My friend Alex Kjerulf today has a post about homework that I am in complete agreement with. He points to this TIME magazine story which, to an unschooling parent, is no news at all.
I already don’t send my kids to school, which we can do here in Canada. It’s called unschooling. BUT if for some reason my kids did go to school I would do what I have advocated others do and that is, I would refuse to allow the school to assign them homework. It is not simply the fact that kids are overworked. There are four other reasons why homework would be banned at my house.1. They learn nothing from doing it. It is not homework that reinforces an idea or a skill, it is developing a passion for something and then having the time to follow it through that does the trick. Homework is a waste of time.
2. Schools already steal six hours or more a day from a child’s life. If they can’t do what they need to do in six hours, it is not my child’s responsibility to gives them more time. It seems to me that homework is not for kids to learn, it’s for schools to shift the responsibility. Teachers don’t get marked on how useful classroom time is, but kids get marked on whether they did their homework or not. That means a lot of classroom stuff that isn’t working is allowed to continue as long as kids do their homework.
3. Homework is an infringemnent on family time. Many of the big media that would otherwise say that homework is important also decry the fact that kids aren’t spending enough time talking with their families. It is not possible to create an atmosphere of deep family connection when parents and the kids are all working three or four hours a night at home. You need many hours together, playing games, reading books, fixing the house together, going to movies, conversing and cooking for friends to have a healthy and balanced family life. Being together only on weekends is like getting a two day pass from prison.
4. Homework robs children of the time they need to develop real skills and passions. When I was in school for example, I taught myself music theory and theology during my grade 11 year. I wasn’t taking either of these subjects at school, and I set aside a lot of homework to learn them. I failed several exams at Christmas 1985 because instead of studying, I was writing four part harmony arrangments of Queen songs and reading Martin Buber. Both of those experiences have stayed with me long after I can even remember what classes I took at school that year, and both continue to be useful in my life.
So, as we enter another “school year” my radical proposal is that those of you who want that time back with your kids, claim it back. And once you’ve gone a year without homework, it might give you the steel to rise up next year and opt out of standardized testing (which in British Columbia you can do, you know…with the support of teachers too, who really know the costs of this stuff).
And don’t forget parents, you need to set the example. Leave work at work! It’s no good having kids come home expecting some family time and have you under house arrest by your boss too!
Update: A commenter at Rob’s site pointed to a nice post from Brian Alger from a couple of years ago on this topic as well. There’s nothing new about this, obviously!