homework, all about homework !|
转载：http://www.shfamily.com/blog/2011/08/22/the-h-word-tackling-the-homework-question/ 作者： Lynette MacDonald
School’s in and that means homework is on the agenda again for Shanghai families. But what’s in it for the kids?
by Lynette MacDonald
Does homework monopolize your family life? Is it the first thing you ask your children about when they get home from school? And the last thing you remind them of before they head off in the morning? Does homework time mean sulking and yelling, or is it an opportunity to spend quality time with your children?
For every family, the answers to these questions will be different. But as our kids roll up for their first few weeks of school for the year, setting the homework routine is one of the most important adjustments to make after the carefree summer break. For some the adjustment will be greater, especially kids coming from other countries into the hothouse of Shanghai schooling for the first time,
So what do the kids get out of homework?
How Much is Too Much?
Research on the topic from the USA, UK and Australia, suggests there may be some benefits from small amounts of homework compared to none at all, but that too much homework can, in fact, have a negative affect on students’ academic performance. In 2004, Education Queensland in Australia reviewed 64 mainly British and American studies into the effectiveness of homework and concluded that there is a “point of diminishing returns”, after which the more time spent studying actually produces worse academic results. It also concluded that students should be set no more than 10 minutes homework per night for each year of schooling (eg. 60 minutes in 6th Grade), up to a maximum of two hours per day in 12th Grade.
Leading US education researcher Alfie Kohn caused a sensation with his article The Truth About Homework (2006) when he suggested there is no evidence that homework has any benefits at elementary school level. His research also indicated that any perceived benefits from homework to test scores in high school, “have a tendency to disappear when more sophisticated statistical controls are applied.”
However, the chances of homework being relegated to the dustbin of educational history are slim.
A great deal of time and effort has been put into the question of whether homework is beneficial to children’s learning. It’s this research, along with personal experience as a teacher and education administrator, which has influenced Shanghai Community International School Middle School Principal Dan Kerr to reconsider the way homework will be set at the school.
Having read the research, Kerr calls himself a “no homework kind of guy”. He says his watershed moment occurred “the first time I saw an 11 year old who was cutting herself. I’ve worked in Toronto, Abu Dabi, Jakarta and now Shanghai, and I’ve seen this everywhere I’ve been. From my perspective, even if there’s only one kid doing this due to academic stress, we have to look at our programs. If one is doing it then others will be feeling it and not reacting in the same way.”
However, that won’t mean no homework at all for SCIS Middle School students, but a time limit of 15 minutes per subject per day, and guidelines to ensure that homework set is relevant to and consolidates what’s been taught in class during the day.
It’s a principle that forms the basis of the homework guidelines at Yew Chung International School as well. Matt Grady is Key Stage 3 Coordinator at Yew Chung International School (YCIS) and he says, “Homework helps our students to understand, consolidate and extend what’s been covered in class. Beyond academic performance, homework encourages students to work and learn independently which becomes more important as our students head towards higher education. We have weekly staff and departmental meetings to monitor homework load … and seldom set homework as a task that is due the next day … (to) relieve the ‘due tomorrow’ anxiety.”
Psychologist Patty LaValle says homework can be immensely stressful for kids in Grades 6-12, particularly in Shanghai where “the pressure comes not only from parents who want their kids to be academically near perfect, but also from peer pressure to be the best, and finally internally driven by the student.” She points to the fact that expat kids typically have high achieving, risk taking parents, who produce kids very similar to themselves. LaValle adds, “You then add the Asian influence of higher academic expectations (the tiger mom syndrome) and the pressures are exceedingly high.” She says many teens can’t handle the pressure and turn to drugs, alcohol, sex, eating disorders, and other high risk behaviors to cope. “I worked with a group of high school boys who were athletes and good students who were caught smoking marijuana and when asked why they chose to smoke they said to relieve academic stress. In the States, the answer would have been because they were curious.”
Perhaps the most telling comparison to make is between the homework demands on children today, and those of their parents. Shanghai’s international and bilingual schools are inhabited by expat families who come from many different countries, and so the homework history of the parents is quite varied. However, one thing is common. None of the high achieving parents I interviewed did anywhere near the amount of homework their own children do now.
The Bongart family is a long-term expat family whose children were born in China to German parents. The three children, Antonia (13), Caroline (11) and Tibor (10) have each attended local Chinese school, before moving on to American international school (Antonia) and British bilingual school (Caroline and Tibor). Having experienced the rigors of the Chinese local system, for these kids, homework is just part of life.
Mom Maya Bongart says, “It was toughest for Antonia (in Chinese school). In 1st Grade we had a tutor fetch her from school, take her home and they did one hour of homework together. But we were flexible to adapt to each child’s needs. We took Tibor out (of Chinese school) after only three months because we didn’t want to push him beyond his limits.”
Despite the fact her three children complete between 45 minutes and 1½ hours of homework each night, Bongart says, “Personally, I don’t see the point of homework in primary school. (Back in Germany) We went to school until 12 noon, and we’re still not dumb.” However she adds, “If they do what everyone else does, then they don’t suffer from it. The children don’t know anything else.” Indeed, of the children only Caroline commented, “I feel stressed sometimes if I don’t understand the questions, if they’re too difficult. But then I just ask the teacher the next day.”
By comparison, Australian mom Alexis Lawrence is encouraging her daughter, Cameron, to return to Australia and attend boarding school until her parents repatriate at the end of 2012, rather than meet the tougher homework expectations in Shanghai. She draws direct comparisons between the homework load at her child’s former Australian private school where five hours per week is required in 7th Grade, compared with 8 hours per week at her international school in Shanghai.
Lawrence, whose older son James has just completed 12th Grade, says she doesn’t want her daughter to go through the same pressure to complete the IB course. She says, “For Grades 11 and 12, they expect six hours of homework per subject per week. With six subjects, that’s 36 hours, the equivalent of a full-time job. Back in Australia, there’s more of a balance between school and leisure activities and time for kids to just hang out.” Lawrence adds, “I did almost no homework even in high school, and I was accepted into university and completed my degree.”
When Beth and Rob Parker moved with their three children from Ohio, USA three years ago, they chose to put the kids into a local Chinese school with an international stream. At the time of the move the children were all at elementary school and, back in the States, routinely brought home no homework. Mom Beth says, “As a parent, that troubled me. How could I know how they were coping with the school work? And help them when they needed it?”
Three years down the track, and Jason (9th Grade), Sarah (6th Grade) and Brian (4th Grade) are accustomed to nightly, and even holiday homework. Fourteen year old Jason is less than impressed by his homwork load. As the family lives quite a distance from school, Jason says he tries to do as much of his homework at school, during lunch time and between classes. He says the total each day is between 2 and 2 hours, but that it’s inconsistent. Jason says, “Some days I have almost no homework, and other days I have tons. It’s frustrating because the teachers don’t talk to each other and when I complain they say it’s all part of the learning process.” This erratic workload also has flow-on effects for Jason’s siblings as he admits, “When I have too much homework, I get in a really bad mood and really stressed out. Then I take it out on my brother and sister.”
While all three Parker kids say they sometimes are stressed by homework, they also note that their workloads are much lighter than the other kids in their classes who attend academies or music and art lessons after school, and then complete homework late into the night.
The major concern for Beth Parker is finding kids who are allowed to play or have “down time” with her own. She explains, “We’ve asked for Brian’s friends to come over for a sleepover on the weekend, but their parents won’t let them come until after the exams. They’re in 4th Grade and they have to study all weekend.”
It would be a brave school, indeed, that embarked on a “no homework” policy in Shanghai where much of children’s afterschool workload is set by their parents.
Shanghai Singapore International School parent Winnie Suli Yong is mom to 9 year old Aren and 5 year old Keira. She is also refreshingly frank about her decision to set extra homework for her children in addition to the homework set by their teachers, attributing it to her own competitiveness. “My daughter enjoys doing extra work. The school does not set homework at her age, so I buy workbooks from the States or Singapore and she does 15 to 30 minutes per day. My son only gets about half an hour of homework per night, so I give him test papers from Singapore and he has tutoring in Math and Chinese.”
So does this extra “mom” homework make for a harmonious home? Asked if he enjoys doing homework, Aren says he finds it “irritating”. Mom Winnie adds, “I do nag at him. Sometimes I force him to do it, sometimes I let it go. I really don’t want to force him. Sometimes it might get a little ugly.” For the record, growing up in Singapore Winnie doesn’t remember having homework in elementary school, and says her parents thought she could look after herself, so weren’t involved in homework in later years.
Getting the Balance Right
If you accept that homework isn’t going to go away, the question is, how do families get the balance right? According to SCIS’s Dan Kerr, there’s got to be commitment from parents as well as schools. He says, “We’ve got to allow kids to relax and do nothing sometimes. That means not letting them take on too many after school activities, and for parents, there’s an expectation that you are spending time with your kids.” Matt Grady from YCIS concurs, “…many students these days are also spending extra time on academics at home with private tutors and enrolling in other outside education courses. However, from my perspective it is equally important to be focusing on developing non-academic interests and activities.”
[ 本帖最后由 hlp525 于 2011-9-28 11:06 编辑
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