The Homework Message We May Want to Rethink

screen-shot-2016-12-02-at-6-36-54-amThis post is going to be brief.  Anyone who follows me on social media knows my position on homework. I’ve shared research on its efficacy and effects. Today I just want to focus on one aspect, and I believe it is THE most important.

We just had Thanksgiving, and for a month I was immersed in the gratitudes of others and learned what they valued in life. It was uplifting and inspiring. People listed friends, family, trips, nature, fun and games, and health.  I have to believe these are the blessings that they wish for their own children as well.  So for the month of November, those were the messages they were giving their children.

Sadly, for many children, those are not the messages they are given the rest of the year. The message they are presented nearly every day is:

The most important thing in your life is WORK.

That message isn’t delivered in those exact words, so much as it is in actions and reactions.  Think about a child’s life.  They go to ‘work‘ (because school is the child’s work) 7 hours a day, and then they are often given several more hours of work to work on after work. Homework is expected to be a priority after working all day-which was also a priority. For many, if they don’t prioritize homework first and complete it, there are negative consequences…failing grade, loss of recess, detention… shame.

The message many of them are receiving is that your friendships aren’t the priority (play with your friends if and when you get your work done), your health isn’t a priority (deal with that stress, anxiety, illness, or sleep-loss and get your homework done), your experiences aren’t a priority (it doesn’t matter that you went to your sister’s soccer game-you need to get your homework done), nature isn’t a priority (going for a hike with your dad isn’t an excuse), play isn’t a priority (no recess because you didn’t work enough), family isn’t a priority (your parents can be tutors and you, their student-instead of engaging in ‘normal’ family activities).  I know these may sound extreme to some, but I also know that my kids have experienced every single one of these messages. They are often very subtle…but they are pervasive.

I earnestly want us to have conversations around this topic. (I haven’t even addressed the efficacy or other aspects of homework that warrant discussion) I want us to think about what we really want for our children.  Yes, we want them to succeed, but I think we need to define what success in life REALLY is.  What kind of life do we want for our children? What do we want them to value?  What priorities do we truly want them to make for themselves and their own children?

What message do we really want to send to our children about our values and priorities? What role do we want WORK to play in our lives?

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What’s On My Book Radar?



Molly’s mother leaves the family for a year to take a job in Canada. In trying to deal with this loss, she hatches a plan to bring her mother home: win the Lakeville Middle School Slam Poetry Contest. Molly finds herself trying to perfect her chaotic world, but her desire for perfection is turning into habits she can’t control. She’s not sure who she can turn to for help or advice. This is powerful story that can shed a light on a problem (OCD) that afflicts many people and bring some empathy and understanding for others’ struggles.  If you are trying to offer more windows and doors for the students in your classroom, I would encourage you to bring this gem into your libraries. This debut novel from Elly Swartz is nearly perfect!

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