Homework: Devil or Divine (part two)

anpencil3Yesterday I started a discussion about homework. If you missed it, you might want to start there. Teachers, parents, and researchers all have plenty to say on the subject. Today I present the arguments against homework, most of which can be categorized so: Homework disrupts families, overburdens children, and actually limits learning.

NO homework!

DISRUPTS FAMILIES: No family can have a smooth relationship with frustrated, grumpy children and nagging mothers. In many families, homework creates just such a situation. It divides the family rather than strengthen it. Homework allows no time for families to be together during the week and just enjoy each other. Parents are stressed from working all day, then they have to go home and fight the homework battle. Students are stressed from school, and they don’t get a break. To a student, having homework is like an adult working a double shift.

I hate homework. I hate it more now than I did when I was the one lugging textbooks and binders back and forth from school. The hour my children are seated at the kitchen table, their books spread out before them, the crumbs of their after-school snack littering the table, is without a doubt the worst hour of my day.
~Ayelet Waldman

OVERBURDENS CHILDREN: Homework takes away the time for a student to just be a child. Fresh air, play time, and downtime are essential for a healthy person of any age. Some parents allow children a hour after school to play outside or watch TV before they do their homework (I know I have suggested this very thing), but continuing to play actually benefits development of the whole brain. Home environment plays a big part, too, in homework completion. Some students go to an afterschool tutoring program where they can ask to have the concept explained again. Others have siblings or parents who help them (or do the work for them). Others go home to empty houses or caregivers who don’t speak English well enough to assist them. All of these students, however different their method of finishing the work, are expected to have perfect papers. This creates a great deal of stress.

Whenever homework crowds out social experience, outdoor recreation, and creative activities, and whenever it usurps time that should be devoted to sleep, it is not meeting the basic needs of children and adolescents. ~Wildman, 1968, p. 204

LIMITS LEARNING: In order to be an advocate for traditional homework, you need to believe that intellectual activity is more valuable than nonintellectual activity. I have always believed that students need to develop all their talents, and music, art, and sports are just as important as computers or math. Homework focuses on short term learning at a time when adults should be fostering a lifelong love of learning, curiosity, and passion–be it for intellectual or nonintellectual activities. With passion and curiosity, students will spend hours learning–outside of school as well as inside.

I just couldn’t stand school. If I went, I’d skip after the first class. I didn’t like to be told I had to study and had to do homework. There’s a fact that you have to want to learn.
~Randy Travis


The fact remains that teachers have an awful lot of curriculum to cover in 180 days. For seventeen years I have assigned homework without even thinking about it. After all, that’s the traditional way, right? I’m not sure I can cover everything I need to without assigning homework, but I have made a start toward doing exactly that. This year, my goal is to make the homework I need to assign something other than rote worksheets. After all, if I accomplish nothing more than teaching my students to think, haven’t I prepared them well?

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