Monday, September 30, 2013

Call it “Out of Home Work!” | September 27, 2013

Todd Conaway (@todd_conaway)

poster58A whole lotta “homework” should be the stuff that cannot be done inside the walls of a classroom. Like interviewing someone, or going to the park, or making projects at a friend’s house, or looking up at the stars at night, or baking bread, or cookies, or working on a poem with a parent, or working at a job, or shopping, or playing baseball, or relaxing. And I think it might help to change the language of “homework” to something like “stuff I need to do.” Like the current views of the word “politician,” it may well be too late to regain any kind of positive connotation to the word “homework.”
Now I do think that practice makes you better at doing stuff. But, practice when your heart is in it (you know, emotional) will help you learn it more deeply and in a way that will last longer and be more useful. And practicing the wrong thing is really not helpful and I am not sure all homework fits into the “useful” category.
I think that reading is good homework. Especially when it is, “Your homework for this evening is to read for a while.” No specific book, just to read. Or homework like, “Write a poem or a story or a letter.” Homework is great when it is a memorable experience. How can we make more of those? I realize that we can’t all do a semester-at-sea or hike the Grand Canyon, but we could get out of the classroom more often and ask students to get out of their homes more often. Ha! Maybe that is it. We need to call it “Out of Home Work!”
I am certain that kids should be allowed to be kids and play for way longer than we usually allow them. Out there in the “real world” is where the real life skills are developed anyway.
During play a kid may not discover how to fly to the moon, but they might discover the skills needed to create harmony within a group of fierce opposites. They may not find a cure for cancer during play, but they might discover how to live with challenges they face in a more positive way. During those after school hours they may find that relaxing with a book is more useful to them during their life than long division is. They may discover a friend who spends a lifetime with them rather than crouched over a desk doing worksheets. I think that in play we are more apt to find wisdom and that is something we really could use a bit more of these days. We have enough information. We need to use it with some wisdom.
So I think get what can or needs to be done in school. Do things that cannot be done in the walls of a classroom someplace else and call that whatever fits. But leave lots of time for playing in the grass.