Homework? What homework? This is often my older child’s response when I ask if he has any work to do after school. And I’ll confess it freaks me out a bit. We’ve just come from a U.S. school where there was homework every night, and a special project to work on at least once a quarter, in addition to daily homework. Most of the time, it wasn’t overwhelming, rather a steady flow of occassionally interesting, but usually boring, worksheet-driven tasks. As our old school has gotten more deeply involved with teaching “Common Core“, it seems that homework has increased for Zo’s former classmates, and I read that that seems to be the case for thousands of kids across the States. The general argument in favor of the increase is that there is a certain amount of material that needs to be taught in each grade, and it simply can’t all be done during the school day. Articles like this one, where a dad attempts to do his middle-schooler’s homework for a week and fails miserably, and others like this one, that make the case for less homework, paint a different picture, one where the homework that’s being assigned is not only excessive but counterproductive, and sometimes actually hurtful. Yet, I cringe a bit every time my son says he has nothing to do, or has homework that takes him all of 10 minutes to complete. I can see that, through school, his hobbies and life in general, his knowledge about the world, as well as his confidence about his place in it, keeps on growing, so you’d think that’d be enough for me to relax. Alas, I only partially succeed in being cool about it. The rest of the time, I make him spend time on Khan Academy practicing math skills, and plot other ways for him to exercise his brain without noticing!
For my younger child, who’s in second grade, things have been seemingly more balanced. She has weekly homework, which she tackles enthusiastically, probably because most of it is very thoughtful. It usually includes reading a book of her choice and responding to a question about it, and doing an exercise having to do with her particular unit of inquiry that month. (For example, this month is about buildings, their design, construction and impact on people.) The unit homework is usually connected to the real world, which makes it much more fascinating to a seven-year-old. But if they could just a do a bit more math… I guess that’s the rub. There’s always more that could be done. What I’m learning (albeit slowly) is that I’m much more concerned with the quality of my kids homework, having it be relevant and interesting work, than with the quantity (same goes for their classes!) At the moment, I’ll take a little quality work, over a ton that’s of varying quality or worse yet, just mindless. I can always devise a little challenge here or there!
How’s homework going at your house? What’s working for you? Or what’s not working that you wish you could change?