Day 139 (of 185) practice? sharpening the saw? homework?
As my son once pointedly asked me: if i’m not allowed to sleep at school, why do I have to do schoolwork at home? Now, I have long-been in support of “limited homework” being sent home. I would try to not send home anything that wasn’t meaningful –> usually sending home ‘work’ that could not be done at home: find out where your great grandparents lived. I tried supporting the adage “if you didn’t finish it in the time “I” gave you, then you finish it on your time” <– and while I still see some theoretical merit to this type of approach…..I worry that if there are reasons they aren’t doing (can’t do) the work at school, that isn’t going to magically change when they get home.
And yes, there are reasons for working at home – the refinement of key skills that need to be understood so certain can be mastered so they can be played with! You gotta know how letters work to understand how words are assembled and how they create sentences….or un-sentences (when you’re really good with words)!
I know working-at-home has value, because I do it regularly – you can’t read-to-lead during school hours (unless modelling a whole-school reading time). It is hard to get serious writing done; reports, timetable ideas <–coming soon!, summaries all take time that is better spent with people during daylight hours!
Even my rebel teenage daughters like to do homework…..in cursive…often for bonus marks. Drives me crazy.
But to “sharpen ones saw” (Stephen Covey), and spend the “extra time exploring learning”, there needs to be meaning and relevance. I happily spend too much time geeking out on education topics…..or seeing if non-education topics can be crammed in the way that UDL – Universal Design for Learning – entered education via schools of architecture. Pursuits into topics like Recreational Mathematics were inspired by Dr Who. Being told to do something……well, suddenly my empathy for students being told to “do more of the same” wells up….
It is fun to bring up Allen Iversons infamous “practice” rant about professional sports https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eGDBR2L5kzI for ‘fun’ – and he was certainly critiqued for his vented approach to practice – but there needs to be an acknowledgement that he certainly had his 10 000 hours (Dan Pink) into his passion. But it’s also important to understand the schema of learners. AI had a difficult upbringing (when compared to the median average) but his talent with the basketball allowed him to have access to a life that “extra homework” would not have got him ‘there’.
Too many learners have too many obstacles to make homework truly meaningful and relevant – especially if it is being used to calculate scores that lead to a percentage/letter grade. In my own learning community where students can regularly be on the bus for over an hour to get to the secondary school, I’ve heard stories where the neatness of their work has been criticized….because they tried to complete it on the bus so they could do their chores and have dinner and see their family before going to bed (or youtube…not judging). And there are so many learners that have “duties as assigned” to look after their family….to work….to stay regulated…..
But for those with a particular passion, time will be found. I have joked with my own doctor about how valuable his scores on multiple choice tests were for preparing him to work inside the human body….. when there is a passion, there is a will, there is a way, there is a desire to do the practice…to sharpen the saw….to do the homework needed to go beyond what a teacher/class expects….but it is most effective when you are sharpening your own saw…not necessarily somebody elses….