This year we seem to be hitting a groove with homework. Through trial and error, we are finding what works for our family and also meets the expectations of school. In my children’s previous families, homework was never done. Because of their cognitive delays, extreme neglect in their birth family and learning difficulties, they need so much supplementary support in addition to school, that not doing homework was dangerous. And yet, I also believe firmly the best learning isn’t done by sitting in a classroom, or staring at a textbook. Instead I look for ways we can supplement – practicing writing spelling words with scrabble tiles, or on the sand at the beach, playing word games at the dinner table, making up stories where everyone fills in the blanks (using the correct tense), doing math while cooking, walking and driving. In addition, I’ve been using their loves (puzzles, stories and art) to supplement geography, history and art history. I once read that the average child takes reading a new word 30x for it to go to the part of the brain that is “forever”, for my son it takes about 130x, so quite simply, what is done at school is simply not enough, though they attend a very language-rich school which is working hard to help fill in his gaps. And I’m thankful, very very thankful for that.
Homework this year is
- 4 english language sheets related to spelling words. These consist of unscrambling the words, placing them in alphabetical order, rearranging the words from backwards to the correct direction and a word search. In addition, my daughter in Grade 3 has to list how many syllables each spelling word has in it. We complete this Monday evenings and it takes approximately 75 – 90 minutes.
- 5-7 french words (Grade 1), 10 french words and 5 sentences (Grade 3) to be written out at least 10 x each
- A french reader which must be read daily
- An english reader which must be read daily (my son needs to read his about 3x)
- French test on Thursdays (10 french words)
- Spelling test on Fridays (10 english words for my Grade 1 child and 20 words for my Grade 3 child)
- Additional french homework (words to be written out) plus 10 words for penmanship practice (both my children need OT and struggle with writing) and 1 topical piece of homework. This weekend my son had about 30 questions related to liquids and solids, my daughter normally has writing or geography homework.
Basically we need to spend about 90 minutes a day doing homework, and 4 hours on Sunday mornings. A more “typical” child with less delays would probably take about 1/2 the time, but it is what it is and I make it as fun as possible and I have to say, no longer get too many complaints!
What has worked for us is getting the bulk of the work (the sheets) done on Mondays, when they do not yet have the Wed/Thurs/Fri tiredness that begins to set in. We also do no homework on Friday evenings or Saturdays, I’m still “teaching”, or facilitating their learning through games, stories, conversation, planting etc., but they get a full mental break. Friday night is chess night and usually a bike ride, or trip to the park. Saturdays we garden, have their extra-curricular activities and usually make some art, as well as do all the laundry, grocery shop and run errands. On Sunday mornings they have had the mental break they need and are ready for a bit of home school. They love “mummy’s school”, feel pleased they got all their homework done and are excited about our Sunday afternoon hike and swimming lessons, followed by an evening of games – telling time games, french bingo, spoons and scrabble, as well as reading.
Homework sometimes feels a chore, but mostly this year I see that we just need to a way to make it successful and simply the start of all the other things we do as a family which learns together, each at our own pace.
And the good news? My son who was about 5 years behind educationally (didn’t even know a letter or number), this week, the week he has been home 1 year, got 10/10 on a Grade 1 spelling test with no accommodations! He has gained about 4 years academically in 12 months. He even got the bonus word right, bringing him to 11/10! His words “Mummy I never knew I was smart before I had a family”. Be still my beating heart!