Today I received a call from an after-school program director regarding one of my students. The retired teacher that volunteers there was getting frustrated with my student because he told her he finished his homework and turned it in, which he did. This was an issue because they have a forty minute homework time. So you can see the wrench this throws in the machine. If there is a forty minute homework time and a kid has finished their homework and there is an retired teacher there that expects the kids to have homework, there is going to be a problem. The system doesn't work without homework. People get frustrated, kids get in trouble, things crumble.
This conversation made me realize how much the whole educational apparatus expects and in some way relies on homework. Administrators expect it as proof that you have high expectations for your students and are pushing them to achieve. For the after school programs I know of, homework is a major part. Parents expect it as something for their kids to do at home, something they can make them do while they're making dinner or taking a well-deserved rest after working all day.
I started the year with no homework and then acquiesced after too many people couldn't conceptualize the absence of homework. They had had homework growing up, so their children should too. School=homework.
But it seems that in some areas, it's become merely a tool to keep kids occupied, to keep them busy. There is a lot of research out right now that actually shows homework isn't that valuable, especially in the primary years. There is something to be said for the work-ethic and habit it develops, but at what cost?
Time with family. Interactions with peers. Interactions with the world. Enjoyment of life. The cost of homework. Which may be okay, just as long as we understand that exchange and are sure the benefit outweighs the cost.
There are so many pieces of this educational world that we have come to just accept. We don't question a lot of it. James Herndon, long time California educator in inner-city schools, wrote a book called The Way It Spozed to Be. In it, he hammers the point that this system we are perpetuating was created for a different time by people that are long dead. We do things in the classroom because that is the way things are "spozed" to be done, not because we believe those things to be good for student learning and development. And I agree to a certain extent--we reproduce what we experienced and what everyone around us is doing, largely without a challenge.
Yet here I am, giving out homework.