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My first grader brings home homework four nights a week, and I hate it. It's not the homework itself, which is based in math and science. I'm thrilled she's learning complex calculations at such an early age. But why does she have to drill when the school day is over? When, in fact, the main reason she goes to a progressive school is the lack of testing and, one would assume, homework.
I'll tell you why. We live in America, and the American parents stood up last year to demand homework for our 5- and 6-year-olds. It's just too bad that those who wanted to see a little cutie sitting at his tiny desk doing homework didn't realize that this logic is hurting our children academically instead of preparing the little tykes for lifelong success. And the homework glut is not doing much for getting everything done before bedtime, either. Homework has got to go.
All a parent needs to do is take a look at Finland (I know, those Scandinavians do everything right) to see how education policy that emphasizes equality and a love for learning over competition and school "choice" is winning this game. When the Finns do get around to homework and testing (not until age 16), the scores are consistently at the top of the entire world.
Of course, no homework until high school isn't the only element at play in the Finnish education system. All teachers have master's degrees and are paid well. All schools are the same, regardless of how much income inequity exists in the neighborhood, and there are no private schools. Cooperation between schools is emphasized, and competition is out. Children don't even start to school until age 7, and from all reports, these are happy kids who are learning without the stress of their American counterparts. And they're learning more than our kids, as well.
Yes, there are other countries that do require homework that are scoring quite well and are frequently in the top spot above Finland. South Korea, for example, where students have tutors every day after school and work far harder on their studies than the average American child. Sure those kids in South Korea are killing it in test scores, but a heck of a lot of them say they're miserable. Considering the answer to the question of what a parent wants for her child is almost always, "I want my child to be happy," that model is not nearly as attractive as the one going down in Finland.
Homework once a week would be exciting for the kids instead of a drag. Or like one element my daughter's school implements -- read to your child every night, have your child read to you, and have your child read to herself -- that's useful, entertaining, and something we should be doing regardless of school policy. But it seems to me that grade schools need to axe the homework because it's not helping anyone. Least of all the mom who has to harass her kid to get it done before dinner.
What do you think about homework for grade school kids?
Image via spiritinme/Flickr