Monday, October 3, 2011
From The Homework Myth, by Alfie Kohn:
When our kids complain about constant, compulsory homework, some of us respond with compassion: "Honey, I know you don't like it, but ..." What follows that "but" is either an effort to defend the homework or an assertion of its inevitability (which suggests we're unable to defend it.) We try to be understanding, but our message is clear: How the child experiences the assignment ultimately doesn't matter. "My son cries about homework every other day, and I have to tell him he has to do it", says the mother of an eight-year-old. Other adults, meanwhile, are unsympathetic, confident that children's concerns can safely be ignored.
... The first thing that strikes me about these two reactions, the gentle and the harsh, is that they differ in tone but not really in substance. In the final analysis, both fail to take children's unhappiness seriously and both are therefore disrespectful. Even more important, if we fail to appreciate the significance of children's reactions, how those reactions color the way they think about learning and about themselves, we're not just beign rude. We're being foolish ... people of any age are less likely to derive value from doing what they experience as unpleasant or simply worthless.
From an Anonymous comment on Spelling Word Extension Activities:
While I sympathize with the fact that a lot of homework is busywork and parents might find it pointless, I fail to see how the difficulty of getting your child to do her work should be a factor in the teacher's decision as to whether or not to assign said work.
I see this argument crop up a lot amongst parents. "It takes forever just to wrangle my child into doing homework, and it eats up so much time in the evenings!!" This is usually paired with "the work is easy mind numbing busy work". So, if both of those things are true, it seems the problem is not that your child is having difficulty understanding the work, she just doesn't want to do it.
I don't want to do a lot of things- reports at work, cleaning my toilets, memorizing theorems for geometry, etc. etc.- but just not wanting to do them is not excuse enough for me not to do them. If you have such an issue getting your child to do her own homework when it is a simple spelling exercise that it seems she understands how to do perfectly well, it doesn't seem that is the fault of the teacher.
I agree with Alfie Kohn on this one. We need to take our children's unhappiness seriously. It's not trivial or irrelevant or a less worthy argument to point out that my kids avoid homework at all costs, and it's a headache to get them to do it. It's a central part of the problem. If my kids actually liked their homework, I would never have started campaigning against it.
If we're going to make our kids do something they don't want to do, we'd better have a compelling reason. If we're going to make every weekday night stressful and unpleasant for our families, it should only be because we have no other choice.
The vast majority of the homework my kids have been assigned is pointless, tedious, unnecessary busywork. It's not worth the unhappiness it causes.