a resident of JLS Middle School
on Dec 19, 2014 at 4:10 am
To Paly Parent, village fool, CrescentParkAnon, and Experienced - Thanks for sharing the feedback,experience and insights. I, too, thought your quote was relevant, village fool, thank you for reposting.
I feel the discussion over whether homework is good is bound up in how we choose to educate children. Is the goal for each child to reach their potential, or is school a giant sorting mechanism? I think it should be the former. Nobel Prize Winner Marie Curie apparently homeschooled her (Nobel prize winning) daughter irene with a group of other university parents. She insisted on no more than two subjects a day, finished by noon, then the kids went to museums in Paris and other enrichment during the day. Yet Irene writes much about how she learned about hard work. Curie chose this after realizing Irene was a "dreamer like her father" (father Pierre who also was a "terrible student" according to his own mother who, rather than blame him and crack the whip, realized he needed something different and also homeschooled and tutored him.)
There is a transition overhead to constantly changing subjects every 45 minutes, I've read it's about 15 minutes. There's probably a cost on both starting and end points. With seven subjects and actual transition time, thats a few hours a day just sacrificed to switching gears. What if teachers had to figure out how to teach the same material without giving homework? Would scheduling be enough to make up the difference?
I suspect that even with different scheduling, there would still be opposite ends of the spectra in terms of desire for homework. Different people have different educational needs, and I think we've never been in a better position to meet them than now. Please realize I am not suggesting one group does intense academic work and the other plays video games all afternoon. To me, it's more a difference of autonomous versus directed learning styles. I was happier myself with the latter, but I am old enough to wish my schooling had emphasized the former more. The former is also what I would prefer for my child, because that's the way he is. Having no homework won't mean learning stops when he leaves, it means he has more autonomy.
The question is, if parents had a right to draw those boundaries, would schools have to care about these differences? Would they have to equally serve everyone by innovating and changing so that the educational outcome (whatever they decided on) was equal rather than time spent in school and doing homework being equal for everyone?
Again, I just want to know the legal framework for homework. The Constitution established public education (but did not mention homework).
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Dec 19, 2014 at 11:10 pm
@This is why,
Thanks for the quote. You bring up a good point about the studies supporting homework. The trouble I see is that this is a very narrow view of success, it doesn't fully account for what is being given up for that homework that may enhance the child's education far more — for some the trade may be worth it, for others, not — and it doesn't mean those results can't be achieved by different practices during the school day. You can also get those kinds of improvements in test results just by increasing room ventilation and providing generally good indoor air quality in schools.
I thought this was interesting:
It's an article on the homework debates, but on the subject of the legal basis for homework:
"One Canadian couple recently took their homework apostasy all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada. After arguing that there was no evidence that it improved academic performance, they won a ruling that exempted their two children from all homework.
I also find this very recent publication to be spot on and mirrors our experience: Homework and too many structured activities kills intrinsic motivation:
"Children who spend more time in less structured activities—from playing outside to reading books to visiting the zoo—are better able to set their own goals and take actions to meet those goals without prodding from adults, according to a new study by the University of Colorado Boulder. The study, <Web Link; published online in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, also found that children who participate in more structured activities—including soccer practice, piano lessons and homework—had poorer 'self-directed executive function,' a measure of the ability to set and reach goals independently.”
The reality is that most of the data the decision to give homework is based on are just not applicable now because the world has changed so dramatically in the last five years, and the landscape for blended learning is completely different.
I wonder, though, if the situation isn't waiting for some Constitutional challenge: "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated..."
Many families could probably make a good case that the lack of boundaries between school control and home life constitutes an unreasonable intrusion. Again, maybe once homework was the best learning opportunity available to most kids, but it's just not the case now. However, I would hate to see a ban on homework result from something like that, rather, I wish someone who challenge it in a way that families could set better boundaries and have more say. I know I keep saying this, but there is a spectrum of educational needs.
But would it take a case like that Candian family waged to end homework as we know it, and what would be done in its place? If people think homework is hard, try a federal case (literally)!
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Dec 21, 2014 at 12:23 am
I agree with Paly Parent, Mr. Recycle. I know in some systems, not doing homework won't have serious consequences, but here it would. While no one is forcing anyone to do homework, the homework is a part of the educational program and if someone refuses to do it, they may well flunk out and the consequences may be that they don't get the public education they are due. Every child is entitled to a free and appropriate public education -- it's a fundamental right that comes from the US Constitution. The Constitution does not mention homework, though, or the subject of such boundaries, except perhaps in how we might interpret the 4th Amendment.
I would go further to say that I think it's unreasonable for a a school to have unfettered priority with my child's time 24 hours a day in order to receive a free and appropriate public education.
I didn't realize traditionally disadvantaged groups were essentially hurt by the homework. I would love a link or further information. I was assuming that traditionally disadvantaged students would be better off for having homework because they might not have similar access to outside opportunities. I wonder, though, if all these new computer-enabled knowledge environments are changing even that. I think back in the day, when (at least in for most people) there was no Internet, less access to educational reading material, less interaction with other people, homework was the best educational opportunity. There were few alternatives unless it was music lessons for those who could afford them. I was assuming the disadvantages would extend to all these new opportunities because of the digital divide, but maybe there is enough access especially with mobile computing to actually begin leveling the playing field, I don't know. But my assumptions made me wonder about the wisdom of, essentially, a ground-breaking boundary-setting litigation over the issue, because traditionally disadvantaged groups might be hurt if homework were not an assumed part of the education but nothing was improved during the school day. Maybe that's another circumstance that would improve by soul-searching over boundaries between school and home.
Crescent Park Dad,
I think your points deserve their own deep conversation about what prepares kids for life and college. Just tonight we were sitting with colleagues who discussed their disappointing experiences as employers with employees who were the straight-A intense academic types. The feedback was, the hires didn't know how to do anything of their own (they didn't put it that nicely). They were good at regurgitating, but not very independent. The research seems to back that up. Although life has taught me many lessons in the interim, I look back and feel the same about my own education -- I thrived on the intense academic experience and really enjoyed pushing against that structure, but while I was extremely resourceful, I was not very autonomous.
While I'm not trying to say everyone is the same, the world of work is not like school. Like This is Why, please don't assume the alternative to homework is essentially goofing off. The alternative in our home would be far more high-level educational pursuits, including the unpleasant grunt work necessary to get any major thing done. It's just relevant to achieving something real, not busy work. But if someone wanted to goof off, why shouldn't they have time of their own every day, and why should they have to account for it to the school? Schools that run 24 hours a day are called boarding school, that's not what most of us chose.
My kid got a sheet recently in relationship to a class final exam, ostensibly to help plan time in to study, but it asked kids to account for their time 24 hours a day for a few weeks. I was horrified at the intrusion. It again exemplified the assumption that the school had priority in the use of my child's time, and by extension, my family's time, for all waking (and some sleeping) hours of the day.
I don't think making kids more and more miserable with busywork homework prepares them any better for college either. In my experience (at MIT), the kids who were burned out from high school did not do well. My own brothers who were not stellar high school students all went on to be stellar students in top colleges, and successful in life. The seeds of each of their success began in outside activities, to a one.
When I say the world has changed, I mean the landscape for what kids can learn, do, and achieve has dramatically changed in the last 5-10 years.
Per student stress -- I love Thomas the Tank Engine videos for how they highlight a fundamental motivation: To the engines being "really useful" is life and death. So it is with humans. Most of us need to feel useful in life, to follow our interests, to feel competent. Keeping kids on the homework hamster wheel 24/7 robs them of the ability to pursue so many opportunities available in this new world that didn't exist even 5 years ago. Some kids need that intense structured academic sorting to be happy. Some kids will be doing intense productive educational pursuits of their own if allowed time to be autonomous. Why should children in the latter camp have to choose between that and a high-quality public education? Especially since the education is a right, and homework (and by extension giving up all right to personal autonomy 24 hours a day) doesn't seem to be legally a part of the deal.
Among the numerous challenges that parents face in handling children’s music lessons (choosing the instrument, finding a good teacher, etc.), getting kids to practice is the most daunting of all. The severity of the problem and the importance of practice make it hard to believe that there are so few articles addressing this. What’s more, parents and music teachers often resort to the failed tactics they remember from childhood in desperate attempts to motivate kids to practice.
A common example of this issue is the “practice for 30 minutes” rule, in which a music teacher will recommend that the child practice 30 minutes a day and generally increase this time as they get older. In attempts to enforce adherence to this arbitrary commitment, parents will often “pay” the child for 30 minutes of “work” with something rewarding like watching TV, playing outside or playing video games. The problem with this method is that it makes the 30 minutes of practicing something to be endured in order to do something that is valued. But what is so sacred about 30 minutes of practicing? Where did this standard unit come from? How is it better than 27 minutes or 34?
To transform practicing into a rewarding activity, parents should encourage reaching daily musical goals. For example, instead of saying that 30 minutes of practice is enough regardless of what is achieved, you might say, “Today the goal of practicing is to play the first eight measures of your piece without any mistakes.” Whether reaching this goal takes 12 minutes or 40 minutes isn’t important. What is important is that the child knows the musical goal of each daily practice session and feels motivated to be as efficient as possible while practicing in order to reach that goal and feel that sense of accomplishment. If the goal is playing the first eight measures on Monday, the logical goal for Tuesday is to play the next eight. Pretty soon, the child will acknowledge the cumulative goal of the week: to play the entire piece free of mistakes. This leads to more motivation, more effort during practice and most importantly, pride in what they have accomplished.
Although this method achieves greater success, it also requires more effort by the parents; it’s easy to look at the clock and monitor 30 minutes, but goal-related practicing means setting daily goals for your children, monitoring the ease or difficulty your child experiences with his music and setting new, more demanding goals. Don’t worry! Here are some tips to help you:
First, divide the week’s goal or teacher’s expectations into seven equal parts and make sure your child understands each one. On some days, your child might choose to work toward two days’ worth of goals, in which case, it’s wise to give them the option of skipping the next day’s practice session.
Daily goals should be attended to every day and should involve playing scales or other technique-building skills; advancement on specific pieces can be more spread out, as long as the child continues to move forward with the piece.
While it may be tempting, don’t bargain with practice time. Although in trying to skip a day, your child may really mean, “I will practice double tomorrow,” this sets the standard that practice time is negotiable.
Progress should be measured and appropriately altered each day (if needed) by analyzing the amount of effort, frustration and completion/advancement in reaching the daily goals. Yes, this is more work than monitoring 30 minutes a day, but in the end, this will be much easier than the agony of forcing children to adhere to the mandatory 30 minutes of meager, unmotivated effort. It will also make everyone’s life a little more enjoyable!
Dr. Robert A. Cutietta is the Dean of the University of Southern California Thornton School of Music. He is the author of “Raising Musical Kids” and a popular speaker whose areas of expertise include the middle-school learner, choral education, learning theories and the psychology of music. Additionally, he is a highly regarded musician and educator with extensive knowledge about the full range of musical talent nationally as well as internationally.