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.

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