Tuesday, April 10, 2007

parents call for a ban on homework

It almost sounds like a headline that some enterprising students would think up to send to their teachers as an April Fool's joke. However, this headline is the real deal. There are some parents in Australia who have joined forces to call for a ban on homework in the elementary grades, and to rethink the policy of assigning masses of homework in high school.

I'm a parent, and I like this idea! I think homework is a huge cause of stress for students, particularly younger students. Besides, it causes friction between parents and children, as well. How many power struggles happen over homework left undone? And conversely, how many parents beat themselves up with guilt for not following up well enough on homework because they are so busy themselves?

The story says that homework contributes to physical and emotional exhaustion and that it allows little or no time for leisure and family activities. They even have studies to show that homework contributes little to academic achievement in the lower grades. I may be in the minority, but I agree! I was reading the headline to Youngest Daughter, and her response was a huge smile.

I think our work ethic is so well-developed that it is difficult to wrap our minds around this concept. This is particularly true in the culture in which I grew up. Hard work was highly valued, and those who were not inclined to work were mocked and called lazy, or scolded and disciplined.

I knew people who couldn't stand to see a child laying around reading a book. They thought that kids needed to be outside "doing something," and these adults would either come up with a list of chores to make the kids do, or they would chase them outside on a hot summer day rather than let them just hang around inside and read an Archie comic or two. "Go play!" they would shout. But I never saw them pick themselves up off their behinds to go outside and run around in the heat.

I always tended to march to a different drummer, however. I hated mindless repetitive work that was done for the sake of keeping people busy. There was nothing I liked better when I was a kid than sitting in my room with a good book and a cold soda. After I had kids, if they were reading inside and it was nice outside, so what! I detested housework as a child, and I usually made myself scarce when it was time to clean. I still hate housework. I love to HAVE the house clean; I just don't like cleaning it. I still almost can't bring myself to admit that. It feels so decadent!

But now. There it is--right out in the open. The world didn't stop spinning. No one died from it. And as for me? I'm off to read a book before I go to bed! G'nite.

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