If you’ve got school-age kids, then you’ve almost certainly done parent homework. This is the homework that goes straight from teacher to parent, gliding right over the child due to their age or inability. Ever cobbled together a costume for book character dress-up day? Or trawled through photos for an “All about Me” preschool project? Congratulations: you’ve completed parent homework. In the right amount, it can be fun, but for families with multiple kids, forget it. My oldest child’s international school in Singapore recently asked for parent attendance at five events in a two-week period. Yikes!
Teachers – and most parents – agree that parental involvement is crucial to learning. But where to draw that delicate line between participation and burden? And, if we all weren’t so darn busy these days, would this even be an issue?
We talked with two primary school teachers, ERIN SMITH and MARJIE SWEENEY from One World International School, to get the teachers’ point of view on this hot topic.
Is the concept of “parent homework” on your radar as teachers?
Erin: In OWIS’s Primary School, we don’t give parental homework. It’s not part of our student-led, inquiry-driven pedagogy and philosophy. We hope parents facilitate learning at home by asking questions about what their children are learning. And, we reiterate the skills and concepts taught at school through our Learning at Home projects. Each project spans four to five weeks, but they’re not mandatory. And we don’t call the projects “homework”.
Marjie: Our Learning at Home projects are things that students can do by themselves with the support of a parent. There is no homework sent home during the holidays. Children are encouraged to read, though; as such, teachers might send home an age-appropriate reading list.
Is the level of parent involvement decided on a school-wide level?
Erin: All home activities are decided at a grade-wide level. Grade leaders, along with the PYP Coordinator and grade teachers, have regular meetings to decide what these projects and tasks will be.
Some parents want to help a lot – others very little. How do you balance varying expectations?
Erin: It’s best to ensure we always have regular opportunities for parents to be involved in their child’s learning journey. Whether it’s volunteering for an event or running the PFA, there are many levels to our parent involvement. We want parents to feel welcome and a part of our learning community. We understand that some parents have busy lives. That’s why OWIS uses Seesaw, an excellent communication tool that enables parents to view their child’s learning and interactions on a weekly basis. Even though parents may not be physically at school, they can see their child in action with a touch of a button.
How important is it that parents are willing to provide some support to teachers?
Marjie: I personally feel this isn’t a prerequisite. However, if teachers want parental support, with things like reading, we actively support this. We also encourage parents to be involved in other aspects of the OWIS community. Parents can volunteer to be mystery readers and help with events like International Day and Book Week; or they can join the Parent Friends Association, which, among other things, helps decorate the school for big celebrations like Christmas, Chinese New Year and Diwali. These are all events where it’s great to have parents around.
Erin: We also have Class Representatives in every class from Early Childhood to Primary. This is a parent who volunteers to be a liaison with the class teacher. They support their child’s teacher with non-academic events and requirements.
Many households have two working parents; how does OWIS decide how many times to invite parents to school?
Erin: We have two parent/teacher conferences a year as well as one student-led conference. In addition, we have a Meet the Teacher evening and a Curriculum evening, both of which are optional. We always invite parents to events such as International Day, Sports Days and class assemblies, too.
Marjie: There are two to three events that parents are expected to attend. These are linked to feedback about their child and curriculum information. If parents are unable to attend, evening teachers can arrange an alternative date.
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