I really liked this comment posted by a teacher in response to my blog entry, Middle School Teacher Says There’s Plenty of Time For Homework.
As both a parent and a teacher, what bothers me most is the middle school teacher’s claim that parents who schedule after school activities are saying “athletic achievement and ‘well-roundedness’ are more important than school.”
It is a sad state of affairs when ‘well-roundedness’ and education have become mutually exclusive concepts.
Our society needs to recognize that more goes into raising a healthy, productive member of society than memorizing math facts or completing reading logs. Do we want a longer school day that offers every conceivable enrichment activity a child might be interested in? Or are we willing to allow families to make those choices on their own, based on their children’s needs and interests. If we claim that we are, we must support this by allowing enough “free time” after school for pursuing these enrichment activities without sacrificing sleep for homework.
As a society we also grumble about the erosion of family values. With most families dual income, family time is limited to between 6:00-10:00 pm on weeknights (at best). That’s not very much time for conversation in between necessary housework/chores. Add 2-3 hours (per child!) of homework to that mix, and you’ve got a recipe for stressed out family members who spend their precious hours together nagging and arguing.
And please don’t complain that studies show several hours of kids’ free time is spent watching TV. Do we hold adults responsible for making educational, enriching use out of every waking moment? Maybe the reason kids want to sit for 2 mindless hours in front of the TV is that they are over-scheduled and stressed out every other minute of their day.
I emailed the writer and asked her a little more about herself. She’s an early elementary school teacher, in Orange County CA, who, when she taught on her own, sent home a calendar with optional activities and asked parents to read with their kids. But when she co-taught, her partner teacher absolutely refused to give up weekly homework packets. “And yes, all the other teachers I’ve ever worked with think homework is great, or at least a necessary evil. Often the worst offenders are the teachers who don’t have kids.” She adds, “You know what’s frustrating about the research out there, is most of it talks about school generically, and doesn’t say what grades they’re referring to. The studies that do single out elementary show NO benefit, yet the summaries put forth by researchers/reviewers recommend homework for those grades anyway, to build study skills. The lame worksheets my kids bring home are building irritation with school, not study skills.”