Less Homework Means More Learning

In today’s world of homework, classes, and sports, when do our kids get a chance to just be? Perhaps even more importantly, when do they have a chance to pursue their own interests without adult intervention or control?

Vernon Barford junior high school, in Edmonton, Canada, changed its policies in 2006, and decided to give its students less homework. As a result, tests scores improved. So did morale.

The concept of our schools assigning too much homework is not new. In 1999, Time Magazine’s cover declared, “Too Much Homework!”, subtitled with, “How it’s hurting our kids, and what parents should do about it.” A surprisingly outspoken piece, The Homework Ate My Family, calls parents to arms in the homework war, encouraging them to allow their children to have a stress-free childhood.

A sprinkling of schools and parents might have learned from those who have been warning us against the alluring draw of homework, but there is still a pervasive cultural bias towards filling our children’s time with it. According to the Vancouver Sun article, a parent complained about the new Barford Vernon homework policy, that his son “still had an hour in the evening with nothing to do.” When did having an hour of “nothing to do” become a bad thing?

The Vancouver Sun also profiles Carl Honore’s new book Under Pressure—Rescuing Childhood From the Culture of Hyper-Parenting, where he discusses the role of homework and other time filling activities as commentary on our achievement-oriented and hyper-scrutinizing parenting culture of today.

If you are interested in a deeper discussion of homework specifically, another book by Alfie Kohn, called The Homework Myth, discusses the disadvantage to homework and why it is has become so important to us in today’s educational atmosphere.

In a world where more=more, it’s refreshing to see attempts at moderation. It’ll be interesting to see if this becomes a trend.

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One Response to “Less Homework Means More Learning”

  1. christine Says:

    Thanks for shedding some light on this. My kids wanted to experience public school when we moved to this small, rural town. The grade school where they attended bragged that the kids had no homework.

    Er … well, they never would send home any, but if you didn’t finish your work in class, you sat outside on the sidewalk during the three recess breaks (and after you finished lunch, and, and …). So, it was the kids dealing with attention issues, and emotional issues that sat outside the most, watching other kids play and burning off energy, while they did worksheets. The teachers also threatened these kids that they would miss class parties, field trips, etc., if their work wasn’t done.

    So backwards. Yet, they still bragged about the whole “no homework” thing.


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