There has long been a tremendous fascination and draw to homework across many American households. It could reflect ongoing anxieties about how our children will do once they have to find a job, competing with the superachievers across the globe. How will our children win the struggle for good jobs unless they have mastered countless hours of homework? In fact, isn't the case that the more work we pile on, the better and more advanced our child's mind will be? Without hours of homework a night, doesn't the child's brain wither and weaken, or at the very least, fail to reach is full potential?
Surely the agonies of hours of homework are more virtuous than empty hours of play. Surely.
This is a question that has been inside educational theory for decades, probably since homework was first foisted on our unsuspecting kids. And I suppose it makes some sense on the surface of things.
But, fortunately for children everywhere, someone has actually tested this question, had looked at how kids turn out as adults with and without homework, and the answer across such studies is clear.
Homework offers no benefits, play is the best way to grow a mind.
Isn't that incredible? Kids who do no homework, learn just as much and do just as well as adults, as kids who do homework hours every night. Incredible.
This conclusion has been dramatically demonstrated in the the country that is listed by most measures as the nation with the best schools in the world. The students that graduate from the public schools in this country outperform all other nations. The country is Finland. And their schools do three notable things:
1. They assign NO homework from K-12, the only exception being some work now and then in high school.
2. They do NO standardized tests.
3. There are NO private schools in Finland, all students go to public schools.
And, again, their graduates have better academic skills than any graduates in the world!
You might wonder, when will these lessons ever be put into practice here at home?
The answer is now. I have just learned that the Shaker Heights Public School system is embarking on a sharp decrease of homework in their K-4 elementary schools. Given all we know, I applaud this move, and am so happy for these students. There are a number of other schools that already have done this and more that are considering it.
In fact, enough private and public schools are moving in this direction that it appears the victory of play over homework for American children may be approaching.
This is good news not only because homework offers little educational benefit, but because there is no activity of the brain more helpful to brain function than play. This is true in infancy, childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. Dr. Alice Kolb at the Weatherhead School of Business at Case has devoted her long career to the role of play in advanced cognitive functioning in business, and has found abundant evident that the playful mind outperforms the mind blocked from play.
1. Nothing tops play as an activity to promote the development and function of the mind, at any age.
2. Homework, often thought to be a useful discipline to improve learning, is not.
3. The best school system in the world, the schools of Finland, assign essentially no homework from Kindergarten through senior year in high school.
4. Many schools in the US are moving away from giving homework, we are pleased to report the Shaker Heights Public School system is doing that for next year.
So play with your kids, and let your kids play. Nothing will be better for their minds.
To your health,
Dr. Arthur Lavin
Dr. Arthur Lavin
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