Monday, October 20, 2003

Excerpt for my B&C blog from
"Too Much Homework? Too Little?"
Chicago Tribune editorial
October 12, 2003
original link

Discussions about the burdens of homework should include an acknowledgement of why it exists: to reinforce or expand upon material covered in class; to help students practice independently the skills they're learning at school; and to develop the study habits they'll need as their educations progress.

There are a few things schools can do to help balance the demands on their students. Some principals, for example, set specific days on which teachers of various subjects are asked to administer their tests: for example, English tests on Mondays, math on Tuesdays, social studies on Wednesdays, and so on. This isn't giving students an easy ride; it's allowing them to deploy their resources--their time, will power and energy--to maximize their chances of effectively demonstrating what they've learned.

When complaints about homework hit high decibel levels, there's a protocol parents can follow to evaluate, and maybe ease, the burden:

- Ask to see your child's daily assignments, and estimate how much time you think they should consume.

- Measure the time your child actually spends doing those assignments. Time spent on the phone, or instant messaging, or winding down from an after-school job, doesn't count.

- If your estimate and your child's work time are out of whack, speak with his or her teacher. One question to ask: Has my child learned how to study this material, how to do this kind of work?

Together, you'll probably find a solution. One rule of thumb--not that all educators agree on it--is that students should get 10 minutes of homework per grade per night: 30 minutes a night for third-graders, an hour for sixth-graders, two hours for high school seniors. For many kids, that would require the assignment of more homework than they currently receive.

Remember, though, that becoming an educated person involves learning not just the material presented in classes, but also learning about oneself. There's much to be said, students, for doing your best, for pushing yourselves to your limit. But if, in your zeal to succeed, you push too far beyond your personal limit, you're likely to wind up unhappy--and doing shoddy work.

So select a course load you can manage, dig into your homework--and unless there really is a problem, please hold your complaints until your assignments are finished and stowed in your backpack. Your parents will be glad to attest that they never, ever complained about homework--so why should you?link

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