In my continued reading of Alfie Kohn’s Homework Myth, I was interested in this third chapter right from the outset. I have heard my colleagues talk about the need to practice good homework habits in grade three and four. I’ve nodded sagely and thought to myself – why? However, these were colleagues with a great deal more experience thatn I had and older children than I had and I assumed that perhapsthey saw something that I was missing.
I am relieved to say that I can counter this arguement in favour of homework as ‘good practice’ of skill needed later. I loved the quote of a New Yorker cartoon in this chapter, “No one’s last words were ever, “I wish I had done more homework”. Three cheers! My son’s homework is progressing. We are working away at the writing and reading. I know he likes the reading and he enjoys the one on one time with me but honestly, I live in Canada and the weather is just getting nice for the first time in many months. He rather be playing outside with his friend. I think we may cut back. We have been reading a book and writing a little sentence nightly. We may go to a couple of times a week instead and I’ll see, we may quit. Afterall the teacher said it was optional and my son loves playing in the sandbox. And there aren’t any mosquitos yet!
One things that stood out for me in this chapter was the discussion of what we are training kids for if we have them submit to hours of homework which is meaningless to them and simple drudgery. We are training them to accept drudgery! As a teacher, I want to spark a love for learning. It seems quite the contrast to drudgery.
Alfie Kohn’s look at the so-called non-academic benefit of homework allows me to say to my colleague whose child was stressed under the pressures of homework in part because of the other activities which she loved – ballet, soccer, extra-curricular activities at school, not that she needs to cut back the extra-curr but that she needs to help her child say no to the homework. Which of them is really of benefit to her child? I think the sleep that she was missing as a result was the greatest loss to her overall quality of life. She was learning how to be a workoholic. Is that what we want to be teaching? Not I.