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In Pursuit of the Right Kind of Homework

Let me begin by encouraging you to read this Washington Post article on the failings of homework. For those who want the CliffsNotes, the net is that rote, unimaginative, repetitive, grinding and brutally boring homework doesn’t help. To the contrary, it actually hurts students across several fronts.

This is not to say that all homework is bad. In fact, of the following varieties of homework, only the first presents the real problem:

  1. Traditional homework (aka busy work).
  2. Supplemental learning.
  3. Longer-term / self-directed projects.
  4. Direct test preparation (not to be confused with yearly WASL-like testing).

Is Homework Simply a Tradition for Elementary School Kids?

My oldest son goes to a school with some pretty incredible teachers. They make learning fun and it shows because he LOVES and works hard at school. As is the norm, however, a fair mixture of his homework is lengthy and of the traditional variety. Despite his natural desire to do well, he is already complaining about these homework assignments — he views them as both a chore and infringement on his family / personal time. My wife and I completely appreciate his position (as does his ever-watchful younger brother). As a 2nd grader, is he already burning out? Will he lose his affinity for school, or worse, learning? Is it worth the household tension it creates? Does it come at the expense of other meaningful activities? Or is it all just an acclimating phase?

We really can’t blame the teachers or the administration for providing traditional homework — they are responding to well-meaning, but otherwise misguided, parents clamoring for more for the sake of more (and, of course, for the varietal of homework these parents received as children).  That said, my wife and I wish his school were able to educate (read: convince) other parents about the homework big picture and how it relates to their child’s education. Until then, school assignments of any variety must get done in our household . . . even though I can always feel the BTUs generating from my wife as she prepares to do battle with my son to get it done on time and with bona fide effort.

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