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Dr. Tisha Shipley has been in education for 13 years. She has taught Pre-K, Kindergarten, Gifted and Talented 3rd-6th Grades, Dr. Shipley was an elementary principal, a cheer coach, and was on...
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Ideas to Replace Homework in the Early Childhood Environment

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There are many controversial topics in the world of education (assessment, standardized testing, curriculum, inclusion, gender discrimination and religion) to name a few. I wanted to speak on a topic that I believe is important to note, because it affects not only a students’ outlook on learning, but also a families’ thoughts on teaching and classroom on-task time.   There are many school districts and teachers that feel like homework is necessary.  Not all homework is looked upon as a negative thing, but I do believe it can become a negative concept very quickly.  Bridging the relationship between home and school can be accomplished in many ways and homework should be used by the teacher to encourage family involvement. I do not agree with MOST homework, nor did I use it in my classroom.  But I did use individualized Family/learning bags and engagement so that families were involved.  

PARENT PARTIES

From the very beginning I built a solid relationship with families. Before school started I sent out a welcome post card, called each child and family on the telephone to introduced myself and then had a back to school night.  Each month from there on out I held a Parent Party where I could continue building relationships and teach families concepts including what the family/learning bags were.

After taking time to interview many families over the years, I have heard much of the same thing “we are doing hours of homework in the evenings, along with reading books”.  Many of these families had a child that was 5 years old and just beginning their school time.  Some of these children were leaving school and coming home for a nap after 6 hours of being engaged in the classroom environment.  After reading the article What Happened When Our School Stopped Assigning Nightly Homework? More Learning! By Charner-Laird (2015), I was happy to see that I wasn't the only person that had a different view on homework, that there were endless possibilities in reference to homework if we would think outside the box.

I would like to ask you to think about some things as you continue to read:

  • If you send homework with children, why are you sending homework home?
  • What type of homework are you sending home?
  • What are your objectives in having children engage on their own at home?
  • What do you want the learning outcomes to be by sending home work?
  • Do you remember how you felt when you came home from school as a child?  What did you want to do?  Did you want to do 4-6 pages of homework, or have a snack and go outside and play? 
  • Why aren’t we letting children play more?  Why are we not considering play a child’s vehicle to learning today, more than ever?
  • What is your philosophy on children and play?
  • What is your philosophy on homework?  Could your thoughts change?
  • Why are we pushing children to learn so much more and to grow up so fast when they should be engaging with peers and running, jumping and playing? 
  • Do you believe that play is becoming extinct?

Things to consider:

  • Students are in school each day for 6-7 hours. There, they are learning new information, they are building on previous concepts taught, and they should be engaged in the learning process each hour.  If this is so, why do children need to complete so much homework at home?   Many would say this is for reinforcement, but this can be done at school through the use of centers and or extra time given at some point in the daily schedule.  
  • Make sure to include parent parties throughout the school year so families understand what you are teaching at school (don’t use homework to show families what you are teaching).
  • Instead of sending home homework------send home family time learning packets/bags/thematic bags (this can include games, recipes, books, materials, pictures etc) and make them optional.  Children have spent much of their day sitting and learning from their teacher. When they get home that they should be engaging in family time, play time and even extracurricular activities that teach them about socializing, organization, morals and being a part of a team and a community.  Have children take pictures of what they chose to do from the family learning bag and put it up on a special bulletin board in your environment.
  • Make family learning bags fun. Make the bag an extension of something they learned at school, these types of activities can be hands on and engaging where families are excited to open the bag to see what is new. 
  • Why does homework have to be worksheets? Why can’t it be to go on a fall walk with your family and find 3 rocks, or take a picture of your favorite part of the neighborhood? Why not have them video their family taking a walk and show where their favorite park is located and where their family likes to spend time. Have them take a picture of their family having dinner together and then have them tell what the menu was the next day at school.

I’ve heard people say that families insist teachers give homework.  I have never talked to a parent that wants homework in the evenings.  Everyone should make time to read to their child, but again, that is family time, that is time spent together discussing topics and ideas. For the families that want homework, simply explain to them, why you will not be giving required homework this year.  Instead you will send home optional family engagement bags, and they can be differentiated for the family.  Some families may even ask for extra bags, because they enjoy the engagement.  If you are individualizing bags for each family then they are more likely to enjoy working together at home.

Children are sponges, they spend a great deal of time, listening, learning, sitting and doing.  Let’s rethink homework.  Let’s reflect on what our purpose for homework really is. It is important to engage students in reinforcement, but let’s figure out how to do this in a more creative way.  There are pros and cons to everything including homework, but in my opinion there are more POSTIVES in NOT having homework.   Here is something I found printed in the New York Times “As we demand academics from younger and younger children, will there come a time when 4-year-olds are no longer prepared for the demands of pre-K?  And then is homework for 3-year-olds around the corner” (Korbey, 2012)?  This is something to think about, how much is too much? As we prepare for 2018, what can we do, as teachers, to ensure that our students are learning and that their families understand what we are teaching? How can the families be involved in the process and how can we reinforce concepts in a more developmentally appropriate fashion?

 Here are some links to resources on homework:

Homework should be banned pros and cons

Should preschoolers have homework

References

Korbey, H. (2012). New York Times. Should pre-schoolers have homework?

 

Tisha Shipley is an associate professor and the Chair of the BA ECE Admin program at an online university. She received a doctorate of education in Curriculum and Instruction from Northcentral University and a master's degree in Elementary Education/Administration and a bachelor's degree in Early Childhood Education from Northwestern Oklahoma State University. She has taught multiple grade levels at Moore Public Schools, including pre–K children and gifted 3rd–6th graders, and served as a cheer sponsor and a principal. Shipley presents at early childhood conferences and helps teachers in their classroom. She has also started a teacher website to help teachers, parents, aspiring teacher candidates, and administrators at www.busyclassroom.weebly.com.

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