Dear fellow educators,
14th November was introduced in our country to celebrate and emphasize the importance of children in society and nation building. Happy Children’s Day! It’s time to let them play.
In my years of training, learning and working as an educator, I have heard and read very often: Let the children play. Teach them to be happy. Teach them to respect themselves and others. Give them time to be friends and socialize. To grow as human beings. I believe that all of us as parents and educators, wish to provide for these in our children’s lives. Yet, what is it that we do by design to make time for their leisure during the most crucial years of their journey? How does the ecosystem of school, home and society work towards providing this time for play? Let’s do the math for the hours in a day in the life of a school student. Give or take some minutes, this is what it typically looks like.
- 2 hours to get ready and commute to school
- 7 hours in school
- 2 hour to get home and refresh
- 1 to 3 hours for homework/test preparation/project work
- 1 hour for additional class (creative arts/sports/subject tuitions)
This makes for a gruelling 13 to 15-hour day for a K-12 student. Week after week. On Weekends, there is often make-up class in school, weekend homework or additional prep for test/exam that would be coming up in the following week. On an average, a student spends one to 3 hours a day on homework and school related assignments. Homework has entered into our teaching/parenting conversations… don’t forget your homework tomorrow or else… says the teacher. Do your homework before you go out to play… says the parent. Over the last 100 years, homework has become entrenched in a student’s life.
At one time, rather than diagnosing children with various attention deficit disorders, paediatricians would prescribe more outdoor exercise. I remember, during the time my grandmother was a head mistress in a primary school, she would often come home and talk about how she sent the fidgety ones out running in the school grounds in between the periods! There were discussions on elimination of homework and periodicity of tests for all students under 15 as it stressed them. That was the age when they would go for Matriculation exam – as 10th Grade exit. This is for the years before Intermediate college/ PUC or 11th/12thin school. The cold war made the crisis of homework deeper with assumption that Russian children were smarter, working harder and achieving more in the school. The opinion which was swinging away from homework, swung back and abolishing or limiting homework thought process was overturned. Over the years, homework was looked at taking over outdoor play, creativity and over all social development.
The National Education Association issued this statement in 1966:
It is generally recommended (a) that children in the early elementary school have no homework specifically assigned by the teacher; (b) that limited amounts of homework—not more than an hour a day—be introduced during the upper elementary school and junior high years; (c) that homework be limited to four nights a week; and (d) that in secondary school no more than one and a half hours a night be expected. (In Wildman, 1968, p. 204)
However, through the years, the swing continued on thoughts of what was to be considered good homework and what was bad homework; what was good enough at what age and so forth. For more on the beliefs, moralistic views, puritan work ethic, behaviourism and the cultural stress on performance, here’s a link to an article.
Here’s a list that I tweeted a couple of weeks ago of what possibilities open up when homework does not call dibs on the student’s time.
31 Things Your Kids Should Be Doing Instead of Homework http://www.parent.co/31-things-your-kids-should-be-doing-instead-of-homework/?utm_source=sumome&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=sumome_share …
There’s no arguing that all children need play time, down time and family time. However most of that is taken up by homework time! on weekdays and weekends. What do the best in education system – the Finnish schools have to say about this?
Click on this link for a glimpse into that:
Here’s your 20 question quiz on what you think Homework is. Say True or False.
- It is a necessity.
- It takes all day.
- It lets children work at their own pace, without peer pressure.
- It teaches them responsibility and organization skills.
- It allows time to study for tests and go over class work.
- It is necessary in elementary school.
- It is necessary in primary school.
- It is necessary in middle and high school.
- It shows what an individual student knows not what the next student knows.
- It helps to drill the concepts home.
- It helps in learning habits.
- It helps in practice leading to perfection.
- It helps the student to retain knowledge.
- It has to be fun and interesting.
- It needs to be challenging.
- It should be banned.
- It is a hassle for student and teacher to work on and to grade.
- It comes in way of extracurricular activities.
- It leads to late nights resulting in lack of adequate sleep.
- It causes stress.
As an educator when you plan a homework assignment, what is your objective? How much time should they need to spend on the homework? Do you share that expectation with your students? How much homework is just the right amount for a particular grade? When does it stop being meaningful? The 10-minute rule, which calls for 10 minutes of homework per day per grade is endorsed by some schools. You may want to think about yours.
A fourth generation educator, aspiring to visit schools in Finland and wishes that teachers and parents question themselves and their school’s policy on homework.