The response to last week's Learning section interview with the authors of "The End of Homework" makes one thing clear: A lot of people have very firm opinions on the merits of take-home assignments.
One woman called co-authors Etta Kralovec and John Buell, who are critical of homework, "heroes." Another, a former teacher, opined that "homework is nothing but a way to divide families and creates unnecessary stress." Her younger child has more homework than her older one did at the same age. She's now considering homeschooling.
One father said the impact on family life has been severe. "For the past five years, my wife (she is better at it) has spent untold hours, often late into the night, helping my boys.... A lot of [the homework] has been mindless...."
But one reader noted that comments on homework have helped create a dialogue between him and his son over how to improve. Another praises homework's role in developing a work ethic. "In middle school and beyond, homework should be accepted with pride as an indication to the student that he or she has 'arrived,' " he writes. "The student should come to appreciate that anything worth learning will require time alone to reflect upon what it all means."
Adults play a big role in creating that appreciation - or turning kids off with too much, too often, too mindless. It's known as the "Siberian tiger effect" in my home. My daughter's third-grade project on the animal involved more adults than run the federal government. Now in seventh grade, she still shudders at its mention. But give her a good assignment, and she'll want to talk about it at dinner - proving that, like most things, content really matters.
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