Monday, September 17, 2012

More on Homework Contracts

The question keeps coming up about what to do about these pesky “voluntary” agreements parents are asked to sign in which they agree to make sure their children do their homework. I previously offered an idea for a “counter-contract.” I am having some new thoughts about how this could be handled.

If you are a homework-questioning parents, you probably perceive the contract as an intrusion on your space, get angry, and start to think how to push back. What if you thought of it as an invitation for dialogue rather than an exertion of power over your home? What if you thought of it as the first step toward a fruitful discussion?

From that perspective, I’m starting to think that the best response may be to not sign the contract, but, instead, return it with a note thanking the teacher for his or her interest in your child and asking for a time in which you could clarify what the teacher wants. Set up a meeting and then, rather than challenge the teacher’s homework policy, share with the teacher what you have been reading and ask if he or she has read this material, too.

You can choose from a variety of resources. I actually wrote my book, The Homework Trap: Howto Save the Sanity of Parents, Students and Teachers, with the specific hope that it could be shared with teachers and, by making it short and to the point, it might actually get read. If you have a copy of my book, give it to the teacher at the end of your discussion. (I’m a psychologist, and, frankly, when people seek my help with their homework-trapped kids, I advise them to give copies of my book to all their children’s teachers, which is quite a bit cheaper than scheduling a session with me).

But you may be taken by other models than mine.  SaraBennett, Etta Kralovec, Cathy Vatterott, and Alfie Kohn have all written excellent books on the subject. The Race to Nowhere team met with the National PTA presenting them their model about what schools should do. Base your conversation on the facts, using whichever resource and model makes the most sense to you, but think of this as a unique opportunity, an invitation by the teacher, to enter into dialogue about homework. Use whatever time the teacher gives you to converse, at the beginning of the school year before problems arise, to offer something that is limited but accurate. You can be authoritative not pleading, and positive not confrontational, while setting the stage for the notion that “homeworkness is NOT next to Godliness,” not a preordained absolute that must take place, rather something that is open for consideration and debate.

Visit The Homework Trap website

Dr. Kenneth Goldberg, is the author of The Homework Trap: How to Save the Sanity of Parents, Teachers, and Students, published by Wyndmoor Press.

Wyndmoor Press now offers bulk rate discounts to parent, school, and community groups. We recommend Amazon for single copy purchases.

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