Alfie Kohn in his recent book, The Homework Myth, advocates abolishing homework based on a survey of educational research that shows there is no connection between homework and academic success.
For the past twenty years, under pressure to raise academic achievement, many school districts and schools have been increasing the amount of homework in hopes of raising standardized test scores.
Some homework advocates say that homework is about more than better grades or test scores. Time management, priority and goal setting, work ethic, study skills and learning reinforcement are also given as reasons for assigning homework. The research shows, again, that there is no correlation between homework and these skills.
Kohn asserts that educationally we have been duped.
Having been an elementary teacher who didn't assign homework, I found it curious what my students would choose to do at home. Afraid that their children would sit in front of the television, parents at first were skeptical of my no-homework approach.
Over the years, my students’ parents reported that their children chose to read, do math problems, write in their diaries, create plays, have pen pals and more when given a choice about how to spend their time and energy. Parents reported that their children cheerfully helped prepare dinner and clean up afterwards. That was a refreshing and positive outcome for not assigning homework.
What our children, our families and our teachers need is a choice of how to effectively spend their time in order to meet the needs of each person, family, classroom and school.
Imagine if after the school and workday our families only had to worry about how to best spend their newfound time. Imagine no conflict between parents and kids over when to do their homework, where to do it, how to do it and why it isn't done. Imagine having time at home to devote to helping our children and family develop practical life skills of cooking, home care and maintenance, conversation, problem solving and critical thinking.
Teachers, imagine if you had no homework to assign, collect, grade and record. Wouldn't it be wonderful to choose a more effective way to communicate progress in your classroom? Perhaps to write a one-page letter once a month detailing the highlight of your class' work? Or perhaps have a two-hour parent/student open house twice a year for students to show off their classroom, friends, teachers and school?
Could no homework free teachers up to give each student's parents a ten-minute phone call a couple of times a year? Would no homework give teachers more time to plan lessons? Learn new skills? Spend time with their families?
There are many things we could do to better serve the needs of our children, our families, our teachers and our schools than assigning homework.
It's time to rethink the efficiency of homework and the important dynamic relationship of home/school/child. We, parents, teachers and school administrators, need to stop and examine the homework myth.
Next week: True Homework: The Work of Building a Home Life
Kids Talk™ is a column dealing with early childhood development issues written by Maren Stark Schmidt. Mrs. Schmidt founded a Montessori school and holds a Masters of Education from Loyola College in Maryland.
She has over 25 years experience working with young children and holds teaching credentials from the Association Montessori Internationale. She is also Creative Director for a video-based reading series for children ages three to six, The Shining Light Reading Series. Contact her via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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