a resident of JLS Middle School
on Dec 19, 2014 at 4:10 am
To Paly Parent, village fool, CrescentParkAnon, and Experienced - Thanks for sharing the feedback,experience and insights. I, too, thought your quote was relevant, village fool, thank you for reposting.
I feel the discussion over whether homework is good is bound up in how we choose to educate children. Is the goal for each child to reach their potential, or is school a giant sorting mechanism? I think it should be the former. Nobel Prize Winner Marie Curie apparently homeschooled her (Nobel prize winning) daughter irene with a group of other university parents. She insisted on no more than two subjects a day, finished by noon, then the kids went to museums in Paris and other enrichment during the day. Yet Irene writes much about how she learned about hard work. Curie chose this after realizing Irene was a "dreamer like her father" (father Pierre who also was a "terrible student" according to his own mother who, rather than blame him and crack the whip, realized he needed something different and also homeschooled and tutored him.)
There is a transition overhead to constantly changing subjects every 45 minutes, I've read it's about 15 minutes. There's probably a cost on both starting and end points. With seven subjects and actual transition time, thats a few hours a day just sacrificed to switching gears. What if teachers had to figure out how to teach the same material without giving homework? Would scheduling be enough to make up the difference?
I suspect that even with different scheduling, there would still be opposite ends of the spectra in terms of desire for homework. Different people have different educational needs, and I think we've never been in a better position to meet them than now. Please realize I am not suggesting one group does intense academic work and the other plays video games all afternoon. To me, it's more a difference of autonomous versus directed learning styles. I was happier myself with the latter, but I am old enough to wish my schooling had emphasized the former more. The former is also what I would prefer for my child, because that's the way he is. Having no homework won't mean learning stops when he leaves, it means he has more autonomy.
The question is, if parents had a right to draw those boundaries, would schools have to care about these differences? Would they have to equally serve everyone by innovating and changing so that the educational outcome (whatever they decided on) was equal rather than time spent in school and doing homework being equal for everyone?
Again, I just want to know the legal framework for homework. The Constitution established public education (but did not mention homework).
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Dec 19, 2014 at 11:10 pm
@This is why,
Thanks for the quote. You bring up a good point about the studies supporting homework. The trouble I see is that this is a very narrow view of success, it doesn't fully account for what is being given up for that homework that may enhance the child's education far more — for some the trade may be worth it, for others, not — and it doesn't mean those results can't be achieved by different practices during the school day. You can also get those kinds of improvements in test results just by increasing room ventilation and providing generally good indoor air quality in schools.
I thought this was interesting:
It's an article on the homework debates, but on the subject of the legal basis for homework:
"One Canadian couple recently took their homework apostasy all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada. After arguing that there was no evidence that it improved academic performance, they won a ruling that exempted their two children from all homework.
I also find this very recent publication to be spot on and mirrors our experience: Homework and too many structured activities kills intrinsic motivation:
"Children who spend more time in less structured activities—from playing outside to reading books to visiting the zoo—are better able to set their own goals and take actions to meet those goals without prodding from adults, according to a new study by the University of Colorado Boulder. The study, <Web Link; published online in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, also found that children who participate in more structured activities—including soccer practice, piano lessons and homework—had poorer 'self-directed executive function,' a measure of the ability to set and reach goals independently.”
The reality is that most of the data the decision to give homework is based on are just not applicable now because the world has changed so dramatically in the last five years, and the landscape for blended learning is completely different.
I wonder, though, if the situation isn't waiting for some Constitutional challenge: "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated..."
Many families could probably make a good case that the lack of boundaries between school control and home life constitutes an unreasonable intrusion. Again, maybe once homework was the best learning opportunity available to most kids, but it's just not the case now. However, I would hate to see a ban on homework result from something like that, rather, I wish someone who challenge it in a way that families could set better boundaries and have more say. I know I keep saying this, but there is a spectrum of educational needs.
But would it take a case like that Candian family waged to end homework as we know it, and what would be done in its place? If people think homework is hard, try a federal case (literally)!
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Dec 21, 2014 at 12:23 am
I agree with Paly Parent, Mr. Recycle. I know in some systems, not doing homework won't have serious consequences, but here it would. While no one is forcing anyone to do homework, the homework is a part of the educational program and if someone refuses to do it, they may well flunk out and the consequences may be that they don't get the public education they are due. Every child is entitled to a free and appropriate public education -- it's a fundamental right that comes from the US Constitution. The Constitution does not mention homework, though, or the subject of such boundaries, except perhaps in how we might interpret the 4th Amendment.
I would go further to say that I think it's unreasonable for a a school to have unfettered priority with my child's time 24 hours a day in order to receive a free and appropriate public education.
I didn't realize traditionally disadvantaged groups were essentially hurt by the homework. I would love a link or further information. I was assuming that traditionally disadvantaged students would be better off for having homework because they might not have similar access to outside opportunities. I wonder, though, if all these new computer-enabled knowledge environments are changing even that. I think back in the day, when (at least in for most people) there was no Internet, less access to educational reading material, less interaction with other people, homework was the best educational opportunity. There were few alternatives unless it was music lessons for those who could afford them. I was assuming the disadvantages would extend to all these new opportunities because of the digital divide, but maybe there is enough access especially with mobile computing to actually begin leveling the playing field, I don't know. But my assumptions made me wonder about the wisdom of, essentially, a ground-breaking boundary-setting litigation over the issue, because traditionally disadvantaged groups might be hurt if homework were not an assumed part of the education but nothing was improved during the school day. Maybe that's another circumstance that would improve by soul-searching over boundaries between school and home.
Crescent Park Dad,
I think your points deserve their own deep conversation about what prepares kids for life and college. Just tonight we were sitting with colleagues who discussed their disappointing experiences as employers with employees who were the straight-A intense academic types. The feedback was, the hires didn't know how to do anything of their own (they didn't put it that nicely). They were good at regurgitating, but not very independent. The research seems to back that up. Although life has taught me many lessons in the interim, I look back and feel the same about my own education -- I thrived on the intense academic experience and really enjoyed pushing against that structure, but while I was extremely resourceful, I was not very autonomous.
While I'm not trying to say everyone is the same, the world of work is not like school. Like This is Why, please don't assume the alternative to homework is essentially goofing off. The alternative in our home would be far more high-level educational pursuits, including the unpleasant grunt work necessary to get any major thing done. It's just relevant to achieving something real, not busy work. But if someone wanted to goof off, why shouldn't they have time of their own every day, and why should they have to account for it to the school? Schools that run 24 hours a day are called boarding school, that's not what most of us chose.
My kid got a sheet recently in relationship to a class final exam, ostensibly to help plan time in to study, but it asked kids to account for their time 24 hours a day for a few weeks. I was horrified at the intrusion. It again exemplified the assumption that the school had priority in the use of my child's time, and by extension, my family's time, for all waking (and some sleeping) hours of the day.
I don't think making kids more and more miserable with busywork homework prepares them any better for college either. In my experience (at MIT), the kids who were burned out from high school did not do well. My own brothers who were not stellar high school students all went on to be stellar students in top colleges, and successful in life. The seeds of each of their success began in outside activities, to a one.
When I say the world has changed, I mean the landscape for what kids can learn, do, and achieve has dramatically changed in the last 5-10 years.
Per student stress -- I love Thomas the Tank Engine videos for how they highlight a fundamental motivation: To the engines being "really useful" is life and death. So it is with humans. Most of us need to feel useful in life, to follow our interests, to feel competent. Keeping kids on the homework hamster wheel 24/7 robs them of the ability to pursue so many opportunities available in this new world that didn't exist even 5 years ago. Some kids need that intense structured academic sorting to be happy. Some kids will be doing intense productive educational pursuits of their own if allowed time to be autonomous. Why should children in the latter camp have to choose between that and a high-quality public education? Especially since the education is a right, and homework (and by extension giving up all right to personal autonomy 24 hours a day) doesn't seem to be legally a part of the deal.
As a parent, you are the major provider of your child's education from birth through adolescence. You guide the development of her character and mental health and help form the foundation from which she'll develop lifelong attitudes and interests. And because your home is the primary environment in which your child's potential and personality will take shape, it's important to make sure that you create a positive, open atmosphere that will not only support what goes on in the classroom, but will also instill the desire to learn.
It is through your love and encouragement that your kids will become motivated — first to please you, and then to please themselves. This leads to self-confidence, curiosity, the enjoyment of mastering new tasks, and other healthy attitudes, all of which contribute to successful learning.
But unless you are home-schooling, you will not be the one teaching your child science or geography. And while it's true that all of the facts, skills, and concepts your children learn at school are influenced by what you do at home, your child's education is equally impacted by the relationships you form with her teachers. Building an effective relationship with the teacher is a critical task, and, like you, every teacher wants to achieve this goal. As with any relationship, mutual respect, the ability to listen, and lots of communication form the foundation.
When parents and teachers work well together, everyone benefits. Parents and teachers can provide each other with unique insight and different perspectives about the same child, culminating in a more complete understanding of that child, her abilities, strengths, and challenges. The teacher will know much more about the curriculum and the school culture, while you know more about your child's personality, tendencies, and family life. A successful parent-teacher partnership also shows a child that an entire team of adults is on her side.
Why What You Do at Home Is So Important at School
A positive relationship with your child is more important to her school career than your constant presence in the classroom. Because young children identify strongly with you, your attitudes, values, and innermost feelings are contagious. They become embedded in your child's mind at the deepest levels.
If your own experience with school was miserable, you might feel anxious about your child's school experiences. Your child will sense this, and it could hamper her ability to throw herself wholeheartedly into learning. She may feel disloyal if she allows herself to like school and work hard, even if your words are telling her to do so.
For your child's sake you'll need to put the past behind you and "start over," assuming that your child's teachers, school, and overall experience will be good and happy. Even if you didn't like school, the best way to help your child is to endorse her experience: Get involved, be positive, and trust her teachers. She will get the message: "School is important; I want you to engage fully."
Make Quality Time for Your Child
It might sound obvious, but today, parents' schedules are full to overflowing. The good news is that there are easy ways to enjoy time with your child that also support learning. You can be available during play dates, snuggle on the sofa while watching a good video together, take a nature walk in the park, make appreciative comments from time to time as your child plays, cook something yummy together, or just hang out and chat. All these things support your child's deep belief that you know her, care about her, and would never expect her to do something that isn't possible — such as learn in school.
Become an Active Partner in Learning
Most educators believe in parent participation in children's education, but "participation" means different things to different teachers. To some, it might mean helping children with homework, returning notes and sending things in on time, and coming to a conference when notified to do so. But it should mean much more. Work with the teacher to find out some ways you can contribute to the classroom, but always be sure to do it within the guidelines she'll provide for you. By the same token, you have valuable insight about your child — no one knows her better than you — so it's important to take initiative and communicate that knowledge to the teacher throughout the school year.
First, be sure to provide details about your child's home life to your teacher. The most effective teachers have a fairly complete understanding of each child in their class. You can help by telling her about your child's family life, including any recent changes (divorce, a death in the family, or illness, for example), important traditions or rituals, languages spoken at home, and other significant details unique to your child.
Ask about ways to share your culture — food, music, photos, and traditions — with the class. Not only will this help strengthen your child's self-esteem, it will also enrich the learning experience for the entire class and foster an appreciation of diversity. Between the ages of 3 and 8, kids are beginning to deal with a world bigger than the family, and they become keenly aware of every difference between themselves and their peers.
Plan to have a family discussion each week. Try to pick a topic that emerges from your child's experiences at school. The more you familiarize yourself with the daily routines and activities at preschool, the more you'll be able to encourage this type of conversation. You can even extend the idea into an art project or create a family "book club" where everyone reads something relating to this theme.
Get the entire family involved. As often as possible, try to participate in field trips and classroom events such as potlucks, story parties, art shows, and class celebrations. Include grandparents, siblings, caregivers, and family friends. Your child will be delighted.
For parents and teachers alike, the goal is to play active roles in your child's life and to work towards forming a real bond. The child's best interest is always served when she has lots of people rooting for her and all the pieces of her life fit together. A strong home-school connection will set the stage for a child who will grow up with a love for learning.