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11/14/13

By the Book: Does homework still have a place in today's school curriculum?

School is back in session. Homework may be close to a permanent summer vacation.
Ask any student about their feelings toward homework, and the answer typically isn't a favorable one. You'd have a hard time getting even the most ardent and passionate student to vote against the elimination of homework.
Now, they might just get their wish.
What once was a staple of school curriculum, homework now finds itself under some serious scrutiny from parents who believe the idea of kids bringing work home is both antiquated and counterproductive. Parents argue that learning should be confined to within the walls of the classroom, and time after school should center on activities, sports and simply kids being kids.
Homework does nothing other than add ample amounts of pressure and stress to kids who may already be struggling just to survive at school. Parents argue that homework should be rechristened "busy work," and that most take home assignments are simple regurgitation of what they learned that same day which doesn't do much to further an already laborious lesson plan.

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"Homework should be about more than just piling on some work they already had a school," said Tammy Gold, LCSW, MSW, ACC and Psychotherapist and Parenting Coach. "Homework is a real burden, more of a hindrance."
In other words, homework feels more like punishment than practicality.
The flip side to this argument comes mostly from the school of thought that homework is as much of a school staple as a stapler, and that ridding the routine of homework only serves to cut short that day's lesson. Homework also carries with it a sense of purpose and focus for kids, and that sending work home is more about establishing a routine more so than the actual art of sitting down and working while you're not at school.
Varda Meyers Epstein is an educational researcher and isn't keen on killing off homework.
"I have to say eliminating homework is a mistake. The memory needs that bit of reminder of what was learned during the school day, to help cement information in the student's long term memory," Epstein said.
As the debate rages seemingly between parents and teachers, the answer isn't a simple one, nor is either side technically wrong with where they stand. Both contentions merit their fair share of positives and negatives, but there is no blame or finger pointing to be conducted.
Truthfully, homework still holds up even in the year 2013; it's just not the same version you have come to know and love.
Homework for kids isn't punishment but instead is built simply on principle. This is about homework that furthers the learning process for the next day, rather than fluster or flummox a student with work that isn't needed no matter how you frame it.
"Homework should be about kids learning how to deal with their emotions or become better communicators," Gold said. She also points to the Kahn Academy as an example of how furthering a lesson should work and the implementation of supplemental learning.
The Kahn Academy promotes free educational videos that further support learning through educational videos that are free as part of their site. Students can learn about an explorer, and follow up at home by watching a video about that same person.
The optimism as far as homework is concerned is more about creating accountability among children and teaching them that even if you're not in school, obligation still exists.
You could soundly argue that homework to kids is the equivalent to take home reports and budget spreadsheets for adults.
Flash forward to a few years later, and imagine if homework had been pulled from the proverbial table. Could you imagine telling your boss that you didn't finish your report yesterday by 5 p.m., so that's why it isn't done the next morning? The idea that you don't take work home with you sounds ridiculous as an adult, so why is it any more acceptable as a kid?
Now, that doesn't mean that homework can't be questioned, especially if it is being heaped on to students at a record level. Too much homework is a totally different topic versus totally getting rid of it altogether.
The National Education Association recommends students have 10 minutes total of homework per night per grade level. That ratio is a remarkable way for parents to monitor whether what kids are working on at home is satisfactory or excessive.
"We (United States) have the most homework and the lowest test scores. So what does that say?," Gold said. What she is referring to is the direct correlation that doesn't exist between homework and students excelling in the classroom.
A perfectly realistic question that should be broached by parents to teachers is whether what their kids are lugging home at night is truly necessary in that particular volume or amount. The goal isn't to argue about homework in general but instead develop a game plan to ultimately ensure the real winner of the debate isn't mom, dad or teacher but rather the student.
The key to homework hovering at a happy medium is moderation or thinking outside the box, such as what Gold is referring to with educational videos. Traditional homework shouldn't be abundantly handed out with little rhyme or reason.
Burdening kids at any age with too much take homework is a sure fire way to eliminate the idea of cultivating and creating a well rounded individual. But saying "so long" to homework as a whole essentially tells children that their responsibility stops once the final bell rings.

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