New Homework Policy = Time Windfall for Families
The verdict is in: Homework is uncool at Toronto schools – or at least at Toronto District School Board schools. And that means a major time windfall for families.
Just in case you haven't had a chance to take in all the details about the Board's new policy, here's a quick crash course in homework-ology, circa 2008. The rules
• establish an age at which homework can first be assigned (after kindergarten)
• spell out the expectation that homework should feel more like play than work while kids are young ("homework assigned in the early grades shall more often take the form of reading, playing a variety of games, having discussions and interactive activities such as building and cooking with the family")
• make it clear that there's no such thing as a one-size-fits-all homework assignment ("homework should be... differentiated to reflect the unique needs of the child")
• limit the amount of homework that can be assigned to students at a particular grade level (one hour or less in Grades 7 to 8; two hours or less for high school students), and attempt to safeguard family time by declaring holidays off limits for homework assignments ("No homework shall be assigned on scheduled holidays as outlined in the school year calendar or on days of significance.")
It's about time that homework got this kind of radical makeover, don't you think?
Researchers have been telling us for years that homework isn't worth the kid-effort invested. And when you consider what else kids could be doing with homework time (riding a bike, doing crafts, reading a book, making friends, playing soccer, hanging out with their grandparents, etc.), it's hard to make the case for homework.
Homework can also be stressful. Very stressful. Students and parents have been waving the homework white flag for a number of years, noting that excessive amounts of homework interferes with extra-curricular activities (which also happen to be a fun and educational part of growing up), ramp up the pace of family life, and take away opportunities for spontaneous family fun).
Back in the spring, Education Minister Kathleen Wynne urged school boards across the province to rethink their homework policies in light of a study conducted by the University of Toronto's Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) which revealed that Ontario students were spending more time on homework than students in other provinces; that homework was being assigned as early as kindergarten; and that this increased emphasis on homework wasn't delivering any measurable benefits to students in terms of learning or grades. Some schools, like Barrie's Prince of Wales Public School, have come out with their own homework policies while they wait for board-wide policies to follow.
If you happen to be a family in a school that's gone homework-free this year, your entire family has been given the gift of an extra 40 minutes a day (the time that your child would otherwise have spent on homework, according to the OISE study). Maybe you can let us know how you plan to use your new-found time windfall....