I apologize for the silence of the No Homework, No Future conversation. It has been nearly six months since my first post on the issue. Here in New York City, the transition from summer to yet another school year has begun. I know because none of my daughter's clothes fit and we have to go buy all those back to school supplies! Through all of this––the end of a school year, a summer off, and now, another academic year––I have updates on answering homework opposition, homework at P.S. 116, my daughter's summer homework, and enrollment at Success Academies.
Answering Homework Opposition
During this no homework debacle, many parties have weighed in: Rachel Fadlon (Our Kids Have Way Too Much Homework-And it Needs to Stop) and Karin Klein (What would happen if an elementary school abolished homework? This.) are just a couple. Parents are absolutely entitled to their opinion on their child's education. After all, don't we live in a free country? However, I believe it is valuable to be able to answer people you disagree with and so, in reading some of the opposing views on homework policies, I feel it is good to publicly acknowledge our varied positions.
Fadlon wrote "I am officially the crazy, anti-homework lady at my children’s Jewish day school." And I feel that I am officially the crazy pro-homework guy at my daughter's public school. I didn't ask for this but had opinions when asked by a reporter with DNAinfo. Regardless of how we become crazy people, one thing I disagree with Fadlon on is that homework is for nothing. She says that we act as though we are going to raise our kids to go to Harvard but most don't get in. I think that this mindset is part of what sets the US educational system back from other countries, like Japan or Finland (I read your other article, Rachel!); we are settling.
Klein states that no homework is more than simply watching tv or playing around on the computer. That filling in the gaps with academic, social and emotional development should be considered in lieu of homework. This is all pretty safe information to keep in mind when developing a homework routine outside of a school's no homework policy. I agree with her on this, however, I would argue that this is also not something most parents are actively doing when their children end up in a no homework school. Part of why I agree with Klein is that I believe children will get burned out in their frustration and exhaustion if a parent does not take appropriate precautions. These could range from duration of time spent on extra homework to skill level in designated subject matter; bottomline, kids don't need their childhood wasted because at some point, burn out will occur. We need to be fluid in our homework approach when we see this starting to begin in our children. And, hey, just for the record, I also include reading as a facet of the homework my daughter does after school.
Klein also says that "As a backer of Hsu’s approach, I wonder how much of the parental rebellion occurs not because of what children will miss out on, but because parents themselves no longer feel confident about their ability to help children develop without highly structured activities to guide them." I agree that she could be right in some situations. This is certainly not to say this is to be expected. I think that most parents who oppose the no homework policies out there are coming from an angle that says "we need to do more to develop our children's minds, abilities, etc." Sometimes this results in homeschooling or switching schools, and sometimes, this is accomplished by subsidizing the lack of critical thinking with extra homework exercises for a controlled period of time. These are the kind of parents who organize field trips to the petting zoo, take children to museums, download math apps on their phones, or teach them how to bake. Klein puts people who disagree with her in a box titled backwards barbarian parents. The simple truth is, it's not that simple.
Summary of No Homework, No Future
Just to reiterate my position on the "No Homework, No Future" situation, I really like this article as a summary of things I agree with from an outside source. Give it a read: Here's Why Home Work Isn't Necessary for Grammar School Kids... Sometimes. You'll notice a few things here, like homework can create discipline and homework doesn't have a clear correlation to academic achievement––I understand and agree with them. For me, I am creating a realistic expectation of my daughter's future: being responsible. I think that responsibility is a key success in making a person the best that they can be and this is something I can develop in my daughter from a young age without pilfering the decidedly short years of her childhood. In fact, I would even go as far as to say that my daughter appreciates when she can sit down to watch Netflix on the iPad or play with her Lego Friends even more because she has earned the opportunity to indulge in fun. I am fully aware of the importance of fun. Anyone who knows me knows that I have high regard for having fun. You didn't know but I used to be a camp director; anyone who works at or volunteers at a camp knows that fun is of utmost importance. (If you want to know how much fun, here's the intro to the 90's summer camp sensation: Salute Your Shorts https://youtu.be/s-SE96Q9dDU). Therefore, too much homework defeats the purpose in that it squanders a child's precious time to have fun and experience the magic the world has to offer. You might summarize my position on homework for children by saying, "No homework, no future––within reason."
Updates on P.S. 116
Now that everyone is on the same page with regard to where I stand on homework, let's chat about P.S. 116. There has actually been some huge news on the status of P.S. 116's no homework policy. Most notably, that they revoked the policy and have gone back to an official stance on giving homework. I think the administration would rather refer it as pro-extracurricular-education as they allow children to pick from a series of categories that children can choose to explore. Unfortunately, this is an improvement but not at all an explicitly good report. These categories include playing in a park, among other more traditional understandings of homework. I appreciate the change, it's a step in the right direction, however, I'm not convinced this is enough provision toward the future of the P.S. 116 children.
My Daughter's Summer Homework
Our system is simple and certainly not rigorous. Everyday she is supposed to read for 30-40 minutes. When I'm overseeing this, myself, I ask her to communicate the meaning of the Bible story or chapter to me. I try to make this something that happens twice a day. Other alternatives to reading twice in a day include swapping one reading time out for writing time or an educational app (math, story creation, reading, problem solving, etc.). And on top of this, at least a few times a week, I will instruct her in something artistic could mean drawing, painting, making a video, taking/editing photos, and ever rarely, dancing. As often as possible we visit cultural sites and build forts. What else is there to do? FYI––I am the master fort builder. You've been warned. In the end, homework is not always fun, however, I enjoy thinking through what we can be doing to facilitate mental, creative, and social growth. Homework doesn't have to be grueling for anybody!
Enrollment at Success Academies
After months of jumping through the hoops of enrolling into a charter school, Success Charter Academies has taken us as far as we can go in the process unless we move from the waitlist to the classroom. We are currently at the top of the waitlist. It looks like we might possibly have an opportunity to enroll her before the waitlist zeroes out in December. I've been watching the waitlist shrink and shrink and shrink until we're not at the top of the list. Funny to have Safari and Google Chrome suggest a school enrollment page as one of your frequently checked sites. Such is the life of the involved parental unit, I suppose. At any rate,
So I'm curious, without starting an argument, what do you think about No Homework, No Future? Do you agree with me? Or maybe you agree with some of what I've said? What are you doing for your children's education to ensure it is a rich one? Are they extracurricular actives you are getting them exposed to? Is responsibility something worth fighting for? I would hope that regardless of your position, you would feel safe expressing yourself in this venue. Even if it's simply through the Contact Form. Have a great start to your school year!