Homework And The Importance Of Academic Rigor

I was recently quoted in the New York Post substantiating the increase in homework that most parents have seen in the last generational shift. A pediatric ophthalmologist had expressed his sense that all of the reading and homework our kids get these days could be making them myopic, especially in particularly intense academic climates.

My first response was to think that we need to reduce kids' seemingly incessant "screen time," as opposed to their "book time," which my colleagues explored in last week's post, Nearsightedness and Competitive NYC Schools. Over the last week, however, I've been stuck on this popular notion that we are overloading our kids with homework. In this idea, we are dangerously close to coming out against a certain developmental rigor that is crucial for our children's development. We have all become familiar with the refrain that we should "let them have their childhood," but if we're talking about replacing books and academic challenges with a bag of chips and a 50" screen, I'm declining.

As adults with a certain amount of life experience, we know that few things come easily. We know one has to work hard for the things worth having, and in the process one builds the skills and wisdom to manage the fruits of those efforts. The classic example of this principle is the penniless lottery winner who, without the financial acumen to manage his new wealth, quickly burns through his winnings and finds himself stunningly penniless once again. If he had worked to earn his wealth, he would have developed the skills to manage it and the emotional disposition to maintain it. As moms, dads, and educators, we don't want it all to be easy for our kids; we want them to gain strength through overcoming adversity. To a reasonable extent, we are guided by the value, "That which doesn't kill you, makes you stronger." By working hard to meet a goal, or to pursue an interest in spite of distractions and hurdles, our kids "learn how to learn" and become effective, values-driven problem solvers.

At the same time, we also know that a person must be able to succeed at a challenge in order for it to be useful. A task that's beyond a person's capacity to execute is an exercise in futility, and often results in misery (if not symptoms of illness or subtle acts of defiance). If our kids are genuinely suffering with their homework, as opposed to battling through their own procrastination and getting the job done, then it needs to be addressed. Adult and child learners alike must have the tools available to them so that they can succeed. So our ophthalmologist seems to have the right intuition about children whose well-being is compromised by hours and hours of homework, but above his concern for their vision there must be concern for their holistic health and sense of success. Beyond monitoring the impact of a rigorous academic life on children's eyesight, we need to "keep an eye" on how it is affecting every aspect of their lives so that, as they are challenged to stretch and grow, no part of them is feeling an unbearable strain.

Read the original article: http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/eye_doc_shocking_charge_nearsighted_UP00JQisaUlsuMg78aGJZN

Will Craig, Educational Director at Partners With Parents.

Tags: Health Issues, Homework, Stress and Anxiety
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