidance counselor, school nurse) as necessary.

Teachers can also offer accommodations to help your child complete homework.  This is very common for children with special needs, but any child can be accommodated.  Here are some ideas to discuss:

  • Agree to the amount of time your child will spend on homework. The teacher will then accept the work that was completed during that time and give a grade based on what the child actually finished.
  • Reduce the homework load.  For example, the teacher can assign a reduced spelling list or require a child to complete only the odd-numbered math problems.
  • Do the assignments a little differently.  For example, write one word answers instead of complete sentences for social studies questions.  Dictate longer answers to a parent or complete the assignment on a computer.  Allow a parent to read the assignment to the child, or take turns reading.

Next week we’ll talk about steps three and four: how to establish a homework routine and set up an incentive system.

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