Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Homework...Oh How I Loathe Thee!

When I graduated high school I celebrated my freedom from the tyranny of classrooms, school lunches, tests, and best of all, homework! Or so I thought.

Fast forward 12 years and I am once again a slave to school bells, packing organic nutritious and yummy lunches, and worst of all...homework!

My afternoons are mostly spent helping both of the school aged kids to get through hours of homework. When they come home they are tired. I see it in their walk, in their faces, and in their eyes, mostly. I know that if they start homework right away they will be more productive then if I wait and they lose their steam. Then they tend to be more resistant.

I find myself questioning why it is necessary to give a 7 year old 7 pages of homework plus 20 minutes of reading in one night. She is sitting at her desk now plowing away at it like a dedicated learner. While I admire and praise her hard work ethic I also question if she would be better off taking the afternoon to learn at a museum or having an arts and crafts day with dear old mom. What benefit does homework truly have for children?

According to an article in Time Magazine students now have more homework than ever. Not only that, but homework has been shown to have an affect on the quality of home life and even on a student's health. However, with standards ever-increasing for our young scholars how are we to keep up if we don't push our children to go above and beyond? What is a reasonable amount of homework that a student should be expected to accomplish?

I recently learned of "unschooling." This is where a child is not placed in a set curriculum, but they are taught as they show interest in a subject. I find this facinating. Although I value the great teachers we have at our elementary school I have to wonder what my children are missing because we are limited on our free time. I would love to take my young ones on a field trip to watch a cow being born or to let them spend the day with dad and learn how engines work. I believe making a lesson out of a grocery store trip can be more memorable and educational than pouring over a math sheet. Involving a child in daily tasks, like budgeting, is a necessary life skill that isn't taught in a classroom setting.

I believe that as parents we need to step up and become advocates for our children. If your family is suffering because of homework then speak to your childrens' teachers. There is a time and place for learning after the school bell has rung, but not at the expense of a happy family. Use your daily outings as a chance to teach. Show your children food labels at the grocery stores so they know how to spot junk food. Take them to a bank and explain how loans work. Plant seeds in your backyard and watch them grow.

Most importantly, lead by example. We are always teaching our children, even if we are not aware they are learning from us.


Laurie said...

I hear ya there. My DS (2nd grade) is getting homework but only 1 or 2 sheets per night, plus he needs to read for about 15 /mins per night.

I think 7 pages is waaaaaay too much, and I don't always think homework is necessary at all! I don't believe (as some do) that homework is the sign of a "good school" necessarily, or that homework should be given in KINDERGARTEN (pet peeve of mine!!)


DoulaMomma said...

My middle son (also 2nd) is getting about what Laurie's is...this year, so far, has not been a big bummer with homework hassles, but we have had years where it has been a complete drag. At Back To School Night, the teacher said to let her know if the homework is taking too long/impacting family time & she will try to work with us. I do know some parents who have sent notes that the homework time was being limited to X time (like 30 minutes)...I have never done this, but would if it became a problem. I have found that the year/teacher/who my kids are at that point all plays in to how the school/homework scene goes. My oldest is almost 11 & is in 6th grade (yikes) and he is being amazingly independent in doing his work.
I was homeschooled until 4th (for practical reasons only) but I think my parents were great at the "unschooling" idea of making almost anything into a lesson/learning opportunity & I try to do the same.