Homework for parents

Parents are tasked with teaching measurement to their third graders by TERC’s Investigations, complains Katherine Beals of Out in Left Field. In high-scoring Singapore, she points out, third graders’ parents don’t get homework to do.

[click to enlarge]:

In the comments, FedUpMom writes:

Oh man, if there’s one phrase I never want to hear again, it’s “parent involvement.” Involve me out!

Notice the confident assertion that “kids find these activities fun.”  Not my kids.

Cranberry objects to Everyday Math’s family activities, which tell parents to “spend chunks of valuable time on poorly planned make work.”

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  1. Teachers are very often found to be whining about the lack of respect they’re given, citing the high teacher status and pay in high-performing locales like Singapore, South Korea and Finland. Perhaps, in those locales, teachers have strong content knowledge of their subject(s), know the most effective and efficient instructional methods and actually teach the kids themselves, with minimal parent involvement.

    Here, parents are increasingly expected to plug the holes left by lousy curriculum choices and ineffective teaching methods. This not only wastes lots of out-of-school time that could and should be spent in far better ways, but it dooms kids whose parents are unable and/or unwilling to provide that help. Also, FedUpMom is right; kids – and parents – don’t find this @#$% fun; torture is more like it.

    • Momof4, I couldn’t agree more with what you say about plugging the holes left by lousy curriculum and ineffective teaching methods. I’ve railed against both of these on my own blog.

      Teachers in Finland are respected more, even though in most cases, they actually average less pay than American teachers. They also test far less than we do and aren’t measured by how students perform on standardized tests.

      If we teachers whine, I’d say it’s the testing part and how we’re judged that are the biggest reasons. There are plenty of bad programs and methods, though.

  2. These type of projects illustrate something that I have noticed. School personnel have a VERY different concept of time than I do. The school people seem to view time as an enemy to be killed. So, projects that eat up lots of time are a good thing. Efficiently conveying information is a bad thing because there will be time left over, that must be killed.

    This realization came shortly after a meeting with the principal at the school my children are zoned for. Currently, the junior high students can take Spanish at junior high, and if they do well enough, they can test out of Spanish I. The principal didn’t like this plan, because, if they test out of classes, then what will they do later on, as juniors and seniors? My thought was that they could start taking classes that would prepare them for college. He seemed to view high school as a teenager warehouse.

  3. Geez, just show your kid how to use a ruler and tape measure (should take all of an hour or so) and tell the school to go to hell. Also, it seems to me that they have the cart before the horse. In real life, you usually want to learn to do something the formal, correct way FIRST, then, once you’re proficient, you can apply short cuts, estimations and work-arounds (such as measuring a distance by pacing). After all, measuring by pacing is HARDER than measuring with a tape measure.

    • They ask my kid to measure all of the time. One day, he had to measure my foot. I told him I wear a 10 and 1/2 shoe, which I wanted to put in his teacher’s behind for sending home so much senseless HW.

      Okay, I didn’t tell him that, but it’s what I was thinking.

  4. I teach college courses now because when I was a high school teacher, I found that the apathy that students exibited was usually a direct relation to that of the parent(s). Final straw: I had a student who worked in class but didn’t do the homework. I asked him to fill out his homework in a notebook and when he had it done, to have his father to review it and sign it. Two days later I get a phone call from the father, who said (and I quote), “I have a new car in the driveway and all my son needs to do is pass high school and it’s his, that’s the extent of my obligation”. Why have kids if you aren’t going to participate in all of their activities. Today’s parents seem to care more about their childs “sport” activities than their “academic activites”. Less than 0.01% of students play sports after H.S. but all of them go on to either college or a job so why not help the with developing their life skills?

    • Michael E. Lopez says:

      That .01% figure can’t possibly be right, but I take your point anyway.

    • Cranberry says:

      Why have kids if you aren’t going to participate in all of their activities.

      Because it’s the definition of a helicopter parent? High school students should not be helped by their parents. It’s too late in high school. If a high school student isn’t doing his homework, the problem started long ago. If a school expects the parents of a high school student to provide motivation, it’s not going to work.

      At much younger ages, parents can help children by making time in the schedule for homework to be done, and making completed homework a family priority.

      Parents can also help by judiciously teaching their children the standard algorithms, which Everyday Math doesn’t teach. They can insist their kids do arithmetic by hand. They can practice the times tables with the kids, because those need to be automatic.

      There’s a great deal of sensible homework. Sending kindergarteners home with a problem which, no joke, would require a system of equations to solve? That’s ridiculous, which is why I remember it to this day.

  5. Cranberry says:

    Measurement can be fun. For example, I think the story of the Smoot Bridge could make a wonderful lesson on how to measure, and the essentials of units of measures. http://web.mit.edu/spotlight/smoot-salute/

    So, for example, express the dimensions of your classroom in Joshuas.

    Encouraging the kid to measure lots of miscellaneous things, with no way for the teacher to tell if he’s measuring it correctly? Not so much. Incorrect practice is a really bad idea.

  6. Our school used the TERC curriculum mentioned above. It is really quite dreadful. One of my objections is that many of the activities didn’t seem age appropriate….having third graders doing tons of coloring and cutting with very little math in between. Or the kid would come home with homework that introduced a skill that hadn’t been practiced in the classroom yet.

  7. Deirdre Mundy says:

    When I decided to home school my kids, various relatives suggested I send them to ‘real’ school and just home school at night to make sure they got a decent education. It seems that this has now become official school policy!

    But if you’re going to have to teach them yourself anyway and don’t need the free daycare, why bother with the public schools in the first place?

    • So they can be socialized 🙂 ?? Using the school for free daycare so you can pursue more lucrative opportunities and maximize the financial freedom of your family, PLUS fill the coffers of the government through extra taxes? Please note; I don’t have the sarcastica font – but it’s meant to be ON.

      Seriously though, what research or belief supports the notion that parents have the time and inclination to engage in hours of afterschool work? By the time parents get home from work, dinner and the like, should family time really be about making dioramas? Don’t get me started on “student projects” that are completed by parents; and the kids that get down-graded because they actually did their own. And heck, most of the modern math curricula I have seen boggle the mind – it’s not like you could send your kid back to school with the standard multiplication algorithm; nooo … you have to draw funky boxes with diagonal lines and do “matrix method”; *shudder.

  8. Richard Aubrey says:

    As to time to be killed. I recall the first class I taught in anything academic. I had pages and pages of notes, gone over my sources, strained my arm hauling the stuff in and had forty minutes of the hour left.
    Should have figured something else. Short discussions about important issues every so often. In retrospect, I could have filled up the hour but it would have been a content-heavy hour lecture to a bunch of eighteen year olds. Wouldn’t have done me any good were I a student in that situation.
    That said, artsy-craftsy stuff is crap, even if you insist the kid write a subject-specific word on each piece of construction paper.
    My kids had a HS history class where they got extra credit for building models. The pre-cut kind. Revell, for instance. My son did an LCVP–think Saving Private Ryan–and my daughter did an aircraft carrier. Being crushed out on Tom Cruise at the time–Top Gun–she knew aircraft carriers. Didn’t know jack, either of them, about the other models in the room. Had to tell them. Fortunately for the history teacher, I lost my hours sheet and was unable to bill him.

  9. I hate pointless work, but there are plenty of studies showing that if content can be reinforced at home, the students will have a better chance of retaining it.

    That makes me think (or at least hope) that the issue isn’t about “homework for parents,” but rather “pointless homework for parents.”

    Maybe the reason Singapore doesn’t force parents to become involved is because the parents over there have already instilled the drive to succeed into their children.