Monday, March 29, 2010

Thoughts on Homework

This morning I was driving past a middle school just as the kids were walking in. I think there is some kind of science project due today, because a lot of the kids, who looked like eighth graders, were carrying massive airplanes, catapults and mazes. They were beautifully built, sturdy and streamlined, and very professional. Wait a minute! Why are a bunch of 13 year olds carrying professional projects? Who built those projects? How many 13 year olds know how to saw, drill, and especially design machines like this? I suspect a lot of parents had to make these out of control projects. Is there a point to this?

Homework is a problem for so many families. I think it’s even harder for special needs families, because they’ve already got extra responsibilities, Therapy takes time, Floortime takes time, play dates take time. Then add in a bunch of worksheets and projects and there isn’t any way to manage everything.

Sadly, the research on homework and its effectiveness is not very compelling. Although some studies show it’s effective, others show that it isn’t. For something to dominate the free time of so many families, I think there really should be good evidence that it works.
Recently, the San Ramon Valley Unified PTA parenting conference showed the documentary Race to Nowhere. This film examines the pressure on today’s school kids and families. It doesn’t have a special needs focus, but it’s relevant to every family with kids in school. There are many local screenings here in the Bay Area as well as elsewhere, so it’s worth trying to find a showing.
There’s also a great blog on homework written by a Danville, CA mom, Kerry Dickinson, called East Bay Homework Blog. I just discovered it, so I haven’t read all of it, but there are excellent arguments against the mindless assignments so many kids are getting, as well as many links to other sites.
Kids need free time. Parents need free time. We all need time to relax, enjoy each other's company, have some fun. Take a look at how your family is spending their time. Is building a catapult what you'd choose to do?

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