The Homework Myth

THE HOMEWORK MYTH: Why Our Kids Get Too Much of a Bad Thing by Alfie Kohn

I just finished reading this book and despite the fact that is a heavy, in depth book (43 pages of end notes should give you the idea) I couldn’t put it down. It just blew all of my preconceived ideas about homework out of the water and made me really re-evaluate the purpose of what this whole thing called “school” really is.

To be honest, I never was much of a fan of homework because I remember all too clearly how stressful and time-consuming it was for me when I was in school and how so much of my self-esteem was based on getting the right grade and the subsequent praise and attention that went along with it. My parents never pushed us to get good grades, I always pushed myself, because it seemed to be the clearest route towards external praise (usually from the teacher). In fact, when I think about school now, all I think is, Thank God I Don’t Have To Do Homework!!!

So now that I have my own children, I’ve been thinking a lot about homework and I was so happy to find out that my daughter’s teacher doesn’t assign homework, except for doing 30 minutes of reading of your choice. And that is nothing compared to other friends of mine whose children get one and a half hours of homework. In Grade One. Grade One! But as I’ve discovered over this last year, even finding 30 minutes after school to do something focused like that is next to impossible. This whole year I keep thinking to myself, There’s just not enough time.

MISSING OUT ON THEIR CHILDHOODS

These are some of the negative impacts that homework creates:

  • A burden on families

Parents often take on the pressures of making sure their child completes the homework, otherwise they often feel that it will reflect negatively on them as a parent and create trouble for their child at school. Schools dictate how family’s should spend their time and the results usually create overwhelming family conflict during the brief moments that family’s share together – trying to force children to do something that they don’t want to do, often times resorting to bribes, money, consequences or grounding, which create even greater family conflict.

  • Stress on the child

Homework trains children to become workaholics.

“What other job is there where you work all day, come home, have dinner, then work all night, unless you’re some type A attorney? It’s not a good way to live one’s life. You miss out on self-reflection and community.” p.189

Future corporations are the only ones who benefit from homework in the long run because they help produce “workers who are used to, and will not complain about, the long days.” p.65

Do you want your child to be a workaholic? Or do you want your child to live a balanced, healthy life where they are happy, honest, caring, ethical, sensitive, passionate, socially responsible, appreciative and life long learners? What are your long term objectives for your child?

  • Less time for other activities

Children’s backpacks are so weighted down with books that they get back aches. “They are also aching for some free, unstructured time to think, to play, to be kids.” p.95

School also teaches a very narrow range of subjects, so if your strength and interest is dancing, swimming, music, bike riding, astronomy, spirituality, meditation, yoga, or any number of the wide range of things that are generally not taught in school, you probably will not have any time or energy left at the end of the school day and after doing homework to pursue these things.

  • Less interest in learning

“As students, we’re trained to sit still, listen to what the teacher says, run our highlighters across whatever words in the book we’ll be required to commit to memory. Pretty soon we become less likely to ask (or even wonder) whether what we’re being taught really makes sense. We just want to know whether it will be on the test.” p.88

  • Lost sleep

Recently we hired a really sweet 15-year-old to babysit for us. We chatted with her about her school and life and she said that most nights she is up until midnight or 1am doing homework.

On another note (not from this book) research has shown that teenagers go through such rapid brain and body development that they need as much sleep as a newborn baby.

DOES HOMEWORK IMPROVE LEARNING?

Would you believe it if you knew that every single academic study that has been conducted about homework actually shows that homework not only is NOT beneficial, but actually has negative effects? Alfie Kohn did an extensive review (43 pages of end notes) of all of the studies on homework that have been done and illustrates that no studies prove the benefits of homework.

Homework is the most harmful for elementary students, but even in high schools students academic scores raised 20-30% once homework was NO longer given. All of the research shows that homework is associated with lower achievements. Ironic, right? We’re all lead to believe the opposite.

DOES HOMEWORK PROVIDE NON-ACADEMIC BENEFITS?

Even I can admit to the fact that while I didn’t like homework, I was ingrained to believe that homework was the place where you learn study skills and things like independence, self-discipline and responsibility. Alfie Kohn does a wonderful job of demonstrating how none of that is true.

Responsibility, defined as making decision’s on one’s own, cannot be learned from homework where the only decision that you can make is either thoughtless conformity to the school’s rules or else punishment.

Self-Discipline does not mean primarily learning that life is tough and that one must generally  do what one is told. It means learning to manage freedom…[by having] gradually expanding opportunities…[to] be responsible for free time.” John Buell  p.64

Study Skills. “Few of us today believe that tossing kids into the deep end of a pool teaches them how to swim. Why, then, do we believe that giving children a set of tasks to do in a limited amount of time somehow provides them with the wherewithal to accomplish this?”

Independence. Parents are discouraged from becoming too involved in homework, setting up a situation where students are judged at how well they can do things alone. If they didn’t need help, then they don’t need the extra practice of homework. And if they do need the practice, then they also need the extra help.

WHY DOES HOMEWORK PERSIST?

  • A disregard for research findings.

A lot of research is flawed and we all know statistics and numbers can be swayed in any direction; however, when the truth shines forth in an area of research, it frequently gets ignored. Take research on spelling, for example. Even as far back as 1897, a study found that assigning spelling homework had no effect on how proficient children were at spelling later on.

  • A reluctance to ask challenging questions about common practices and institutions

Most of us have a passive belief when confronted with things we don’t like that, “That’s just the way it is,” rather than examine them critically and change the things that are not right. Granted, there are many things in life that we can not change as the 12 Steps mantra says:

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

  • Fundamental misconceptions about the nature of learning

“George Leonard once defined lecturing as the best way to get information from teacher’s notebook to student’s notebook without touching the student’s mind.” p.114

“Excellence tends to follow interest.” p.116

“Excitement about an activity is the best predictor of competence.” p.116

We assume the hardest must mean the best, but we confuse rigor with quality.

  • An emphasis on competitiveness and “tougher standards” in education

Competition holds people back from doing their best work, particularly if what they’re doing requires creativity. We’ve been place into a competition in school, not only against each other, but also against the whole world. We want to be King of the Mountain and we believe that homework will somehow make us come out on top.

“The pathological impulse to create artificial scarcity and turn learning (along with just about everything else) into a contest is at the heart of the tougher standards movement. That movement, in turn, helps to explain the assignment of homework in ever-greater quantities. If our primary objective was not winning but learning – helping kids to become deep thinkers who love exploring ideas – then education policy would play out very differently, and it might be possible to question the value of things like homework. But people  are not likely to question premises or think carefully when they’re in the middle  of a race. The prospects for critical thought are particularly bleak if we’re told the race never ends.” p.138

  • The belief that any practices students will encounter later, however unproductive, should be introduced earlier by way of preparation.

“People don’t really get better at coping with unhappiness because they were deliberately made unhappy when they were young. In fact, it is experiences with success and unconditional acceptance that helps one to deal constructively with later deprivation. Imposing competition or standardized tests or homework on children just because other people will do the same to them when they’re older is about as sensible as saying that, because there are lots of carcinogens in the environment, we should feed kids as many cancer-causing agents as possible while they’re still small in order to get them ready.” p.146

“Life isn’t always interesting and kids had better learn to deal with that fact. The implication of this response seems to be that the goal of education is not to nourish children’s excitement about learning but to get them acclimated to doing mind-numbing, if not downright unpleasant, chores.” p.64

  • A basic distrust of children and how they choose to spend their time.

Mandatory homework assumes that children are naturally lazy and will do as little as possible. However, boredom is, “a state where the imagination is forced to take over and create entertainment.” p.157

WHAT DO I DO NOW?

Alfie Kohn suggests trying to make a change in schools so that the default setting, instead of always assigning homework, is to not assign homework unless it is free reading (choose your own book), or quality assignments that are suited to the home and that the child can choose.

When I was getting my Bachelor of Education, training to become a high school teacher, we never once examined the real purpose of homework. Instead, while preparing our lesson plans we were always taught to: “make sure you have prepared what homework you will give them at the end of the class.” So the default setting is always to give homework.

 

About these ads

39 thoughts on “The Homework Myth

  1. Oh Erika, you always give me much to think about. Thank goodness you’re one step ahead of me so I can let you do all the reseach ;) I wish you allllll the determination in this journey!

  2. Wow!! How come teachers aren’t given this important information?!?! That’s a lot to think about, thank you so much! I am thinking on and off about homeschooling as well, something I never thought I’d do. That is so interesting about the difference in Isabella’s behavior.

  3. very very interesting! I’ve already ordered one book that you’ve mentioned on your blog.. may just have to order another one now. Thanks for sharing :)

  4. I was looking into this a while back too (and the book as well…I was sure I got the title or idea from you or juliet, or perhaps it was my sister~~).

    In any event, I was one of those kids who always enjoyed school and didn’t mind homework (I think it was the praise thing, because it was more about getting the right answer than enjoying the process of solving the problems). I did enjoy math puzzles and brain teasers, and had this big book of problems that I would do for fun (but again I didn’t always have the patience to solve it myself…when I would get stuck I would sometimes flip to the back for the answer~~).

    It’s hard to grasp the concept of homework being useless for me, because you have to practice something to become good at it; and a few hours a week in class is not enough time for some things. I think what clicks it into place is that to learn you have to be interested in it, be curious, want to investigate and gain a better understanding of something, and most often children are not interested in the homework set.

    I live in a country where children are in school from 7am until 7pm (if it’s high school it’s often until 10pm). I can totally see how it is about preparing them for their adult lives, as their parents are working just as long (and that is one of the reasons the kids have to be in school, because their parents cannot pick them up). Once they get out of regular school that day they get herded over to cram schools and ‘quiet classes’ where they either keep learning the subjects their parents think are best for them (math, English, etc), or have time to do homework (in the quiet classes). For those who do the cramming, that means they have to do their homework when they get home after 7 or 10pm….not just the homework from regular school, but also homework from the cram school. Then there are the piano, swimming, and other ‘arty’ classes that are scheduled for the late-afternoon/evening as well, so that the children will be well rounded.

  5. I’ve been following your blog for probably a year now and wanted to thank you for sharing as you go about mindfully creating a new culture within your family. I am a Baha’i in Maine (we also have a 1 year old :)) and you are an example to me as I attempt motherhood in its deepest and truest sense. Thank you for forging a path!

  6. I am homeschooling my daughter this coming year for grade one. We may or may not continue afterwards in a small private school that caters to special needs kids, but because out lives are really up in the air this year we felt that this would be the best thing to do. Reading this solidifies for me why I have always been a homeschool advocate. I hope this year works out for us, and I hope that I can be a good teacher for her. (new to you just today as this post was shared on my google reader by someone. Love it here – thanks for the great blog.)

  7. Erika, I skimmed over this post (I’ll be honest I didn’t read every word) with some interest. We are a homeschooling family and these kind of books just confirm over and over again about why we have chosen this path. You might be interested in some of the resources I’ve gathered at my own blog for interest-led homeschooling.

    http://fimby.tougas.net/homeschool-help

    http://fimby.tougas.net/Homeschool

    One of my main concerns about so much homework is that it doesn’t give children time to discover who they really are. Children need unstructured time to discover and develop their unique talents and interests. I can’t imagine taking that opportunity away from my children by cramming their days with both school and then homework on top of that.

    Good luck on your own journey.

  8. Erika, you are such a deep thinker, turning over every side in an issue. Larry and I faced the same issues with Pete as you say you are having with Isa. Eventually that led us to make the homeschooling decision for our family. I think the detatchment thing has to do with growing up, (as much as the “evil” classroom environment). I say that with tongue in cheek. Weathering the elementary years with homeschool worked great for us. Still had our battles, but isn’t the end goal of all education to have your child become a mature, well adjusted young person who is able to persue their God gifted talents? We so often forget that in the rush to have them acquire “information”. You have to find what works best for your family, your child ( and each one is different)

  9. This is so interesting. I think the homework thing is rooted deep into something that is sacred territory in the culture that it is not only good to be a workaholic, but it is somehow sacred and very spiritual to be so. Being a workaholic does not mean the same thing as determination, it just means that you have the ability to work endlessly on things that produce nothing in the end, but someone else’s material gain.

  10. what a great insight you have shared with your readers.. I hope it impacts the lives of heaps of little kidlits.

    We have tested the waters of so many education *styles* and are currently- unschooling.. homeschooling with one child in public school.. because when it boils right down to it- all of my children need different things to reach their full potential- and so much of that shining beautiful potential is NOT about what they may learn in school.

    I struggle with my daughter in public school- but it was her choice and I honour that.. it is my education as well.. she enjoys it and her *homework* is fun for her.

    If we can continue with it being something she desires than great- she has made a commitment to go to school (as I see it) and I would like her to learn about seeing things through.. but I am open to her exploring other education styles as well.

    I know they just made kindergarten all day where I live and my youngest is starting in the fall.. and having her away all day feels like torture to me.. I am not sure what I will do to cope- but she is happy- and I am trying to view it as a rite of passage.. again- I will try to respect her choice- as long as it is healthy for her.

    Thank you for sharing!

  11. A book you might be interested in reading is “The Training of the Human Plant” by Luther Burbank. Book written in 1922, read it on-line at http://joytoyou.com. Interesting…

  12. Wow. So many amazing, thoughtful and thought-provoking comments.

    I have spent a lot time these last few months learning about how we learn and one really amazing thing that I learned was that if we are really curious and driven toward finding an answer to something, then once we learn it, we never forget it. Drills and practicing is necessary for things like sports and also necessary for academic things when you have no interest in learning. If you don’t want to know about it, then you will have to practice and practice in order to remember it.

    Just as many of you said as well, I really want my children to have time to develop and pursue what their gifts and talents are, not just want a standardized curriculum says that each child should learn, regardless of their interests and talents.

  13. Dear Erika – love your article and thank you for taking the time to summarise this interesting book for us all. I’ve just pulled my twelve-year-old out of primary school in Western Australia. He’s had a few years in the local Steiner school – which he mostly loved (they had no homework), and a couple of years in the State school (which was always problematic). After moving him back to the State school again (in preparation for high school), I was deeply concerned to see how quickly he was losing his love of learning, his natural curiosity and motivation to explore new things. The homework was a constant battle that was impacting on the quality of his relationship with us. A friend mentioned homeschooling, which I’d always felt inadequate to the task of. But she encouraged me to check it out, I’ve been doing lots of reading, and we’ve finally pulled the pin on School. After a couple of months of freedom, we are seeing some big changes in Samuel. (1) He’s losing his (angry) attitude towards us. In fact, lately, he’s been coming up to my husband and I several times a day, giving us big hugs and saying “You’re my best friend!” (2) He’s excited about some of the adventures we’re planning together. He wants to stay on a dairy farm and learn to make cheese. He’s joining the local Village Theatre so he can go in the pantomime. His ambitions are to be a hairdresser, an artist and a comedian! As suggested by many of the books I’ve read, we’re taking this time to deschool (decompress). And I feel as though I’ve got my boy back – the affectionate, fun-loving, naturally curious and friendly boy who was being swallowed by the school-monster and being turned into an angry bored and rebellious adolescent. I know home schooling will be challenging, but not nearly as challenging as the problems I could foresee if he kept going along the track he was on.

  14. That is EXACTLY what is happening to my daughter. And now that summer vacation is here and we’re in the midst of some “deschooling” I have my sweet, loving, caring, helpful daughter back. I’m actually in shock how quickly she came back to that person: it took about 4-5 days after school finished for the behavior issues to mostly disappear.

  15. I just added this to my queue on the library. Can’t wait to read this! (And I too, found your blog through Simple Homeschool. Congrats!)

  16. I think the issue is at least a little more complicated, though, than just “don’t give homework”. My husband teaches middle school. Some of his parents wonder why their kids never have homework/others complain that their kids have too much. He gives time in class for completion of work but not all kids will get the work done (they might talk, fidget, daydream…) hence the homework. What should a teacher do, then, in this situation with 30 different students – different personalities, learning styles, etc.? If he allows those kids to not complete the work then the other students are forever held back. Either we overhaul the system to allow kids to work at their own pace regardless of age (or something) but as is, I don’t see how a teacher can change the fact that kids who don’t apply themselves in classtime (or who struggle with learning more than others) will have some homework.

  17. My son is going into the 4th grade and we definitely saw some homework drama last year. He sometimes felt overwhelmed and intense competition when it came to long term projects. Not fun.

    On the other hand, why do kids need time for so many extra activities? I am amazed at the commitment of some families (especially those with more than 2 kids) to sports, music, and other lessons. I feel alone in my desire to just stay home after school. And how much leisure time do kids need? It wasn’t that many generations ago that kids went to school and did hours of farm chores or household work. I know there our lots of ways to teach a work, but I do think it’s possible to utilize homework towards this goal.

    I went to parochial school and had lots and lots of homework which I felt at the time was excessive, but I have to say I coasted into college. While I watched my roommates and friends struggle to make passing grades, I had nO such trouble achieving a high gpa at the next level because I had solid study, organizational, and time management skills.

    Just playing a bit of devil’s advocate here as I don’t support tons of homework, but can see some positives.

    Just playing devil’s advocate here a bit. I definitely see the negatives of homework, but I think there’s some benefit, too.

  18. Oh drat. Clearly, i didn’t do enough homework in editing. Still getting used to my iPad. Sorry about that double ending.

  19. This book is definitely on my library list now.

    The amount of homework assigned is just getting more and more ridiculous. I don’t remember having much homework in first grade, but a friend of mine has a son who has literally 1-2 hours of homework a night. In first grade!

    My kid sister is not the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree, but she tried really hard to get her homework done every night (in high school). She would have either drama or band practice after school every day until 5-7 p.m. or so (occasionally she had one right after the other), then 5-6 hours of homework. Every single night. Leaves a lot of time for stuff outside of school and sleeping, right? Ugh.

  20. Hi Erika,

    Ah, homework! Trust me when I say my house is full of girls doing homework (from Grade 4 – grade 11 – and in September – two seniors!!). What I have found is that each one of them performs differently. One may need time right after school to ‘decompress’ and will head to her room for quiet time, the other wants to dive right in and get it done and then not think about it – and the other gets it all done at school because she wants to play soccer as much as possible. And all of them (and their many friends) are ALWAYS hungry and eat like crazy when they get home – because there is never enough time to eat they tell me!

    My role, as I have come to realize, is to help them strategize their goals, figure out their timeline, provide a quiet space to work and help them deal with whatever the consequences are of not handing in assignments on time (which of course, never! happens in my house!).

    What I have seen is they become responsible for their own work – my oldest is heading into Grade 12 (and another girl who lives with us) and my middle girl is going into Grade 10 – and the self-paced format of their high school (Frances Kelsey) encourages initiative, responsibility and accountability (which they all demonstrate) . My youngest is heading into grade 5 – and she is learning to navigate this homework thing – with varying levels of success – but each time she learns something about herself – how she works best, when she works best – and when she needs help.

    My struggle is to remain detached from their ‘outcomes’ – and to support them in their challenges and cheer them on when they need it. And sometimes I just stand on the sidelines and watch these amazing girls become amazing young women (even with the challenges of homework)!

    You are an amazing and dedicated mom – and you parent and live a ‘conscious’ life – lucky kids!

    love Cheryl

  21. If you enjoyed this book, you’ll probably get a lot out of Dumbing us Down and The Underground History of Education, By John Taylor Gatto. Both books were earth shattering for our family.

    John Taylor Gatto was the New York State Teach of the Year, one year and New York City Teach of the Year for 2 other years. When he received his last award, he stood up and basically told everyone that he would never have been able to win those awards without breaking every rule the school had and promptly quit. Within 6 months he was booked for speaking engagements for a very long time. He’s still very much in demand at homeschool conferences and similar gatherings.

    I recently had someone recommend A Thomas Jefferson Education to me. It looks good as well.

    May God Bless you in your journey to doing what is right for your family.

    Seana

  22. Dear Erika. Little did I know when I threw my self in the waters of parenting, But lucky me that I have you and your blog so I don’t remain ignorant and drown in this gigantic ocean. As some one said in the comments, thanks so much for sharing your knowledge with us. Very interesting topic, and even though I’m not there yet, it gives me an insight and I’m forming an opinion already. I’m my humble opinion all I can say to you is that you better than nobody or any book know your daughter and knows what is best for her. Definitely, she seems to be over stimulated by the school environment and you seemed to perceive it very well. I think you are one step ahead of the situation by noticing and acknowledging her feelings. Unfortunately, and you know this better than me, kids don’t come with a manual or a book and they are all different individuals. Perhaps Isabella is not ready for a school environment yet. Maybe a smoother transition would have helped more. And this gives way for me to think how early should I introduce my little Sophia to a school environment and how smooth should the transition be? Personally I could never homeschool, not because I am against it, but first because unfortunately I’m not organized and I don’t have the discipline it takes to carry this job, and second because I know myself and my limits and I just simply need time for myself in an adult world in order to be sane. And trust me, my kid/s do want a sane and healthy mother. I would consider paying somebody to home school but for that I would have to be rich ;) and I’m not.
    The only thing that worries me about homeschooling is that stigma about homeschooled children being socially challenged. If I were to follow this route I think is very important that they carry healthy social lives were they commute with other kids from other culture/beliefs/social status/races/ages. Also I think is important that they learn to follow instruction from people other than their close relatives. But I’m sure that won’t be a problem for you. Especially being a Baha’i , I’m sure they attend children’s classes.

    Finally, these are some questions that I would ask myself before making a decision like this: Can I do it? How does this affect my role as a mother? How would you do it?
    Have you asked Isabella her opinion? Have you consider trying another school? Those are also things to consider before making a decision. Anyways, whatever you decide I’m sure it will be great. Also keep in mind that decisions don’t always have to be permanent. If doesn’t work is not failure it is just another experience and therefore more knowledge. Give our love to the whole family. Besos y abrazos para todos. And thanks again for making me think about this.

  23. As a teacher, I can’t disagree more. Class time is limited, and in subjects like math and science, the US is already far behind much of the rest of the Western world. Spending time in class practicing new skills instead of assigning that practice for homework will only make us fall further behind.

  24. Thank you for all of the great advice everyone! I read the book “Dumbing us Down” a few months ago and the thing I just love about books like that, and this one, “The Homework Myth,” is that while I don’t always agree with everything they say, it really makes me stop and re-examine things in our society that I have always taken for granted that, “that’s just the way things are are that’s the way it will always be. There is no other way.”

    I was a high school teacher too and I know how much pressure there is to get through all of the prescribed curriculum and that frankly the only way to do it is with heaps of homework. I know. But what a lot of these books have made me stop and think is: Who decides what is important and what makes it into the curriculum or not? Why are certain subjects given all the importance in the world, like math and science, while others, like dance and hiking don’t even make it into schools? What if your gifts and talents are not in the academic areas? You will still be forced to spend all of your time and energy focused on them with little energy left to develop your own gifts. Why does everyone need to learn all of the same things at exactly the same time?

    I never thought I would homeschool and I still haven’t decided yet – it’s not exactly my first choice. I love the idea of all the kids being in school all day at some point so that I can pursue and art and writing career full-time, but I also didn’t realize the challenges that parenting came with and how life-transforming it is. I can also see how (relatively) short the time is and if I can figure out how to do what is right for them now, well, before I know it they will be grown up and I will still have decades and decades of time to pursue my own interests full-time. That being said, I know that my greatest challenge at this time is to figure out how do both at the same time, not wait until they grow up. It’s a daily struggle.

    Thank you to the “devil’s advocates” as well. It’s wonderful to have a debate about these issues to get to the truth of the matter. In the Homework Myth, Alfie Kohn talks about a bunch of studies that show that grades no correlation to future success in life. I know for myself that, even as a child, I had the organizational, time management and study skills and so homework was easy for me because I already had all of those skills. I can’t attribute the development of those skills to homework.

    And I’ve felt exactly the same as you, after school all I want and can do is stay at home and keep things simple, no after school activities or play dates or anything like that because the school day was already too long and intense with no quiet space or time. Now that school is out, however, we all have lots of time and energy for going out and doing a lot of fun activities. I think that is one of the major bonuses of homeschooling is that you have time to do all those other types of learning and activities that you don’t get in school. And it is through those that you get the social connection. Because school time is supposed to be for studying and learning, right? Brief lunch breaks and recess is the time for social activities, but if you’re homeschooling you have a lot more time to do a lot more social activities.

  25. Interesting article. I agree with the author in that you don’t have to agree with everything that Alfie Kohn says or other authors like him who like to stir up controversial issues, but the very benefit comes from getting us to actually think about it in a different way and challenge our preconceived ideas in order to find the truth for ourselves.

  26. I had a fascinating talk with my 16-year-old, J-P, last night. He’s in his second last year of school, is smart and generally gets high grades. I was concerned he might feel a little jealous that his younger brother, Samuel, is being home-schooled, because J-P had such a rough time at school when he was younger (bullying). He said sure, if I’d offered him that option back then he would have taken it, but having come this far he felt it was worthwhile persevering the rest of the way. He says what he enjoys most about school is socialising with other kids. He’s also had a few inspiring teachers (in maths, science and English) that have spurred him on in his studies – but he said much of the time at school is spent waiting (for teachers, for bells, for other disruptive students etc) or repeating the same old lessons every year. He chooses not to do some of the homework he’s given because he knows the material well enough and doesn’t feel the need to practice it at home. This lowers his grade-average a little (the teachers don’t like it), but he feels he’s able to lead a more balanced life as a result – relaxing in the evenings or on weekends, doing stuff outdoors with his friends or mastering the latest electronic game (which he’s a whizz at). He agreed that what he actually learns at school could be covered in a lot less time and he tries to limit his homework – though sometimes he can’t. I wish I’d pulled him out of school when he was much younger – mainly because I think the whole peer-group-pressure-thing causes a lot of kids to grow tough outer shells and cut off from their feelings. As adults we have the chance to heal and become more vulnerable again, but why do we need to grow these shells in the first place? Surely there’s another way to educate our kids AND help them to develop as emotionally intelligent and sensitive beings?

  27. Thanks for the fascinating review.

    We love home schooling! One of the huge factors in our home schooling decision has to do with time to be a kid – aka no homework. It is definitely a lot of work for us as parents, but the reality is that all parents have the responsibility to help their kids with their education. Some spend the evenings assisting with teacher directed homework. We’re choosing the path that permits for more self direction, more free time, and hopefully more passion on the educational journey.

    Best wishes to you.

  28. I skimmed the comments and the blog post so you may know about this already. There’s a great yahoo group http://groups.yahoo.com/group/bahai_homeschooling/ for Baha’i Homeschoolers. The members are all over the world. Some unschool, others follow strict schedules and then there’s everything in between. The discussions are honest and informative. I’ve been a member for at least 4 years.

  29. Yes I have a 10yodaughter just like that too! Good to hear your thoughts on why … perhaps … We have just had 2 weeks off school here in Australia and one week back, at the end of last term she was VERY hard to live with, then she was lovely for two weeks and now some of the not so nice behaviour is creeping back … so hard to deal with. I find a lot of it is related to what is happening with friends at school, which makes her stressed.
    On the homework side my girls are at public schools, and in primary school K-6 have had only about 10mins homework plus a few assignments and in high school my daughter is getting almost no homework at all! Not what I expected. Partly because she finishes all her work in class, mostly because she is not being set much besides a few assignments each term. I am annoyed that for 7 yrs we have had homework from primary school justified because “the children need to be prepared for high school” and now we’re at high school and there is no homework!

  30. It’s so interesting to hear that so many of you have such a similar experience with your children’s behavior from school.

    I think, as you were mentioning, Nicola, that our children need to reclaim their vulnerability in order to mature. This is exactly the work that Gordon Neufeld (my parenting guru) discusses in his parenting videos. His book discusses it too (Hold on to Your Kids) but his videos get a lot more into the nitty gritty practical side of it.

  31. We home educate 3 children (eldest child 11 and has never been to school). Although it has its challenging moments (I’m certainly no Earth Mother lol) it has also been a wonderful learning opportunity for all of us.

    Alfie Kohn certainly gives food for thought and both his and John Holt’s books have encouraged me to question the culturally-accepted ways of doing things. So many things we take for granted without really wondering if they are necessary or advantageous for our children, or even harmful. We do them because they were done to us, because that’s the way things are done, because we can’t envisage a different way of doing them. You don’t have to agree with everything an author writes, but sometimes questioning is good.

  32. Your description of your daughter at school day’s end resonated so clearly to me. Thanks for putting words on my experience with my son! We recently started biking and/or walking exclusively (no car, even in rain) to and from school. I’m seeing a slight difference for him, and wondering if that 10 minutes of solace, physical exertion, and wind in his face helps decompress from the day.
    The book sounds truly thought-provoking and, because of its extensive research, could be really helpful to parents navigating the whole school/homework/learning dilemma. Thanks for a thoughtful review. I can’t wait to read it.

  33. I like that idea of biking and walking to school – the school Isabela went to was too far to do that, unfortunately.

    And now we have finally made our decision! We started homeschooling three weeks ago. I’m still not sure if it’s the craziest or the sanest decision I’ve ever made. So far so good though.

  34. Pingback: Not Inadequate » Blog Archive » Super! Random!

  35. Fantastic post! I am going to read this book. Everything you are describing is EXACTLY what our family experienced when our girls were in school. They were overstimulated, under a ton of pressure, we had little family time and it felt unhealthy…that is why after 5 years in school, we pulled our girls out and are homeschooling. It is easier than I thought and I have my girls back! Best decision I ever made!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s