Maxine Ellison and a group of volunteers gather every afternoon to help with the activity every child hates and dreads: homework.
Ellison and four other women at Decatur Youth Enrichment work with about a dozen students on math, reading and other assignments at their center on Adams Drive Northwest.
Ellison, a retired teacher who has tutored students for more than 20 years, said the homework load has increased “almost to the point where children can’t get it all done.”
Local school systems have generic homework policies that leave assignments of after-school work up to teachers.
Morgan County has the most specific policy, allowing “very limited homework” for first- and second-graders. It prescribes activities that can be assigned as homework, including reports, projects or television programs.
Leigh Atkins knows how Ellison feels. Her kids — Chestnut Grove Elementary fifth-grader Jacob and second-grader Reagan — spend more than an hour a night, and up to three hours some nights, doing homework and studying for tests.
The load has reached the point that they put off scouting activities until after soccer season, she said.
“I don’t remember having this much when I was in elementary school,” Atkins said.
Reagan Atkins’ teacher, Wendy Busing, said she does give more homework, particularly in reading and math, than she did when she became a teacher 25 years ago.
“Most of the homework I give is to reinforce the skills I’m teaching at school and they need to master,” Busing said. “Mastery comes with practice.”
Oak Park Middle School language arts teacher Amy Hill said she gives less homework. Her students have about two or three assignments a week, she said.
Hill, who is in her 23rd year, said middle schools are giving more projects for homework that mix a variety of subjects. Her eighth-graders are working on a project about a novel, mixing language arts, history and art.
Almost every project includes a writing assignment, she said.
“If the project is meaningful, it’s a demonstration of what the student has learned,” Hill said. “The student also is more likely to remember what they learned while doing the project.”
Some parents dread projects, but Atkins said her son enjoys them because he does well with hands-on, creative learning. A recent project in which he built Christopher Columbus’ boat was particularly fun, she said.
Hill’s daughter, Carrie, is a Decatur High School senior in the International Baccalaureate Program. She said her daughter also is doing more projects.
Austin High School history teacher Mike Ray hasn’t followed the project trend. He said he prefers lecturing and follow-up assignments to prepare for tests “just as my college history professors did.”
He said he believes advanced high school students do have more homework, particularly in reading and math.
Lisa Hyde, assistant professor of education at Athens State University, said she teaches her future teachers that homework should be based on need.
“We shouldn’t assign homework just to assign it,” Hyde said.
“Homework should be assigned to attain a learning goal.”
Busing said she assigns the week’s homework on Monday, which Atkins said is most helpful because it gives her daughter a chance to get ahead early in the week.
“We had a teacher who gave us assignments on Friday for the next week,” Atkins said. “That was great because we could get ahead during the weekend.”
Ray said the biggest problem in high school is students are too busy. The homework can sometimes add up to three or four hours a night, he said.
“They’re not getting enough sleep because of all of the homework and activities,” Ray said. “I suggest they try to get it done early in the day and not wait until 9 or 10 o’clock.”
Hyde and Ellison said teachers should be aware of students who have no one at home to help.
“If a kid doesn’t know how to do it in class, all of the homework in the world isn’t going to help,” Ellison said.
Ellison recommends that teachers talk to the parent or adult at home as regularly as possible. If the parent works at night, she said, the teacher should recommend a free after-school tutoring session, such as her center offers.
“That way the teacher knows what the child’s home situation is,” Ellison said. “If there’s a disconnect, you know the student is going to be lost between school and home.”
Not registered? Click here
|High School Sports||@DecaturPreps|