There are many different theories out there now about homework (pro and con), from educational experts, teachers and parents, but the reality is that many kids are coming home with work to do in the evenings, and it can be a struggle for parents. How much should you help? Is it okay if they are "breaking the rules" by doing their homework at different times each day, listening to music, or in the busy kitchen?
I could have taken up their whole hour talking about this, so I feel like I barely scratched the surface, but here's what I had to say:
I'm not sure if I emphasized enough (since I don't watch myself after the fact) how parents should do what works best for their family. Sure, kids thrive on routine and it would be wonderful if they could do their homework at the exact same time each night, but I see in my own class that some kids are going home on the bus twice a week but to daycare the other three days, most are involved in extracurriculars at least once a week, and some are back and forth between mom's and dad's...so don't beat yourself up over it. If the kids are getting the homework done, to the best of their ability, the logistics don't really matter. (My older daughter prefers to work kneeling at the coffee table...and sometimes the TV is even on!)
Some kids certainly struggle with focus, and for them it's important to remove distractions (siblings, screens, etc.) as necessary.
On a personal/professional homework note, I am trying to get away from it in my classroom as much as possible.
I am teaching Grade 2/3 this year, and I decided not to assign regular nightly/weekly work (especially because it's primary - I'm not sure I would do the same in junior/intermediate). The only tasks that go home are the ones that students should have completed during class time, plus Math test review for the Grade 3's (I give them written tests for each unit, since they need to be prepared for EQAO) and occasional activities that require family input (e.g. when they need to ask their parents about the day they were born).
I send home levelled books for students to read, as I know not all homes have just-right books available for the children, but without any log or tracking required, and just ask parents to return the books when their child is ready for new ones.
My hope is that kids are spending their evenings being active, pursuing other hobbies (e.g. in the arts) and having leisure time, which hopefully includes lots of reading for pleasure. Their teacher is attempting to do the same thing with her evenings as well!
But it may surprise parents to learn that for every one who feels their child gets too much homework, there is a parent in that same class asking for more (no, really!) Some believe the more practice the better, but then others worry about their families having balance. It's a tough call, and the research isn't conclusive enough to make any sweeping generalizations...so I'm using my professional judgment and doing what I think is best right now, with the information I have.
To wrap-up with a story:
As you may (or hopefully may not) be able to tell, I was pretty sick when I shot this segment. That day at school, I mentioned to my class that I hoped I didn't lose my voice, as I was supposed to be on the news that night.
One special little guy asked, "On the 6:00 or 11:00 news?"
"Actually, it's a show that's on right before the 6:00 news," I replied.
"Oh, you mean The New CHEX Daily?"
I thought that was pretty cute, from an 8 year old. See, if he had too much homework, he wouldn't be able to watch such quality television!