At the end of the last school year, Sharon Stochel, a parent from a Jewish day school in the New York area, was invited to give a short presentation on homework to her school principal, teachers, and staff. Throughout the school year, Sharon had approached the faculty about some of the problems with homework and the school took her concerns very seriously. At that same meeting, another parent gave a pro-homework presentation.
In the coming months, Sharon will let us know what the school decided to do with the information it learned at that meeting and whether any policy changes are implemented.
Parent Presentation on Homework
by Sharon Stochel
Thank you…for inviting me to discuss with you the ever increasing debate over an issue concerning today’s parents, teachers and children alike: homework. I applaud the school’s effort to re-evaluate and examine their current HW system.
During the past several years, numerous books have been published and articles written exploring the topic of HW as the concern and desire grow to keep up academically with our global economic competetitors, today’s demanding job market, and with top schools and universities. One of the most important facts I want to stress is that as of today, as explained by Alfie Kohn , the author of “The HW Myth”, is that “NO study has ever, EVER, demonstrated ANY academic benefits to doing homework for kids in elementary school and little, if any, value to kids in High School.” He goes on to say that ironically, “more and more homework is being piled on to younger and younger children when research supporting HW isn’t just dubious – it is non existent.”
Let’s take a moment to debunk just a couple of myths about HW.
There is a conception built into our society that HW has non-academic advantages: that it builds character, creates good work and study habits, and gives kids self discipline and responsibility. [This is a myth]. This is really a value judgement. The notion that HW has these affects has never been shown empirically. And there are numerous other ways, other than HW, where these benefits can be achieved.
There is also a pro-HW argument that advocates the need to increase the HW load to help create super kids so that they can keep up with and compete with other international industrialized nations. But after tracking international test scores, the most recent research shows that schools in countries with high test scores like Japan, actually give little, if any HW!
I always pictured my children coming home from school happy and excited to be home. Instead, many times they walk in tired and stressed from the day (yes, children have stress) and they come home with anxiety over the thought of having to sit down yet again for a period of time to do assignment after assignment. HW has become a battleground. I feel guilty as a parent enforcing the HW on them, many times with arguments, resistance, sometimes yelling and sometimes even punishing. All this going on when I know that they would be better off exploring their passions, developing a special talent or reading a book of their own choosing for however long they would like to read it.
I am the mom of five children under the age of ten. Life after school in our home is quite active as you can imagine. Dinner time, shower time, an extra curricular activity (depending on the evening), bed time routine which involves reading, talking, laughing and snuggling, multiplied by five, all take time. When my children walk in the door from school at 4:30 (sometimes 5:20 depending if there is an after school activity) and go to sleep at 8:30, there is little time for anything else other than HW. I urge you to consider the various studies that encourage families to have dinner together, have a game night, watch a movie, take a family walk in the early evening. These activities offer the opportunity for family discussions and facilitate a re-connection after a long day when every one has been running in different directions. HW interferes with these moments.
Please try to understand how HW competes with home life. How our dinner time is rushed so that the children can get back to their assignments. How a spontaneous evening activity is cast aside. How there is no time to ride a bike.
A parent, not a teacher, should determine how a child spends their time at home
Playtime, whether alone, with siblings, or with friends is what forms their interpersonal skills, their creativity, their bonds, their memories that take them into adult life. As psychologist David Elkind, author of “The Power of Play” explains: “Unscheduled and unstructured, creative play nurtures curiosity, cooperation and imagination and serves as the bedrock for future learning. Play is a basic human drive, the way we transform the world to fulfill our needs. Children have a short time being a child and the rest of their lives being adults. We stop learning when we stop living.”
I understand that as a teacher you have certain guidelines you need to adhere to and schedules and curriculum you need to accomplish within a certain time frame. The flow of your day is interfered with unscheduled interruptions, snack, lunch, specials like art, gym, music, assemblies, and so on. It’s a lot of work given a limited amount of time. I understand the pressures and I respect it. As a parent, I, too have a limited amount of time to instill in my child the values that I wish for them to live by. With all the research and studies today that show there is no correlation between HW and academic achievement, why are nightly assignments given which take children away from what they really need to be doing at home: creating life experiences that will help them grow up to be healthy, creative, happy, and well adjusted adults.
We need to be partners in the raising of these creative, emotional, spiritual beings. During the day, I entrust my children to you, as educators, to offer them an environment where they can learn academic skills which will empower them and give them the knowledge and resources, the edge, they need to be successful in the world. When they return home to me at night, you need to trust me that now I can offer them a warm, loving and stimulating environment where I can empower them with family values and traditions to be the best person they can be in life. Together we can raise confident, successful, and thoughtful individuals who can make the world a better place. This is the partnership between parent and teacher. Let’s work together.