Every year, dozens of parents sit at my desk and describe to me the intense frustration they feel as they watch their children churned through the public schools. One of the refrains of their complaints: endless homework.
And no wonder:
- The work itself is largely pointless. Students must complete countless contrived worksheets meant primarily to satisfy state standards for homework volume.
- Their children are overwhelmed, trying to cram this busywork into car rides, between after-school activities.
- Parents do not know the material themselves. They are often unable to help, and sometimes they even hinder the children with their own confused instruction.
- There is no sacred family time. Instead, the time for bonding between parents and children is compromised by battles over homework.
- There is no sacred free time; the time the child should be allowed to rest, play, spend time with family and pursue personal interests is compromised by the looming responsibility of performing hours of homework drudgery.
VanDamme Academy has a policy of no homework.
Yes, you read that correctly.
At VanDamme Academy, the only daily, on-going responsibility given the children outside school hours is to read. Reading is an activity best done alone, in the quiet of the child's own bedroom. It is a very independent and personal task, and—if it is the right book and taught properly—a very pleasurable one, too.
Math practice is done in math class. We give students ample time to learn, practice, and master new concepts under the close supervision of the teacher. Essays are written in writing class. Writing, which is one of the most challenging and comprehensive skills a student must learn, demands the constant monitoring and assistance of the teacher.
That such disciplines are neglected during the day—and then sent home in a mad-dash effort to get the kids up to speed for standardized testing—is criminal.
It is not surprising that our policy does wonders for parents' relationships with their children. I will never when a parent sat at my desk one day and, told me, with tears in his eyes: "You have given back our family life."
But, you might ask, how do VanDamme Academy students fare when they are sent off to high school with their homework-laden peers?
You'll have to wait until tomorrow to find out. :-)
[To be concluded tomorrow in "The Homework Lie: Part 2"]
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