Tuesday, February 21, 2012
The Homework Lie, Modern Child Labor
At first, I wasn't going to read this book because we homeschool and don't deal with traditional homework:
However, since most of my childhood and teenage years were consumed by homework to the point that college was more of a break, I was drawn to it. The book is well written and hard to put down, even though it is a research type book. It pretty successfully debunks the mainstream ideas about homework showing that there really are not compelling studies for it. Often times, the researchers defaulted back to the myths despite no research evidence.
It was hard not to get angry about all the wasted time in my life on homework. According to the book, I was likely to be just as successful without it and probably healthier and less stressed since I would have had more free time and more sleep. It is scary that no one challenged it including myself. I suppose I could have gotten lazier like some of my peers and not been so good about it, but since it was assigned, being the conformist that I was, felt inclined to push myself. I kept pushing until I completed graduate school and further into my career until, due to health, I was forced to slow down. Crash! Homework can't be blamed completely. My mother has similar health issues so there seems to be some genetic predisposition. Still, hers set it at about age 50 and mine by age 30. She had a lot of homework too, from the same catholic schools, but not as many of the career and graduate school stresses in her twenties, not getting her masters degree until her forties. Perhaps after all those years of stress, when we heaped full-time work and graduate school onto them, it got to the tipping point with the genetics. Who knows? But worth contemplating when I think about my own daughter, C.
Should I blame my parents? In the 1980s, there was not anywhere near as much literature challenging traditional school so I can be more sympathetic to going with the flow back then than would probably be appropriate now. Also, even though homeschooling was legal, without the internet, resources were quite scarce more challenging to come by. Given this extremely high likelihood of going with the traditional school grain, my parents were far better than most. While most parents kept their money for new cars and vacations, my parents sent me to the best catholic schools money could buy in our area. When most parents thought education was so unimportant that they pulled kids out of school to go to Disney, mine had a whole family schedule: daily, weekly, and yearly that put the focus on school. Education was the top priority even though it was manifested in the misguided idea that everything about school was good for us.
Now that I am grown up with my own kids, like my parents, education will still be important to the point that I am outside of the mainstream in homeschooling despite the still significant peer pressure to use conventional schools. "School", however, will not be the priority. Conventional school takes too much time from the family robbing it of the true education, health, emotional, and spiritual needs. While I have said before that our homeschooling doesn't have anything to do with religion, we do have more time to read the Bible and make it to Church more consistently because we homeschool. My kids can sleep when they need to get sick less than their peers despite lots of exposure to germs in parks, libraries, museums, and buses. Instead of my husband struggling to help them with "homework" when he gets home, he has the joy of playing educational board games with T & C and reading with them, low stress family time.
While I enjoyed the book, it may be more important to recommend it to our traditional school parent peers! Maybe it will at least get people to change the debate from how much to whether or not to assign homework or even use conventional school.