Friday, March 9, 2007

US May Finally Gain Education Edge: Chinese Ban Homework

I really date myself when I give my views on homework. It just isn’t that popular anymore to provide an an assignment for students, but personally I feel children need practice on certain skills. Math facts, vocabulary, spelling, and grammar are all tasks that fit the homework situation.

Unfortunately homework continues to be firestorm of controversy in the United States, and the side that wants no homework seems to be winning. I ran across an article by Bill at The Business of Knowledge regarding the Chinese, and it seems that the Chinese are now just as interested in dumbing down education as Americans are. In City Forbids Homework Bill advises students must finish all work at school, and so they won’t be too sleepy the school day will start at 8:20 a.m. instead of 7:30 a.m. If this trend continues across China perhaps the United States can move up the education proficiency ladder a bit worldwide.

Last night I ventured out for a bite to eat. I arrived at the restaurant about 7:30 p.m. and didn’t leave until close to 9. What amazed me was the restaurant was packed with families comprised of children of all ages. At 9 when I was leaving families with children were still arriving at the restaurant. Growing up my mom picked me up from school around 2:30 p.m. and I was completing my homework by 3 to 3:30. Dad was home by 5:30 and dinner was complete by 6 or 6:15 in order to watch good old Walter (Cronkite). Most nights we were at home without many types of activities going on except for church.

Today I have friends who still have young children and their afternoon and evening schedules are daunting. I’ve never seen so much coming and going. Recently I helped a mom out by picking up her kids who were attending a youth rally at church. Her husband was playing baseball at one location and she had a tennis match. They just couldn’t be at three different places at once. Most of my students ride a bus to daycare where they stay till 6 or 7 in the evening. Dinner is drive thru, a restaurant, or some type of boxed meal that can be heated up. I don’t guess anyone has thought that perhap the reason why students are becoming more obese is due to eating a meal of processed foods late at night, eating and then going to bed. No, I guess that would be too simply of an answer.

No condemnation here……just stating the facts. Times have changed. People have more choices. Women can have it all now---a home and a career. It just isn’t the same kind of home I remember. We have many choices for entertainment, shopping and restaurants that cater to busy families. Children have lessons of every type imaginable from ballet, to Irish Dance, to all sorts of recreation teams. Many of my students think dinner is always a quick corn dog or basket of nachos at the ball field.

So, even though I strongly feel homework given in the right way can help students and can help provide a support bridge between home and school I have thrown in the towel with assigning homework. I’ve decided it isn’t worth it.

If I send home a textbook with an assignment I get nasty notes about little Jimmy’s or Sue’s bookbag being too heavy.

If I send home a practice sheet I get accused of being the “worksheet queen” by parents, coworkers, and administrators.

If I send home a reading comprehension packet I get another nasty note that Precious Baby took three hours to read four paragraphs and another hour to answer the four questions. What mom doesn’t know is Precious Baby usually does the same assignment for me in 20 minutes because I don’t play the “I can’t” game, and Precious Baby knows this.

So, I give. My administrator doesn’t support me, parents don’t support me, and students sure don’t support me.

Yep, I give in and I’m not happy that at least in this-----Alfie Kohn agrees with me.


The Tour Marm said...


I suppose that homework has been a hot topic lately.

My post, "What's Wrong with Homework" siteFebruary 27 is from another perspective.

There's so much going on in the lives of our students and parents seem to be more interested in talent than scholarship - at least that is where their primary investment is.

happychyck said...

I don't usually assign specific homework in my secondary classes, but things that are not finish during class become homework, and sometimes I might assign a project that students are expected to complete at home--that that usually involves days or weeks. Oh! And I do have a standing homework assignment in that students have to read each and every day.

My children's elementary school does give out specific homework, and interestingly enough my kindergartner, who already attends a full-day program, always has homework. The teacher has a system where a certain kind of homework is always on Mondays, and a different kind on Tuesdays, and so on. It was a struggle at first and homework time could take hours, but now he's disciplined enough to know it's the first thing he does when we gets home. How quickly he picked that up!

Some of the things he brings home seem lame to me, but what do I know about kindergarten? I do know she's trying to build skills, and if he takes 15-20 minutes at home to practice, that's precious minutes the teacher can be using to introduce new concepts rather than practicing old ones. Over the course of the year, wouldn't those minutes build up?

elisheva said...

Personally I think homework builds skills and responsibility, but I understand that my child's teacher is between a rock and hard place like you are.

When are we going to stop blaming teachers and support them? We demand that our children succeed, but seem to forget that it takes hard work---not just on the part of the teacher, but the student too.

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