Homework for the Prekindergarten student is often a controversial topic among school administrators, teachers and parents alike. Homework for the elementary school student is deemed necessary. However, the quantity of homework and the time it takes to complete homework is debated in the media and among parents.
Some educators argue that the problem with students today is that they do not complete homework and, if they do, their parents are not involved in the completion of the homework. Parents complain that they do not feel that they have the skills necessary to help their children and, as a result, homework has caused much stress at home.
My advice to the parents, with whom I work in my practice, is that it is their responsibility to make sure that their children do their homework and it is also their responsibility to report difficulties that their children may experience or concerns that they (the parents) have to the teacher as soon as possible.
For example, if Martin does not understand how to do long division, then the teacher needs to know. However, if Martin has difficulty with long division because he does not know his multiplication tables, then it is mom and dad’s responsibility to make sure that he spends time learning the tables. If the Preschool child is asked to count family members at the dinner table, then it is the parents’ responsibility to assist the student with the counting. A homework assignment that requires a prekindergarten child to write his or her name 20 times is inappropriate. Homework is beneficial if it reinforces concepts and skills that the child learned in class and it must be developmentally appropriate.
The teacher is paid to teach. Parents are not teachers. Teaching concepts is not the parents’ job, especially if the parents do not know how to solve the problems and do not understand the methods the teacher used. Of course, if the parents feel up to the task, they may tutor their child, but they should not feel obligated to “teach” their child.
The research regarding the usefulness or benefits of homework to the prekindergarten student is mixed, but many school districts and the majority of parents want these young children to complete homework assignments. What is not controversial is the importance of parental involvement in school activities. The Harvard Research Project (2006) research verified that parents of children in prekindergarten through third grade whose parents actively participate in school activities and support homework are more likely to acquire valuable work habits and are high achievers. Parents and students benefit when there is a partnership between school and home.
It is also my experience in my work with parents and children that when parents are actively involved in their young child’s school activities, including homework, their children do better in the classroom and are confident learners, who are able to communicate their feelings in an appropriate manner.
A serious cause for concern is the fact that prekindergarten homework assignments are not always developmentally appropriate. This may be due in part to some educators and some parents’ unrealistic expectations about how children learn best. Ditto sheets may look impressive but are not appropriate for the prekindergarten children. Prekindergarten children are very concrete learners and their thinking and understanding rely heavily on the feel, touch, smell, taste, sound, and appearance of things. Age appropriate homework activities would provide opportunities for students to be actively involved in their environment doing hands-on activities rather than passively completing ditto sheets and tracing numbers 10 to 20 times. An appropriate assignment should take no more than 10 to 15 minutes, for that is the amount of time a preschooler can concentrate or focus without distraction.
“Some educators argue that the problem with students today is that they do not complete homework and, if they do, their parents are not involved in the completion of the homework.”
Prekindergarten children are unable to read, write and explain the homework assignments to their parents. Prekindergarten teachers therefore play a critical role in helping the parents of their students become effectively involved in homework assignments. A meaningful homework program provides parents with knowledge of child development, helps parents to understand how the prekindergarten child learns and helps parents to identify activities and use approaches that are developmentally appropriate. These learning experiences could occur within the context of workshops, conferences or daily impromptu exchanges during which parents are provided with direct feedback on student homework performance.
The State standards for the Preschool child is a document all parents of preschool children should be familiar with because it provides the concepts and skills that prekindergarten students should acquire before kindergarten. In addition, the document provides information that will help parents decide if the homework that is sent home is appropriate.
Appropriate homework assignments for the prekindergarten student could include:
- Identifying shapes at home. (e.g., The window is the shape of a rectangle. The plate is a circle. The can of beans is a cylinder, etc.)
- Touching and counting the chairs and placemats at the table.
- Assisting with cooking; helping to measure.
- Counting cars in a parking lot. Telling the number of white vehicles, red vehicles, etc.
- Sitting with your child and printing the letters of his/her name on paper and saying each letter as you write it.
- Pointing out individual letters in signs, billboards, posters, food containers, books and magazines. Reading signs: stop sign, MacDonald sign, ShopRite sign, etc.
- Asking your child to say words that rhyme with his or her name: Kate-plate, late, wait, date and gate, etc.
- Playing rhyming games and singing rhyming songs with your child. Many songs and games include clapping and bouncing and tossing balls.
- Reading nursery rhymes to your child. As you read, stop before a rhyming word and encourage him/her to fill in the blank. After it happens, praise him/her.
- Using strings to measure and compare the length of shoes, arms of family members, height of chairs, etc.
- Comparing shoe sizes (small, medium and large).
- Reading to your child for approximately 15 minutes daily. After reading a story, ask your child to:
Share what he or she would do differently, share his or her favorite part and make connections between the story and an experience the child had in person or saw on television.
The reality of it is that homework for the preschool child is, in fact, homework for the parent!
Thérèse Gray Counseling
2186 Halsey Street, Suite 1A
Union, NJ 07083
Ph: (973) 953-5771; Fax: (908) 686-3859