Tuesday, February 17, 2009

All Work - No Play Makes Honduran Kids Burned Out (and not any smarter)

I started tutoring a young boy on Monday. He is in 3rd grade and 10 years old. He's a nice, sweet little boy. On Monday he had homework in four subjects with instructions to also study his math for an upcoming test. The mother has trouble helping her son in the harder English language subjects such as social studies and science, as well as language (English). I am happy to help out as well as help make a little money for me. I'm really needing a haircut and a new pair of shoes!

On Monday we worked for an hour straight and still didn't get done. I wanted to relax and be able to talk a little, but after 30 minutes and seeing how much we still had to do I felt a little pressured to keep working hard. I don't think the teachers really understand what they are assigning and how much work it is for the kids to get things done, especially when they are not 100% bilingual and not understanding every word.

This little boy is barely communicative in English. He understands what I say for the most part, but I have to explain many words and I can tell he really needs help with comprehension.

By the end of the hour, he was yawning and obviously ready to be done. We completed 3 subjects. I sent him home with more homework to do. In total we probably worked for an hour and 10 minutes and the last 20 were pretty painful for him. I felt bad for him. I felt bad for all the kids (and parents of these kids) in Honduras overloaded with homework.

We had some of the same problems last year with Sister. We also noticed in Sister's class that a lot of parents were just doing the homework for their kids. It leads me to ask why are these kids getting so much homework? Has this been the norm for homework in Honduras for a while, or has it just come to this recently as education is getting more and more competitive with all the bi-lingual schools? Is there any standard that teachers could be instructed on?

I looked up some info on the internet (as I always do) about homework and what the guidelines are on what is appropriate for homework for elementary age children in the states. I found this website How Much Homework Is Too Much. Here are some interesting excerpts:
~"The 10-Minute Rule" formulated by the National PTA and the National Education Association, which suggests that kids should be doing about 10 minutes of homework per night per grade level. In other words, 10 minutes for first-graders, 20 for second-graders and so on.

~"We found that for kids in elementary school there was hardly any relationship between how much homework young children did and how well they were doing in school, but in middle school the relationship is positive and increases until the kids were doing between an hour to two hours a night, which is right where the 10-minute rule says it's going to be optimal."

~"I give one subject a night. It's what we were studying in class or preparation for the next day. It should be done within half an hour at most. I believe that children have many outside activities now and they also need to live fully as children. To have them work for six hours a day at school and then go home and work for hours at night does not seem right. It doesn't allow them to have a childhood."

This homework issue is one reason I am seriously considering homeschooling Sister when we are all living together again in Honduras.


Anonymous said...

The hubby says he doesn't recall the system being like that for him, but he thinks that the big difference is probably that it's a bilingual school and they expect more from the students. You know I have one in Kinder and he gets "homework". It's basically optional, but I feel like a bad mommy if we don't complete it each week. We never go more than 20 minutes on any given night, it seems absurd to do more than that. I mean, this is just kindergarten. I only want him to get used to sitting at the table and concentrating on something. As soon as he stops having fun though, the homework stops too. Well, I feel for your little tutor-ee. Poor guy. It's too bad they're loading him down so much. He'll probably lose interest in English altogether.

Brandy said...

That is sad that he is having so much homework, especially if he is still struggling with the language alltogether. I can only imagine doing homework in another language.. Anyways, when we go to Honduras, I am debating whether we put my daughter in a private school or if I should just homeschool her. I'm kind of undecided until we actually get there and see for ourselves. I will probably enroll her in a bilingual school and see how she does. After that, I will have a better idea if I should homeschool or not. When does Sister plan on moving back with you guys in Honduras? I bet you miss her lots and pray that you are all together soon!

Laurie said...

Good post. I teach in Honduras. Although some of my students are seriously behind the rest of the class, I announced a no homework night for all students today. They cheered! After all they are children, even though they are 5th and 6th graders. I have nights when I don't take home any school work so I reasoned they should have the same consideration. I hate the fact that the curriculum is so demanding that I am forced to give kids lots of homework.

Karine and Tom said...

Thanks for writing this post- well done! As a 4th grade teacher here in Honduras, I struggle sometimes with the "right" amount of homework to assign. I've found that sometimes when I give an assignment, I think it should take the kids 10-20 minutes to complete at home, but parents tell me that their children spent an hour or more! It's always helpful to me when parents (or tutors) let me know if their child is consistently doing more than an hour of homework each night. I do sometimes wonder how focused their studies are (tv on in background, interruptions, etc) and how that is impacting time spent.
For some of my students, I know that they take home quite a bit more homework than other classmates simply because they don't do their work during classtime! With large classes, it's difficult for a teacher to ensure that all students are on task for the entire worktime. The best option for me seems to be to have them finish it on their own time if they won't use the time I give them in class.
It's a tough call though!

aighmeigh said...

This is a difficult one, and one that I'm looking forward to learning more about in my education courses. The thing about this that doesn't sit well with me is the level of frustration a child must feel with that much homework. Not being able to complete the assigned work has to have a negative impact on the child's self esteem and must be ultimately counterproductive with respect to their relationship with learning. I'm glad you are there to help and encourage! Keep up the wonderful work! :)

Honduras Sprout said...

These have been very insightful responses.

Karine brings up a good point about work time in class. Even though I feel that the amount of homework assigned is a little high (homework in 4+ subjects on any given night I think is too much), I also feel that this boy doesn't understand the subjects being studied or what he may read about it in the texts. He is challenged to read, digest and problem solve effectively on his homework due to the language issues. Because of this, he may not be utilizing work time in class as Karine pointed out.

Thus, he has one to two hours of homework a night that either the tutor or his mom must help him on.

I understand the benefits of being able to speak English, but maybe bi-lingual education may not be the best for all kids?

Live Simply Love Strongly said...

How is Sister doing? I haven't heard much about her for awhile.

Honduras Sprout said...

LSLS- Oh! I have some wonderful updates about Sister. I'll post something very soon. Great stuff!