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Homework Debate

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An interesting conversation is evolving around Katie's Dec. 11 post about the value of homework. The parents who commented seem to think there is too much of it and most of it is just busy work that won't necessarily help students become better learners.

I must say I stand smack in the middle of this debate. As the father of four children--ages 4, 10, 13, and 15--there are some nights, especially when I am maxed out doing a million tasks, that a child's plea for help on homework irritates me. Why does the school assign so much homework? Why can't my kid understand the concepts better? What's wrong with the teacher?

But on other nights, I genuinely enjoy helping my kids with homework, especially if it involves writing assignments or math problems. Helping them reach a new level of articulation on an essay or to solve a math problem is actually fun and rewarding. I do not see it as "busy work." Rather, I see it as reinforcing what they learn during the day, much like athletes practice skills on their own, outside of regular practices or games.

Homework also teaches skills that are important later in life, such as organization and time management. I have seen one of my kids go from someone who was completely disorganized and managed his time very poorly to now doing a solid, if not perfect, job of knowing what homework he has and when it is due and then figuring how much time it will take to complete it. And homework assignments have helped him get to that point.

But like most things in life, the key is balance. Teachers should not stop assigning homework simply because most students (and many parents) don't like it. But they should also not assign an overwhelming amount of it.

And, frankly, at this time of the year, when kids are looking forward to spending time with their friends on their winter breaks and families have a lot going on, teachers should use some common sense and lighten up a bit on the homework. At least that's one father's opinion.

8 Comments

As one of the parents who commented on Katie's post, let me say this. I absolutely agree that one of the things that homework CAN teach, when properly implemented, is organization and responsibility. One of my children has learning disabilities that make this a real problem area. As the parent I am generally flummoxed at the prospect of helping with homework that doesn't get home--either intentionally or not; frustrated by spending an evening on completing an assignment that the teacher never sees, and aghast at a grading system that measures organization and follow through more than learning.

Each time a teacher points out that "he needs to be more organized," or "he needs to learn to take responsibility," I respond by suggesting that we write that into his IEP as a goal and come up with some teaching strategies and ways to measure progress. Sad to say, that generally kills the discussion.

The homework debate has not changed much since our book, The End of Homework, came out in 2000. The issue of homework teaching responsibility and organization is a big one in this ongoing debate and is currently one of the reasons that adovcates of homework cite as a benefit of homework. However, there has been no research to indicate that homework fosters these essentail life skills.
Is it possible that these skills are developemental in nature and young children simply aren't ready to fill in day planners like adults? Maybe organization and children is an oxymoron.
I found when my kids got older and they needed to be organized for something THEY wanted to do, they were very good at it.

The way a parent looks at homework depends on whether they have the resources to support their student at home. As a single parent and former minimum wage earner who is now a National Board Certified Teacher, i think this is a difficult problem to resolve. Tutoring and smaller class sizesw for teachers who face this problem would help. I do believe that homework as tool for skill development and enrichment is necessary.

Education should teach first and formost how to learn and it fails. Today it is all about some test or another. Kindergarteners have homework after spending a whole day at school. First and second graders have several assignments daily. Schools are killing the natural love of learning that children are born with. Many young chidlren don't have parents who are able to help them nightly and often homework is designed to require help. Then when a five-year-old or a seven-year-old forgets to do their homework they loose the most important part of school, recees.

i am an 8th grader in Indiana and tmrw i have a debate on why homework is important and beneficial, im not quite sure if i agree with this subject. but stilllll; at my school we have block scheduling and homework helps us retain the information we learned in class the days before. So, as a reslut, homework is helpful and i dont think kids should be complaining about it. shut up and deal with the real world.

i am an 8th grader in Indiana and tmrw i have a debate on why homework is important and beneficial, im not quite sure if i agree with this subject. but stilllll; at my school we have block scheduling and homework helps us retain the information we learned in class the days before. So, as a reslut, homework is helpful and i dont think kids should be complaining about it. shut up and deal with the real world.

homework sucks

Now.....homework is fun! ... ......................................I do all my homework in school, so I don't know why everyone is complaining. 2 hours for seniors(not old people)? Psha, I spend around 30 minutes max, and I'm in 12th grade. I know most people don't spend nearly as much time as me! I have scientific fact to back this up, statistics out the wazoo. Anyways, what I'm trying to say is homework is for school, for me anyways. And before you question my classes, I have two AP classes as well, and get decent grades in there (Bs/A). Wait a second, this could be because I'm an enigma to the system, someone who is greater than you.
THE END.

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