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Don’t Let Homework Get in the Way of Your Child’s Education
Tired of hours spent around the dining room table fighting with your kids about homework?
Frustrated by calls from your child’s teachers about incomplete or incorrect homework assignments?
Overwhelmed by trying to teach your kids subjects you barely remember (or maybe never understood) from your days in school?
Is any of this really helping your child learn?
At Delaware Valley Friends School we have an approach to homework that helps restore balance to your child’s life, allows you to reclaim your relationship as their parent, and better serves the process of teaching and learning.
- At DV, homework is designed to reinforce skills taught in class. Students should never be asked to do something for homework they have not already been explicitly taught in class. Homework is not the time to introduce new concepts.
- Assignments are of a reasonable length and duration - generally about 20-30 minutes per subject. If a student cannot answer ten questions asking them to apply a learned concept, giving them 50 isn’t going to help. Likewise, if a student can successfully apply a concept across ten questions, giving them 50 is just redundant. As students progress into upper school, teachers expect that they will manage their homework planning and completion more independently.
- DV teachers use the students’ relative ease or difficulty in completing homework to inform the next phase of instruction - not as a high-stakes assessment tool. Based on homework, teachers will know if they need to review or reteach a concept, or if the students are ready to move on or dive deeper into more complex aspects of the material. In this context, showing an accurate picture of what students understand or don’t understand becomes much more important than getting it right.
How can parents support their DV student with homework completion?
The good news is that within this framework, parents still have an important role, but it is supportive and positive, not adversarial or punitive. Here are a few suggestions of proactive steps parents can take - as well as some behavior patterns they may need to unlearn.
- DO help your student to create a good environment in which to get their work done. This can vary by student. Some students work best at a desk in a quiet atmosphere with all their tools organized. For others, it’s a bean bag chair with earbuds in listening to music. Whatever that looks like for your student, helping them identify that space and encouraging them to use it as part of their work routine is a great way to support homework completion. Our only specific suggestion is that it be social media free.
- DO check in with your student to make sure that they have completed assigned work. This does not mean that you need to review the content of the work in great depth, but just check to see that the student has produced something that lines up with the assignment in their planner.
- DO NOT spend time trying to reteach to your student the material covered in homework assignments. If he or she is struggling, this is important for the teacher to know. If you sit with your student and complete the homework together, this does not provide an accurate picture of what the student understands.
- DO NOT panic if your student cannot complete a homework assignment. At DV, homework is not a high-stakes assessment in relation to a final course grade, but it is critical to the process of teaching and learning. What is important is a good faith effort on your student’s part to complete assignments on time to the best of their ability AND regular communication about their relative ease or difficulty with these assignments with their teachers. It is not useful for you or your student to wage war over homework.
Other ways to help keep students on track
An area where parents can provide much-needed support is in the process of planning and helping students stick to a plan for getting homework done. With the combination of more long-term assignments and more after school activities, it can be very difficult for students to grasp how much time they will need to complete assignments and how to fit that time into a daily, weekly or even longer-range plan.
At DV, we use Sarah Ward’s “Get Ready, Do, Done” method to help students create realistic plans to complete work. Resources like this one urge students to consider what a successfully completed end result of the assignment looks like and then work backward from that “done” state to calculate the time and resources needed for each step - identifying possible time robbers, and looking at how completing that project fits with all of the student’s other commitments, both inside and outside of school.
Guides for “Get Ready, Do, Done”, as well as other great tools and strategies from Sarah Ward are available HERE on our website.
At Delaware Valley Friends, we have developed a thoughtful and consistent approach to homework that fits into our overall approach to educating our students. Homework provides a critical feedback loop that helps guide the pace and direction of teaching and learning - allowing teachers to individualize support or accelerate challenge as needed. It is also a place where students can develop and practice good executive function skills, like time and materials management and planning, that will be important for them as they look forward to high school, college, and beyond. In our approach, nightly homework completion should never be a source of stress, anxiety or conflict for students or parents.
Jason Seggern, Middle School Director
Jason has been a part of the Delaware Valley Friends School community since 2004. He came from Bryn Mawr Rehab Hospital, where we was a cognitive therapist, to teach middle school science at DVFS. When the school added a 6th grade, Jason took on the role of Middle School Coordinator, and later added Dean of Students to his growing role on the administrative team. In 2016, Jason became the division head for the middle school program. Learn more about Jason in this Q&A profile-->
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