Renegade educator Lisa VanDamme explains what’s wrong with the traditional notion that young students must be saddled with hours of homework in her article “The Homework Lie”:
Every year, dozens of parents sit at my desk and describe to me the intense frustration they feel as they watch their children get churned through the public schools. One of the refrains of their complaints: endless homework.
And no wonder:
• The work itself is largely pointless. Students must complete countless contrived worksheets meant primarily to satisfy state standards for homework volume.
• Their children are overwhelmed, trying to cram this busywork into car rides between after-school activities.
• Parents do not know the material themselves. They are often unable to help, and sometimes they even hinder the children with their own confused instruction.
• There is no sacred family time. Instead, the time for bonding between parents and children is compromised by battles over homework.
• There is no sacred free time; the time the child should be allowed to rest, play, spend time with family, and pursue personal interests is compromised by the looming responsibility of performing hours of homework drudgery.
VanDamme runs a private grade school in Aliso Viejo, California, where the approach to learning is vastly different from that of the mainstream “system.” Sacrilegious as it might seem, with the exception of reading assignments, The VanDamme Academy does not issue homework.
Reading VanDamme’s writings (and having heard several of her recorded lectures on education), I’m struck by the enormous respect she has for her student’s minds. One dreadful fact about most modern schools is that — in addition to their complete failure to teach — they tend to inculcate a “herd mentality”; a follow-the-follower attitude that upholds conformity to the expectations of others as one’s all-consuming purpose in life.
The results of the VanDamme Academy appear to be extraordinary: students graduate from Junior High with a head start in calculus; a 10 year-old student wrote a play in iambic pentameter that resembles Shakespeare.
Best of all, writes VanDamme: “[The] no-homework policy does wonders for parents’ relationships with their children. I will never forget when a parent sat at my desk one day and told me, with tears in his eyes: ‘You have given back our family life.'”
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