On February 18, I wrote a comment to a teacher’s blog post “Homework ….a Necessary evil…and a PEP TALK." The teacher added her comment on my blog. Having read her comment, I would like to clarify my credit card analogy.
In her comment, the teacher says that she liked my credit card analogy and went on to say, “If we never issue them the homework, the credit card if you will…” I think she misunderstands the card in the analogy. The comparison, at least as I have defined it, is that time is to money as homework is to purchases. There is no comparison between homework and credit cards.
If we want to manage money, we need to base our purchases on the money we have. Credit cards distort our understanding of our financial means. If we want homework to teach time management skills, we need to base homework-doing on a fixed period of time. The problem with homework is that, unlike the school day which ends when the bell rings, homework can creep into the afternoon, evening and night. If there are no boundaries on that time, it acts like a credit card. Time extends until the work is done (similar to pulling out a credit card when finished shopping to pay for the things you cannot afford).
The teacher goes on to cite the ten minute per night per grade rule, one I find slightly excessive but would not quibble over. She highlights that she checks homework for completion, not for whether the answers are right or wrong. That would be okay if half complete homework earned substantial credit. Keep in mind, kids work at different paces so, if consequences are given for work that is not done, it means that slow working kids are caught between the choice of putting in extra time or getting lower grades. Either way, they are not learning to manage time.
The other problem with the ten minute per night per grade rule is that teachers vary in what they believe. For every teacher who truly accepts that a child must not work beyond that norm, there’s another teacher who believes his estimate of how long the assignment should take is all that is needed, not a measure of real time. It’s not that either teacher is better than the other. We can value diversity in our teaching staffs. It only becomes a problem when we lose sight of where power should lie.
Homework, by its very essence, extends the power of the teacher from the classroom into the home, and because of that, can override the authority of the parents in the home. It’s that piece that makes homework so potentially destructive.
If we accept a model with three basic principles – time bound homework, penalty reductions, and full recognition of parents as the authorities in the home – we will actually increase the prospects that our kids will become more successful, which will include developing better time management skills.
For more information on Dr. Goldberg's model, read other postings on this blog, visit his website, The Homework Trap, or read his book, The Homework Trap: How to Save the Sanity of Parents, Students and Teachers.