Speech/Language: Homework or Communication?

I have a confession to make: I don't give students speech/language homework.

There, I said it. But before you judge too harshly, let me tell you what I actually do because I do hand out what looks like homework.

Let me describe my situation. Most parents want to help but aren't sure how. So they ask for homework because that's what they know. I mean, we are in a school after all. But here is what was happening:

Me: Johnny, here is a list of your words. Take these home, practice with your parents, bring it back, and I'll give you a sticker.
Johnny: I'll take it home, but my parents won't do it. They say we don't have time.
Me: It only takes 5 minutes.
Johnny: Well, I have soccer practice and then we have to eat and then we're all too tired.

And if a student actually brought back homework, you could have gotten out the feather and knocked me over because I was so surprised.

I went through a phase. Why am a making all these copies if parents won't do it? I could spend the time actually working with the students instead of writing on their papers.

I also went through empathy with the parents. I get it. I worked at the elementary school my own two kids attended, and the backpacks didn't get checked every day. There were days when I was just so worn out that I couldn't handle any more school, and then we were off to baseball practice and dance.

But then parents complained that they didn't know what their children were working on. And they complained about not getting homework at IEP meetings. In front of my principal.

I had to make a change. And I struggled with my decision, but I've come to terms with it.

My decision was that every student got a take-home sheet once a week. I copied off tons of Year-Round Articulation pages. I learned to mark out the directions on top and quickly write my own. Artic, language, fluency - everyone got something. I started making take-home sheets for our own products.

My struggle was this: Is what I'm doing a CYA move? Am I taking time away from direct therapy just to avoid conflict? Just to make parents and my principal happy? Because that was something I didn't want to do. I didn't have a good answer at first.

As the spring semester progressed, there weren't any more comments at IEP meetings about speech homework, but parents were more knowledgeable about their child's goals and objectives. Parents usually see the "homework" and then know what their child is working on. This gives me an opening to talk about the benefits of home practice. Also, surprisingly, once my thought process changed, I even had a few students return their homework with parent signature!

So here's my conclusion: parents ask for "homework" because that's what they know. We give homework because that's what we know. What parents really want is communication. They want to know what their child did in speech. And if I put that in the form of homework but they use it as communication, I've learned to be okay with that. I'm providing what I think is a benefit, but I can't make anyone use it. I plan to keep on communicating.

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