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Homework Abolished for Children in Vermont to Make Room for Play, Sleep, Family

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orchard-school-copyAnyone with school-aged children can attest that homework demands have gotten absurd. Parents in Vermont recently pushed back against a school system which assigns mounds of homework to their children, stating that the unrealistic ‘busy’ work of many schools interferes with family time, free-play, sports, music lessons, and even sleep.

The principal of the Orchard School in South Burlington, Vermont, a kindergarten-through-5th grade school says that he’s observed more anxiety among students in the last decade. The school opted to do away with homework this year, based in part on the book, The Homework Myth.

Principal Mark Trifilio says that,

“They’re just kids. They’re pretty young and they just put in a full day’s shift at work and so we just don’t believe in adding more to their day. We also feel that we are squashing their other passions and interest in learning.”

The disadvantages of homework are clearly outlined in The Homework Myth, but they are also observed regularly by parents. Their children are exhausted, frustrated, and have little time to pursue other interests that actually may end up feeding their souls, and even help to create a lucrative career for them in the long term.

Kimberly Coleman-Mitchell, right, teaches her fourth grade class at Oakridge Elementary School in Arlington, Va. Elementary schools in Arlington, South Burlington, Vt., and Holyoke, Mass., are among those that went homework-free at the start of the school year. — AP

Kimberly Coleman-Mitchell, right, teaches her fourth grade class at Oakridge Elementary School in Arlington, Va. Elementary schools in Arlington, South Burlington, Vt., and Holyoke, Mass., are among those that went homework-free at the start of the school year. — AP

Alfie Kohn, the author of the book says that, “Homework may be the greatest extinguisher of curiosity ever invented.” He also argues that there is no real evidence that homework causes better academic learning. There is research to support his claims that go back to 1897, where a study proved that assigning spelling homework had no effect on children’s spelling proficiency later on. (Joseph Mayer Rice in Gill and Schlossman 2004, p. 175.)

There has also been a global push toward allowing children more free ‘play’ time, since this natural state of curiosity allows learning to happen organically, without force or the ensuing frustration.

There are also great men and women in history who have proven that intellectual prowess need not be gleaned from a system which tends to indoctrinate us against our most basic, inborn genius.

Autodidacts – people who are self-taught – litter the history books. They tend to think outside of the compartmentalized, watered-down educational hierarchy, and instead come up with novel solutions to the world’s challenges based on their observances of nature, personal experience, and hands-on learning.

Thomas Edison only completed 3 months in high school, while the Wright brothers never graduated. Steve Jobs completed one year at Reed College, and Michael Dell dropped out at nineteen. Hermann Hesse, the novelist, poet, and painter, as well as the noted author of Siddhartha, won a Nobel Prize for Literature, and he gained an education of his own accord after finding the rigid, often-oppressive educational system incompatible with his demeanor.

Ernest Hemingway read for hours at a time in bed once he was high-school-aged, instead of attending school. The painter Frido Kahlo abandoned an education in medicine to become a painter after enduring a bus accident that kept her bed ridden for years at a time. These self-taught individuals are just a tiny sample of the thousands of people who didn’t need ‘homework’ to become a genius in their respective fields.

The main effect “of the drive for so-called higher standards in schools is that the children are too busy to think,” said John Holt in 1959. Instead of robbing children of their natural intelligence, formed by an organic, self-paced, interest-based method of study, we have created a system which force-feeds them information which will often be obsolete before they’ve even graduated high school. This ‘harder is better’ mentality destroys a child’s natural wonder and awe of their world, and robs them of the amazing ideas they can offer a world in dire need of their vision. Play-based learning helps children to develop create creativity, empathy, and problem-solving skills.

The Orchard school stands as an uncommon example, of allowing children to blossom without force-feeding them ‘education.’ Hopefully more schools will follow in establishing homework bans.

Image credit: Twitter

Featured image: Kimberly Coleman-Mitchell, right, teaches her fourth grade class at Oakridge Elementary School in Arlington, Va. Elementary schools in Arlington, South Burlington, Vt., and Holyoke, Mass., are among those that went homework-free at the start of the school year. — AP

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