My kids might want to move to France.
This week, French president François Hollande proposed a plan to eliminate homework. In fairness, he also wants to lengthen the school week for French children, which is currently only four days.
It’s interesting to say the least, and leads to a host of conversations about whether more work, more tests, and a heavy workload in general are appropriate or counter-effective. I can say that in my circle and many others, parents have had it up to here with the homework load, even in grammar school. Many find it takes time out of an already busy evening and just adds to the family stress. By the end of September, I was hearing the very same things among my parent friends; whether in the schoolyard, at work meetings, family gatherings, and while reading a whole lot of Facebook updates, almost everyone has been saying that kids are just losing their minds over homework. It included kids straight across the broad – those who were mainstream as well as others who had sensory issues and learning disabilities.
Many of the parents I know, whose kids go to both public and private school, say the workload is just ridiculous. I confess, I agree.
In advanced classes, my kids are constantly pushed to do more, do better, and score higher. This philosophy is good on one hand, but can very easily go bad. Not every kid can handle the pressure and not every kid wants to, even those who are considered gifted. That leads to an even larger issue at hand: does every kid need to be “advanced?” Or can childhood be a nice blend of education and fun, with an emphasis on blend? Too may kids I know are doing schoolwork the whole day, stopping only to eat and shower, and then dropping in bed, exhausted.
I’m not convinced that homework equals better or smarter students. When my kids don’t have homework, I think it’s great and I’ve never equated their lack of homework with learning less.
In addition, the amount of homework required varies greatly from school to school and teacher to teacher. Let’s face it, depending on your child’s teacher each year, your kid may get a hell of a lot or a hardly any at all; it’s a crapshoot.
My kids have had teachers who have given a ridiculous amount of unnecessary homework and they have also had teachers who have given very little. My daughter had a junior high teacher who barely ever gave the class homework, but it remains the one class in which she not only where she learned the most, but also retained it years later, and carried that knowledge into high school.
I’m not convinced that homework equals better or smarter students. (Do grades themselves even matter?) When my kids don’t have homework, I think it’s great and I’ve never equated their lack of homework with learning less.
When I was a kid, we always had homework, but rarely on Fridays, and weekday homework was not overwhelming. Yet somehow we all managed to go on to careers in our respective fields and be productive.
On a related note, this morning’s episode of the PBS show Arthur was about how technology is not the be all and end all in education. In it, Mr. Ratburn had a virtual helper that appeared from a smartboard in the classroom, who was programmed by a company to have 98 percent knowledge of all things, which lead to a 2 percent failure rate. Creator Mark Brown, who always manages to get his point across, was likely commenting on how quite a few teachers rely more on technology than actual teaching. Mr. Ratburn, a true teacher at heart, naturally disliked it.
That episode brought out something that I fear we overlook in this time of state tests, technology, and insane amounts of homework: teachers are people and good teachers, who can actually convey their thoughts and ideas to students in an engaging way, are not robots. They are gifted educators; their job is not just a job, but a calling. When are kids are lucky enough to have these types of teachers, they don’t need constant or heavy homework, because they actually learn enough, and are engaged, in school.
Furthermore, our kids are not robots and to mindlessly complete hours of daily homework for 10 months out of every year seems nothing but robotic. Going through the motions is not learning.
What do you think? Would you be OK with doing away with homework? How much homework per night do you find adequate for a kid in grammar school? Junior high? High school?
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