Homework Hassle

TGSG Note: If you are a regular-reader of this blog or follow me on Twitter, you know I am an advocate of homework reform and a huge fan of author and blogger, Sara Bennett. Sara an I connected about a year ago, and we have swapped posts and cheered each other on ever since. I am thrilled to have her guest post today at TGSG. I hope all parents and educators will read her book and add her blog to their RSS feeds.  See ya outside! – The Grass Stain Guru

saraEvery time I walk or ride my bicycle through my neighborhood park, I can’t help but notice how few school-age children are outside. I always see plenty of adults running, biking, walking, and dog-walking, and the under-four crowd is having fun in the playgrounds. The twenty-somethings are often kicking around a ball or throwing Frisbees. But the 5-18 year olds, unless they’re participating in an organized sports such as soccer or baseball, seem to be almost nonexistent.

Maybe it’s because I have homework on my mind–after all, I run a project called Stop Homework–but I can’t help but think that homework is to blame for keeping our children inside. After all, at 3:15 every day I see kids as young as five hauling hefty backpacks down the street, and I hear their caregivers asking them about their homework. Eight and nine year olds are begging to play in the school yard while the caregivers shake their heads and sternly insist they go straight home to do homework.

It takes a lot of self discipline for me not to jump in and say, “Let the children play!” I want to stop and reason with them. “Don’t you know that research shows that homework has no value in elementary school? Don’t you know about the new study that says that play is crucial for children’s development? Didn’t you hear about the study showing that a walk in nature improves behavior in children with ADHD?”

But I restrain myself and wonder how best to spread the word. I’ve come to conclude that it’s up to all of us to spread the word. If homework is dominating our children’s time, if it’s interfering with their childhood and keeping them from growing up the way we want them to, it’s time to make changes, starting in our homes. We must make sure our young children have plenty of time to go outside and play, even if that means their homework remains undone. And we must make sure our older children, too, get enough exercise, downtime, and sleep, even if that means that some of their schoolwork isn’t finished.

Bennett's Book - A must-read for parents.

Bennett's Book - A must-read for parents.

Most of all,  we need to try to change the source of the problem. It’s time we all write notes to the teacher explaining why our children need fresh air and protesting when recess is taken away (which is too often punishment for undone homework). It’s also time to press the issue at a higher level–with our principals, school board members, and those who make education policy.

In the short term, our children will be happier and healthier. In the long term, they’ll also be happier and healthier, and ultimately better educated as well.

Guest Blogger Bio: Sara Bennett, the co-author of The Case Against Homework: How Homework Is Hurting Our Children and What We Can Do About It, is the founder of Stop Homework, a project affiliated with The Alliance for Childhood. Read more about Sara’s work on her website StopHomework.com.

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