What’s Homework For?
Reading about a recent survey on homework reminded of my own struggles as a parent standing over my kids to make sure they put in their second shift. Once they were in high school, the homework at least sometimes seemed important and, occasionally, even interesting. But in elementary and middle school, so much of their homework seemed to be busy work.
Interestingly, the survey (conducted by Harris Polling and paid for by the University of Phoenix) seems to bear that out, with many teachers using it specifically to involve parents or to help kids learn time management rather than wanting them to learn or practice something specific.
I had always thought that reading (or being read to) half an hour a night and keeping some kind of reading journal should be the baseline homework in elementary school. Instead, my kids seemed to get endless wordfind puzzles and diorama or mobile projects that required trips to the craft store to buy Styrofoam balls or some other such foolishness.
A real problem with these time-consuming and mostly worthless projects was that they were terribly unfair because not all parents could afford the time or money to get the materials.
The “unexpected” schools I write about are very deliberate about the homework they assign, and they are usually very careful to assign only those kinds of things that don’t need a great deal of parental involvement. Take, for example, Ware Elementary School in Kansas, which I write about in today’s Huffington Post.