Yesterday as I was paging through my new issue of Brain, Child magazine (which, if you aren’t reading, you should–it’s the best parenting magazine on the market), I came across a section where parents where asked the craziest thing they had done to help their kids with homework.
Expecting things like late night runs to Wal Mart or helping hands on craft projects (which were present), I was shocked to find parents who admitted to–nay almost bragged about–doing their kids homework for them, refusing to make the children do homework, or telling the teacher that her definition of homework didn’t work for them and she should accept what they termed as homework.
Our country continues to fall behind in academics, students go to college and the workforce unprepared with poor work ethic, and we wonder why. It’s not the action that bothers me (okay, so it bothers me a little), it’s the attitude. That students deserve plenty of leisure time and education is infringing on that. With younger kids, I get not loading them down, but I also think that having something for them to do each night that relates to school is important.
As they get older, many students and parents seem to think leisure time and after school activities should take precedence over homework. My colleagues and I constantly receive emails from our dual credit students telling us they cannot do their college work because of their extracurricular activities. Apparently they don’t understand the extra part of extracurricular. More than that, a number of my students of all types are just lazy. They are annoyed that I ask them to do things outside of class.
I suppose I do have some nerve, asking them to read and write essays for a college writing class. Or asking them to turn things in on time even thought they have basketball practice and have known about the essay for three weeks.
Last week I was watching PBS in my hotel room at an assessment training conference. Charlie Rose was interviewing former DC superintendent Michelle Rhee (I first became aware of her in the documentary Waiting for Superman). Rhee made the point that education is not, as we treat it, a social issue. It is an economic issue. I’d never heard it articulated like that before, but she’s dead on. Education is not for socialization (that’s a side-effect); it’s to create a strong workforce. So when parents don’t make their students complete homework, they are modeling a poor work ethic whether they realize it or not.
Yes, I agree that there is a difference between homework and busy work. Yes, I agree students should have some down time. But many students seem to think they are only accountable during class hours (never mind those that bring their leisure time into my class as well–phones are the bane of my existence). Homework is the chance for them to work on bettering themselves, establish what they do and don’t know, and attempt to demonstrate the skills without someone looking over their shoulders.
So if your student comes home with work, teach them time management, answer their questions, guide them, but for their sake, make them do it.