Recently, I asked a friend why he was transferring his daughter back to a traditional school even if his daughter is clearly having a great time in a progressive school. His answer floored me, “I want her to have more HOMEWORK.”
You would transfer your child to a system that clearly is not a good fit for her because you want her to have more homework. Of course, I bit my tongue and decided to write about it instead.
First let’s list down what parents THINK homework is:
- It is an activity at home that will improve their child’s self-discipline and study habits.
- It will lengthen a their child’s focus and attention span.
- It will increase their child’s academic standing or grade.
But what if all these are not true? Or at least not based on any significant data or study? Just a practice passed down from generations of teachers and students to the point that it became a permanent structure in itself?
On a progressive standpoint, homework or assignments are part of the curriculum ONLY if it will benefit the learning process started in the classroom. It is not mandatory that teachers give it. Progressive teachers would rather have the child spend his time at home interacting with family members and spending time with an activity they are passionate about like a hobby or reading.
Doesn’t this make sense?
In my experience as a teacher, I have come across a number of homework mediocrity and family discussion. There are parents who do their child’s writing homework (c’mon, fess up parents, they don’t just magically change the way they write paragraphs), projects, etc.
Most of the time, homework becomes a source of stress between the parent and child. Child wants to play, parent automatically says, do your homework first. This is fine as long as the homework is an integral learning experience for the child. Worse is when the parent attempts to tutor their child and end up fighting with them. Is this a significant interaction with your child?
Speaking of significant interaction, I had one year of giving out homework wherein the child asks the parents certain questions. For example, when the children were learning about Philippine Games, I asked them to interview their parents what games they used to play as children. The goal was (1) to research about Philippine games by interviewing their parents (2) to appreciate the games because what better inspiration is there than having your parents talk about them and (3) to be able to write the instructions and relay it to the class the following day.
Great homework I must say. Not according to one parent who wanted me to revise the homework and have her child Google it instead. Great..
So what do we make of the Homework Dilemma?
The ideal situation is that the child in class is so interested in the lesson that he would want to learn more about the the topic when he reaches home. I remember one student who was so fascinated with our Volcanoes lesson, that he gave me a printed copy of all the volcanoes, dormant and active, in the Philippines. I didn’t assign this. He did it all by himself.
Another ideal situation is that the class is so interested in the lesson that an hour in class isn’t enough and the teacher gives them relevant questions to think about at home.
Alfie Kohn’s book, The Homework Myth, suggests the following to make a change in the homework dilemma:
- Design what you assign. Teachers should make the homework that they assign rather than relying heavily on textbooks. This makes sure that the homework is indeed relevant to the curriculum.
- One size doesn’t fit all. Truthfully, a class of 20-40 students do not have the same skill level.
- Bring in the parents. The purpose of homework should be clearly defined to parents. In our school orientation, we always explain that homework is not mandatory and should be linked to the lesson but we still get requests for more homework.. I still can’t explain that phenomenon.
- Stop grading. I see parents and teachers fainting so this deserves a separate post all together..
- Address Inequities. Kohn suggests that students be allowed to stay longer in school or the library so they have access to teachers and other resources to complete their homework.
For parents, here are my suggestions.
1. Chill. Really, chill out and spend time with your child. Enjoy their presence.
2. Tons of homework does not mean great curriculum or lesson. It may really just be tons of homework.
3. Ask your child’s school about their Homework Philosophy. Hopefully, they have one.
For my friend who’s transferring his daughter to a school with more homework, no amount of homework can replace a child’s happiness while learning in place where she thrives. If you still, don’t get it, read this post over and over again… as your homework.