Homework is how you get ready for high school

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Column by Jim Clark

At the risk of bragging, I was a pretty smart kid when I was in elementary school (insert sarcastic comment “what happened since?” here).

I don’t recall ever being told what grade level I was reading, but I knew I was ahead of all my friends.

When I entered kindergarten, I was given the honor of setting the clock, since I was one of the few who could tell time.

Along the way I won spelling bee titles, did well in a geography bee, etc.

All of this is due to my parents’ work. They taught me stuff at home that made school easy.

We were given homework, but not that much, and we were expected to study. But since everything came easy, I had little to do with schoolwork at home. After all, I needed more time for important things, like playing baseball and basketball and stickball..

Then came high school, and I found myself ill-prepared for the rigors of being forced to work on my own. Suddenly, things such as Latin, algebra and biology weren’t as easy to pass, and I found myself struggling.

I realized that I should have done more during my elementary years, but since my grades were good, no one made me work.

That’s why I’m against the new edict that there will be no more homework for elementary public school students in Marion County.

Instead, parents are asked to read to their children each night.

I’ve outlined my reasons for the homework ruling. The reading is a little more complicated. Forget the fact that in many homes the parent(s) may work beyond normal hours. Just check, instead, national literacy websites. They’ll tell you that 14 percent of Marion County residents over the age of 16 are not considered literate. Those figures are from 2003, the latest I could find.

If those people have children, who’s going to read to those students?

To me, I can see no harm in some homework in elementary school. But that brings us to the real detriment to schools: the hours.

For 13 years of school, I went from 9 in the morning to 3 in the afternoon. Period. But now we have problems at both ends of the day. When daylight saving time hits, there are students waiting in the dark for a school bus. And during the winter, when the days are getting shorter, the sun is close to setting when some students get home.

I said the magic words: school bus. Our kids’ lives are dictated by school bus schedules.

There are a lot of problems in schools, not just in Marion County, that need solving. Homework is not one of them. At the risk of using a tired cliche, this is a solution in search of a problem.

Teachers should make their own decisions on homework. They don’t need micro-managing from the county office.

Jim Clark is the editor of the South Marion Citizen and West Marion Messenger.