So while Alfie Kohn in The Homework Myth
questions the need to assign homework as the default option, he also proposes a few ways to make homework better if it must be assigned.
First, homework should never be assigned for the sake of homework. For every assignment given, it should be asked what theory of learning is at its base? Does it involve active or passive learning? Does it have students wrestling with ideas or do they just have to follow directions? If the homework doesn’t actually contribute to real learning, it shouldn’t be assigned.
Homework should be given if it is an activity that is suited for the home. The question should be asked – why can’t this be done at school? Homework should make a meaningful connection between learning taking place at school and life at home. It shouldn’t take away from life at home, but enrich and expand it. So projects where a child interviews a parent or experiments in the kitchen help make those connections.
Homework should help children engage in natural learning with adults. Interactive and intergenerational activities like cooking, doing crosswords, and surfing the internet strengthen the family and learning. Doing normal activities together is more organic and does more for “family values” than the nightly fights that homework brings to most families.
The best homework is just asking children to read (or be read to) books of their choosing. The value of sustained reading is tremendous and gives children ownership of their learning. The truncated out-of-context articles children usually have to read for the sole purpose of learning vocabulary doesn’t do much for them. Neither does imposing random constraints on the reading like assigning a certain number of pages or minutes or rewarding the child for doing something enjoyable. (students who used to get lost in books will stop reading after the quota has been met). IMHO this would have been the perfect type of homework. I always complained that I never had time to read because I had too much homework (which I remember consisting of massive amounts of worksheets).
And it should always be kept in mind that children are expected to live their life. They need time to read for pleasure, make friends and socialize with them, get some exercise, go to church, get some rest, or just be a child. Jobs (and school is a child’s job) that take up all your time day and night are not healthy (ha, speaking as someone in ministry…). There has to be time for self-reflection, creativity, family, and community. Some things are far more valuable than giving into a system that doesn’t even support the same basic values as you do.
Labels: Book Reviews, parenting