Tuesday, September 7, 2010

I Knew it Wouldn't Work

According to this article from the New York Times, Research Upends Traditional Thinking on Study Habits, it's actually a BAD idea to always study in the same environment.

This comes after decades of that stupid advice to mothers, "set up a consistent time and place for homework", as if that will solve something.

1 comment:

  1. I knew I was doing it right all along! Better yet, I should have fought harder to eliminate that homework entirely. We'd take the homework along on our travels. We'd take it to the park so she wouldn't see it as "work" and drudgery. Nothing wrong with an honest day's labor but as Alfie Kohn writes, we treat children as workers, not learners.

    We would take our daughter to the park and pause for spelling sentences. We'd eat lunch at the zoo and she'd tackle her essay. I'd take her for long walks into town and she'd do five math problems while soaking her feet in the fountain outside the museum (I know, a no no, but we are renegade, you see).

    I always wanted to associate learning with a thing of beauty which is why I never rewarded. Yes, I knew people who'd say, do your math and then you can have tv, thus positing that learning was the yucky part, best to be dispensed with quickly so you can go on to the more important part of the afternoon, television. I would have preferred no homework so she could have done those math puzzles to abandon!

    My daughter also liked to hyper focus on a topic that interested her and then she could sit with it, unmoving, for hours. That's fine when it's self directed! The kid who hated copying dictionary definitions asked us to blanket the house with dictionaries during her homeschool year. I was forever catching her looking up words, she'd actually read the dictionary for hours. Another reason I hated homework in every subject, every night, the little bit of a lot philosophy. It never gave her satisfaction. If she achieved that elusive state of flow, we dreaded having to interrupt it.

    But get this. The elementary school counselor once did a session on homework so I attended. Heck, she was only in first grade, what did I yet know? (Plenty, as it turned out.)

    The man was pontificating on the "pick a time and place and your child must adhere to that" nonsense. I raised my hand and proudly relayed our hiking-with-homework-adventure. "Oh, no!" he shot back. "You must not do that. You must pick ONE place and ONE time, every day, she must sit!" Reminds me of Pink Floyd's Brick in the Wall. I wondered if I should tell him she did last week's spelling words upside down. Yup. It was on a jungle gym.

    I proved him wrong, didn't I? Again, I would have strongly preferred no homework, certainly in elementary, but at least we tried to make it fun and engrossing. And active. All of those rules. It's not enough they assign it, they have to tell us how to do it too.

    We had one teacher, the 5th grade one, insist my daugther do math last because she loved math and she should do the subjects she disliked first. So like an idiot, I followed that advice one afternoon. We argued for twenty minutes while daughter wouldn't budge. In the twenty minutes I tried to convince her to do the onerous task first (no, I didn't say onerous to her), she could have completed the math worksheet!