Schools That Give Preschoolers Homework Deserve a Big Fat 'F'

jasper prekI couldn't believe it when my son pulled out his homework assignment in Pre-K. Homework?!? Already? I thought preschool was supposed to be about blocks and sharing! Can't the mindless worksheets wait a couple years more? And what is he NOT learning at school that he needs to learn after school?

For about three weeks the sheets came home. And I was torn between wanting to be supportive of his sweet, energetic teacher and wanting to be openly defiant of this homework nonsense -- which means my son completed the homework assignments only half the time. And then, mysteriously, the homework assignments disappeared. Good riddance! What is homework doing at preschool, anyway? Does anyone really think this is a good idea?

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Holly Korbey asks the same question in the Motherlode column of The New York Times. Her answer: Of course not! But she's talked with other parents who, like me, were reluctant to question it. No one wants a conflict with their child's teacher. And no one wants their kid labeled a "problem" -- especially at this young age. There's just too much pressure to make kids "ready" for elementary school.

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But that pressure is making teachers and principals do crazy things that don't foster young learners at all -- if anything, giving homework to preschoolers is like giving Superman kryptonite. Not only is it totally useless, I think it's actually harmful. I'm not the only one who thinks so. Holly quotes Alfie Kohn, author of The Homework Myth: Why Our Kids Get Too Much of a Bad Thing. (That title pretty much says it all.) Alfie has reviewed the research, and it all comes to the same conclusion: "No research has ever found any benefit. It’s all pain and no gain.

At that age, the best thing for kids is imaginative play -- directed by educators, but still, PLAY-based learning. Look it up. Google it. It's WONDERFUL. It's magic! It's essential for learning. And -- it's the complete opposite of giving 4-year-olds worksheets to complete at home. I know we're used to this idea that learning only happens when there's a pencil in our hand and a piece of paper below, but that's a myth. I know we're used to thinking of play as a leisure activity, but it's so much more than that.

And the truth is, schools know this. My son's public preschool program was mostly play-based. I have to believe the homework was just a random blip, a misguided experiment that failed. If enough of us say NO to preschool homework and support teachers and schools who defy the crazy, maybe it will go the way of the dinosaurs. We can raise a generation of independent, creative thinkers who love learning as a lifetime activity -- if only we can be brave enough and demand a different education.

Do you think there should be homework in preschool?

 

Image via Adriana Velez

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