All across America children are heading back to school. There are always mixed feelings associated with this annual end of summer/beginning of fall rite of passage. There is the excitement of a new school year—perhaps even a new school—and the excitement of reconnecting with friends. There is all regret over losing the slower, unstructured rhythms of summer. And then there is the one topic that almost all children and parents—and probably even a few teachers—are dreading, and that is the topic of homework. The debate over the escalation of homework, both the amount assigned and the appropriateness of homework for young children, has been increasing for some time. Enter Mrs. Young into this debate. Mrs. Young is a second grade teacher in Godley, Texas who shared the note pictured above with the parents of her students at a “Meet the Teacher” night last week. One of the parents posted the note on Facebook and it has now been viewed by millions of people on line.
My wife, Holly, is now a marriage and family therapist and is the lead author of our Living Compass Teen and Parent resources. Before doing this work though, she taught for many years in the classroom, in multiple grades ranging from kindergarten to high school. She shared Mrs. Young’s note on her own Facebook page and asked for feedback from her friends around the country—many of whom are currently parents of school age children and teachers. It’s safe to say that posting this note elicited more feedback than almost anything else she has ever posted. All of it was supportive of Mrs. Young’s approach, yet not completely. Several people argued for the importance of at least some meaningful homework, but stressed that the balance that Mrs. Young is seeking to create for students and families needs to be applauded.
In case you find it difficult to read the note pictured above, here is what Mrs. Young recommends that students and families do together to replace homework time. “I ask that you spend your evenings doing things that are proven to correlate with student success. Eat dinner as a family, read together, play outside, and get your child to bed early.” Note that she is still very concerned about the growth and development of her students. She just happens to believe that there are other factors in addition to school work that contribute to a student’s success.
I happen to agree with the spirit of Mrs. Young’s holistic approach to success. In fact, I think her recommendations are quite helpful for adults as well. Who amongst us couldn’t benefit from spending more time connecting with family and friends, reading, playing outside, and getting plenty of sleep? That’s a nightly homework routine that I believe can help both kids and adults to succeed.