Today’s guest blogger is Kate McReynolds, a child clinical psychologist who is currently the Assistant Editor of Encounter: Education for Meaning and Social Justice. I met Kate while working on The Case Against Homework and, whenever I get the opportunity to talk to her, or read her writing, I feel lucky to spend time with her. Here, she explains why vacations are so critical.
The Importance of Getting a Break
by Kate McReynolds
With the end of the school year, over 50 million American children are looking forward to summer vacation. But for most children, the school year never really ends. Summer homework assignments, internships, and summer school (including voluntary programs) mean that most children will be taking a working vacation. Many educators and politicians, especially those who support the current â€œstandards movement,â€? maintain that homework, including summer homework, is vital to the academic success of our children. But is it? More importantly, is it good for childrenâ€™s overall development?
The Development of the Whole Child
Academic mastery is one of the many developmental needs of children. They also need to develop social and emotional skills, self-control, problem solving abilities, self-confidence, creative and imaginative capacities, values and morals, a hopeful vision of the future, and a strong sense of self. Too exclusive a focus on school work deprives children of the activities they need to develop these other important capacities. In other words, excessive homework might help youngsters do better in school (although there is reason to believe that it works against learning), but it makes it hard for them to develop what they need to do better in life. To develop fully, children need time to play, time for self-directed activities, time to socialize with friends and neighbors, and time in nature. Children need time with their families too, relaxed time that is not fraught with homework battles. And they need time to dream and to wonder, time to imagine who they are and what they can become. Teenagers especially benefit from free time with their friends and unscheduled time to think, to dream, and to ponder their futures.
How Summer Homework Hurts Academic Growth
Not only can summer homework hinder childrenâ€™s full development, it can hurt their academic development. Everyone needs a break from their work, especially children. A real vacation, without even the thought of work hanging over oneâ€™s head, provides time to rest and recuperate. Vacations restore childrenâ€™s spirits, renew their energy, and revitalize their enthusiasm for school. But real vacations do even more. They give childrenâ€™s brains and minds vital time to consolidate and integrate new knowledge. When children have the opportunity to turn their attention away from their studies, for an afternoon or for the summer, new knowledge can â€œsink inâ€? and become a permanent part of the childâ€™s mind. Youngsters are then ready to take in more. Imagine a sponge thatâ€™s completely full of water. If we want it to absorb anymore, we have to make room for it.
Summer without homework will help our children, emotionally, socially, and academically. And it will add to their happiness.