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Robert Winner

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Debate: A case against homework?

For those of us with kids or grandkids, are they tied down with homework from school. I have grandkids in almost every grade. The one thing I notice is that they have about two hours of homework every night. That roughly equates to 10 hours of school a day. That give parents about three hours to spend with their kids. Less if they participate in a sport or extra curricular activity. If they get behind then that ties up some or all of the weekend.

First graders are given a reading log and they cannot even read yet ... the teacher said that the parents are not to help ... the 1st grader must do it. What part of that do I understand .... NOT.

I feel bad for teachers they are caught in a trap. However, at some point we should evaluate if this is busy work or essential to learning. It is hard for a parent to support the school and the teachers when they go out of their way to influence kids to hate school.

Read any of my posts and you know I support schools. Perhaps it is time to evaluate the significance of the homework and projects required.

Is there a case against homework?

Topics: education
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    Oct 30 2012: Is the work being done by the student such that a teacher must be present? If yes, homework makes no sense. If no, exactly what is the nature of the work if it is deemed unnecessary for a teacher to provide immediate guidance and answer questions? Is the work such that the student is expected to take their best guess whenever unsure of the answer? If this is the plan then isn't lack of precision and correctness being reinforced? Is homework simply practice of principles introduced in the classroom? It is never a good idea to practice doing something wrong and students left to themselves are very likely to do just that. I'm still a believer in what I learned about homework in the second grade. . . it sucks.
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      Oct 30 2012: Tried to give a thumbs up but guess my thumb is broken. Well argued. Thanks.
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      Nov 1 2012: I agree 100%. The only thing I would add is with the emergence of widely available information source, such as the Internet, homework has become a test on who can sort through the random crap found on the Internet to get the information they are looking for. I believe without a teacher present homework is not generally done by the individual student. I mean lets get serious even if we deny our children Internet access are we really not going to help them if they have been struggling with a question for an hour, to the point of tears? Children are not learning thing for themselves anymore when doing homework. Homework is generally used as a reinforcement for what was learned in class, And practice makes perfect not guessing, we need to practice the right way not the wrong way.
      The only time I see homework as a benefit is in university when the students are mature enough and have gained the experience to know that if you do the work you gain the knowledge. school aged kids don't care about knowledge, they just want to get the homework done and go play outside, and so they should be.
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        Nov 2 2012: Homework certainly is a necessary evil in post-secondary education. One comment herein suggests no homework until grade 12. I think that has merit for those students who plan on going beyond grade 12. Homework sucks!
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    Oct 28 2012: I always learned best by 'trial and error' and 'personal interest' and I think most of us do this way.

    The only problem with 'personal interest' is, that it does not produce standardised and gradable levels of knowledge, on which our modern society is so desperately based on.

    At this point, homework got invented to bridge this gap in between 'personal interest' and 'trial and error' to produce at least some useful results within the defined standards.

    Homework does nothing but to 'force' a subject to devote some time on a certain topic (object), which, by personal interest and preferences, would not have necessarily been spent otherwise. By this it takes the benefit of 'trial and error' and transfers it onto topics which are lacking of 'personal interest'.

    And because this acts against our natural learning tendencies, homework then had to be monitored and sanctioned to perpetuate its artificial intention.

    This 'artificial intention' is not only tied to homework. Our whole school-system is based on it.

    So if we, as a society, choose to constantly work against and remain in denial about or very nature of learning, we should not be surprised about the constant result we produce in our schools.

    If our minds are capable to even learn the comlexity of our languages, beginning from scratch, from literally zero, without the use of a single school but hopefully loving parents, why are we so eager to stamp those beautiful minds into moulds they would not naturally flow into?

    This long known phrase by Antoine de Saint-Exupery actually summs it up:

    “If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people together to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea”

    If this makes sense to so many of us, and so far I did not come across anyone who would not agree with it (and the view which did were stupid anyway... :o), why do we not start to finally apply it?
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    Gail . 50+

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    Oct 26 2012: I don't think that homework should be given until the senior year and then only for those who will be going on in their educations or have specific career goals in mind that include things like entrepreneur skills. But it should be given in that context.

    People who work don't have homework unless they are in certain fields in their career. Why should our children be treated worse than adult workers? Homework is nothing but punishment in my book. I wouldn't mind extending the school day and ending with a "homework" period, where those with no homework may read a book. But let's stop assaulting our kids - especially the youngest ones - with tasks designed to waste their time when they should be learning things far more valuable in their free time.

    On the other hand, if schools and society were to encourage parents to require no Technology until 6:00PM or later, then that free time would be invested in discovery rather than wasted in mind-numbing activities.
    • Oct 26 2012: TED Lover, I partialy agree with you. We should look at the extent of the work that kids are taking home. The issue I see that waiting until their senior year is that it won't develop a pattern/routine. If they go to college or university they will have a harder time taking work home after class.
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    Oct 28 2012: I've always been pro testing, anti homework... but I just got around it in school. I did my homework, or read the book while the teacher talked. I would say the strongest argument against homework is that it's grade padding. It's a way for teachers to give students completion credit rather than knowledge credit, so that they can pass students without the students passing tests.
  • Oct 28 2012: I think there is a balance issue. I have had children with too little and too much. I view homework as both a teacher and a parent. There are two things that should be happening in homework: reinforcing what occurs in class - this requires that it not be make work, that the task requires the child to have time to think about an apply concepts taught in the class day. The problem here is that there are SO many after school activities and so many distractions to entertain that kids never have to sit and think and they rarely do.

    The second thing is that this "home" work can also help keep the parent in the loop about what is and is not an issue for the child, What are they learning i school and then have time to discuss. But, again, this is the ideal, not what really happens in most households. My kids and I have struggled through hours of make work, but we have also had the most amazing and far reaching discussions prompted by a good assignment discussed over dinner.

    I never thought I could hate homework as an adult more than I did as a child - but I do. But, I also see the benefits.
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      Oct 28 2012: I agree on #1 that teachers need reinforcement of what has been covered. In most cases I can do that in class. I have two problems 1) trying to keeep those who get it occupied while you attend to those who don't get it. 2) and making time for those who need the extra help because the curriculum is becoming so packed and the hoops are higher and smaller than ever before.

      Your second area I have some problem with. The new 2nd grade is the old 4th grade. The recommended work sheet are supplied and use terms that many of the parents are not familiar with and have not applied in 30+ years. I live in small town USA and phone calls in the evening is the norm. Most of our parents both work and many have different shifts which is another problem.

      School, church activities, scouts, after school activities (some time more than one at a time), piano lessons, and the list goes on. I see the kids at two or three of these a week so it is not just the kids that are stretched to the limit.

      The parents we really need to talk to and see are never at the meetings. The parents that are involved are always there, I am not gripping about that, its just the way it is.

      I want to teach Wally and the Beaver where Mom is at home and Dad comes in at 5 and all kids are well above average. I think that is Lake Woebegone.

      Thanks for the reply. All the best. Bob.
      • Oct 28 2012: Those days are gone and pining for them isn't bringing them back. (much though I wish for them I also know much of it wasn't true then either....)

        Some of the best teachers have given my own kids assignments where they are to ask their parents questions that provoke discussion. Those are good for the family and can be done in the car.
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          Oct 28 2012: Sharon, David Hamilton made a interesting comment: "It's a way for teachers to give students completion credit rather than knowledge credit, so that they can pass students without the students passing tests."

          Since points are given for tests, homework and class participation he has a point. It is seldom that we hear of a child failing a grade and all eforts are made to advance s/he.

          There has been much discussion on allowing failure to occur and then the policy of tying the teachers evaluation to the students grades came along .... I think that may end the allowing to fail discussion. All of that is directly related to the schools rating also. Which is linked to state and federal funding, which is .... blah, blah ....

          It is coming to the point that if a young college grad wants to become a teacher I think a mental exam should be required before the interview and certainly prior to hiring and a re-eval every year. LOL.
  • Oct 26 2012: With the amount of things a student has to learn in school today, it just can't be all taught in the class room. If students were given more time to read in classes-it takes away time from what the teacher has to teach.
    Parents complain about not having enough time to spend with their child due to homework. But what is really happening when the child gets home?
    Typical day after school: Child grabs a snack, parent (if stay at home type) welcomes child but continues doing a chore of some sort, child plays in yard till dinner time while parent fixes dinner. After dinner- child playing a video game, parent doing dishes/putting feet up & watching tv. Parent then gets on phone & maybe then child does homework. Bedtime for child and parent back to tv.
    This is what a typical family does.
    You ought to watch parents at a play ground with their kids. Kids play while parent is on cell phone to another adult.
    Folks want their kids educated but scream if a child has too much home work.
    I hated homework too when I was a kid, but I am better educated for it.
  • Oct 26 2012: The purpose of schools is to teach academics, and everything else must be learned at home. When homework is excessive, there is no time for all the practical matters that children also must learn. Just for starters: budgeting of money, time and other resources; the value of work (chores); teamwork; the true value of money, and its limits; the importance of balance; generosity. The full list would be much much longer than any school curriculum.

    When students cause trouble the teachers tend to blame the parents. If the children are doing hours of homework for school, they have no time to learn values and build character. Self discipline and delayed gratification are qualities that must be built up in small increments. Assigning young children hours of homework teaches them that school, and teachers, are mean and abusive.

    Homework should be limited to about an hour or less. Immediately following school the children should get a break. Later in the day, reviewing that day's school work will reinforce the lessons. If learning the academics requires more time, lengthen the school day an hour.

    Time at home should be for learning what can best be learned at home.
  • Oct 29 2012: Homework helps in bringing to mind the things that are taught in the classroom in a less formal atmosphere of the home. Parents or concerned siblings can help the pupil with it and thus become aware of the progress or otherwise of learning.
    Parents do have their 'homework' too. They do bring home the challenges and thorny issues of the previous day's job in the office; homework helps the learner to know that learning is not exclusive to the school environment or with the help of the teacher.
    Curious learners would actually use the opportunity of the homework to learn more, to ask enlightening questions and to be aware of areas where help would be needed from the teacher.

    Homework would help to inculcate a sense of responsibility on the learner; so that the home can also be seem as a learning environment; instead of the common 21st century trend of blaming teachers for all learning inadequacies.