So it all started with a Calgary family.
After going through years of homework struggles with their kids, a Calgary family took matters into their own hands and finalized a legal contract with their kids’ school stating that their children would not be given homework.
According to this contract, the teacher can’t send home any school work that will contribute to their grades. They can only be marked based on what the teacher sees in the classroom. But the kids have to hold up their end of the bargain too. They must complete all their work in class and go to class prepared every day. Once they get home, they must practice an instrument and read every night.
And this contract got me, as well as a lot of other people, thinking.
Is there too much homework given to kids?
One of the main reasons as to why this family implemented this contract was because they were sick and tired of constantly struggling with their kids every night, standing over them and waiting for them to finish up. And don’t get them wrong, they value education (the parents are lawyers). It’s just that they wanted to focus on homework on their own terms. For example, their daughter had trouble spelling, but they couldn’t focus on that because she had a bunch of other homework to do.
And that’s fair. If I have trouble doing my multiplication tables, shouldn’t I be focusing on that instead of other stuff? If I have trouble on a reading assignment because I can’t read, is finishing that math assignment really going to help me out?
And to help out their no homework policy, there have been studies that show there is no direct correlation between the amount of homework a student does and school success in the early grades. In terms of time spent on homework, the study says that for every grade you’re in, you should do 10 minutes of homework a night. So if you’re in grade 2, 20 minutes of homework a night, grade 3, 30 minutes etc. And once you get to high school, homework should be capped at 2 hours a night.
And for this family, the implementation of this contract means a year spent as an actual family. No more pencils, no more books, no more nights of long division and book reports.
But is this actually a good thing? Are the parents doing a service to their kids by getting rid of homework?
While the idea of going through school without homework sounds like absolute bliss, isn’t the idea of getting rid of homework, or even reducing the amount kids are getting doing a disservice for their future education?
Truth be told, I don’t remember a lot about my homework schedule when I was in grade 2. I remember that I did get some, but I don’t ever recall it bringing me to the verge of tears. I remember going home, sitting in front of the TV and watching Arthur and The Magic School Bus. I’d then eat dinner, watch some more TV, then get started on my work. Did I hate it? Of course I did. I just wanted to watch more TV or go play tag outside. But looking back now, I had already done all those fun things. While homework was an inconvenience, it never got to the point where I could never have fun or play. That’s what Waterloo has done, but not grade school.
I don’t know. Maybe it’s gotten much more hectic. Maybe they’re sending kids home with hours and hours of stuff to do.
But to recall on something that actually happened in this century, high school was never too bad. And when it did get bad, it was only because I always left things until the last minute.
Yes, certain things came easier to me than to other students. Like math for example (totally not a lie…). But at the same time, I could never get good grades on any of my essays while others could write wonderful perspective pieces on The Handmaid’s Tale in a single night. And speaking of which, isn’t that what the ‘applied’ and ‘academic’ courses were made for? It makes sense that some things come easier to some than others. Hence the streaming. Now, I’m not saying that the system in place is perfect, but it’s in place for a reason.
And again, to my recollection, it was never about the amount of homework, but how I managed my time. For me, it’s always been about time management, and it still is to this day. The only reason why I’m sorta decent at managing my time is because I had no other choice back in high school. Yes, I still slack off, but through the experience of getting homework, I’ve managed to kinda keep things under control.
Which brings me back to the family in Calgary.
I’ve never been a parent. But from what I understand, running a family is crazy work. Like, stupid-crazy-stressful-I-wanna-shoot-myself-while-laying-in-a-pool-of-acid-watching-nothing-but-Twilight-and-getting-pooped-on difficult. And with that being said, would all that be possible without some semblance of time management skills? Isn’t that what homework helps to develop?
I remember in high school (and even today) when I would complain that there was just too much work given to us, say how unfair it was and yadda yadda yadda. But is it really too much? Just look at all the kids who do well, both here and back in high school. They were always on top of things. Heck, they could probably do even more work and still have time to spare. And why is that? It’s because when the smart folk and the not-so-smart folk get an assignment, the smart people get on it right away. Me? I usually leave it until a couple days before its due then scramble to catch up and finish. If I had started right away, I’d probably be hard pressed to complain.
Look, every single one of us in engineering are intelligent, capable people. We wouldn’t be here if we weren’t. Now, we all know how hectic it can be, the amount of work, blood, sweat and tears that need to be invested to get a barely passing grade in MATH115 (I say all this hoping that I’m not the only one who has no idea what a vector space is). [Editor’s Note: I assume it’s like a crawl space, but instead of storing junk you keep your extra vectors] For the amount of work that we do, would 2 hours a night in high school have prepared you? Not me. And I wasn’t. Time management (or lack thereof) is a big reason why I’ve failed a semester.
The big issue seems to be the amount of homework kids are getting, and I don’t necessarily agree. I went through high school and I feel as if it wasn’t enough. Maybe I needed more preparation. I don’t know. But what I do know is that people shouldn’t be focusing on the amount of work given, but the quality of work. I think parents should be asking teachers not about the amount, but about what they’re kids are actually doing. For example, I once had to create a huge poster full of cutouts from magazines and the internet about my favourite artists in music. A full, 2-bristol board poster. What on earth does a poster have to do with anything? It’s not going to make me any better at the sax, and I spent countless number of hours on something that I know contributed nothing to my education. The only thing it did was raise my blood pressure. It was literally close to killing me. It’s stuff like that that needs to be addressed. So instead of complaining about amount, it should the content under question. Parents should be asking “Does this assignment help my kid understand what’s going on?”. Not saying “My goodness he has 4 assignments due next week!”.
It’s not the perfect solution, but I think it does a whole lot more than just asking for a reduction in the workload.
So it all started with a Calgary family.