Every parent should read this book! (Maybe even aunts, uncles and grandparents.) The Case Against Homework by Sara Bennett and Nancy Kalish was an eye opener. Whether your child is of school age or will be soon, enrolled in public or private school or home schooled, it will enlighten you on homework practices today, prepare you to make some choices and feel a little more in control of your child’s education, and hopefully keep the joy of learning alive.
When I first heard about this book my son was just a baby.But, stories of my husband’s childhood education and his belief that the school system ‘failed’ him for not seeing him as an individual fueled my interest in education alternatives, as well as my need to feel in control and know my choices as a parent.
I heard stories about the homework burden that children bear today. It sounded extreme compared to when I was in school. I barely remember homework getting in the way of anything – and I was a good student. I only remember ‘real’ homework in high school and my parents rarely helped me with any of it. It was MY homework, to be done by me. And, I still had time for cheerleading, a boyfriend, family time and hanging out with my friends.
There were several points that stuck with me from this book. Kids are starting to hate school as early as 6 and 7 years old! Even good students who usually love school profess to hate it now. Their love of learning is being destroyed because of the oppressive amount of homework interfering with their childhood. Kids are even giving up reading their own books for fun, because it isn’t fun anymore when they are forced to read all the time in the name of homework. Children drop out of extracurricular activities to keep up with the workload. They work on projects over holidays and weekends (sometimes mandatory). They begin homework assignments in the car on their way home from school. Shouldn’t they be learning this stuff IN school?
Some parents may think there is a good reason for all the homework. But, there is no consensus within the school system and in their policies on how much homework a child should have and whether or not parents should provide some help. There is also the issue of quality versus busy work. Teachers are not in agreement. Furthermore, they never take a course in homework and there has never been any evidence that more homework creates smarter kids. It’s a guessing game at the expense of our children’s desire to learn. The No Child Left Behind Act may not have helped things. Schools feel pressure to get kids to pass the standardized tests. But, is more homework the answer?
Children today are exhibiting more depression, anxiety and stomachaches. Homework is more of a concern than peer pressure. A parent has to worry more about their child scoring some Ritalin off a friend than smoking a joint! I was not aware how bad things really were. Being an older parent I haven’t been involved with public school since I graduated from mine in 1987. No one I knew was on Ritalin, anti-depressants or cutting themselves.
Today, children are commonly “punished” for not completing homework by staying in at recess to complete it (if their school even has recess anymore). One story from the book made me cry. A 10 year old in a California Charter School was made to wear his uniform backwards with is shirt inside out and write 30 letters to all of the other students in his class about why his homework was missing or partially completed! That sounds like fraternity house hazing to me! Berating or demoralizing a child for not completing homework is completely unacceptable and unforgivable. Some children face up to 3 hours of homework each night so they work on it through dinner and stay up late to get it done so they don’t stand out and have to face such punishment.
The authors interviewed several teachers and families and gave a good cross section of what is going on in America today with the education system. Sara Bennett and Nancy Kalish give the reader tools to address homework issues in their own children’s schools. They offer real problem-solving tools and form letters that have been tried and true helping parents to achieve a variety of solutions to the homework crisis.
After reading this book and learning more about the education system in England (where we now reside), we have chosen to homeschool for preschool this fall, using Oak Meadow’s Curriculum. We were very keen on Waldorf Education but the two schools near us in London are not up to the quality of the one we attended in California for Parent/Toddler classes last year. They also start Kindergarten at 4 years of age here – too young in my opinion. So, armed with knowledge we will proceed. Perhaps when we move back to the States we will try something else. At least I will know how the game has changed for my son and I can work to nurture a life-long love of learning.
What has been your experience with your child’s homework? Do they get too much? Do you have to help? Do you homeschool, or are you on a Homework Committee at your child’s school?