And when I was a kid, I played.
There was some homework. I did it, or I put it off until the next morning and raced to get it done before school, but somehow there was plenty of time to go out and play with the neighborhood kids.
We’d play ball and ride our bikes in warm weather. Ice skate in the winter. Lego, Girder and Panel, and board games whenever.
Fast forward to today.
My children, my wife, and I are slaves to homework.
Play is a rarity.
The homework load is mind-boggling.
My ninth grader has three hours a night.
My sixth graders have an hour to two hours.
What has turned happy homes into homework hell?
I can think of three possible reasons.
First, teaching to the test.
Schools, and therefore administrators and teachers, are graded today on how their standardized test scores compare with other schools.
So the whole year is about cramming kids’ heads with knowledge, so their administrators and teachers can keep their jobs.
Parents are afraid that if their kids don’t do a ton of homework, the kids will fall behind in an educational arms race.
If kids don’t get into a top school, in today’s economy they’ll never make a living. So we bully them into competing with classmates instead of letting them enjoy childhood.
The third possible reason: we adults are total failures at achieving work/life balance, and we’re modeling our failed, miserable lifestyles for our kids.
Used to be that work happened only at the workplace. Now, with smartphones, work happens everywhere: on vacation; during family dinner; even in the bathroom.
Adults used to sleep with each other.
Now they sleep with their CrackBerries and iPhones.
Schools have all day to teach kids reading, writing, and arithmetic, along with whatever social pablum administrators and society want to shove down kids’ throats.
Why can’t kids get home and do what they’re really supposed to do – play? Move? Have fun?
It’s not just about getting kids off of technology.
It’s about getting kids off the treadmill of competition and credentialism.
Am I the only parent who’s doing more homework as an adult than in our own childhoods?
Am I the only parent who’s sick of the system that denies kids the right to be kids?
Who the hell made this ridiculous system?
And why aren’t there any alternatives for parents who don’t want their kids working like little robots instead of playing and resting?
I’d complain more but I have to do math right now with my kids.
Michael Levin has also launched a free resource for writers on YouTube. Over 200 videos, with Michael Levin, discussing every aspect of fiction and nonfiction writing and publishing. Visit http://www.BooksAreMyBabies.com for more.
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