Tuesday, September 6, 2011


From writerg.wordpress.com
With school starting, so too begins homework.  For many kids, homework is a series of chores, often meaningless, that just have to get done. 

In my opinion, there are two reasons homework may be a chore:
  1. Teachers assign 'rote' exercises that have little thought, creativity, or meaning to students; or
  2. Homework is too difficult for a student's independent working level - or it is too easy and again becomes a meaningless chore.
The role of teachers (and often of parents) is to help kids find meaning and creative challenge in homework.

In Arthur's case (see the video clip), there is so much homework - it is overwhelming.  No fun, no creativity - just seemingly endless work.

There's another wonderful tale of homework in Frindle by Andrew Clemens - a story about Nick Allen - the master teacher distractor...and if you haven't read it with your child it is a MUST!  This story begins with Nick Allen as he prepares for fifth grade. He must buy a dictionary before school begins and on the first day of school is prepared to distract his teacher (who is notorious for her homework assignments).  As she is about to give homework Nick attempts to distract her by asking her 'What makes a word a word?'  She responds with, "you do!" The story is all about how she not only does not let Nick distract her from giving homework, she gives him additional homework figuring out exactly what makes a word a word.  This assignment is so meaningful, Nick is determined to coin a new work, "FRINDLE."  Read it.  It's brilliant!

 In the first instance (for Arthur), homework is a chore.  In the second (for Nick) it's a challenge.  Which scenario would YOU prefer?

The problem in assigning homework is that every student is different, and making assignments for each student is unrealistic. As a result, teachers and parents have to help their children find meaning in homework assignments.  There are some other alternatives though.  Here are some suggestions:

For Teachers:
  • Homework assignments can offer different types of questions and options for students of various skills and preferences to wrestle with on their own time. 
  • Provide opportunities to mentally manipulate content material creatively, making it more meaningful and personal.  
  • Instead of worksheets, have students construct vocabulary word games to play during recess and classroom breaks, or write a journal entry, screenplay, reflecting topics in social studies and science.    
  • Have students create comic books expanding poetry or texts covered in classroom readings  including selected vocabulary, and/or specific 'talking points' . 
  • Include an option for more abstract opinion questions that some students love pursuing and others find too philosophical and unstructured.   
For Parents:

    • Talk to kids about their homework (but don't do it for them)
      • Help your child find relevance to the homework assignments (especially if they don't immediately see it). 
      • Talk about the Arthur clip above.  Why is it so bad, what could make homework more palatable.
      • Jon Scieszka has some wonderful books on Math Curse and Science Verse  which may help your child find relevance in math and science.
      • Design a special place/table/desk/corner for homework.  Help them structure their time so that after homework is completed they can have fun.  This is really important. [See http://departingthetext.blogspot.com/2011/03/theme-thursday-sense-of-space-and.html for more details.]
      • Not only should kids have a desk/table to work at, they should have their materials readily available as well.  This means pens, pencils, paper, dictionaries, etc., should be easily accessible as they're working.
      • IF an assignment is overwhelming, help kids break down assignments into manageable sequences.
      • Talk about project/paper options.  Brainstorm together and help guide your child.  Again, for projects you may need to help them structure their time.
      • Some kids find a slight music distraction helpful for concentration - other's don't.  Talk about this with your (older) kids.
      • When in doubt, go check out Calvin & Hobbes:

      Or, if you prefer music.... check out doing homework with Otis Rush:


      1. If anyone can get across a point, and have you laughing out loud...it's Calvin and Hobbes...

        My grandsons have every book that's been put out with them!!!

        Very interesting and fun post...I'll be smiling all day!

      2. my daughter's going into 2nd grade. I've actually had dialogue w her 1st grade teacher, less about the quantity,, but rather the quality of her assignments. which is to say *I* couldn't figure it out.

        In fact I wrote about it HERE.

        ROG, ABC Wednesday team

      3. I love that "pronoun" with C&H. They're wonderful, those two.
        Now to check out Roger's conversation with his daughter's first grade teacher. Roger is almost as much fun as Calvin & Hobbes.
        — K

        Kay, Alberta, Canada
        An Unfittie's Guide to Adventurous Travel

      4. As homeschoolers, we don't do homework, or everything is homework, depending on how you define it. Still, your comments are dead on. Once again, a good reminder!

      5. My son doesn't mind homework, but he does complain if he finds it redundant. He tends to learn very quickly, so if they've already covered something in class that day and did a work sheet on it, and then his homework is an almost identical work sheet, that's when I hear the "I don't see why I have to do this. It's too easy!!" Right now what works for us is playing "teacher" while he does the homework. He "teaches" me how to do it, and works through the problems while showing me how it's done. This is going well for the moment, but we might need to come up with some other ideas as the school year goes on. Or maybe I just need to hang out with Otis Rush. ;)

      6. Homework..my first reaction is ugh! Oh how I hated it and I really feel sorry for my Grandkids now. Some of their teachers are creative and make the assignments interesting but others are definitely in the rote mode.
        Love Calvin and Hobbs and say right on!!

      7. Homework, a time of guidance to create love for knowledge. In some instances when we expect too much of them we tend to lose our patience.

      8. I don't have a kid so I am not worried of kids bugging me with their homework, lol! BUT as a catechist at church and next month is our opening of religious class, and might give homework once ^_^ Thanks for the visit!

        ABC Wed.

      9. Kids today seem to get way too much homework, there seems so much pressure on them.
        I'm a procrastinator so if it was 'dull' (I probably mean maths), homework it could end up being finished off on the bus (waiting for the stops so the writing wasn't too shaky). Ah school days.

      10. Where I used to teach, homework was only for work not finished in class time. That said, most kids need some home time to work on projects, that in my opinion, are far more interesting for them as they integrate all sorts of learning opportunities.

        An aside: What would you do or how would you handle a parent who does not want her child to have any homework - because they need "family" time. The child is not involved in any extracurricular activities either.

      11. My granddaughter is in grade two. First day back to school today and she came home with over an hours worth of homework! Makes me wonder what they do in class!

      12. Your post is a perfect timing of what was happened to my first grader. She has homework last week but forgot to bring it home. She cried when she got home but it's a lesson learned for her. I am glad the teacher gave her a second chance to finish it today. Thanks for this article.

        My ABC is about the Humongous Coke in Disney.

      13. Homework...arrrgh...but I love Calvin and Hobbes!

      14. Oh, yes! Homework. I do remember it. Excellent post.

      15. Thanks for the Frindle story suggestion. I'll check that out. My kid doesn't even want to go to school sometimes :( But then he has PDD and is undergoing therapy. I hope he survives homework.

      16. Calvin and Hobbs is still my favorite comic strip. Love, love, love him. And where were you when my kids were in school?! :-)

      17. Timely post. I hope not too many teachers sent a lot of homework home on the first day!

      18. This is a great post! for the letter H. Thanks for the tips. As a home school parent I will work hard to remember these.

      19. Love the comics. Dustyn is only in preschool so hopefully he won't have too much home work.

      20. Thanks for sharing the videos and cartoons. Your hints are worthwhile using for parents and people who are teaching their children at home, like my daughter.
        Thanks for your visit and comment.

      21. Thanks for linking up to *Tina´s Wordless Wednesday* :)

      22. I always check my daughter's assignment. Well, I get paranoid when she's not learning antything.

      23. Hi, Debs Dealz now following you via GFC from the Freaky Friday Hop!

        Please follow back, and like me on FB if you like. I love your site!

        Interested in exchanging buttons, let me know!!


      24. Love C&H!
        Thanks for sharing. And thanks for visiting and taking the time to comment;o)

        ¤ Have a nice and happy weekend ¤

      25. Thanks so much for stopping by! I'm following you back! Hope you have a wonderful weekend!


      26. New follower via blog hop hoping you will follow back, thks in advance http://beckvalleybooks.blogspot.com/

      27. I used to read Calvin and Hobbs religiously. Thanks for the memories. My kids are not at the homework age yet so I guess I should enjoy it while it lasts.

        I am new follower from the Boost My Blog Friday Hop. If you have a chance, come by http://messforless.blogspot.com and say hi!

      28. Hi, thanks for stopping by Redo 101 to see my daughter's homeschool organization. You asked what I think caused the change. There are several things: 1) family dynamics changed over the summer, problems resolved; 2) because the family problems were resolved, I was able for the first time to enter them into afternoon homeschool sports groups, about which she is very excited; 3) she is now in "high school" which makes her feel pretty grown up.

        I also am able (due to changed family dynamics) to do homeschool a little differently this year, i.e. I start the day with a fun game of sorts, I'm using a very old Konos homeschool manual which is actually a lower grade level; nevertheless my kids love the games. We're studying Paying Attention with this "extra" book. This past Friday I put items on a tray, they looked at it for a minute, then wrote down the ones they remembered. Fun things like this to start the day, with the promise of sports events to follow on certain days, have turned the tide for us. I guess it's the sandwich thing, "fun, work, fun."

        Hope this helps (and isn't too long :)

      29. This is so cool and insightful! You really had done your homework to come up with this! It has answered most of my questions!