Saturday, January 10, 2009

Homework Redux

A few of you have written to me about the Homework Question.
All the research regarding successful students indicates that regular homework, whether it be review of "learned" material, or completion of work assigned at school, is a good thing.
A regular time, a regular space, a ritual, and rules (no phone, no tv, no instant messaging) are all recommended.
There are a few GOLDies who are doing this (maybe 5 or 6)--and I think that they are achieving better marks on report cards. 
We DO encourage homework in GOLD, we hate the last-minute rushed jobs, we dislike seeing students "waste time" and then watching them panic.
However, for a multitude of reasons, it appears that many GOLDs aren't wired this way. 
  • for some, the work is drudgery--they knew the material years ago, and can't be bothered to reproduce it now
  • for some, last minute is the way to go in order to prevent their perfectionism from doing them in--if they turned over two weeks to the Science Project, and worked on it steadily over that time, they would have no excuse (in their own minds) for it not being everything they had envisioned.  If they leave it to the last minute, any failings in the finished product can be put down to being in such a rush.
  • some of them have a great deal of difficulty with planning and organization--they have the motivation, but not the tools for execution
  • some are fighting for control over their lives, and don't see our help and guidance in the spirit we are giving it
  • some can't accept that accomodations we feel they are entitled to (less volume of work, for instance, or someone reading a text aloud to them) are deserved--they feel that they are being babied.  They refuse the homework because in order to complete it they must choose between grindingly slow progress (3 hours to complete what others do in 30 minutes) or yet again getting "help" from an adult, which makes them feel like a 5 year old.
  • some don't see the point--of marks or "trivia acquistion".  They want knowledge IN DEPTH, in an area of interest--not tricky little trivia questions.
Of the above issues, I think that the easiest students to help are the ones who are truly motivated to do as well at school as they can--students who struggle because of memory or organizational issues.  We can help them.
The students who are uncomfortable accepting accommodations may eventually shift their thinking as this year goes on, as they see their older GOLD peers using a scribe or talking about what a great thing it is to get help studying.
The other possible reasons I outlined above are much more difficult to attack.  Kids operating from those interpretations of the school situation are going to simply increase their resistance in direct proportion to our efforts.
However, they all are certain that they want to graduate in five years' time.  Our society has been successful in setting that milestone as an almost completely unquestioned goal.
Most of the GOLDies seem to internalize by Grade 10 what amount of work will be required to get across the finish line.  Suddenly, many of my Grade 10s have an interest in their agendas, deadlines, and completing chapter questions.  Many of them still don't want much help from adults in getting the actual work completed.
So, what should you do?  I don't know for sure.  If your entire family life is dissolving under the pressure of having to get your child to get the work done, I'm not sure it's worth it.  I think that your relationship with your child is much more important in the long run than their success at school right now.

If you can get them to do some review, or show you something they've learned--great!  If they say they've gotten everything done in their GOLD block--they're probably not telling the truth. 
Are you expecting that they will get everything done this year?
I think that I would try to set aside some time (1/2 hour - 1 hour) every night where there are no "distractions" in operation--no phone, internet, gaming.... The ideal would be homework completion or studying, but if all they'll do in that time you've set aside is draw or read, so be it.  You can't really "make" your child write the essay.
I hope this helps a bit, but I worry it will not.