Gone are the days when school children across America had to trudge through several inches of snow to make their way to one-room school-houses. Likewise, fallen by the wayside is the use of the three R’s as the primary curriculum for this nation’s schools. A rap across the hand with a ruler is no longer used as a method of classroom discipline. Many of the traditions and standards of education have become antiquated and outdated. Perhaps the next casualty of societal change should be the widespread use of homework as a learning tool for today’s children.
The average student now participates in a variety of after-school activities. Football, basketball, choir, band, and cheer have been joined by soccer, dance, volleyball, softball, baseball, golf, quiz bowl, cross-country, academic decathlon, and a variety of other activities that place tremendous demands on the student’s time. Activities not related to school but also demands student time include little league baseball, softball, football, and basketball as well as dance, cheer, motorcross, and church activities. Factor in students who also work part time and you have a group of children who usually have their evenings filled with extracurricular activities. In today’s society we have students who spend their day in school and their evenings occupied with extra-curricular activities. He/she could spend a considerable amount of time completing the homework assignments and end up going to bed exhausted in the early morning hours. The end result is an exhausted student who is not likely to be in the best condition for learning in class. The child may or may not do the assignment or at best only give a half-hearted effort to do the work.
It is not uncommon for first and second grade students to have a large amount of homework. The drive for accountability has created a school environment that places a premium on instructional time. Recess has been gradually eroded to the point the average elementary child has only ten to fifteen minutes of unstructured play time per day. In many school districts recess has been eliminated altogether. Add a large homework assignment each evening and it raises a significant question; when do kids get the chance to be kids? Another significant question is what do kids do when they reach a point that they don’t understand how to do an assignment? Politicians, school administrators, and teachers say that parents need to get involved and help the child. That answer assumes the parent knows how to do the math problems, algebra, etc. How many parents have worked through a math problem with their child, found the right answer only to have the problem counted wrong because it was not worked in the process the teacher and the text required? Parents may not have been exposed to certain scientific principles or even have a background in how to diagram a sentence, among other current classroom skills. Too often, parents helping their child results in a process where they are using information and skills they learned over a quarter of a century ago. Having this work done at school rather than at home provides a great many benefits. First, it allows the child who has spent the entire day engaged in academics to have time to be a kid, to explore other interests such as extracurricular activities, interests and hobbies which have an educational effect in that it broadens the child’s horizons. Another benefit of having the homework done in class is that it allows the teacher to be the person that shows the child how to solve the math problem, or discuss the real meaning of the history or literature question.