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As a newspaper columnist, Nancy Devlin, Ph.D. has written over 700 articles on subjects related to education and parenting. Welcome to her Classroom!

Homework Should Not Imitate School

  In  an  effort  to  prepare children  to  be  successful  in school,   parents  tend   to  follow the  school’s  curriculum.  Schools  function as they do in most cases because they are bound by certain constraints.   They are constrained by a  building,  a classroom setting,  a teacher with many children, and a specified curriculum  which must be covered on a  pre-determined  schedule.  Parents  are not bound in this way,  and should use their greater freedom  to enrich their children’s lives in ways impossible  for the school to match. 

     I  have  never been able to understand why  parents  imitate schools when,  theoretically,  the sky is the limit.   Instead of introducing  a child to the world outside of the school building, many  parents  buy another workbook from the  drugstore  so  that their child will do even more of what schools are doing.   At the very  least  this shows a lack of creativity on the part  of  the parent.  At worst, it indicates how brainwashed parents have been to  feel that schools are the only place where children learn and teachers  are  the  only  ones responsible  for  and  capable  of developing the minds of their children.

     Let  us start with the purpose and problem of homework.   To my  mind,  one  important  purpose  of  homework  is  to  develop responsibility  in the child.   In actual fact,  the  person  who feels  most responsible is the parent.   When a child does not do his homework,  teachers tend to call up the parent and  complain.  I  believe  this is a problem between the child and the  teacher, not  the  parent.   As a result,  a parents’ involvement  in  his child’s  education  usually  is  an  extension  of  the  school’s involvement.   Homework is really school work done at home.   The only  way  parents should get involved with this endeavor  is  if
homework is truly homework,  i.e. something that can only be done at home or outside of school.   Several examples are:  a visit to a museum,  a study of birds in your backyard, or a survey of the various occupations of parents, relatives and neighbors.  Parents interactions with children at home can be much more creative than the school work their children bring home.  Instead of making thethe  home a battlefield,  true homework should have the potential for bringing the family together and foster communication.

     Parents  can  also  help  their children  by  fostering  the development  of  verbal  and  communication  skills.   Encourage communication  by including  the  entire family in discussions or language  games.   Take children shopping and point out names and categories.   Try  to  avoid  yes/no responses  when  talking  to children.   Instead  of  “Did you have fun in school today?”  say, “What  did you enjoy most about  school today?”   Recite  nursery rhymes  together.    Make   speech enjoyable   by  talking  about things  children like, not about  their difficulties.    You and your children could create an  on-going story.  Make conversation around the dinner table interesting and give everyone a chance to participate.    Read  poems at home to each other.   All of these activities have the potential to make children more successful at school.

     One of the greatest threats to learning and communication in the  home  is television.   It saps children  of  their  creative energy.   They  become passive learners.   Since learning is not a passive activity , many children come to school at a disadvantage because  they expect to  be   entertained.   Teachers  can   only present  the material.   The students must take an active part in learning  it.   As a matter of fact,   we talk about needing word attack skills in order to learn to read.  The student must do the attacking.    Many  parents,   however,  use  television  as  a babysitter  and as a means of  avoiding  conflict  in the  family by  limiting  interactions.  Until parents find a solution to this dilemma,   their efforts  to help their children be successful in school will be less and less effective.

Posted in Getting the Most For Your Child, Parenting | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

One Response to Homework Should Not Imitate School

  1. Shata says:

    It depends on the schools and on the kids, and I would go and interview and observe any schools you are considering. My eldest would had some early learning issues which might have benefited from being home-schooled, except that she was compulsively social and would have absolutely hated not having kids around most of the day. I ended up doing a lot of tutoring until she was up to par, but kept her in formal school systems. As to the public private thing, I have tried both public and private schools. In some places the public schools were better than the private ones; in others it was the reverse. I am myself Catholic and I tithe, so that the local Catholic school system is free to me, but there was a time when I sent one kid to the Catholic school, and the other to nonreligious private school. (The local public schools at that time and place were bad in all respects.) The secular private school was more academically challenging but had a problem with drugs and alcohol. My risk taker therefore got sent to the Catholic school, my cautious kid to the other.

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