boy doing homework
My kids want to move to France. They don't have any interest in French culture or French food, but they do like French President Francois Hollande's recent proposal to ban homework. While controversial, Hollande's position is not new. Waldorf Schools, for example, run on a no-homework concept. Even some of the schools in my school district have succumbed to parental pressure and eliminated homework for younger grades after parents argued that doing homework prevents their kids from participating in extra-curricular activities. It saddens me that education seems to be taking a backseat to sports, dance, and other activities. Many of my neighbors spend countless hours shuttling their kids to practices, games, and performances and then complain that they never have any time to rest. I'm not saying that we need to eliminate extra-curricular activities. My kids participate in sports, music, and scouts. These activities enrich their lives and teach them lessons that they may not learn in school. But there needs to be a balance between academics, family time, and outside activities.
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I believe that homework is a vital part of instruction. Some kids simply cannot master the material in the allotted class time and need the additional practice that homework provides. In a study titled "Does Homework Improve Academic Achievement?", researchers from Duke University found that students who were required to do homework outperformed those who didn't. There are other advantages to homework, as well. When thoughtfully designed and implemented, homework can instill habits of self-discipline and independent study - valuable skills students will need in college and future endeavors. Homework not only builds academic stamina, but it also builds character and helps to close the achievement gaps between children. The most significant benefit of homework is that it allows parents to be involved in their children's education by understanding what they're working on. Parents may not always be able to help their kids with all subjects, but they can direct them to the right resources when they're informed. My wife, who was a middle school teacher, noticed a significant difference in students' performance when their parents made their children accountable for completing their assignments and were involved in their education. These parents were also able to form a partnership with my wife because they knew what their child was learning and why.
Although I am an advocate of homework, I don't approve of the busy work that many schools send home. I get frustrated when I see my kids working on mindless worksheets that promote rote memorization. This type of homework does little to improve academic performance. All it does is add an undue burden on students and parents and leads to frustration. Instead, I advocate material that allows students to think critically and use some creativity. Homework should reinforce lessons learned in the classroom and help students apply what they've learned in a practical manner. Realistically, kids will never like homework. I sure didn't when I was younger. But with a few tweaks to make the workload more manageable and the assignments meaningful, everyone will be more willing to sacrifice a little time and effort to make homework a priority.
- By Frederick J. Goodall
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