Saturday, February 9, 2008

Homework a Homewrecker!!??

I get to read the papers on the weekend. Both Larry and I read them together. The old-fashioned way. I could read online, but something not too cosy about sitting at the computer with the morning cup of coffee... but maybe that's just me. Sometimes there's not too much to read, and sometimes there's a lot - but this morning, it really got me going.

The headline is, Homework a Homewrecker: Report, and I read it thinking... they must be assigning lots and lots of homework these days. Stephanie is in Grade 12 now. She gets a lot of it sometimes, and I figure that's okay. She's going to college next year, and needs to learn to deal with it. Sometimes she has 3 hours or so, and sometimes she has none. I figure you gotta do what you gotta do.

This all-important article graced the first page, and was featured prominently, in the Toronto Star, with 2 innocent looking kids, looking properly forlorn.

Then I was struck with the realization... OMG!!! There are kids out there, mere children, with *gasp*, with an average of 40 minutes of homework per night! And imagine, some kids have less, and some even have more!! And it's wrecking homes everywhere!!

I love this quote from a parent, who shall remain nameless in this space, to protect the stupid:

Parent Jane Doe, a mother of two children, believes children need more unstructured time.

"I think the work should be completed in the classroom and then kids should be allowed to play," she said. "I think there's not enough of that any more. I personally don't recall having homework prior to high school," apart from projects in grades 6 and 8, she added. "We were out every night playing with our friends in the street."

Really? Life was like that? I don't recall having that kind of freedom... and I don't recall my parents ever saying that I should be allowed to play in the street instead of doing homework!

Okay, sarcasm intended... and I know it's not very flattering, but isn't school all about learning all kinds of stuff? Learning to catch up when you get behind? Learning that life isn't fair and you sometimes have to suck it up?

Now let's break this info down a bit - the article said that kids shouldn't have more than 10 minutes of homework for each grade - by my accounting, that would be 30 minutes for a typical 8-year-old, and 50 minutes for a typical 10-year-old.

Now, the 8-year-old in the article was complaining about her ... 30 minutes of homework, and the 10-year-old in the article was complaining about his 60 minutes of homework. Gee, he's doing 10 more minutes than some theory based on... I don't know what exactly...

And wrecking homelife? Homework is a marriage wrecker?! Seems to me that if your marriage is suffering because of your kids' 1 hour of homework, you've definitely got some work to do - adjustments to make - maybe create a workspace for the kids to get their homework done. Don't do the homework for them - teach and encourage them to try it for themselves first, and then ask you for help when they get stuck. Let them work through it. You won't be there to do the work for them when they are all grown up. Time for them to start learning now.

Maybe I'm getting old and crotchety (after all, only old people use the word, "crotchety"... but it is a good word!). Maybe I just don't understand. But I remember back in the old days, in the 60s, when I did homework, when kids did their homework, grumbling, and even putting it off until the last possible minute... has that changed?

I didn't need my parents over my shoulder every minute, and I still managed to graduate, didn't I? Sure, they were there to help if I needed it. But they didn't do it for me. Should they have? I don't think so, and I think I'm better for it. Could I say that my 1 or 2 hours of homework wrecked their marriage? Umm... I believe that they will be celebrating their 48th wedding anniversary this year, despite having survived their 3 children's homework woes.

Now don't get me wrong - despite what I've said, I don't think kids should have hours and hours of homework that takes over their lives. It should be all about achieving balance, and surely there's a nice balance out there, and we should reach for it.

There is so much more that I could say about this article, but I think I'll pass, and let you check it out yourself.

Contributed by Jamie Naesssens

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