Monday, October 2, 2017
Maybe he doesn't need that homework...but maybe he does
Like many people, Max learns best with repetition. And so, over the years, I've been known to request extra homework . When I realized he wasn't getting any for social studies or science at school, I asked about it. Students don't get work at home for those topics, I was told, because they already get math and english work. I could, however, get copies of the chapters for review.
I didn't know what to think, but it bothered me. Ditto for the fact that Max's IEP has never contained goals for social studies and science—basically, reading skills and comprehension are the consummate goals. Same goes for the fact that he never has tests. He's had to take standardized ones, of course, but class quizzes and finals: no.
At the root of my concerns is the question of Max not being held up to certain standards. He may learn in a different way than neurotypical students do, and at at different pace, but why shouldn't he be tested on his knowledge? Why shouldn't he get some homework in social studies and science? That knowledge helps shapes our perspectives and understanding of the world. When I was looking at high schools for Max last fall, I was turned off by one's no-homework policy.
Max is one of those students who actually likes doing homework, especially since he enjoys being right. "It's easy!" he often proclaims. If we're getting to it at 7:00 at night, after I'm home from work, and he's tired he can be a bit whiny. Usually it's not much, though, just a couple of worksheets typically related to life skills, like reading a menu. I take a photo of them from his iPad using the SnapType app, which enables Max to type answers on them.
But then, there's the other Big Question I wrestle with: How much academics is truly important for him? Max's school places a big emphasis on life skills, which is key to his future. Obviously, there's overlap with that and science, like learning about how the body works. But when you have a child who needs to learn how to do everything from pulling up pants to washing dishes, then learning the elemental table doesn't seem imperative. Then there's the fact that learning the elemental table is beyond his comprehension right now.
There has to be a happy medium.
I had all this on the brain when we went for Max's annual neurologist appointment on Friday. After Max filled him in on his Las Vegas trip, we talked about Max's progress. It was good to hear the doctor say he thought Max was getting easier to understand when he spoke. I brought up my concerns about the homework. We talked about schools' expectations of students with intellectual disability.
The doctor reminded me how educational experiences can be. Sure, Max could get homework about Colonial America—but it would be even more helpful to the way he learns to visit a local colonial fair or, someday, Williamsburg, VA. Sure, he could study the galaxy, or we could go to a planetarium. It would all tap into Max's love for travel and trying new activities.
I left there feeling a bit more reassured. But I'm still going to explore homework options for Max with his school; one possibility is doing more on IXL, a schoolwork practice site he enjoys.
Once again, I hope I'm doing right by him.
As parents of children with disabilities, we 're often aware that we need to let go of preconceived ideas of how classwork, homework and learning should happen. We're aware that our children need to learn many things that other children don't need to be taught. But we're also acutely aware that we don't want to underestimate our children—and that it's up to us to make sure people in their lives max out their potential.