Negotiating a homework deal

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One of the most common concerns raised by families in Educational Support is about the amount of and time taken to complete homework. Homework is often a source of frustration for children, families and teachers.

Advice for Negotiating a Homework Deal

Early in the new school year arrange a time to meet with your child’s teacher. Although many schools hold a meet the teacher night, this individual discussion and negotiation is best conducted on a one-to-one basis with your child’s teacher once the routine for the year has begun.

Find out what the regular expectations and time frames are for homework. Ask your child’s teacher two important questions:

1. “For how long do you expect students in your class to spend on homework each week?” Once you know the time expectations (e.g., 20 minutes) always stick to the time frame for homework. Extra time is just stretching out the awful (and perhaps unrealistic) task.


2. What part of your homework is essential for my child to participate in your class each week?” Start the homework with the sections identified by the class teacher. This will often be the list of spelling words, or a times table, or a weekly speech. If you have a chance to finish anything else, this is wonderful. If not, you have completed the required tasks.

Other Possible Modifications

Ask whether maths mentals can be looked at differently for your child. Although many maths mentals books are purchased to match the textbook used in the classroom it is often unrealistic to expect a child with learning support needs to revise all of the topics of math in a double page for homework. Ask instead whether you can focus on number questions for your maths homework. This is the most important area of maths development.

Speak to your child’s teacher about any additional supports you have in place. A speech therapist who sets oral homework each week, a tutor who is practicing times tables and reading, the daily vision training program you are engaged with. Often times these will be considered sufficient homework.

When you attend the meeting with your child’s teacher it is helpful to take along this one page document about your child. The school will have a file of everything you’ve sent through, but your child’s teacher may not yet have had a chance to review these. Make it easier for your child’s teacher to support your child. Update this document as things change and start every year by handing out a fresh copy.

Introducing Your Child

Parent Contact Details

Summary of Previous Reports

They may be on file at the school, but help your child’s teacher help your child. They are your reports and you understand them best. List them all and explain what this means for your child in a sentence or two. Here’s an example.

Speech & Language Assessment 2011. Mild Receptive Delay, Severe Expressive Delay. My child understands most of what is happening in class, but will have difficulty posing a question when he needs to know more. He needs time to think about what he wants to say and will often be clearer on the second try.

Things We’ve Tried

List what you’ve already participated in previously – Vision Program, Reading Recovery program …

Professionals We’re Working With

Who does your child currently see and how can the teacher easily reach them? (emails are great for this as teachers have limited time to make phone calls).

Things That Have Helped

List anything that has been particularly successful with your child – being seated at the front of the class to see the board, having access to a quiet space when feeling anxious, needing to know what is happening in the day before it happens (when possible), having reading books ahead of time to have pre-read these …

The Homework Debate

Homework has had a long history of debate in education and this continues.

The supporters of homework claim homework is good for children. However, for children with learning difficulties, such as ADHD, dyslexia, or dyscalculia, homework is just an extension of the school day that was already long and difficult.

It is also claimed that homework can teach children skills of time and meeting deadlines. Time management skills are not just learned, they need to be explicitly taught. Children with learning difficulties take on average 4 times longer to complete a task independently than their peers. Time Management is not a realistic goal when the execution of the task requires more time than would reasonably be expected. Often the skills being covered at school are still too difficult for children with learning difficulties.

Additionally it is often said that homework in the primary years can help children form successful study skills for their high school and post-school years. Strong study habits are a wonderful skill for high school success. However children with learning disabilities are still mastering fundamental reading, writing and number skills and this is the required practice.

Homework can provide additional practice of important skills. However, for students with learning support needs the work is often too difficult to complete. More practice of something you already find difficult is not helpful academically and is certainly demotivating.

There is a growing body of evidence to suggest that homework completion does not lead to improved academic outcomes, especially for primary school children. School projects and large amounts of homework have been criticised for lowering school achievement and affecting motivation.

Modern families are busy, with children participating in a myriad of extra curricula activities. Many children also attend before & after school care, their “school” day is already long. Working parents have limited time to spend with their children, this time should be spent talking and playing with their children or reading a fantastic book, not supervising (or completing) homework.