Response to my “How Homework Should Really Look” Post

I sent out a email to all my subscribers about how I think math homework should really look, (you can read it here if you missed it). I received a reply from a mother that I had to share with everyone!

Check out what Susan had to say:

I have an 8-year old daughter. We home school, but pulled her out of school part way through second grade, so we are familiar with both realms. Her homework then was at kindergarten and first grade level, and so was her class. She officially stalled and floated along for two years in the public system due to an influx of new residents and the length of time it took to get everyone back on board. When we pulled her, we suddenly found that we were up against state testing and the bar was raised significantly. Our single digit adding and subtracting daughter somehow had to wade through multiple digits and lower level multiplication (plus all the other bits like geometry, measurement, etc.).

I give you this back story because we were suddenly in a position of playing catch up. We bought workbooks. We attended Kumon. We tried 4 different math curricula. She was reluctant to learn new material because nothing was asked of her previously. We fought, we grounded, we cried. All she was interested in was playing on the computer or iPad. A very inspiring friend advised that I stop battling my child and let her interests lead our educational path. I should know this as I taught college for 4 years and had many seminars on “teaching to the learner”. Somehow all of that goes out the door with my child. She wasn’t going to learn if she didn’t want to. She didn’t think school was fun, so she tuned it out.

We changed gears and wholeheartedly accepted electronic media into our system of education. They were always there, but apps for education years ago were a bit more dry than those today. We were doing “homework” one night at a table after dinner with friends, and Lilly was playing a math game. One of the other kids exclaimed “This is no fair, she’s just playing games!”, and though he was correct, games have been the single source of acceptance of practicing math from our daughter. She’s entertained. She is not resisting. She’s learning. She’s finally understanding and lowering the block wall toward math.

We teach teachers how to reach kids at their level. Parents are somehow expected to magically know how to teach, because from the school systems I see in the 3 states we frequently visit, much is expected on the parents. Of home school parents all the more so. The public school parents I have contact with hate homework as much as the kids, because it is tedious. Does it really matter if the kids can do the particular problems sent home with them? No, worksheets are just a practice place and metric for whether the kids are learning. Kids will face far more examples of problems through digital media. For me, it is nice to walk away, round up some food or whatever, and come back and she’s still playing/practicing. I made it through an entire (long) shower yesterday and not a bit of fussing from the other room. I should note that when I give her paper assignments (same level of problems, but simply in paper format), I have to sit there with her the entire time. I now reserve paper for real world and word problems. She’s starting to be able to handle those on her own too however… The skill required is no different, but the attitude is. By all means, bring on what works. If it’s digital media that they will readily engage with, then let it be and let them grow. School systems wouldn’t argue reading something to an auditory learner or demonstrating something for the visual learners. Why fight digital engagement? For most games we’ve reviewed, they reach more learning styles more readily than paper media ever could. Another beauty is lost time shuffling around between daily activities. She has her iPad, and our schedules are busy, so we use a lot of that standard commute and wait time for school practice and work. It’s one device and no worry of torn sheets, broken pencil leads, heavy books, etc. I particularly love programs that log and track the practice time. It’s proof for her portfolio that she’s spending the time learning. It’s something that some schools are using to track “homework” on various programs rather than giving out worksheets.

As an aside, we downloaded the 5-dice game quite a while back and stuck it in a “futures” folder. When I find something good she’ll grow into, I can save things that way. She wasn’t able to handle multiplication at that point. We’ll pull it back onto the main screen and explore!

Thank you for what you do,

icon 5 Dice5 Dice: Order of Operations Game is a free app so check it out and share it with all your friends.