About the Colony

Schools are going overboard on homework

Lon Allan. Photo by Joe Johnston 08-25-15
Lon Allan. Photo by Joe Johnston 08-25-15 jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

I think children have too much homework.

I’ve come to this conclusion watching a number of our grandchildren, ranging from third- to fifth-graders. They spend an average of two hours on homework after they get home from school each day. They even have weekend homework.

And I think President Barack Obama is right on the mark in his statements about a week ago that educators need to back off from so much testing. I’ve never thought testing was worth the time given to it. And one of the chief dangers of so much testing, and emphasis on the results, is that it drives teachers to teach to the test.

As a former high school teacher, I know some children just don’t test well. They might be very, very bright, creative, innovative and more, but they just panic at test time.

I’m one of those at my age. I wrote recently of going to take the written test to renew my driver’s license. Passing the test is no proof positive that I’m a good driver. Just ask my wife.

Schools are judged on the outcome of those standardized tests, when they have no control over who takes the test. Everyone takes it. We don’t consider the home-life environment of the pupil, whether he or she got a good night’s sleep the night before, the attitudes of the parents toward school and more.

I’m not a big fan of the Common Core educational plan being implemented.

Take math, for example. One family member asked, “How many times do I have to prove that eight plus eight is 16?”

We’ve been tinkering with how we teach, whether at the elementary, secondary or even collegiate level, for more than 200 years. Frankly, other than teacher and pupil sitting on the same log discussing any given subject, how we teach to a classroom of 30 students will vary from classroom to classroom. Only an experienced teacher will tell you that.

Those who aren’t in the trenches — the classroom — have the most ideas about how to teach.

It’s hard work. That’s why I quit doing it after six short years.

Consider this my thanks to all you teachers who hang in there for 20 to 30 years.

But back to the homework issue. I’ve never quite understood what is to be gained with homework. The student comes home tired. The mom, especially a working mom who is worn out herself by 3 p.m., more than likely is the one to stand over her child to get that homework done when she gets home, while cooking the evening meal at the same time.

I think kids need after-school time to unwind and play. This doesn’t mean sitting around texting. It means getting outside.

And Mom would have one less chore to do at night.

Lon Allan’s column is special to The Tribune. He has lived in Atascadero for nearly five decades and his column appears here every week. Reach Allan at 466-8529 or leallan@tcsn.net.

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