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Books I recommend:

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The Edison Trait: Saving the Spirit of Your Nonconforming Child (Dynamos, Discoverers and Dreamers)

 

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Beyond ADD: Hunting for Reasons in the Past & the Present by Thom Hartmann

 

The Minds of Boys:
Saving our Sons from Falling Behind in School and Life

The ADD Nutrition Solution

More   books...

 

 

Modern Grade-School Pressures:
Too Much Homework, Too Little Freeplay

In 1981, kids ages 6 to 8 spent an average of 9 minutes a day on homework in the US.  By 1997, homework had nearly tripled to 25 minutes a night. At the same time, schools have been eliminating recess and creative classes like art to make more time for kids to learn "the basics."   Obviously our more adventurous and divergent thinking kids are having a tough time with this new way of doing things, not to mention their parents.  I wonder if this is part of the ADD equation.  Active kids who could have "got by" twenty years ago are hitting a brick wall of homework drills and more restrictive classrooms, and they are acting out.

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For more information on this subject, try this book: "The End of Homework: How Homework Disrupts Families, Overburdens Children, and Limits Learning" by Etta Kralovec and John Buell.

This is not a return to more traditional times.   Grade-school kids have never had this much homework in the history of the US. In 1900 the Commissioner of Education testified before Congress against any homework for children under age 12.  Then, for 20 years, The Ladies' Home Journal instigated a crusade against homework.  Teachers were opposed to homework and the New York Times editorialized against it.  In 1930 the American Child Health Association classified homework as a form of child labor.  Some cities banned it.  Sacramento prohibited grade-school homework up until 1961.

There were two eras which changed that.  The first was the launching of Sputnik by the Soviet Union in the midst of the Cold War, which caused all sorts of competitive anxieties.  A small amount of homework became acceptable for young children.  The second was the rise of the Asian economies in the 1980's.  Americans discovered that Japanese children were drilled mercilessly and easily outscored Americans as a result, even as American's were graduating from high school barely able to read.

Schools have adopted standardized testing in order to raise standards, and kids naturally  score higher when they do lots of homework.

I wonder if Americans can set aside their anxieties now that the Asian economy is suffering and the US economy is booming.   Filling young children with facts won't make them better entrepreneurs or more inventive as adults.  It doesn't teach them how to think.  It will make many of them hate learning, hate reading, hate school, and increase stress levels for both children and their parents.  I have a five year old that loves to learn.  He has been teaching himself to read using cassette-books from the library and computer games.    He also opens up his science experiment book and methodically does the experiments in them.  But when he brings school work home, it's a major battle.   I wish we could just skip the homework and let him learn what he wants to learn while he's out of school.  Because when he's out of school he is learning!   He knows far more dinosaur information than I will ever know, and he's only five.   His teacher may not be impressed with that, and it won't show up on a standardized test, but perhaps he'll grow up to be a paleontologist, just as I became an environmental scientist after making terrarium "ecosystems" out of little plastic swimming pools as a kid.

One of the typical problems kids labeled ADD have is doing their homework.  They lose it, forget it, are sloppy, and generally just have a tough time with it.  If they didn't have any homework in the first place it wouldn't be a problem, and one of the "symptoms" of ADD would vanish.   The adults of today didn't have much, if any, homework in grade school.  We survived and the country is doing fine. 

 

"The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be ignited" - Plutarc


At the same time as homework is increasing, schools are eliminating recess for young children.  This flies in the face of studies, not to mention common sense, that show young children learn much better after they have had physical activity.    Creative classes like art and music are also being cut to make time for more reading and math.  All of this is a reaction to our fear that other countries are getting ahead us.  Our we so insecure about ourselves that we need to put our kids through such stress?  Do people realize the anxiety which is generated as kids struggle, and often fail, to sit still and to absorb all the information which is being pushed into them at such a young age?  It's almost like we're setting up our more divergent thinking and creative kids for failure, and then blaming them when they fail.   Or rather, we're blaming their supposed brain defect.

I encourage parents to become active in their school system and examine the way things are being run.  If you think there's too much homework and too little play time in the school's curriculum, then say so.  And consider homeschooling (that's what I'm doing).

 


Sources:

"Homework Bound" by Michael Winerip, senior staff writer, The New York Times Magazine, January 3, 1999

 

All BTE pages were written by Teresa Gallagher unless otherwise noted and may be photocopied (but not reprinted) without permission.  BTE Web Design now creates websites for small businesses. Perhap "BTE" really means "Born to Entrepreneur..."