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Less is Really More when it comes to Homework

posted Sep 26, 2016, 10:39 AM by MEPS Google Admin.   [ updated Sep 26, 2016, 10:41 AM ]
By  Times of Trenton Editorial Board
on September 22, 2016 at 7:00 AM, updated September 22, 2016 at 10:10 AM

If your fourth-grader comes home from the Robert Mascenik School #26 in Woodbridge Township and tells you she has no homework that day – believe her.

The elementary school, one of 16 in the township, has joined the ranks of schools nationwide that have dared do the unthinkable.

Its administration has placed family time over homework time, sending the message that building strong interpersonal relationships is a better use of time than memorizing the multiplication tables or identifying the major exports of Peru – although these are certainly worth knowing.

"The most important things students can do when they go home each day are play, eat dinner with their family, engage in conversations, help with family responsibilities and chores and read by themselves or with a family member," school principal Judith Martino wrote in a letter to parents.

The administration recently announced it is instituting homework-free periods for the upcoming academic year, setting aside one free weekend each semester and barring tests and projects from coming due immediately following a school break.

Another district school, Port Reading School #9, will also take part in the experiment, putting them on the cutting edge of a movement in New Jersey and elsewhere to make away-from-school time more meaningful and less stressful for today's students.

In the past few years, West-Windsor Plainsboro, Princeton and Hopewell have made similar moves. Princeton public schools announced last academic year that it was instituting homework-free periods, not only setting aside one weekend each semester but also barring tests and projects from being due immediately after a school break.

This may take parents and grandparents a while to process, especially if they're used to overseeing endless worksheets and drills teachers have traditionally send home.

But there's been much thinking in the academic world about how worthwhile these assignments are, and how truly effective they are in training young minds for the challenges ahead.

"If you think back to your own educational experiences, how many homework assignments did you do to get them done just so that you didn't get a bad grade," said Woodbridge Township School District Superintendent Robert Zega. "And how many of the did you really learn from?"

In this newer approach, responsibility lies equally with the teachers to create meaningful opportunities for students to learn during their after-school hours, and with the parents/caretakers to made sure these hours are used wisely and productively.

A study last year by the American Journal of Family Therapy found that at the elementary-school level, too much homework not only creates a negative attitude towards school, but also erodes youngsters' self-confidence, their social skills and their quality of life.

We're all for giving New Jersey's children the competitive edge they need to succeed, but we can't help feeling in our guts that in the case of homework, less is more.

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