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Old 05-18-2013, 04:32 AM
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Kristabel, I can't speak for the other posters. However, I teach in a school that is 100% free lunch, located in the middle of (literally) a housing project. The vast majority of the parents are un- or under-educated. A few can't read at all even though they were born in this country and went to public schools. They LOVE their children, I have no doubt, but often their idea of good parenting is far from what I dream for my first grade students. For instance, many of my students had not held a book until they arrived in kindergarten (or first grade, since mandatory schooling starts at 6). Some came to kindergarten not knowing their full name or anything past a nickname like "Boo." Several could not sing the alphabet song or count past ten. The vast majority have never been read to. Their sense of right and wrong consists of "Hit back and hit harder," cultivated by the gun violence that is rampant almost every night. When our school serves cucumbers or carrots or pepper strips, many of the kids devour them and ask for more, having never tasted these things before (fresh food is not a priority). Many of them have functional vocabulary (Get in bed. Put on your clothes. We are leaving.) but have trouble with conversational vocabulary (What was the best part? Why did you like that part? Tell me all about your mom.). All things I would define as 'poor parenting' unless you have some pretty severe extenuating circumstances (disability, etc.). However, many of these parents feel strongly that they ARE good parents and would be angry if I had implied otherwise. Their children come to school wearing Nike Jordans --Don't you know they sacrificed to buy those? Their kids had breakfast this morning (powdered donuts and a Coke, they threw the wrappers away in my trash)--What do you mean they're hungry before lunch?! Their kids can focus for hours on the two different game consoles at their house--They do NOT have trouble focusing!

Especially in September, but really all year, I am in 'parent training' mode for at least 2/3 of the parents of my students. I have to advocate for my students to receive academic and behavioral home support. The homework is minimal, but it's designed to build habits and connections. For instance, each kid gets to choose an on-level book to take home and read to anyone (adult, brother, sister, dog, stuffed animal). Hopefully the parent WANTS to hear their child read (which is a pretty cool new skill!), but if not, maybe they'll hear it from afar or at least the kid has ACCESS to one book a night after school. No reading log--Parents would just sign it without listening to their kid so I gave up. I also send a spelling list. We practice the spelling pattern all week in school, which should be enough to master it. However, some parents will ask during phone calls/conferences, "Did you see that I had her practice her words?" or "Did he get 100 on his test?" and I consider that a WIN because the parent is invested in their child's success and feels that they had a direct impact on it. The worksheet I send home is usually a 5-10 minute independent task, and is not really the focus, but does give the parents of the really struggling students an idea that they're struggling.

When a parent asks how they can help their child improve, my answer is always around the library. It's free, it's heated/air conditioned, it has computers so you can use the internet, it has games for you to play with your child, and books! Read to your child. If you can't read, look at the picture and tell them a story and that's just as good. Talk about the story--Would you like to do that? Do you feel that way sometimes? Isn't that so gross? Make a time for it every night that you can before bed with the TV off ("Oh, she can't fall asleep/do homework/eat/get dressed without the TV on!") for just 10 minutes.

To sum it up, I give homework as a habit-former around things that more educated parents already do. I'm trying to give the parents a framework for supporting their child's education AND trying to support the child's literacy growth. Homework is a big deal when the child with few education-building experiences is coming in way under the bar set by their same-age peers who are getting the kind of home support that adds to their educational goals even without homework. If the parents of my students were giving their child the same experience that you gave your child, I'd feel the same way you do.
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