With the start of school just around the corner for my fourth grader, we’re all trying to savor the last drops of summer — and, of course, prepare for the upcoming year. Notebooks, rulers, all manner of pens and pencils, as well as about a gazillion glue sticks will be purchased. (Seriously, what’s with the insane number of glue sticks on the school supply list each year?)
We’re excited and nervous, contemplating what class my son will be in, what his teacher will be like, and how he will transition into the new year.
There is a good amount of dread, too — the freedom of summer fizzling right before our eyes, and the new responsibilities that await my son as the school year begins. As his mom, I will be dreading the hectic mornings, packing lunch after lunch that gets half-eaten — and the homework.
Good GOD, the homework. My son and I are in a very tight contest as to which of us dreads homework the most.
He hasn’t gotten a ton of homework over the years, and it doesn’t take him a ton of time. It’s just having to do it that’s hard — every single night, including some weekends. He gets home at 3 PM, and there are only so many hours between then and bedtime for him to get it done.
When I asked him this afternoon how he felt about doing homework, he had this to say: “I’m in school for six hours a day doing work. It sucks to come home and have to do more.”
And he’s right.
No one seems to understand that struggle more than Brandy Young, a teacher who sent a very welcome note about homework to her new students a few weeks ago, just as the school year began. The note was shared on Facebook by Samantha Gallagher, the mom of one of Mrs. Young’s students, and it’s since gone viral, being shared 61K times since it was first posted on August 16.
In the note, Mrs. Young introduces a new — and much-celebrated — homework policy to her students.
“After much research this summer, I am trying something new,” the note begins. “Homework will only consist of work that your student did not finish during the school day. There will be no formally assigned homework this year.”
Holy crap. If my son ever came home with a note like that, I’d be dancing on the kitchen table.
Like Mrs. Young, I have done some research myself on the matter. Numerous studies about homework during the elementary school years have come to one basic conclusion: there is absolutely no point. It does not advance a child academically, and often only causes more stress. Sure, there may be some benefits to homework when kids reach high school, though a high work load can ultimately be harmful.
“Research has been unable to prove that homework improves student performance,” Mrs. Young continues. So instead, she offers alternatives to what she hopes her students should do with their freed-up time:
“I ask that you spend your evening doing things that are proven to correlate with student success. Eat dinner as a family, read together, play outside, and get your child to bed early.”
Dear Mrs. Young: Can you come to New York and please be my son’s teacher this year?
In all fairness to my son’s upcoming teacher, I know that not all teachers — because of school policies or department of education standards — are able to challenge the status quo when it comes to homework. But I hope that a viral note like Mrs. Young’s will cause people to reconsider how homework is handled in schools.
Children need structure, and they need to learn rigor when it comes to their school work. But there is more to learning than doing worksheets or reports. Like Mrs. Young, I believe that what students need most after school is family time, play time, and just plain REST — but if homework is assigned, perhaps it can contain some of the elements Mrs. Young describes.
Maybe kids can be told to collect rocks in their backyard and bring them into school the next day to study them. Perhaps they can prepare dinner for their family and report back to school with how they used math and logical reasoning to follow a recipe. Whatever it is, let it be more hands-on and interactive. Let it embrace home life and the wonder of childhood instead of taking kids away from it.
Or better yet, let’s just all follow Mrs. Young’s example and banish homework altogether. I think kids AND their parents everywhere would all rejoice — and no one would be worse off in the long-run.