Alfie Kohn is a Boston-based author who regularly speaks about educational and parenting issues. He was in Toronto this week to talk about his belief that homework just doesn’t work. It’s the kind of argument that’s been made here before on Playbourhood. Our contention is that kids need time to just be kids – to play and develop in an unstructured manner. It isn’t necessary to restrict formal learning to the classroom – after all there are all kinds of educational toys, games and activities that reinforce and benefit the academic foundations. But they also need a healthy dose of social and emotional interaction that can be gained by spending time with their families around the dinner table and friends outside playing in the neighbourhood.
Over the past fifteen or twenty few years, homework has become a burden for kids and families that hasn’t shown any real benefit. This is the argument that Kohn is making. He suggests that the role of parents is “to support your child’s emotional, intellectual, social and moral development, not to be a homework enforcer.” Assigning homework is akin to putting a square peg in a round hole. Kohn says that “any decent teacher would never assign the same thing to all the kids in the class – not just because kids work at different rates, but because kids have different levels of understanding.”
The problem is that many parents push too hard to give their kids a leg up – a head start – without looking at the big picture. Kohn says that “the claim that homework provides a benefit by improving self-discipline, independence, responsibility or good work habits is absolutely unconfirmed by any data whatsoever. It’s folk wisdom.”
Last year, the Toronto School Board proposed a policy that would limit the amount of homework being dished out to students. It’s a step in the right direction. But there’s lots more to be done. Read more about what Kohn has to say on the topic here.
I also recommend his book, The Homework Myth: Why our kids get too much of a bad thing. It’s an great read that gives credence to what we’ve been saying on this web site. When kids are home, they deserve our support for an opportunity to have a balanced life – including play!