Editor’s Note: A recent American Journal of Family Therapy concluded that schools may be demanding children do far more homework than is generally recommended. L.A. Dads Group member Whit Honea weighs in on whether school should ban homework.
I must admit, I am not a fan of homework. My wife isn’t either, and our kids love that about us.
It’s not that we have issue with the needs of education, far from it. We have devoted our lives to a constant quest for knowledge and the science that is wonderment. But childhood is short and the days are shorter still, what with kids in school for seven to eight hours at a time, often far longer than state requirements dictate for educational instruction, followed by an extracurricular activity or two. Throw in dinner, a chore if they have one, and we are often pushing bedtime long before anyone cracks a textbook, a cracking that can last three or four hours, depending on the subject, and all of this without baths, reading, or any semblance of quality time with the family.
That doesn’t seem right. Our time together sharing their childhood is fleeting fast. I would much rather my kids spend these golden hours in a game of catch or deep conversation, walks and anything that keeps that “cat’s in the cradle” song from echoing through my head.
Homework is sometimes OK. Busy work, never
That said, should a larger project require attention at home that is understandable. If something isn’t done in class despite sufficient time allowed, then by all means, bring it home and finish it. But to give kids extra work that has no bearing on the coursework at hand amounts to busy work, especially if the child has proven themselves beyond the need for such assignments. While most teachers, overworked as they are, understand this, there are the few that wield homework like a power play, which seems unimaginative at best and often uncaring. Generally speaking, adults don’t care to bring work home with them once they leave the office, so why should a 10-year-old?
The popular argument is that children need to experience hardship and obstacles to prepare for such things in real life. I understand the theory, but I cannot endorse the practice. Aren’t they living real life now, and shouldn’t childhood err on the side of magic? Life most assuredly will have hardship and obstacles ahead that a level of preparedness would help them over, but why worry about a swiftly shutting window when the world outside isn’t going anywhere? Learning is everywhere, and there is as much education in baking, hiking or watching the tide roll in as there is in a packet of worksheets and the things gained by rote.
Perhaps that is the difference. I care little for a letter grade, the value assigned by one person upon the work of another. I want my children to learn: right, wrong, and the reasons for each. I hope they swell with knowledge because they know nothing but to crave it, not because someone shoved nightly down their throat.
Education does not stop when the school bell rings. Rather it expands and grows to fit the vessel we give it to fill. Give it everything and put the pencils down. They’ll be sharper still come morning.