Monday, June 16, 2008

Is Homework Really as Useful as We Think?

Why do teachers give homework? Why do parents support or even ask for more homework for their children? We treat the assigning of homework like the automatic doling out of vitamins. We all got it, so it must be good for our kids! Right? Maybe not.

I wonder if the time kids spend on homework would be better spent looking for and nurturing their interests, passions and talents. If we take the child who hates homework, and use that same time, effort and energy to help him look for his gifts, perhaps he would become a concert pianist or composer or writer or inventor. Just an hour a day of homework adds up to 200 hours a-calendar-school year (40 weeks times 5). If we focused that same time on finding a child’s gifts, what would that child become in a few years? What talent could we cultivate? How would that child feel about himself? How would his whole future and relationship to the world change?

Some argue that the intent behind homework is to enforce skills or concepts taught in class. But many of us find that most homework is just busy work. It is given to kids who don’t need it, and the kids who might need it, often keep practicing the same mistakes over and over again. Is homework ‘automatically’ a good thing, or should it be used only when necessary?

I think about all the ‘automatic’ in our lives. I wonder how much time and energy we waste on things we have not consciously examined, like homework. I wonder what we could do instead…donate time to a charity…add culturally to our communities in art or music…create projects that beautify our neighborhoods…or perhaps just even find our own inner Mozart.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Should parents be allowed to homeschool their children? (Part 2)

I found this information in a news article that cites a report from the Frazier Institute. The Fraser Institute is an independent research and educational organization based in Canada. Its mission is to measure, study, and communicate the impact of competitive markets and government intervention on the welfare of individuals in Canada and the United States.

The article said, "Poorly educated parents who choose to teach their children at home produce better academic results for their children than public schools do. One study we reviewed found that students taught at home by mothers who never finished high school scored a full 55 percentage points higher than public school students from families with comparable education levels."

I thought that was interesting because it blows the argument that homeschooling 1. should require a credentialed teacher, not a parent, and that 2. only privileged children from well educated families can get a good education being schooled at home.

I personally think that nothing 1. replaces a one-on-one education within a loving environment and 2. the structure of our educational system is so severely flawed in so many ways, that anything anybody can do to help any child should be encouraged, even facilitated----especially if we are to build a strong tomorrow.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Should parents be allowed to homeschool their kids?

I think the real question is: WHO should be responsible for raising our children? If it is not us, as parents, then WHO? And WHEN?

Do I think that some stranger, who does not know my young, elementary-age child, can 'educate' this child better than I can? I look at teachers and ask myself this question: Would I like to spend seven hours a day with this person? If the answer is 'NO,' then why would I subject my child to that situation? I ask myself, "Is this person warm and caring? Will this person care about MY child in the same way, with the same sense of concern, as I do? Would I hire this person to move into my house and take care of my child?" If the answer is 'NO," then why would I let my child spend most of his or her waking hours in the presence of someone I would not let into my home on a daily basis? Could I, as a parent of an elementary-age child, do reading, writing and math with that child? Absolutely! It's not brain-science. Could I provide a wonderful, warm and caring environment for my child? Of course! Could I work carefully with my child, without needing to fill the needs of 20 to 30 other kids at the same time? (Isn't that a luxury most teachers don't have?) Yes, yes and yes.

Now, how about a high-school child? I could still 'get it done.' We could use junior colleges, online courses, and study groups in the community and many other resources to tackle the more complex subjects.

SO...the real question is WHO should raise our children? The state? (Because they do such a good job with everything else...balancing budgets...the drop-out care? Because they share my particular world view, ethics, belief system?) Or me. I think that perhaps we should stop automatically turning our children over to an industrial system that is antiquated, (founded in 1852 and has basically not changed) over-burdened and ineffective for so many kids. I think we each have the responsibility to find what works for our children. If they manage to thrive in that system anyway, that's wonderful. But for many of our children, the traditional system does not work. And if we are willing to take the time, effort and energy to educate our own children, then the state and everybody else should be grateful.