By Chick Moorman and Thomas Haller
You know what's happening with homework in American education. Simply put, more homework is being assigned than ever before and it is being assigned to younger and younger children. But is it good? More teachers are beginning to think not.
Fueled by the research and the popularity of Alfie Kohn's book, The Homework Myth, many professional and thoughtful educators across the country are altering their homework policies. Some are assigning less. Others are making sure their homework only involves projects that connect the school and family, such as having the student teach a family member what he or she learned or interview parents about their life experiences. Some tell parents that the child should only work on homework (infrequently assigned) for 20-30 minutes. At the end of that time the child is to stop, regardless of where he or she is in the assignment. Still other teachers are assigning no homework at all.
Since this altered homework stance is often new to the parents, an explanation is in order. When you follow what you know in your heart is best for children and it bucks traditional practice or even school policy, it is essential that you have your rationale ready to go.
Look over the list below, modified from one used by a fourth-grade teacher in Seattle, WA. Pick the suggested responses that make sense to you. Use them to create your own personal response to those who are asking you to do what is not always in the best interest of children or conducive to developing an intrinsic motivation for children to keep on learning.
1.) School is the only place in our society where a person must work all day and come home and work some more. It is like working a double shift. Would you put up with that?
2.) Family conflict is increased because of the nagging and yelling or simple frustration it often takes to make sure homework gets done. The struggle our children are putting up to resist inappropriate use of homework is divisive to families.
3.) Homework erodes family time the opportunity to do things together to build family solidarity. Time to eat together, tell stories, play checkers, go for a bike ride, and hang out together is being lost. Homework assignments show disrespect for the family's right to decide how to spend their free time together.
4.) Homework leaves less time for nonacademic learning, including reading for pleasure, collecting bugs, visiting a zoo, or trading baseball cards.
5.) Homework could well be the number one inhibitor of our children developing a desire to go on learning. It can extinguish curiosity and the love for learning.
6.) Homework is often so distasteful to children that parents resort to offering incentives, praise, and bribes for doing it. This further teaches children that learning is not something to do for learning's sake, but because you get rewarded for it.
7.) Just because kids have homework to do at night does not mean any learning is taking place. In fact, homework often drives children away from learning the intended lesson. What they learn is that learning is distasteful.
8.) Evidence does not exist demonstrating that homework has any academic benefit to children in elementary school.
9.) There is no research that shows that homework builds responsibility and good study habits. Many times children develop poor work habits when it comes to doing homework. Surface-skimming, procrastination, and daydreaming can occur more often than the desired habits.
10.) Self-responsibility is more about learning to manage freedom than it is about practicing compliance with other-directed assignments that please the adult. Children do not learn to act responsibly when they are tightly regulated.
11.) Giving homework to children who already know how to do it is a waste of their time. Giving the same assignment to students who do not know how to do it produces one of two results. Either these students feel stupid and give up, or they sit at the study table and do the assignment all wrong. In that case, they don't feel stupid until the next day, when the homework is evaluated.
12.) My job as a professional educator is to encourage children to love learning, not to get them ready for unpleasantness (tons of homework) in the future. People don't typically learn how to deal with unhappiness by giving them a lot of unhappiness on which to practice.
13.) Pleasure reading and reading for meaning are two of the casualties of homework. Who would want to pick up a book and read after doing an hour or two of homework?
14.) Since there is clearly no evidence that shows homework is beneficial, I will err on the side of less rather than more.
Is it time for you to take a stand against homework? Have you recognized the negative effects it has on students but have not been sure what to do about it? Do you need some encouragement? Please feel encouraged. There are teachers all over the world who feel the same way you do. These teachers are attempting to help restore our children's love of learning by cutting back on homework, or even eliminating it altogether. Please join them.
Chick Moorman and Thomas Haller are the authors of The 10 Commitments: Parenting with Purpose. Chick has also written Spirit Whisperers: Teachers Who Nourish a Child's Spirit. Chick and Thomas are two of the world's foremost authorities on raising responsible, caring, confident children. To obtain more information about how they can help you or your group meet your staff development needs, visit their websites today: www.chickmoorman.com or www.thomashaller.com.