Should preschoolers have homework?

by Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. on March 13, 2011

in Bam Radio Series on Early Childhood Education, Homework in Preschool, The Value of Play

This is the question being asked on the latest BAM Radio Network show that I commentated on: “Should You Be Assigning Homework in Preschool?” by Rae Pica along with Etta Kralovec and Dr. Ann Barbour.

Go and take a listen to the show and see what you think!

Before you answer this question consider this…

These two boys are at play with large pattern blocks…

They are exploring patterns and shapes and how they fit together to create the train….

They are learning how to cooperate, collaborate, take turns, listen to each other’s ideas, follow directions, and adapt where needed to build their train…

While building the train, the children are reinforcing their recognition of shapes and colors…

The process of creating this train requires some trial and error, problem solving, and plenty of floor space to spread out their work…

They are building more than just a train, they are also building a friendship as they work together and play together…

Can you package all of these wonderful elements of learning into a single assignment and send it home as homework?

 

My random thoughts on homework for preschoolers…

In all of my years of teaching preschoolers, I have never sent home homework.  At least not the kind of homework where a child is expected to complete an activity then return it to school for some type of reward, grade, or accountability.

For children in full time preschool or childcare programs, I think that after a long day at school what they need most is time relaxing and interacting with with mom and dad. The preschool years are an important time for bonding with parents and their time time together should be respected.

If you are wanting to provide any kind of “homework” let me suggest these everyday activities that parents can do at home to help their child build the skills their child needs to be successful in while in school.

What kinds of activities can parents do at home to help their preschooler be successful in preschool? Here are a few simple ideas…

  • Promote independence by helping your preschooler develop skills such as dressing himself, washing hands, going potty, putting on coats, and feeding himself.
  • Build communication skills by talking with your preschooler often and encouraging your preschooler to ask questions or express his views on topics.
  • Promote an interest in literacy by reading with your preschooler- read simple books, signs in the grocery store, the back of a cereal box, street signs, and so on.
  • Promote social skills by inviting friends over so your preschooler will develop their ability to share, work out conflicts, and play positively with his or her peers.
  • Promote decision making skills by letting your child choose from a menu at a restaurant.
  • Promote problem solving skills by letting your child figure out how to open a container or how to do other things without your help.
  • Promote organizational skills by letting your child put away his own toys.
This article is being shared with you by Deborah Stewart of Teach Preschool - Promoting excellence in early childhood education at home and in the preschool classroom!

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Comments on this entry are closed.

1 Meghan March 13, 2011 at 12:54 pm

My son gets homework. Sometimes I make him do it (it’s maybe a 2 min job), other times I don’t.

2 Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. March 13, 2011 at 10:40 pm

It sounds like your child is bringing home activities to do that are optional – at least that is a good thing that you can use your judgement as to whether or not the activities being sent home are the right kind of activities for your child.

3 Pam March 13, 2011 at 4:19 pm

I love your suggetions for “homework”! These are all the things children this age SHOULD be learning and doing at home! I agree that after a 6 hour active day with other children, preschoolers need to spend time bonding and enjoying their home and family! There are plenty of learning opportunities that can be built into a typical family evening!

4 Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. March 13, 2011 at 7:16 pm

Thank you Pam!

5 Scott March 13, 2011 at 5:33 pm

Preschool homework: go home and play with your parents and siblings.

6 Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. March 13, 2011 at 7:16 pm

Great plan for homework Scott:)

7 Melinda March 13, 2011 at 8:06 pm

My daughter goes to preschool two days a week and gets homework each weekend. It is usually 2 worksheets, sometimes they are one sided and other times they are two sided, they are math, handwriting or letter sound skills practice. I don’t agree with preschoolers getting homework but I struggle with what to do since I don’t want to teach my daughter that it is okay to skip school assignments. I already often work with her (and my younger son) at home but the idea that she is coming home with homework bothers me if that makes any sense. I usually spread her work out over the weekend which helps.

8 Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. March 13, 2011 at 8:40 pm

Have you asked the teachers why they feel it is necessary to send home homework? Perhaps you can make suggestions for other ways parents can help their children learn at home that you would enjoy. Sometimes teachers are under the impression that parents want homework sent home. I wonder if you should just sit down and share your concerns with the teacher or administrators of the school.

9 Elizabeth March 13, 2011 at 8:21 pm

I often give parents “homework” but not the preschoolers. Recently I asked parents to record themselves reading a favorite book aloud so that we could play it during nap time, or to volunteer time to come in and read with small groups of children, if they were comfortable doing so. There are also times that they are “assigned” to read to their children at home and bring in little stars with book titles for a goal we are working on like to fill the wall with stars from all the books we have read (in order to get some prize like new books for our library or something).

10 Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. March 13, 2011 at 8:35 pm

I love it Elizabeth – these are wonderful examples of how to connect the learning experience between home and school! What a terrific idea to have the parents record read-aloud books!

11 Renee March 13, 2011 at 10:24 pm

I love the idea of giving *parents* homework. I used to send “suggested activity lists” home with parents a few times a year… after conferences in the fall and spring and after parents’ night, etc. Those lists included things that related to what we were doing in the classroom like “Send in 5 food labels that all contain a common letter (in either uppercase or lowercase form).” And then I’d use those labels in creating “letter boards” for when I introduced the letters in the classroom. Not all parents participated, but those who did typically involved their children in either selecting the labels or cutting them out and then the parents always knew to follow up with their children and ask what letter they were on in school, so it was a nice way for parents to stay in touch with what was going on in the classroom, too.

12 Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. March 13, 2011 at 10:34 pm

You are describing wonderful ways to get parents involved in the classroom without it becoming a nightly – sit down and do some kind of homework plan. I love seeing ideas that get parents involved in what is happening in the classroom. By giving them something fun they can do with their child – Parents are helping to extend the learning at home and are becoming a partner in the learning process!

Teacher Tom shared this on Facebook: “The only “homework” I ever give is to “think about” something. For instance, my Pre-K kids have a list of show and tell item prompts along the lines of: “Bring something thin,” or “bring something heavy,” or “bring things that are opposites.” I encourage the parents to talk them through these concepts.” This is another great example of how we can invite parents to be a part of the learning process!

Thank you for your comment Renee!

13 Centers and Circle Time March 13, 2011 at 11:50 pm

This is one of my favorite articles! I love your suggestions. I do not believe preschoolers should have homework. I do believe with our current VPK (Voluntary Pre Kindergarten) standards, I have no choice but to ask the parents to work with their children at home. Since 540 hours or 300 summer hours is not always a sufficient amount of time for the children to grasp the information they’ll be tested on the first 30 days of Kindergarten. I also have to take in consideration if my students have never been in preschool before and they don’t grasp the information, how is that going to reflect on our Center? In Florida, much like the FCAT, our Child Care Centers that accept VPK students are scored based on the VPK standards and if the students meet the standards.
It’s not fair to the children or the teachers. However, I do understand how frustrated the public schools were getting when some of the children were ready to read, but some of the students didn’t know their alphabet yet! Still waiting for a better system:)

14 Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. March 14, 2011 at 1:10 am

Have you heard the old saying Centers – “It isn’t up to the child to be ready for kindergarten rather Kindergarten should get ready for the child!”

I am sure it is frustrating for kindergarten programs to have children from all different levels of education coming into their schools but unless we want to make preschool mandatory at birth – there is always going to be that child who enters school at some point having never been in school before!

Are we going to continue to push the stringent requirements for learning down the pike?

Boy – I hate to see pre-k teachers sending home homework for the reasons you describe – tell me it isn’t so!

You know I love ya Centers:)

15 Darcey March 14, 2011 at 10:14 am

Great post, Deborah! I don’t believe preschoolers should have homework either. I love the suggestions you give for things parents and children can do together to learn concepts at home.

16 Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. March 14, 2011 at 5:05 pm

Thank you Darcey:)

17 Karen March 14, 2011 at 12:01 pm

Are you serious?Why would preschool have homework?The main focus is to make sure you don’t over crowd them.Remember that their brain is still small yanno.As they get into higher grades they will have homework and then parents will be complaining about to much homework.Parents just sit back and let the teachers do thier job while your child is under thier care and you do your job when they get home.

18 Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. March 14, 2011 at 9:12 pm

Hi Karen – your perspective is quite interesting! I think that part of the problem is that when teachers send homework home with preschoolers, that it can be perceived as school is intruding on the parent’s time with the child. The key is for parents and teachers to work together and be partners in the learning process. Rather then sitting back, I want parents to jump in and discover how they contribute in their own way to their child’s growth and development.

19 Jackie Lee March 14, 2011 at 5:26 pm

As a parent of a preschooler, who goes to school 4 days a week for 3 1/2 hours at a time, she gets homework. She’s sent home each week with a worksheet of letters she needs to practice writing. They do the top half of the worksheet at school, then it says the bottom half needs to be done at home. I’ll admit I am bad about checking her backpack and for the longest time didn’t even realize she was supposed to be taking this stuff back to school. oops. I mean really, preschool homework? Isn’t there going to be more than enough time when she’s older to have homework?

I encourage her to do it, and she enjoys doing it and showing it to her teacher, and getting a sticker, but if she didn’t love doing it I’m not sure what I’d do.

20 Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. March 14, 2011 at 8:59 pm

I think a lot of preschoolers like the idea of “homework” because it makes them feel grown up and it can be fun. I like when it is fun for the children but when it begins to intrude on family life and becomes an added stressor – then it is definitely time to reassess the value!

21 Beth Prince March 16, 2011 at 2:13 pm

I think one of the best preschool “homework” things I have seen was ” count the windows / doors in your house”. This teacher sent home fun “homework” ideas 2 -3 times a week that the whole family got involved in. As it turned out, the older sibling was more into it and usually helped his brother do the homework. I was always excited to see what would come next. VERY creative teacher!

22 Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. March 16, 2011 at 10:24 pm

I love that! Now that’s GREAT homework!!

23 Beth March 16, 2011 at 8:25 pm

What a surprise to check out this post and see my former college professor (Etta!) looking back at me.

24 Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. March 16, 2011 at 10:20 pm

Haha! How cool is that?

25 Pam Ennis May 9, 2011 at 11:22 am

Ugh I truly despise that this question even comes up. I wish I had saved the studies written a few years ago on the benefits of homework. In study after study it has been found that there is little to no benefit in homework before fourth grade, of course none of the studies done ten years ago included preschool children, just grade school. So maybe there is a benefit to homework for preschool children, except that I am talking to parents who tell me that their four year old hates school and they can’t get him/her to do their homework. Every time I have this conversation I am left shaking my head. At this age play based learning is the essential form of learning, not work sheets. As for sending home an activities list for parents to do at home with their child? I don’t know, yes the child should naturally be doing certain activities at home, but I wonder if these activities aren’t already part of the home life if the parents will even do them. Please lets keep the pre in preschool and remember that play based learning is where our young children really learn and grow, not at the dining room table struggling with a work sheet.

26 Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. May 9, 2011 at 1:19 pm

I agree – let’s keep the children learning through their play!

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