On April 4th, 2005 I was part of a panel discussion at Leo Baeck Day School. One of the threads of discussion was around homework at the elementary school level. I did field several questions and discussed how I work in a coach-like fashion to help my children learn how they best they can deal with this responsibility without taking over the actual responsibility itself.
Like any great event, we had so much to talk about and there is never enough to time to get to it all! I was inspired to write more here so the conversation might continue.
If I were to create "The Alyson School" it would not have ANY homework. There would be more non-instructional time for students to do their work projects during the course of the day, even if that meant a longer day.
I think it was Mark Twain who said "Don’t let your schooling get in the way of a good education". I am all about education, but homework can be detrimental and here are the reasons I feel this way:
Firstly: it is killing the family. For most of the modern families I know, parents work all day and then come home to the precious few hours they have together with their children and spend it fight over doing homework. Once the homework finally gets started, things only go from bad to worse as parents fall so easily into hurtful comments; "come on, you KNOW this", "Did you even READ the question?" Ouch.
Secondly: I see homework as a method of grooming the next generation to be workaholics. It isn’t just that I don’t think kids should take work home, neither should teachers or parents take their work home. We have lost all common sense and balance. After a day of work the human mind needs to rest. Try going to a conference and look at the energy level of the learners by the end of the last afternoon session!
Just a quick aside here about just how culturally bound our ideas about homework are. I have a colleague who is working with schools in Azerbaijan. There, the teachers bock at the idea of giving home work because it would require them to do more work for the same money since they have to produce it and to mark it. So in Azerbaijan, families pay the teachers under the table to give homework. It makes a class barrier. Poorer people can’t afford the homework so the wealthier children advance.
Thirdly: For a variety of reasons, some parents can’t help their children. Perhaps they work evenings or do not speak English. For some families it is not feasible. Should those children "fall behind" because work is expected at home? It reminds me a bit too much of Azerbaijan.
Fourthly: Parents are not trained elementary school teachers. I respect teacher’s skills too much to think a parent can master it at home.
What do others think? Shall we start a movement? I’d love to read your comments.