This is a tough one.
Dylan (the 8-1/2 year old, not Bob): "Homework proves that teachers don't like children."
A few days ago I didn't even know that the issue of homework for kids was such a hot one. Then I read the story on Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn on the book reading at our local B&N of "How Homework is Hurting Our Children and What We Can Do About It" by Sara Bennett and Nancy Kalish. My comment then:
Of course anybody would be against excessive and/or meaningless homework that keeps kids up till midnite, which is what I gather happens in later grades (my son in III grade at 321 gets about 15-20 mins 4 days/week, which does not seem too bad. He creatively ignores the [additional] "15 mins reading" assignment since he does much more on his own.)
To say that there is "no evidence" [that homework helps students] seems to fly against common sense.
Can you learn to play the piano without practice? Can you be a good tennis player? Most would agree that in those activities practice is essential. So what's the difference in math, etc? Why do we encourage our children to read more--isn't that our self-directed "homework?"
And, finally, why do all these NY parents spend tons of money on tutoring their kids (not that I approve of this)?
Does this make me a right-winger? Maybe I'll have to go listen before I spout off any more.
Well, unfortunately I didn't go hear them. But OTBKB says she agrees wholeheartedly with them, as she writes in this weeks's Brooklyn Papers:
So what gives? If the research is so convincing, why do the schools persist in assigning super-sized amounts of homework?
In a word: parents.
Most parents are unaware of the research and blindly believe that itâs good for their children because the teachers and administrators say so.
But thatâs not the only reason. Parents want bang for their buck. From the Apgar to the SAT, Slopers want high scores and high achievement from their overscheduled kids.
I guess the whole issue of children being overscheduled is much more complex that I realized. I come from a society where children are unabashedly "pushed" into certain paths (I am the son of not one, but two doctors and many were their friends who were shocked that I was to go to mere engineering school; this may not indicate that my father was not following tradition, as he himself switched from engineering (his first love) to medicine, but that's another story.)
So while I can sympathize with the parents who over-schedule and over-manage their kids, (there but for the grace of you-know-who), I myself don't quite subscribe to it. Of course there are extreme examples; as David Elkins details in his article Are we Pushing our Kids too Hard? about a 9-year-old:
[The mother] told me that, in addition to school, he was involved in three team sports, church activities, scouts and had piano lessons twice a week. Finding nothing else to explain the child's symptoms, I suggested his stressful schedule might be the cause. His mother looked at me as though I were crazy. "Give me a break," she said. "Kevin doesn't have any stress. He loves everything he's doing."
However, according to a 2003 report cited here, the average time spent on homework nationwide is about an hour. And the quality of homework is much less rigorous than in most industrialized countries. So maybe this is a problem only in certain "elite" schools, of which we must admit Park Slope 321 is one, at least from the parent demographics. The recent spate of books (others like The Homework Myth by Alfie Kohn and The Overachievers, by Alexandra Robbins,) about over-scheduled- and over-homeworked kids are all set in affluent schools. Many other parents, indeed, think the opposite:
"When the public is saying we donât put enough pressure on kids, maybe theyâre onto something," said Juliana Horowitz, a co-author of the [Aug 24 Pew Research] poll. "Maybe the kids in these books are not representative of most American students."
In other words, maybe this is a phenomenon restricted to a small number of top school districts, where the parents are likely to be simultaneously over-achieving and insecure about their "parenting skills". And, of course, more likely to shell out the twenty-five bucks for these reads.
Reducing the issue to the purely personal, the little D, who this week, unusually, had three after-school sessions, refuses to continue one (or two, or all three) of them. He says, perhaps rightly, that he could be doing his comics and other things at home instead. Elizabeth agrees with this; she says that plenty of creative and successful people stayed at home with their obsessive pursuits as kids...Jules Pfeiffer and Steven Jobs for example.
We're cancelling his therapy session ;).