Could A Century-Old Practice Be Coming To An End For Our Children?

There’s an old expression about the two things you can’t avoid in life:  Death and Taxes.  But it appears there is a third unavoidable task in life, and it is about as pleasant as the others – Homework!

Now that parents and children are fully immersed in the school year, we are faced with a never-ending stack of reports and projects, math problems, and spelling words.

And if you ask any parent, they will likely say that homework is a cause of stress in their household.  We have to nag our children to complete it while trying to start dinner or get ready for the next day’s work.  Often, we are faced with a cranky child who is tired and frustrated and we end up spending a good portion of our evening helping them to complete it.

ASCD reported:

Homework is a long-standing education tradition that, until recently, has seldom been questioned. The concept of homework has become so ingrained in U.S. culture that the word homework is part of the common vernacular.

Homework began generations ago when schooling consisted primarily of reading, writing, and arithmetic, and rote learning dominated. Simple tasks of memorization and practice were easy for children to do at home, and the belief was that such mental exercise disciplined the mind. But over the years, homework in U.S. schools has evolved from the once simple tasks of memorizing math facts or writing spelling words to complex projects.

As the culture has changed, and as schools and families have changed, homework has become problematic for more and more students, parents, and teachers. Teachers, overwhelmed by an already glutted curriculum and pressures related to standardized tests, assign homework in an attempt to develop students’ skills and to extend learning time.

At a time when demand for accountability has reached a new high in its intensity, research fails to prove that all that homework is worth all that trouble.Although many people remain staunchly in favor of homework, a growing number of teachers and parents alike are beginning to question the practice. These critics are reexamining the beliefs behind the practice, the wisdom of assigning hours of homework, the absurdly heavy backpack, and the failure that can result when some students don’t complete homework. There’s a growing suspicion that something is wrong with homework.

Because of these observations, several school systems across the nation are now experimenting with “no homework” policies for younger students.

Some believe that homework increases a child’s sense of responsibility and ability to work independently, but experts disagree, saying it does more harm than good.

The New York Daily News reported on several school districts that are getting rid of homework, including one in Marion County, Florida:

“Traditional homework as we know it will disappear,” Superintendent Heidi Maier said in a voice message to parents.

“We’d like you to assist your child in self-selecting their own texts that inspire them and encourage them to read,” she explained. “This is so important for so many reasons, including building relationships and increasing parent involvement.”

“The research showed that students who are given a preponderance of homework do not perform better, or get better grades, than those who do not,” Maier told the outlet.

And earlier this year, a principal in Vermont put an end to homework, letting parents know that students should simply “read just-right books every night, get outside and play, eat dinner with family [and] get a good night’s sleep.”

Six months into the decision, he says, “that students were not falling behind academically and had time to be creative thinkers at home and follow their passions.”

This idea is one of the driving forces behind the “no homework” trend.  Children are in school all day long and then expected to come home and do several homework assignments.  This is often following an extracurricular activity that puts them home at dinnertime.

That certainly does not leave time for family or relaxation and has contributed to exhaustion and frustration in students, thus negatively impacting their performance at school the next day.

And contrary to what homework is supposed to achieve – time management, independence, and responsibility – most students, especially younger children, require their parents’ help and supervision – as well as that all-too-familiar nagging – adding more pressure on the entire family.

It is as if teachers continue to assign homework, and parents and children go through the same old routine every night by rote, simply because the practice is so ingrained in our culture.  The school districts who are questioning the standard practice of assigning homework may have stumbled upon a remarkable new way to bolster the success of students and the bonding of families.

Education professionals say the decision to end homework should be made on a case-by-case basis to determine what works best with their school’s demographics and learning styles.

But one thing is certain, you would be hard-pressed to find a parent who would be upset to put an end to the nightly homework struggle.

And less (or no) homework for younger children gives them time to just be kids – to relax their body and mind in preparation for another day of learning, to run and play (Another benefit, as studies show our children are too inactive!), to enjoy a long family dinner, and to read a great book before bedtime.

What are your thoughts?  Would you like to see an end to homework at your child’s school?

Let us know in the comments below.

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