Homework

Growing up when we had homework we did it alone, in our bedrooms, at our desks, and we didn’t come out until it was done. (Or until we were done wasting time pretending to do homework).

The boys have very recently been introduced to the idea of doing homework with a friend. I am not sure this is a good thing or not. How do you make sure that one kid isn’t giving the other kid all the answers? How do you ensure that they are making the most of their time?

The teachers are not complaining and I suppose that is a good sign, but I am still not convinced. To me it just seems like an excuse to socialize and perhaps get some work done halfheartedly at the same time. Do I have a point or am I an old fuddy-duddy who needs to get with the times?

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  1. batya from NJ says:

    I’d say just be happy that YOU don’t have to help them with their h/w. Personally, I don’t care how the h/w is done as long as it’s done & I don’t have to be the one ensuring that it gets done ;)!

  2. I’m a pretty recent grad and doing homework with a friend didn’t mean giving each other answers. It was more like just having someone else there to commiserate with about homework in general. Think of it like a mini study hall. We would help each other if one of us didn’t understand something or give each other class notes if one of us had missed class, but we weren’t giving each other answers. Given everything you’re written about your sons, I can’t imagine that they would cheat. In terms of making good use of their time, with younger ones I would have them in the same room while they were doing homework, but with older ones they should have it under control by then. That’s just my take on it.

  3. lady lock and load says:

    I think it kind of depends on the age. A first through third grader should not be doing homework with friends all the time but fourth and up is fine as long as teacher isn’t complaining and it gets done. In fact, I think it is to be encouraged because it is a way for the boys to socialize and have friends to shmooze with, very important for them!

  4. smb says:

    it depends whether the friend is serious about homework or not. If they are, they could be helpful, but if not, they are a distraction

  5. fille says:

    How do you know it’s a bad thing when one child gives all the answers to the other????

    That’s also a way of learning, and a quite efficient one at that.

    • Um…because that’s called cheating, not to mention plagiarism and is against every single school honor code I’ve ever seen. Doing something like that can get you kicked out of college, so why in the world would you want to advocate something like that?

      Also, the same way there are better ways of learning than rote memorization, there are much better ways of learning that copying someone’s answers. Copying answers requires no thinking whatsoever, ergo, what are they learning? Actually, they are learning something, and that is to take credit for someone else’s work and to take the easy way out. That attitude will hurt them in life more than anything else because life isn’t easy and kids need to learn to work hard and not rely on someone else to do things for them.

      As a teacher, I can tell you for sure we don’t give homework so that one person can do all the work. Homework is given for a reason and that is so that EACH student to which it is assigned learns by practicing what was taught that day in class. It’s pretty insulting to teachers to minimize and denigrate the hard work we put in to create lessons, materials and homework that will help our students learn.

      • fille says:

        I work in languages. So I had to do quite a lot of language learning. And I came to the conclusion that “cheating” is awfully effective when learning a language.

        The basic principle is that you generally forget a word, an expression, a few times before you learned it. The more desperately you need the word/expression, the better you will remember it.

        Now, desperate need of a word can arise when you are in the country or talking to a person in this language and you need something ans will only get it if you can make yourself understood, ergo, you know the word. That’s how I learned that “bookshelf” is “sifria” in Ivrit: I needed one, therefore I needed the word.

        However, desperate need can also arise in an exam situation. That’s why cheating can be an excellent memoriser. I will never forget that the name of the Italian foreign Minister when I took my first consecutive interpreting exam from italian was “Susanna Agnelli”, because that’s the bit of information I missed. (Unfortunately, Ministers keep changing at a frightful rate in Italy, so the information was not useful for a long time).

        I think also that children can learn when they are asked, do not know the answer, someone else gives it for them and they repeat it. I do not think that it is sound pedagogics to preclude this way of doing.

        By the way, there is an interesting approach of “cooperative learning”. It was first tested in developing countries where children do not have access to proper education… Here is a link:

        http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/sugata_mitra_the_child_driven_education.html

        • 1. It’s still cheating. You acknowledged that yourself. That kind of conduct in a school environment can get you anything from a failing grade to expulsion.
          2. The pedagogy for learning something is that it has to be repeated between 20 and 30 times. Copying 30 math answers from someone else does not mean that you did the problems 30 times.
          3. You also proved my point. You wrote about how YOU learned the word. Someone else didn’t learn it for you and you filled in the blanks on a homework page. You haven’t even come close to proving that you “cheated” when learning language. You learned language the same way people learn phone numbers – repetition.
          4. Cooperative learning isn’t even close to being a new pedagogy. Montessori schools have been working off of cooperative learning for years, not to mention that it’s been used in public schools for at least the past 30 years.

          My point still stands. Cheating is cheating. Taking credit for someone’s work as your own is cheating. Cheating will get you not only a failing grade but expelled from sch0ol.

          • fille says:

            1) I would not consider that helping each other at homework is cheating. Since it is homework, it is clear that the students do not have to do it all by themselves.

            2) You did not understand my stories. I never said anything about “filling in the blanks on a homework page”. Actually, in case you don’t know it, consecutive interpreting is done orally, no blanks, no homework page.

          • 1. You never said helping each other. I had already made it clear in my comment that helping a friend understand a problem they don’t understand is not cheating. Giving them all the answers is. I have given kids an F on homework that I knew was copied from someone else. Not only that, but the child who let them copy got an F as well. That is the way schooling works nowadays and has for many, many years. I’m not quite sure what world you’re in.

            2. Every teacher’s expectation is that homework is to be done individually unless otherwise stated. I don’t know where you got that homework isn’t supposed to be completed individually.

            3. Then your story is tangential and meaningless in the situation.

            4. Yes, I know consecutive interpreting is done orally. I have done consecutive translation as well, thank you very much. You are comparing apples and oranges. Again, tangential example that has nothing to do with my point or the discussion in general.

          • fille says:

            well, if you speak of “consecutive translating”, I suppose that you are not all to familiar with the profession and its terminology…

            I deplore your teaching methods consisting in punishing students for helping their co-students.

          • I wrote consecutive translation. And if I had written translating it would have been a typo.

            I teach the way any other teacher does. My students succeed above and beyond what is required. It’s also pretty unbelievable that you would “deplore” my requiring students to take responsibility for their own work. Hmm…now what does that say about you as a person? I also never said I punish them for helping. I said I punish them for cheating. You seem to not know the difference between the two. Pretty sad actually, considering you “study language”. You are consistently misinterpreting and deliberately ignoring what I’m saying because you think you know everything about everything. Again, pretty sad.

            Oh – you’re also assuming I care what you think about how I teach. My students and I know I’m a good teacher. I don’t need validation from you and I frankly could not care less what you think of my teaching. You know nothing about it.

  6. I don’t have kids yet, so maybe I can’t say, but I don’t think I’d let my child do his or her homework with a friend. Maybe it would depend on what the homework was – sometimes homework is doable in groups without harming any one child’s learning process. But overall – math, for example, or science – I think it’s best left to individual children to complete their own homework.

    • fille says:

      I think isolation is torture to many children.

      I do not think that isolating them is very conducive to doing homework, let alone to learning. Learning is exchange.

  7. ERICA says:

    While the answer to your question ultimately depends on the child in question (can they focus on the work in another child’s company, or will they be distracted?) and the nature of the homework, in general, doing homework together is more positive then not. Not all schoolwork needs to be done alone. Children can grow academically(and spiritually) by collaborating on problem-solving and/or helping their friends in an area of weakness. I speak as a teacher and a parent of two sons, now college graduates!

  8. fille says:

    Looking back, I think that “removing distraction” is the worst learning technique I have learned at home, and it keeps me very much from being productive till this day.

    At our home it worked like this: My brother was a rather poor student and hated doing homework.

    So my mother would isolate him from distractions (sit him at his desk, in his room, keep him from doing anything else).

    So either my brother would find a distraction all the same (he had a little drawer full of electric cables, transistors, and would play around with this stuff). Or he would just sit there and look in the air. Neither doing his homework, nor anything else.

    After a while, my mother would be unnerved because the homework was still not done yet, and sometimes the whole thing would escalate into my mother shouting, slapping my brother, beating him with or without a wooden spoon.

    I was never subject to these kinds of ceremonies my self, since I did OK at school and so my parents were not interested.

    However, this tought me a kind of “self-punishment” mechanism that is very, very ineffective when I want to get things done.

  9. Rabbiswife says:

    I really think this depends on the kid. for some people, learning is best accomplished with a quiet room, sitting at a desk. for others, they are more “social learners” and will thrive with a partner for learning (this is a Jewish thought, also. think of learning chavruta-style!) there are many ways people learn, for example: based on fille’s description, I’d guess her brother was a kinetic learner, someone who learns by doing. kids like this thrive on movement to learn, even if it’s little hand or foot motions or doodling to help them remember things. these are the kids who are constantly being told “sit still!” social learners (like myself) are told, “stop talking!”
    Like I said, every kid is different, and even social learners need a bit of oversight to stay on task, but it can work.

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