Gas station without pumps

2010 June 27

Extracurriculars and homework

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 11:39

Extracurricular activity and homework can often be in competition for a kid’s time, particularly for introverts, who need downtime by themselves to recover from the stress of being with people all day.

My son attended a private school for 7th and 8th grade that has a strong reputation in the arts, particularly singing, theater, and dancing. One of the main attractions for him in going there was their strong drama program. But he ended up never even auditioning for the school plays, because the homework load was so high that he would have had no time for himself if he went to after-school rehearsals.  The school was a 6–12th grade school, and the homework load seemed much higher for the middle schoolers, so that they had little time for extracurriculars.

I thought that the difference might have been one of better time-management skills for the high schoolers, but my son ended up taking half middle-school and half high-school classes in 8th grade, and the homework load was definitely much lower in the high school classes,  with the three high-school classes taking about one-third to one-half the time of 2 of the middle-school classes (the other middle school class, in drama, had almost no homework).

The difference was partly because of the individual teachers. The middle-school history teachers, in particular, took their jobs seriously and taught the students how to research and how to write, as well as a lot of historical information.  The classes were intense and often required more than an hour of homework a night to do properly.  The students got a lot of learning for their effort, though, so it was time well spent. The English classes, on the other hand, were rather fluffy, but had a lot of work to do.  The books they read were good (and the reading took almost no time), but the rest of the English assignments were pretty much time-wasters.  The English teachers demanded papers and all sorts of “craft” projects, but did not provide much guidance on how to create them, nor much feedback on how to improve them.  Teaching writing was left to the history teachers, and writing in English classes seemed to be mainly busywork.

The difference was partly due to subject area, with the writing-intensive history and English classes taking much more time than math, science, or foreign language.

The difference was also driven from the top.  When the school had to downsize at the end of the year (because of shrinking enrollments), the best of the math teachers for advanced students was laid-off.  His belief was that he was the one to go because he assigned too much homework and graded students on what they achieved on tests and homework. My son had him for two classes (geometry and honors algebra 2) and liked his teaching style, but the homework load in those classes very light compared to middle-school classes.  If the administration felt that the homework load in those classes was too high for high-school students, then there was clearly a difference in belief about what was suitable for middle school and what was suitable for high school.

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