Homework

I have to say that I’ve struggled to let myself off the hook for this one. I know that if I get too busy, something is bound to fall through the cracks.  Kids know that and they are sneaky!

Last fall, I vowed to be a better help to my younger son regarding school work.  I knew that I had  dropped that ball for sure when I received an email from a teacher saying that he was in danger of failing because of missed homework.

Imagine my surprise when I found that my  “honor-roll”  student was making D’s in some of his classes, and that my precious little boy had been lying to me (“I don’t have homework. I did it in resource period.”) like some crazy teenager.

Oh, wait, he is a teenager.  Wake up call!!!

The D that surprised me was in English, most notably his spelling assignments.  He has always been an excellent speller.  I noticed that, although he was making A+’s on his exams, he was making F-‘s on his homework.  Since there was more homework grades than exams grades, his average had plummeted to a D.

I also discovered that his grades in history were dropping, mainly because he wasn’t doing his weekly homework.  I was surprised to find out that he had been expected to find a current news event– tv, internet, newspaper, etc.– to share with the class every week since school began and he hadn’t done it all year!

I called him in to review his grades. First, I addressed the history grade.  I asked him where he was getting his news articles or stories, and he said that he made something up every week to share with the class.  (Boy, I bet those stories were interesting. Kudos for creativity and imagination.) He also said that he “forgot” his current events paper every week.  I told him that I had found his weekly current event paper on the teacher’s web page, and made him  encouraged him to save it to his computer so he could print it out if he “forgot” it at school.  No more excuses.

Next, I addressed English / spelling. I showed him his homework grades and his average grade.  In response, he pointed out his test scores.  He didn’t feel that he needed to do homework if he could ace the tests. Good argument.  However, my goal was and is to teach responsibility for himself and his own work, and part of this is homework.

After our “discussion,” I threw down the ultimatum.  I told him that he needed to get his homework average up to a 70% in all classes or he would lose his new tablet computer.  That did the trick– he brought home his spelling homework and completed the whole week’s worth in 15 minutes.  Stinker!  He also had a “real” news story to share with the class that week.

So, I dropped the ball, but I got it back.  And I learned once again that even sweet little boys with autism grow into snarky teenagers.  I wonder what he’ll have for me next!

Question: What are some ways that you keep your kids accountable for their homework?

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2 responses to this post.

  1. Your story appears to have had a happy ending, but I would like to use it as an example about what is wrong with the system. The fact is that you got your child back on track with a fairly simple punishment, which is fine, as long as the punishment need not be used again. The problem with homework punishments, and punishments in general, is that they are only good if they work, and the only way to know that a punishment works is that you don’t have to use it again. Unfortunately, there are many parents who get caught in the cycle of using the same punishments over and over again, and that is not good. So let’s consider what happened here.

    The teacher enacts a penalty, low grades despite the fact that your child is learning and can do the work. The penalty impacts you more than it does him, so you employ a punishment that he responds to and gets his work done. He does it in 15 minutes, so it takes little effort for him to comply. What if the assignment took him an hour or two hours, and what if he was a child who had trouble with work, not just the occasional missed assignment or foray into ordinary teenage life? That child would not be able to do the work on a continuous basis, so for that child, no punishment would get him going.
    Now, let’s look at the teachers and what “homework” they have done. In reality, teachers are not routinely taught homework in schools of education and teachers do not have continuing education courses on homework. Teachers are generally not acquainted with the research, theory and practice of homework unless they make special efforts to look into it, and those efforts are not easy to do because teacher training does not demand it. In effect, your child faces potentially low grades (Ds despite A levels of competence) for failing to do something that is not clearly needed for learning and is not adequately studied by those who give it out.
    Hopefully, this will be the end of your child’s “homework problems.” Unfortunately, it is not the end for many youth. And for kids with autism spectrum disorders, it can be a double-edged sword.

    Most kids, who have trouble with homework, have problems with pace. Pace involves the speed at which one can work, typically impacted by difficulties with working memory (think attention) and processing speed (think handwriting). If a child cannot work quickly, he has two choices: do the homework and give up socialization and play; don’t do the homework and get poor grades. Typically, the more social and sometimes more athletic kids will accept the bad grades to play with their friends. The more awkward and socially isolated youth will do the work at the expense of play. But they cannot do both. There are only so many hours in a day.

    My own recommendation is to limit homework to time by the clock. In the case of a child who can do the assignment in 15 minutes, there is no real problem. For the child who cannot accomplish this goal, it is quite important to place limits on what he has to do. I would also prod teachers into doing their “homework,” their own study about homework, too.

    I am posting this response on my homework blog, http://homeworktrap.blogspot.com with a link back to your letter.

    Reply

  2. I agree that we need to limit homework for our students / children. At one point, when my son was being mainstreamed, it took him 1 1/2 hours to get all of his homework done. I immediately had an IEP meeting and we limited his homework to less than 1/2 hour per night. And, now that I think about it, my son could have done this at school, also. He chose not to do so, and thus he had homework.

    This week, as he was doing his spelling homework, I noticed big comprehension gaps. I was thankful for the homework so that I knew what was going on and could have better communication with the teacher.

    The lesson I wanted to teach my son was personal responsibility. He had lied to me about homework, and had lied to his teacher. He also was apparently goofing off in school!

    When I was in high school, my math teacher told us that the reason for her giving us homework was that if we didn’t repeat the lesson within 24 hours, then we wouldn’t retain. This taught me good study habits in college and grad school. I never was overloaded with homework, and I won’t allow my children to be, either. Thanks for your comments.

    Reply

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