But my dog ate my homework!

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Ah, homework. I must have been one of the only kids that actually enjoyed getting home and opening yet another book. Not that I would actually do my homework; I’d usually end up reading the entire english book and not touch the actual assignment I had to hand in the following day.

But that’s neither here or there.

An interesting battle of sorts has been occuring in the last couple of years regarding homework and it’s place in children’s lives. For many reasons, I find it a little unsettling.

First of all, while family life shouldn’t be sacrifices for five hours of homework an evening (hey, it happens), does it make sense to give children less homework if they are going to be spending the extra time in front of the TV or on a computer?

Which brings me to my second point: how come children, despite their inherent capacities and talents and willingness to contribute to the advancement of their family and their community, don’t have much to do? Yes, playing is an important part of childhood, but the act of playing isn’t an end; it’s the learning a child does through playing that is essential.

By the same token, doing homework brings forth more than one type of learning. On the one hand, a child learns more about the topic addressed; but, more importantly, a child learns that education doesn’t only happen in school and isn’t the responsability of the teacher. And, when done correctly, a child learns that not only he has to do homework, but he had to take charge, and increasingly so as he grows up, of his education.

A child also learns about time management, learns to integrate educatino with family life, and learns about responsability when homework is assigned.
However, I don’t think that four hours of homework a day is what is needed; and here is the tricky part. Education isn’t only about what is learned in books, be it scientific or religious. Education is acquiring knowledge and learning how to apply it. How can we hope our children will learn to apply their scientific or religious learning if they are stuck at home only doing old school homework?

This is where it becomes evident that education is not only the job of the teacher nor only the job of the parents and the teacher, but rather than education is the responsability of the entire community. If a child is learning about history, it only makes perfect sense that speaking to the elderly regarding their experiences in the various wars he or she is learning would be a normal, integral part of this educational process. And this shouldn’t necessarily be done formally; a child should be able to reach out to the other members of his community to seek this help. By the same token, members of the community should be able to reach out to these children and share their experience.

In such a framework, life itself becomes homework. A child learns to express himself in English; therefore, the mere act of speaking to one’s friends, family and neighbours becomes an active expression of this learning. A child learns maths; helping with the cooking and gardening is an active expression of this learning. A child learns about respect; every interaction with others becomes an active expression of this learning. A child learns that every person is a precious and irreplacable contributor to the advancement of society; each opportunity to help someone becomes an active expression of this inherent capacity.

Therefore the question should perhaps not be ‘how much’ homework, but rather, what should the nature of homework be? If education is limited to what a child reads and writes, the framework within which this topic will be discussion will vary greatly than if education is seen as learning to contribute to the advancement of human civilization.

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