Inspired by a little-known picture book from the pen of Bethany Tudor, this is a diary, of sorts, where I document some of my thoughts, activities, and ideas as I explore the challenges met by the characters in the story: hard work, the care and nurture of others, housekeeping skills, life changes, charity, community, and cooperation, among others. Like Samuel and Samantha, the ducks in the tale, I struggle and succeed, cope and celebrate, work and play, handling the tasks that come my way. I invite you to join me on my journey.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Ban Homework? Never!

This headline came across my desk the other day: Parents In Australia Call for Ban On Homework. Quoting from the article:
Homework should be scrapped in the early years of primary school and its place in high schools reviewed amid concerns it is a practice without any academic benefits.

The national umbrella organization of parents and citizens groups, the Australian Council of State School Organizations, has called for a review of the setting of homework, arguing there is no evidence that students benefit from the practice and that it has become an overbearing invasion of family life.
Wow! Homework, the custom of assigning extra work to students so that they can practice the lessons learned in their classrooms in order to further develop and cement new skills, is an “overbearing invasion of family life.” The basis for this statement, according to Terry Aulich, the council executive officer:
There is nothing to [PROVE] homework gives kids an advantage in terms of literacy and numeracy.
That is what Mr. Aulich said. Admittedly, this is what my brain heard: “Education is an overbearing invasion of family life, a downright inconvenience for me and my children.” I wonder if this gentleman would advocate the elimination of soccer practice if his favorite team PROVED they could win games without it? As a homeschool educator, a continuing education student, and the daughter of a teacher, I must confess I am an advocate FOR this particular invasion of family life because, despite the lack of a study demonstrating its benefits, I have seen the results of homework completion reflected in student comprehension. Those who finish homework have a better command of the subject matter at hand; those who refuse to do homework generally don’t understand the subject matter as well.

That said, I would not dispute the fact that the amount of homework assigned is often excessive, especially in the primary grades, possibly giving rise to the physical and emotional exhaustion experienced by students mentioned in the article. The rule when I was in school, and that I have used with my own students, was ten minutes of homework per grade level for the average child. For example, the average first grader should be assigned work that can be completed in ten minutes; the average twelfth grader should be assigned work that can be finished in 120 minutes (or two hours). Of course, non-average students may require more, or less, time to complete their assignments.

I believe the problem with homework lies in a lack of time management skill on the part of the student and on the part of the parents, plus a lack of reading skill on the part of the child. Using the aforementioned homework assignment guidelines, families should EXPECT (and allow for) the required homework time EVERY evening, an extremely difficult task given the level of sports participation in some families. Students should EXPECT (and allow for) a period of focus on their studies during a daily homework time. Parents should also make certain their children can read well for their grade level; better skills often result in shorter homework completion times. If superior reading skill is problematic for your child, seek help in this area as soon as possible. The extra effort to improve reading speed and comprehension will eventually pay off for both the student and the family.

My last word of advice on this subject: don’t ban homework and don’t think of it as an “overbearing invasion of family life.” Instead, embrace this time-honored custom of skill practice for what it is: a step in the development of a disciplined mind. Make homework (and education in general) a priority so you can keep it in perspective and, thereby, help your children discern the difference between the love of learning and the practice of discipline.

1 comment:

Janet Rubin said...

I'm so glad all our work is homework. my view is that if public schools didn't waste so much time teaching junk, they could accomplish enough in the six hours kids are there and they wouldn't need to do so much homework! I mean sure, we're only in 1st and 2nd grade here at my house, but we accomplish everything (spelling, math, vocab, writing, penmanship, phonics, Bible, and reading-toghether and individually) in 3 hours or less. And it's all family time:)