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Homework
/Homework is a Habit

Philosophy
At The Phoenix School homework is viewed as a habit, as an opportunity to not only develop academic skills, but to develop organizational skills, to reflect on work accomplished and to choose topics of particular interest to include in an evening’s work. It is our hope that homework for each Phoenix student becomes an extension of learning, not something that is added on by school as busywork. It includes time for students to pursue topics of personal interest. There is opportunity for hobbies, family adventures, special experiences and interests to be turned into a piece of homework. This means that homework does not end when teachers’ assignments are completed if all the homework time has not been used on a specific night. Students are expected to choose–which means they begin a personal choice assignment that may or may not be completed in one night, but may be continued/finished on succeeding nights when required assignments do not take the total allotted homework time. Spending a specific time each night, in an atmosphere conducive to study helps students develop a homework habit that makes studying much easier as it becomes more focused and complex in the upper grades, high school and college.

Guided by Time
There are homework expectations at each grade level, with time as the guideline, rather than merely finishing assignments. There might be specific teacher assigned work, but there often is time for student choice so the child can explore activities or topics of personal interest. It is this combination that allows the child to have a shared responsibility for homework, incorporating work on required skills while allowing for personal choice making homework more enjoyable as well as appropriate for each student’s ability level. Having a time requirement rather than ending homework when whatever the teacher assigned is finished avoids homework being rushed in order to finish in a short time and allows for the thinking that is so important to learning. It also makes it easier for parents to monitor, knowing that a time slot needs to be filled, and there is a logical end to homework time, rather than wondering if all homework could possibly be done in such a short time or worrying that homework will go past bedtime, leaving no time for family interaction.

Home and School Communication
Homework assignments are recorded in a Homework Book that the child takes from school to home and back daily. This is a critical communication tool between home and school and allows for teacher-parent dialogue daily. Each night parents review homework and comment on how homework went at home and what help was given. They often ask questions or make comments to teachers. Each day teachers check in with students and reply to parents in the Homework Book. Teachers often comment on progress, ask questions of parents or communicate directions regarding student expectations or growth. As students become more able to record their own Homework assignments, the Homework Book becomes more like a simple day planner, building a lifelong habit of using an organizer to keep track of deadlines and other responsibilities, immediate and long-range.

PK-2 Expectations
In Kindergarten, students typically do 15-20 minutes of homework. They are read to each night or they read to a parent if they are able. A parent might act as a secretary and record a child’s ideas or factual data next to pictures they have drawn in their journal as a follow up to a day’s activity or field trip. Even the youngest sets a goal each month ( a mountain to climb) that is recorded in the homework book, to be evaluated at the end of the month with the assistance of teachers and parents. In this way, even younger children can have an appropriately shared responsibility for their learning.

Homework time increases slightly for each grade, as do expectations. K-2s, who are able, read and often have a creative assignment to reflect the daily activities. Added at each grade level is a short additional amount of time each night for the building of a foundation for developing successful study skills. By 2nd grade, students spend 20-30 minutes nightly doing homework that always includes reading as well as a variety of assignments across the curriculum or a personal choice that incorporates reading, writing, research, math, science and/or creative activities.

3rd-4th Expectations
On days that school ends at 3:00 pm, students in grades 3-4 spend an hour on homework. On 4:30 dismissal days, homework is expected to last 30 minutes. Homework time always includes reading – either a personal reading book or an assigned piece of literature. Other homework might include writing, science, math, a creative project, personal choice or an assignment that integrates several curriculum areas, depending the focus of study at the time. Personal and academic goals are incorporated as part of the monthly homework time. It is vitally important that children learn to evaluate their progress and be part of choosing what they think is important for them to focus on as they work to improve skill and efficiency in their schoolwork and life skills.

5th-8th Expectations
Homework for 5th-8th graders is more complex and involved. Time requirements are increased as students begin to look toward high school. On Mondays, when school is dismissed at 3:00 pm homework time is 1.5 to 2 hours. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, when school is dismissed at 4:30 pm, the homework requirement is 1 hour. On weekends, students are expected to spend 1 ½ – 2 1/2 hours completing homework. Students at the upper school level are expected to increase homework time if necessary to catch up on unfinished assignments if such occurs. Planning the week of work to meet deadlines is so important for student success as requirements become more complex.

At the upper school level, there is more teacher-assigned homework, but students are given some time to choose homework activities that reflect personal interests and offer a wider variety of experiences. Nightly reading is always an expectation. Other homework might include research, writing, math, graphing calculator activities, science, special projects incorporating design, art, creative and/or personal choice activities. It is at this level that creating and maintaining a healthy homework habit is critical. It is important that students learn to plan their time to be able to keep up with multiple assignments and meet deadlines as well as make time for the exploration of personal interests and more creative activities that reflect learning in less traditional ways.

Even at this level parents are expected to review homework and comment on work done. Teachers review work daily and respond to parent comment/questions as well as communicate progress and ask questions about homework habits at home. In this way, parents and teachers and students are partners in the learning process, sharing suggestions and expectations about schoolwork and homework. By communicating regularly, any potential issues can be addressed before they become problems. It is clear to students that they are part of the learning team, and the adults in their lives, both at home and school, are part of the process.

Lifelong Habits
Building a healthy and efficient homework habit begins early and progresses steadily through the grades. Homework is viewed as another facet of the learning process, not as busy work that infringes on a child’s life for no reason. When children learn to plan, make good choices, and meet deadlines, they develop habits that will take them successfully through life, in school and beyond. A good homework habit supports lifelong learning.