I love homeworkMarch 22, 2007
It’s almost as though I planned it this way. A few days of musing about homework, and I just knew (the little hairs on the back of the neck kind of feeling) that I’d be dealing with parents about homework.
Well earlier this week, I had three parents form a common front and come to me with their concerns. Oh, and “there of lots of other concerned parents too… we’ve been talking to them”.
Yeh, right. Please keep in mind that I offer up about 30 minutes of homework every other day. Rarely on weekends, and never over holidays.
I’m trying to get a read on how much homework Alfie Kohn would suggest is reasonable for grade 9. Let’s see what he has to say from an article entitled Rethinking Homework, from which I shall pull out excerpts (italicized) and respond (bolded, just cos I can).
Rethinking Homework by Alfie Kohn
After spending most of the day in school, children are typically given additional assignments to be completed at home. This is a rather curious fact when you stop to think about it, but not as curious as the fact that few people ever stop to think about it.
Actually, I do think about homework. Quite a bit. I am, for instance, constantly conflicted by my personal experience (I hardly had any homework — or perhaps I rarely did much homework — until high school). And yet, I was an honour role student when push came to shove in my final year.
In other words, with little “practice” doing it, I somehow figured out when it was important for homework to be done.
It becomes even more curious, for that matter, in light of three other facts:
1. The negative effects of homework are well known. They include children’s frustration and exhaustion, lack of time for other activities, and possible loss of interest in learning.
The negative effects of failure are also quite well known. Should we not establish a balance between these two competing forces? Too much of anything is not a good thing. But surely there is a time and a place.
Many parents lament the impact of homework on their relationship with their children; they may also resent having to play the role of enforcer
I get paid to be the enforcer, then? Sorry, no paid well enough.
and worry that they will be criticized either for not being involved enough with the homework or for becoming too involved.
Banish the idea that parents should be involved in their kid’s education.
2. The positive effects of homework are largely mythical.
Tell that to music students who want to become better musicians. Or athletes.
For starters, there is absolutely no evidence of any academic benefit from assigning homework in elementary or middle school.
At the elementary level, I’ve got to agree. I am astounded by how much grade 6s are bringing home.
Meanwhile, no study has ever substantiated the belief that homework builds character or teaches good study habits.
Intuitively, I would like to think that there is a correlation, but personally, I learned all my myself when it was necessary to pump it up a notch.
More homework is being piled on children despite the absence of its value. Over the last quarter-century the burden has increased most for the youngest children, for whom the evidence of positive effects isn’t just dubious; it’s nonexistent.
Now, if I were to be perfectly honest here, I’d have to agree. Just looking at the quality of homework some of my colleagues are giving (and the stupid kinds of busy work and “multimedia” they spend class time on). I would not be happy if my kid came home with two hours of work a night in grade 7. I’m not so sure it’s that far off, though, for grade 9…
I’ve heard from countless people across the country about the frustration they feel over homework. Parents who watch a torrent of busywork spill out of their children’s backpacks wish they could help teachers understand how the cons overwhelmingly outweigh the pros.
Once again, I can empathize with this sentiment, both as a parent and as an observer of my colleagues. But I don’t believe that the “cons overwhelmingly outweigh the pros” in every case. I have some very clear (at least in my mind) reasons for giving homework. I think the research, where such exists, supports my reasoning.
The rest of the article goes on to suggests ways that principals can “buck the trend” and effect some change.Now, to be honest (when I am not?) I’ve got to agree that a good number of my colleagues are assigning “stupid work” (as opposed to homework) too much of the time. If I were a parent of one of these students, you bet your ass I’d be chatting up the curriculum leader.
But I’d also like to think that I have good, solid reasons for assigning what I do. here they are:
- To practice and reinforce ideas that have been taught in the class. We simply don’t have time to practice Mendelian dihybrid crosses ad infinitem. Practice does make perfect, I sincerely believe that.
- To catch up. Sorry kids, but getting sick sucks. I’m not saying you weren’t sick, or that little family field trip to the mall wasn’t important. But when shit happens, you need to take care of business afterwards. I’ll make you a deal: I will spend one-on-one time with you to reteach what you missed, you spend your time to get the classwork done.
- To get it done. If you fuck around in class, don’t cry at me when you get to do that work at home. Nor if I throw in a few extra questions for good measure.
The underlying philosophy I have is this: class time is short. We can get some of the grunt work done at home, so that we can spend class time doing the fun stuff (exploratory activities, labs, and such). Or else we can do the grunt stuff at school.
When I pose this option to the kids, they invariably vote for a bit more homework. Sorry, but three and a half hours a week (if I’m lucky) just doesn’t give us enough time to do both.
Thanks for dropping by!