Homework, Homeschool, and Mothers: The Weekly Mentor by Oliver DeMille

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Trapped

canstockphotojapanesemotherSometimes reading a certain article, book, blog, tweet or other idea just … sticks. It resonates. It’s memorable. It makes you think. Or laugh.

Maybe it causes you to frown. Or shake your head in surprise.

For example, I recently read an article published in a national magazine that keeps coming back to me in my daily thoughts. More specifically, a few of the quotes really stood out. Here they are (along with my thoughts—pro and con—about each):

“28 minutes: The average time first-graders spend
on homework—nearly three times
what education experts recommend.”

(See Erin Zammett Ruddy, “How to Help Kids With Homework,” Parents, September 2016)

Right on! This taps into a major problem we often struggle with in modern education—we frequently give too much homework to Core Phase kids (age 8 and under), while the average high school student studies far less than she should and could.

The fact is, many parents don’t realize that for very young children less homework is often better for their learning.

The second quote, however, is puzzling:

“Despite studies suggesting that homework doesn’t even
benefit grade-schoolers, it’s here to stay.”
(ibid.)

My response was: Really? Why? Homework doesn’t benefit them, but let’s make them do it anyway…

Why would we do that?

Because…

Because…

No answer.

Or: “That’s just the way things are.”

Purpose

Which brings us to the next quote:

“The purpose of homework is to
help kids become independent learners.”
(ibid.)

Now my mind is really churning. On the one hand, as studies show, lots of homework doesn’t really help gradeschool-aged kids, and on the other hand, there are things they could do with their time that would help them—a lot. But we give them homework anyway because we want them to learn to be independent learners?

At first blush this sounds reasonable, but here’s the thing: Most kids were already independent learners before they went to school. They were constantly questioning, exploring, considering, and asking “Why?” “Why?” “Why?” A lot of kids asked “Why?” so frequently that parents got tired of trying to answer and told them to quit asking so many questions.

But once they’ve been inserted into schools, they need some kind of enforced daily activity called homework to make them independent learners once again? “Well, yes…” we’re told.

Clearly something is very wrong with the system itself.

But the best part of the article, at least for me, was this sentence:

“Put your kid in charge.
Homework is as much about learning responsibility
as it is about grasping fractions.”
(ibid.)

walter-scott-meme-self-educationI agree. The mother who wrote the article gets it. And I think this quote gets to the heart of many modern educational assignments. On the surface, we give such assignments in order to teach fractions, historical dates, punctuation rules, scientific facts, etc., but in reality the bigger goal is often to help young people gain real learning skills—the kind of skills that will help them in real life, and throughout their lives.

This is true of rote learning like “fractions, punctuation rules, etc.” and also of vital skills like learning how to think, working well in teams, communicating effectively and persuasively, taking initiative, taking responsibility, pushing through when things get hard, and so on.

It’s very important to realize that such skills are just as essential as learning the historical dates, mathematical functions, scientific formulas, etc.—or in many cases, even more crucial. In all this, the advice to “Put your kid in charge” is the crux of any great education. Everyone who ever obtained a truly great, high-quality education, at some point took charge of his/her own learning—and really sought after excellence. People who have never done this haven’t yet gained a superb education.

More and Better

Finally, the following quote is one of the most important I’ve ever read. It is true of so many mothers, and though it wasn’t written directly to homeschoolers, I believe it perfectly describes so many of them:

“American mothers blame themselves for
what falls through the cracks—
when they should be basking in their awesomeness.”

(Cara Birnbaum, “Is Work-Life Balance BS?,” Parents, September 2016)

I recommend that you re-read that quote three times! Right now…

It’s true.

And it’s about you.

The things most mothers (and fathers) do right are so much more important than any so-called weaknesses. In fact, one of the most effective and immediate ways to significantly improve your homeschool and overall family/home environment is to simply do even more of what you’re already doing well!

Seriously.

Hopefully this thought will stick in your mind for a long time to come.

About the Author:

Rachel is the co-author of Leadership Education: The Phases of Learning and the audio series Core and Love of Learning: A Recipe for Success, and the author of the award-winning educational resource, This Week in History. She is an accomplished musician, writer, literary editor, public speaker, consultant and momschool organizer.

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