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  • Susie Csorsz Brown

Two forces

A burning question for parents approaching the LONG summer break -Which is the better teacher for kids: play vs homework.

I am a proponent of summer homework. There, I said it. This has become more and more a point of contention: kids should play, release, and just be during the break from school and there is little if any proof that shows a solid improvement or benefit of the homework in academic knowledge. So why do I keep at it? Because it’s not just about academic knowledge; there are also other skills at risk of atrophying; one skill kids have been shown to lose is the ability to take tests, concentrate and complete tasks.

Studies do show that there is a drop in academic abilities and knowledfe after a long summer break. There’s no denying it. It happens: we forget things. Is this the end of the world? Probably not. While I actually do love the idea of year-round school, I also know that all school and no play makes Johnny a dull and tired boy ... And we can't have that. A drop in academic ability is not a horrible thing. If the child actually learned the information the previous year -- really owned the info and the skill -- the ability is not really forgotten so much as not in the forefront of their mind and/or memory. With some reminders and extra practice, the skill will again resurface and become active. So no harm done with a break. With some active review, a few weeks into the school year, we're good to go again. A few steps backwards, but then moving forward.

My point with the homework over the summer is this: why are we having to use the first few weeks of school for review? My boys KNOW this stuff now; I want them to keep it active, and to continue to build on these amazing concepts and skills they've learned throughout the year we just completed... Isn't the idea of school to keep going forward? To build and build on knowledge and skills, and develop the complex abilities that help us to make connections as only humans can. The brain is an amazing muscle; like all muscles, it atrophies without regular use. We've gained so much momentum this year: my youngest is an ace reader and understands complex concepts well beyond his grade, my middle is an apparent budding mathematician and my eldest can spew random science facts like you can't imagine. Doing a page or two of homework every day isn't going to take a huge amount of time ... Oh sure, there is a good bit of whining, wingeing and complaining, and there isn't exactly unanimous agreement on the homework assigned, but it does eventually get completed and then playtime can commence.

I am the last parent you'll find that would say that a kid should not be allowed to play. Or that school work is more important than free time. On the contrary, I firmly believe kids should have the freedom to explore, to play and to learn. Playtime is perfectly designed to sharpen a child's imagination skills, to hone their socializing abilities and to practice cooperation and engagement. Through play, kids develop skills like concentration, intricate thought, and planning. Play is good. Play is important. Play can and will teach your kids skills no book or homework assignment can. But. Academic skills are also very important, and your teachers have already done the hard part, setting the ground work for future successes in learning. You as the parent just need to find the supplies to support the learning you would like your child to do over the break, find the time to sit down and support your child while they do their sheets, and then plug your ears for the whoop that will come once they have finished the sheets and are once again free to run and ... Whoop.

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