During the first week of school last year my daughter who had just started 4th grade came home and she was a little upset with me. Some of her friends had received a prize for completing a workbook over the summer that was the size of the JCPenny Christmas catalog. The workbook was filled with hundreds of drill and kill worksheets that were designed to keep students from forgetting skills they had learned to that point. Back in the spring we had the option to purchase the workbook again. Again I declined and this time I discussed the reasons with my daughter.
I told her that I believe summers are for kids to unwind and relax. Her days should be spent reading books that she chooses and playing outside with her friends. I wanted her to spend as much time outside as she could----collecting bugs, swimming, decorating our driveway with sidewalk chalk. She is passionate about sports and I wanted her to focus on building her softball and soccer skills. On our recent trip to Florida she got to visit two different Aquariums. At the Clearwater Marine Aquarium she was able to touch stingrays and come face-to-face with Winter the dolphin. The only thing that separated them was about 3 inches of glass. She spent hours on the beach digging in the sand and building sand castles. She also spent time a little bit of time this summer doing absolutely nothing.
She did exactly what she was supposed to do this summer. SHE WAS A KID! She explored and got dirty and I'm certain that she learned a few things along the way. Kids need to be kids during the school year as well. When they get home they need to play outside with their friends or spend time with their families.
This is just one of the reasons why I HATE homework and I am opposed to it for students in all grades. Kids are overscheduled as it is. I have always believed when a student goes home that time is their time. My last school had a "no homework" policy, but even if they hadn't I never felt I had the right to expect them to go to school all day then do homework all evening. Instead of "covering" numerous topics in my classroom we went more in depth into fewer topics and we did everything we needed to do in class. I provided students with plenty of time to get their work completed in class. If they failed to get their work done in class or if they were gone then they were expected to complete it on their own time. This was a huge incentive for them to use their time wisely in class.
I know my daughter is happier when she has the option to decide what she wants to do with her time. I read something the other day about how it is not good for employers to ask workers to put in more than 50 hours a week because the quality of work sharply declines after that. I have a hunch that the same is true of kids. Between the school day, extracurricular activities and homework we are demanding too much of our kids and they are burning out. I'm not suggesting that kids should not participate in extracurricular activities. I just think we need to be mindful of how much we are asking of our own children and of our students and make sure we allow them to be kids!