Thursday, October 04, 2007

The Homework Trap

There's an interesting article on the Wall Street Journal online site. Written by Jeff Opdyke, it's called "How Homework Is Hurting Our Family," and the life it describes is a fresh reminder of why I'm homeschooling. Here's part of his description:
The result is that my son's life -- and by extension our family life -- is a constant, stress-laden stream of homework and tests and projects. It overshadows everything we do, always hanging over our head. It affects our weekends, our meals, our vacations, our work time, our playtime, our pocketbooks.

And to what end? Maybe I'm missing something, but when did schools determine that the best place for kids to learn math, science and English is at their own kitchen table?

Funny - schools aren't usually the ones proposing this option! And when homeschoolers propose it, schools are generally against it.
It turns out he's stressed out. He told Amy that he wishes he could do better. But he already wakes up on school days between 4 a.m. and 5 a.m., panicked that he doesn't know the material he has already studied. He wakes up Amy to help him go over his notes one more time. He studies in the car on the way to school. Some nights he's up past 10 p.m., writing, reading or memorizing. He spends parts of many weekends reading and doing projects.

Every time I've looked at putting my daughters in school, I've been disturbed by the way the school seems to assume control of their students' whole lives. Even the parents lives are largely directed by the school. Take them here, go there, be here at such-and-such a time, pick them up within 10 minutes or pay a fine, do a project this weekend, read 20 minutes every day this week - as if they didn't already have the kids 6 hours every day, somehow they assume they have the right to dictate what kids are going to do even in their free time.

I had a homeschooling friend a few years ago who told me she started homeschooling when her son was in first grade, because, in her words, "I realized I was doing all the teaching at home anyway - I might as well homeschool him and have him at home with me rather than sending him off to school."

The more I read and hear about the amount of homework schools are giving these days, the more thankful I am that we are escaping the rat race. My kids get to do their schoolwork during their best hours, and they get to have a childhood, too. (HT: Janice Campbell)


Melinda S. said...

We certainly found this to be true, even in 1st grade. By the time the child gets home from school, plays outside a bit, eats supper, and does her homework, it's bedtime!

My child went from being an avid reader to not wanting to touch any extra books, because her brain was just too tired. Fortunately, a few weeks off school brought that right back. :)

In "dictating to parents" you forgot the "when are you going to volunteer" pressure, the "can't you just make a few cookies," "please help us sell these overpriced products for our fundraiser," and the "your 1st grader needs to do internet research on ......"

Then there was the newsletter we got from our local jr high (don't know why--our kids don't go there): "would the parents please just do what we say, and only pick kids up where we tell you to, and please stop cussing us out or using rude gestures over it." In short--the school was treating the parents like jr highers, and the parents were responding like jr highers, as well!

Shawna said...

I totally agree! With seven children at home the homework load was always a nightmare...not only the paper load and the reading load, but someone always needed something THAT NIGHT for the classroom the NEXT day. We were running to the store along with either 30 other students or 150, depending upon the grade of the student, and that meant the store was usually out of the item and we would be going from town to town...stressful!!

There was no time for extras. Catechism was let go for 3 years, Little League had the kids up till 10 at night doing homework when they were in elementary school, no other activities fit in, no family time, no vacations.

I have pulled my youngest son from public school and and still petition the local District to review their homework policy. I worry about the other children, the families. Stress kills--relationships, health, self-esteem.

And I just had a conversation last Friday with a mom regarding this very thing. She appraoched me, afraid she was the only one feeling this way. Parents are afraid that if they voice their frustrations they will come across as not caring about their child's education, as selfish, as not-involved enough.