You’re in the second grade. You’ve got your homework assignment sheet; it’s full of fractions and numbers you barely recognize; there are complex words you’ve never heard before; the good news is it’s hands-on, and you’ve set aside time with mom or dad to get it done; the only problem is, you’re out of brown sugar.
The Toronto Public School Board unanimously passed a groundbreaking new homework policy aimed at cutting back and reforming homework policies in kindergarten, primary, and secondary education. I found this information in looking through Sara Bennett’s blog, Stop Homework, which linked to an articlein TheStar.com, which detailed the major elements of the new policy. Among them were:
- No homework on Holidays or “days of significance” at any grade level
- Kindergartners should never have any homework, other than reading with or talking to their parents
- Until the third grade, students should have no homework other than playing games, having discussions or cooking with their parents . . .
Let me break here for a minute because I really like this idea–wait, no, that won’t do–I freaking love this idea. Yes, that’s the emotion. First of all, how many of us have thought to ourselves over a disgusting bowl of Top Ramen, that we should have learned to cook at some point in our lives. I know I have. Secondly, it covers all kinds of subject matter relevant to second graders. Anyway, Karen Grose, the Toronto board’s Superintendent of Programs, said it best when she said;
“[cooking] involves the family, it involves mathematics, it involves literacy, reading, talking and nutrition,”
What else could you ask for from a second grader? Lastly, and this is perhaps the most important point, this is legitimate homework that doesn’t eat up any precious time out of already busy lives–not of the parents, and not of the students. Plus, it’s time kids and their parents can spend bonding in a meaningful way. But the thing is this: no worksheet or formal requirements can be attached that will be counted toward a course grade. I agree with this policy, because every student has a unique situation at home (some students don’t have conventional guardians, others have parents who work at night), and to put some sort of rubric to homework like this would defeat the purpose. Not that this type of homework should be marginalized or otherwise ignored, just, not punitively enforced.
Back to this list:
- The ridiculous standard of 10 minutes per grade level of homework per night–No Mas!
- Homework that is assigned will be assigned in flexible blocks, in advance, so that teachers and students have time to prepare.
- Homework should only relate to materials already discussed in class
- Grades 7 and 8 should have no more than one hour assigned a night
- High school students no more than 2 hours a night
The policy is largely the product of thousands of consultations with students, parents, teachers, administrators, and all sorts of community members, whose input helped inform the goals of the document. Obviously, Toronto has plenty of individuals who care deeply about the issue at hand. Sara Bennett gave Frank Bruni, one such Toronto resident, a guest blog appearance on Stop Homework, where he made some interesting points I’ve never considered. On the subject of over-homeworked students and parents, Bruni had the following to say;
“this kind of workload, this kind of lifestyle is harmful, for both adults and children. We know that the incidence of childhood obesity and childhood diabetes is on the rise and the T.D.S.B.’s own research shows student stress alarmingly high. Indeed, a federal report in 2006 suggested that this is the first generation of children who can expect a shorter life expectancy than their parents”
Plenty of studies have been done to link stress and obesity, and perhaps too much homework is a part of the problem. Plus, Mom and Dad are too busy to cook a proper meal–what with all the extra homework–so the kids end up getting Tombstone and Tater Tots. Maybe I’m reaching, but it seems like the more I research this topic, the more it becomes clear to me that too much homework is somehow rotting society from the inside out.
To all you second grade teachers out there, listen up! Save this country by assigning your students to cook with Mom or Dad. At the very least, you might get some left-overs out of the whole deal.
Bennet, Sara. “Proposal to Scale Back on Homework in Toronto Unanimously Passes Committee Vote“, April 6, 2008 at 10:06 pm, stophomework.com, http://stophomework.com/proposal-to-scale-back-on-homework-in-toronto-unanimously-passes-committee-vote/251