On the Journey
news reel: stories of People, places, and learning AT Aspen Country Day School
Hey, come to think of it, why do we even have homework? Some say it's because of Sputnik. When the Soviets launched their satellite into orbit, it threw American schools into a spin, too, as policymakers tried to make sure that students had the skills and knowledge for the space economy. All these years later, homework has taken over more dining room tables and kitchen counters than ever before.
What is homework like in Lower School at ACDS? What do teachers expect children to complete at each age? Should parents take a "hands off" or "hovering" approach? And what is the goal of homework, anyway?
Seven takeways from the parent coffee on homework
Learning to be RESPONSIBLE – and liking it
Taking a folder home in your backpack, completing an assignment, remembering to bring it back to school – these are the first small steps on the path to becoming a responsible student. That's what homework is all about in Lower School at Aspen Country Day, where the practice of after-school assignments begins with bringing read-aloud stories home in Kindergarten. "Many children this age love the homework routine, because it makes them feel older and more important," says Second Grade teacher Alexandra Hughes.
Philosophy: keep it fun
Lower School homework at ACDS often consists of math games that build computational fluency. Teachers frequently assign interactive activities that children can do with parents or older siblings. "If we're giving something extra to do at home, it needs to be fun," says First Grade teacher Cathy Grueter. "Homework burnout is not our goal."
Reading: the. single. most. important. thing.
Taking the time to read aloud to young children every day: it's a real predictor of future academic success, it builds children's general knowledge and vocabulary, and it allows kids access to stories and narratives that capture their imaginations. But more than that, it's often the best family time of all. As Cathy says, "Who doesn't like to be read to?"
Striving for independence
How much should a parent participate? It's nice to be nearby for questions, or simply to provide support when there's frustration or distraction. But the goal is for a child to be doing homework independently – and also to learn to advocate for himself or herself. Says Alexandra, "We explain to the students, 'If you have a busy week, and you don't think you can complete the assignment, that's OK. Or if you didn't understand what you were supposed to do. Just come explain to us and we'll work it out.'"
Listen to limits
Many Lower School teachers at ACDS set a time limit. If you hear a teacher say, "do 20 minutes only; get through what you can," that means teachers really want to know what a child can accomplish with 20 minutes of solid work. Homework should not become a family struggle. After-school time is for relaxing, playing, and enjoying family.
Physical organization matters
What's the magic recipe for a successful, efficient homework session? Supplies at the ready, proper lighting, an uncluttered place to work, and a sense of calm (without TV or too many other distractions).
Never fear, it's worth it
The length and complexity of homework assignments increase every year throughout the Aspen Country Day journey, and "responsibility and stamina build as well," says Lower School Head Jennifer Bohnen. By the time children are in Middle School and the homework load increases, they'll be responsible, independent students – they'll be ready.
Here is a link to an article discussed at the coffee