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Guest blogger: I hate homework

July 12, 2011

by Roberto Lebrón

Summer may seem like an odd time to discuss homework, but I can’t think of a better opportunity to appreciate the absence of it. Isn’t that part of the reason families cherish July and August? Because without homework we all have more time to hang out and be a family. Today’s guest blogger is Roberto Lebrón, teacher, artist, writer and  founder of the blog Raising Children on Planet Earth, where you can find “… values and behavior tips and information for brave, loving parents who are willing to do the hard work of raising their own children, instead of delegating their duties to others, including the government, or letting their children raise themselves. You’ll also find food for thought for peaceful, mindful, no-drama dadas and mamas.” AF

I hate homework!

I hate homework.

That may sound strange coming from a teacher. At work, I’ve often heard parents asking teachers for more homework for their children. I’ve also heard parents brag to each other about how good the schools their kids attend are, using the amount of homework their kids get as a measure.

Considering these parents hated homework as students about the same as their own children hate it now, one can wonder why they are so eager to foist upon their children the burdens they resented in their youth. Is this you? Why do you do it?

Perhaps it’s wisdom.

Perhaps parents have learned that what they resented as children was actually good for them — like vegetables. Is this true? Is homework the broccoli of the school world?

Alas, I think not.

The sad truth about homework is that it’s useless makework and, as far as I’m concerned, an unwelcome intrusion into family life. But let me define my terms.

What I Don’t Mean:

When I say, “homework,” this is what I don’t mean:

  • I don’t mean reading material that will be discussed in class, or material on which the students will be tested. That’s called studying.
  • I don’t mean projects to be developed using knowledge acquired in class and research done out of class.
  • I don’t mean the aforementioned research.

What I Do Mean:

  • I mean the other stuff parents love so much because it keeps children busy and out of their hair while they’re at home.
  • I mean that other stuff because when my children are at home, I’d prefer them to enjoy a little something I like to call home life.

If this homework is so important from an academic point of view, I’d just as soon have it done at school, even if that means longer school days. As a matter of fact, I’m all for longer school days, and a longer school year, with shorter vacations. I bet you’re not surprised to hear that coming from a teacher.

Yes, the fact is that, as educators know, and as the President of the United States has acknowledged, we need a longer school year, because we are falling behind other industrialized countries in terms of education. Many of those countries have longer school days and longer school years than we do.

Why Our Calendar Is The Way It Is.

Our school year was designed the way it is in part to allow young people time to work with their families when ours was an economy largely based on agriculture. That reason has gone with the wind. In the meantime, studies have shown that students forget too much of what they’ve learned during the school year during our excessively long summer vacations.

The summer camp industry knows this and many summer camps use this fact to encourage people to enroll their kids in programs that have academic components. This is a poor solution to our problem. Local school boards, not private camps, should determine what our students learn during the summer, and how they learn it. This is our responsibility as a society, and we are neglecting it.

In the end, it may not be necessary to have much less total vacation time during the year. Extending the school day and modifying the length and number of vacations during the year may do the trick. What is clear is that we need to modify our school calendar, and that most homework is a waste of everybody’s time.

Take Action!

1. Get Your Money’s Worth.

  • Your schools are yours. You’re paying for them, whether directly with checks to private schools or indirectly through your taxes. That gives you a voice. Use it.

2. Speak to Parents and Teachers.

  • Speak with other parents. Speak with your children’s teachers.
  • Let them know you value family time in your home, and you don’t appreciate losing this precious time to makework homework.
  • Make a clear distinction between learning to do research or studying for tests, on the one hand, and pointless busywork, on the other.
  • Discuss the need to change our school calendar to keep up with competition in the global marketplace.
  • Parents and teachers should work together as partners. Let your partners know you’re an active participant, and you expect your concerns to be taken seriously.

3. Contact Your School Board.

  • In most places, School Board members are elected officials. Reach out to them and let them know your concerns.
  • Let them know you have seen past the myth of homework. You know that overwhelming children with makework homework is not a sign of a good education.
  • Emphasize the need for family time at home free of useless busywork.
  • Call for a modification of our school calendar to catch up with other countries.
  • Don’t get discouraged when your first efforts are dismissed. Moving bureaucracies to change is difficult, but not impossible. Pace yourself, and don’t give up.
  • The above goes for your state’s Department of Education, too.

4. Use Your Tools.

  • Share this article on Facebook. Tweet it. Stumble it. Spread the word.

You are not alone in feeling that our children need to be unburdened from most if not all of their take-home busywork. They deserve more family time today and a better chance at success tomorrow. You can help make “Less Homework” a reality in schools everywhere. Do it.

 

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5 Comments »

  1. Be careful what you wish for!

    I am a teacher in a secondary school (equivalent to your high school? our students are mostly 13-16 years old) in Singapore. And our school hours are longgggg! We typically start school at 7.30 am and do not end till 2 or 3 pm. And then graduating classes have remedial classes almost every day if not every day. There’s also co-curricular activities (CCA) after school and they usually last till 6/6.30 pm.

    We have 1-week term breaks in March & September, a month long holiday in June and a 1.5 months of holiday in Nov-Dec. Except for the Nov-Dec vacation time, the rest of our breaks are usually filled up with more remedial classes, meetings (for teachers) and CCA.

    Our schedules are hectic and absolutely tiring. We hardly have quality family time in this country because everyone, including our children, are always in a mad rush. The teachers are hit harder because all that extra work need to be graded & since we have extended hours in school with our students, we end up bringing piles and piles of work home! Sure, we score well on tests – especially in Math & Science – but do you really want our quality of life? It’s depressing. It’s 5am here and I just shut down my laptop because I’d been working on my class’s graduating certs. I have to leave my house at 6.30 am to be able to reach work at 7 am. Work is never ending around here that many teachers are simply breaking down with anxiety disorders.

    I urge the writer to reconsider his suggestion.

    Comment by Famela — July 13, 2011 @ 2:17 pm

  2. I hate homework too!

    I would rather see interaction and a general participation in life. This means participation from parents and students. Your tips are speaking to this participation and a general “waking” up to take back what is ours.

    Thank yoU!

    Comment by Matthew Kuehlhorn — July 13, 2011 @ 2:38 pm

  3. Famela: Thanks for your comment. We certainly don’t want to create depressing conditions for teachers! For many of us, teaching is more than just an occupation, it’s a calling. We love children and we love teaching. Teachers deserve good compensation and good working conditions. Some of the overload you mention sounds like homework to me: taking work home. What I’d like to see is a better balance. I’d like to see you go home to your kids, if you have them, and be able to enjoy family time because you both took care of business at school, and you have little or no homework. I believe we can achieve this. Then we would all be better off. Thank you for the work you do!

    Comment by Roberto Lebron — July 13, 2011 @ 5:10 pm

  4. Matthew: Thank you! That’s exactly right. Taking back what is ours: our time, our families, our lives! Thank you for the work you do at Rules of the Road!

    Comment by Roberto Lebron — July 13, 2011 @ 5:18 pm

  5. Oh how things are about to change here in North America. How we learn, where we learn and when we learn are in for a revolutionary change in the next 20 years because of technology and a demand for more flexibility in how curriculum is delivered.

    Along with this, the baby boom retirement bubble is fast approaching and with this will come more opportunity for ambitions young people. Businesses who are scrambling for manpower will be offering job specific training to bright, driven people right out of high school and in many cases negating the “normal” college/university education paths our young people have been driven towards for decades.

    As for the calender, Where I live, the government is seriously looking at running school from Sept to November with December off – January to March with April off – May to July with August off.

    The more I think about it, I kinda like the thought of this type of arrangement. It would work out well, I think.

    Finally in response to Famela and the Asian way of teaching and learning. This type of crazy over the top push on education is starting to hit the breaking point. I work in a school that is seeing more and more Asian families escaping this type of system for a more levelheaded way of instructing our youth. Just a short while ago, the former minister of education in Korea, said himself that the way they are doing things in Korea is grievously WRONG (I will see if I can find the article)

    Comment by Old School Parent — July 16, 2011 @ 7:42 pm

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