Homework loads

posted by Jeff | Thursday, November 30, 2017, 9:36 PM | comments: 0

There has been a lot of focus lately on whether or not homework has any value in school. I remember in my experience, only paper writing outside of class really helped me. The rest was of questionable value at best.

My kid is in grade 2 now, and the common core math stuff bothers me. That's ironic, because when I was in school, I was always in trouble for not showing my work, largely because I developed the shortcuts myself (i.e., 37+29=37+30-1). The problem is, as I appreciate more than ever with a kid on the autism spectrum, different brains are wired differently, and what makes perfect sense to one person does not to work for another person. My wife can't always grok it, I can, my kid is in the middle. But to a friend's recent point, the strategies are checklist items for some test the kids eventually have to take, and that's messed up. The goal should be finding working strategies, not mastering every one of them.

While my story is only an anecdote, there's no question in my mind that more structure and more homework would have been detrimental to me. I barely had any fucks left to give in high school, ranking somewhere in the upper middle of my class, while placing in the top 2% of ACT scores nationally. Then I B-/C+'d my way through college for grades no one has ever asked for. Education was just flexible enough to accommodate my personality while moving me forward. I don't see it being that way now, and it causes me and my kid a lot of anxiety.

I bring these scenarios up because the homework doesn't really change the outcomes. I find it particularly useless at younger ages, when frankly kids are already enduring too much structure and not enough world interaction, friends, the environment or whatever they're interested in. Projects are even worse at young ages, because frankly the kids don't have the ability to follow through on that kind of work, so it rests on the parents.

I'm not suggesting that I have all of the answers. I'm also in the camp of people that hates all of the participation trophy snowflake bullshit. But the problem with education is that it's stuck in a mix of expectations set by tradition and newer efforts set by people too far removed from front-line implementation to have valid opinions. My teacher friends all seem to love their jobs but hate the requirements. That's unfortunate, because I don't think there are many professions as important as teaching, and it seems like no one is listening to them.

I hope there's some momentum in this homework reduction thing. I'm all for it.


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