Remember what it felt like to be a kid? We sat in a classroom all day and came home to relax and play before bed, right? Sadly, no. Instead, we sat down to a long afternoon of homework. By the time we were done, there was no time for play. Just dinner, bath time and bed. Remember being a part of clubs and sports? On those nights, we would get home late, rush to eat dinner, and then decided if homework or sleep was going to be the top priority. It was a challenge to manage academics, extracurricular activities, and basic needs like eating and sleeping!
Things may be getting a little different for students today, though! More and more schools are initiating a new policy: NO HOMEWORK! Children are rejoicing and parents are up in arms. But you know what? This is actually a good thing! While traditional homework is meant to reinforce learning that occurs in school, it can sometimes cause more harm than good. Here's how:
Decreased (Quality!) Family Time
Homework time is stressful. Families come home from work and school with precious little waking hours left in the day. Dinner, baths, and homework need to be accomplished before bed. We have not yet experienced World War III but that's exactly what homework time feels like. The kids have been in school all day, forced to sit in a chair and learn new concepts with few breaks in between. When they get home, they want and NEED to give their brains a rest. Instead, they are forced to sit down and concentrate all over again. Cue the tantrums from the kids and frustration in the parents. The little bit of time that parents have to spend with their kids at night is spent fighting about homework.
For many families, the scenario I presented isn't reality. Their evenings aren't spent playing with friends and watching TV when the homework is over. Children are expected to be well-rounded. This is where sports and clubs come in. Lots of kids stay after school for extracurricular activities or sports and don't get home until well after dinner. Other children are involved in dance classes, swimming lessons, or community sports leagues that aren't offered at school. Parents of these kids are forced to transport their multiple children to activities. This means that there is barely enough time at the end of the day for a quick dinner before bed, and that doesn't even include the homework that seems increase as the kids gets older.
A Promising Solution
In an article featured in the Washington post, Strauss discusses a school district in Vermont that chooses to adopt a different approach to homework. Instead of completing homework, students are asked to read every night, go outside and play, and have dinner with their families. After six months of this new rule, parents and children were happier and no decrease in academic achievement was noted. With this new policy, children and families can spend time actually enjoying each other and after school activities can be fun, not a chore. As noted in an article by Brant and Eskel-Haapanen, featured in Literacy Today, we should leave school at school and let the children learn through play at home.