As teachers and school administrators approach their summer break, I hope they might consider taking one small homework assignment with them over the summer. Consider why and how much homework you give to your students and discuss with your colleagues alternative practices which might benefit the academic, social-emotional, physical and spiritual needs of our kids.
Recently, there has been some excellent discussion about the value and effectiveness of homework. Alfie Kohn’s talk last month on his book “The Homework Myth” and the recent showing of the movie “Race to Nowhere” gave us much food for thought, including the statement that there is little evidence that homework improves academic performance. While there may be disagreement about this, I believe we need to take a serious look at our homework practices and the unintended consequences that follow, including anxiety, lack of curiosity, pressure and lack of sleep.
Many of our kids simply aren’t getting enough sleep. Parents I talk with say their kids only get 7-8 hours and are concerned. Studies show this has a real impact on performance, and it’s time we reflect on how we are helping to create kids who are tired and over-stressed. Our kids need down-time, family time and play-time—critical elements for developing their full potential as whole human beings—and homework often interferes with these. Is it possible to give less homework and get to a better place as a result? I think so. And, yes, it’s true that we may all be trying to do too much.