In Defence of Homework

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My grandkids have informed me that there is now a “no homework” policy in their elementary school. I find that unfortunate.

Parental Bonding Assisted

I can remember, years ago, the fun my dad and I had studying spelling. My teacher assigned a weekly spelling list. I would study it solo, riding home on the school bus, Monday to Wednesday. Thursday was the big night. My dad would ask me all the words and “coach” me on any that I missed. I was praised if I had a perfect score. It wasn’t only homework, it was a great exercise in parental bonding.

Me ol’ dad, nearly 60 years old when he had us two kids, was born on the Prairies in 1892. He had little formal education, but he had learned to read well. He treasured education above all else. He knew reams of poetry, was a self-taught Biblical scholar, and knew a huge repertoire of songs.

So every September when we were given our textbooks, my father eagerly read them, often before we could get our hands on them. He’d quiz us on everything from the history of Canada to basic arithmetic facts. It is a shame that this opportunity for parents to bond with their children is less likely.

More Basic Facts Learned

I am sure that because of my assigned “homework,” particularly with spelling and math facts, I learned more. And having a parent at home drilling those facts (as well as memorized poetry and the like) into my head gave the teacher assistance in teaching. It also gave me an advantage in earning higher grades.

Kids Constructively Occupied

Over the past few decades, kids have been dismissed from school earlier and earlier. My grandkids get out at 1:17 p.m. on Mondays and 2:17 p.m. Tuesday to Friday. I understand that some high schools get out even earlier on Fridays. If the average student goes to bed around 9-ish, that gives him/her approximately seven hours to float around.

Structured Time

They say that kids today have trouble using their time constructively. They get too much screen time. They are not good at self-regulation or personal timetabling. Homework time, which my dad always set between 7 and 8 p.m. (before the Ed Sullivan Show started!), gave us needed structure. Perhaps it helped me learn how to organize my day, a crucial skill for school teachers, like me, and other professionals.

Sleep Aid

And finally, homework time may even aid sleep. I realize some families have their children do homework immediately after school to make sure that it gets done. Our family had snack and play time immediately after school. Homework time was relegated to that half- to one-hour span after supper. It settled us in for the night even if we were allowed to watch some TV afterwards. It gave us some downtime after the active day and afternoon of bike-riding, chores and wading in creeks.

Yes, the times were different then. But I’m not sure that some of these so-called modern innovations are for the best. Removing homework from the public school system would probably makes life a little easier for both parents and teacher—in terms of assigning, regulating, and marking it—but is it better for the students?

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