Thoughts About Homework

How many adults, honestly, could sit “quietly”, in a chair at a desk for hours without whispering to someone next to them or needing to wiggle a little?  I recall teacher meetings during my career and marveled at how many teachers whispered, wrote notes, or made side remarks while the principal was conducting the meetings.  Yet, they were the very ones who wanted their students in straight rows and QUIET!  Sometimes the expectations that are set for children are unreasonable and certainly unnecessary!

Why do so many educators believe that it is imperative to pile on the homework in order to see students achieve? As a former classroom teacher, I questioned the validity of that practice as a means of encouraging children to rise to full potential. I have often wondered how many parents would like to take an additional two or three hours of work home with them in the evening that had to be completed by the following morning. That may be the case out of necessity in some instances, but, if we all had our druthers, we’d more often than not opt to have a “duty free” evening! If we as adults see the necessity of having “down time” to relax and enjoy just being, then why is it so important that our children must be burdened with hours of “busy work” in order to appease classroom teachers?

Philosophically speaking, I feel quite strongly that children should be children!  They should put in their six or seven hour day to the best of their abilities and only be burdened with carrying home assignments if they have failed to use their hours at school appropriately. I do not believe additional assignments beyond the school day should be assigned just to keep the students busy.  Imagine children not having to “lie” about the dog eating their homework, or faking an upset stomach or being sick because of failing to complete a homework assignment!  Of course, students should study for tests, and doing recreational reading in the evenings is a very good practice to develop.  That pile of assignments filling heavy backpacks, however, robs families of family time and denies children the time to be children.  It causes me to question, “Why are children burdened with that which most adults would avoid if at all possible?”  Imagine how wonderful it would and could be if there was no nightly “fight” in your home to get your children to complete their assignments prior to going to bed!

Today’s children are more involved in after school activities than ever before.  Participating in swimming, basketball, dancing, and other physical activities are important for children who get little opportunity for movement throughout the school day.  Attempting to provide these activities, have an orderly family dinner, and cram in homework before the night’s end is burdensome for working parents who have limited time and patience at the end of their own very long day!

Dreamer that I am, I would love to see our schools utilize their hours and days more efficiently and adopt a new philosophy of allowing children to be children and families to have family time during their evenings together. I would love to see teachers teaching and then allowing practice time on the new skills or lessons taught during the school day rather than the teaching, practicing, and then following up by assigning a burdensome amount of homework at the end of the day!  Perhaps fewer three day weekends might be helpful to accomplish all that is necessary within a grade level rather than making the students’ days amount to six or seven hours sitting in chairs in a structured classroom and then an additional two or three hours either sitting at the kitchen table or sitting at a desk in the bedroom away from the family trying to complete “busy work”. It’s time educators discontinue doing things the way they’ve always done them, and take another look at the children of today and today’s lifestyles of busy, working families.

Jacqueline J. Dierks, Author
Rapid Road to Reading

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