BENGALURU: No, this isn’t my 8-year-old talking. It’s me. Mother of two. I hate homework. Almost as much as my kids do. Math drill sheets, comprehension passages, Hindi grammar… there has to be a better way to reinforce and strengthen learning than the worksheets that come home with unfailing regularity.
The debate over homework: to assign or not to assign, has been raging in the West for some time now. Educationists have been researching the efficacy of homework, with teachers, school boards and parents weighing in on the topic. I find little debate on the matter in India apart from the occasional Facebook rant.
The “ten-minute homework rule,” recommends ten minutes of homework per grade level, per night (ten minutes for first grade, 20 minutes for second grade, and so on, up to two hours for 12th grade) Giving students too much homework can lead to fatigue, stress, and a loss of interest in academics. (Cooper, 2010). With worksheets and homework now starting as early as pre-school ( a friend’s son received a Math and English text book and notebook in Nursery!) we seem to place our children on the academic rat race earlier and earlier. Children as young as 4 are anxious about school as they are forced to write when they don’t want to. Perhaps because they are not ready to.
Pro-homework parents argue that homework helps children focus, learn to sit in one place and complete a task. If we start early enough, by the time they get to high school, when homework matters, they will have had enough practice and be ready to tackle it head on. One friend, said it helps children understand that a lot of tasks in adult life are mundane like homework. If you’re able to do homework, you’ll be able to do those mind numbingly boring parts of your job too.
Great. Sit in one place. Focus. Complete mundane tasks. Prepare for a life of boredom. Stellar arguments.
Me? I hate homework because of what it does to me. I become impatient, snappy and surly. I belittle. “Why is this so hard for you?” “Do you really need this long to write a sentence?” When we do homework, my actions as a parent contradict what I tell my children. “Do your best” is offset by making them re-write an answer till I deem it good enough. Homework brings out a visceral reaction in me. My own panic, confusion and fear from childhood resurfaces and it makes me hit the panic button. I assess my child based on the contents of one printed sheet. As I was.
Earlier this month, Grade 2 teacher Brandy Young’s homework policy went viral. “After much research this summer, I am trying something new,” read her note. “I ask that you spend your evenings doing things that are proven to correlate with student success. Eat dinner as a family, read together, play outside, and get your children to bed early.”
If you ask me, those are the habits we should try to inculcate in our children. These are the things that will hold them in good steed as adults. Family, group activities, friends.
A five page math drill? How far can that take them?