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10.16 p36-37 family.

qxp_Fall04 p054-57 garden 9/23/16 11:40 AM Page 36

[ FAMILY ]

SCAREDY
CATS
Getting into the spooky spirit of
the season, Catty Shack Ranch
is inviting little monsters and
parents to explore its Haunted
Forest and Ghoul Garden.
Watch out for zombies and be
prepared for crafts, games,
candy and plenty of time to
view the resident big cats.The
attraction is open October 1416, 21-22 and 28-29.Costumes
are encouraged, but not
required. A costume contest
takes place October 16 at 3 PM.
Adults are $10, children ages 311 are $5, and those two and
under are free. cattyshack.org

u

—TAYLOR NELSON

Does Homework
Work?
After-school assignments can cause stress on parents
and kids alike. Do we really need it?
BY SUE BJORKMAN

Right on
Target
Since 2007, Duval County
Public Schools has partnered
with The National Archery
in the Schools Program to
teach Olympic-style target
archery to students in grades
four through 12. Now, six
additional schools’ PE teachers have been trained to
teach the program. Archery
engages students in history,
math and science by increasing mental focus, balance,
and coordination, and The
National Safety Council
rates archery as more accident-free than popular ball
sports. u —KRISTAL ALSTON

36 |

JACKSONVILLEMAG.COM / OCTOBER 2016

RECENTLY, A LETTER FROM Texas second
grade teacher Brandy Young, declaring her classroom a homework-free-zone, made the rounds on
social media. With her claim that “research
hasn’t proven homework improves student performance,” she reignited a passionate debate.
The “Let kids be kids!” camp says homework
causes stressed-out, over-scheduled, sleepdeprived, obese children. Pro-homework advocates
say it’s essential for high educational standards
and academic achievement. And on it goes.
Researchers have never managed to give a clear
conclusion on homework. But even when the
national Center for Public Education concluded
“Homework is not a strategy that works for all children,” they never said, “Get rid of it altogether.”
In local public and private schools, educators
see both pros and cons.

Teacher Knows Best
“I can see why this [no-homework] decision
was made,” says Duval County Public Schools
Superintendent Dr. Nikolai P. Vitti. “Homework
can certainly widen the achievement gap if par-

ents are not prepared to assist their children.”
Researchers argue homework improves “homeschool relations,” but only if parents are involved.
Vitti says if homework is eliminated, the time
at home should still involve reading, talking about
current events, practicing math problems, etc.,
“not playing video games or watching inane TV.”
Vitti believes homework is beneficial when it
is “relevant, engaging and thought-provoking.
Homework should provide students the opportunity to refine skills, especially math. But if not
done appropriately, homework can undermine
learning and curiosity.”
Both Duval and St. Johns county schools
include homework guidelines in their Student
Progression Plan, then each school tailors its
own policies.
“We don’t give homework just for the sake of
giving it. Homework is only given to enhance
and improve learning,” says Linda Thomson,
director for Secondary Instructional Services for
St. Johns County Schools. Guidelines recommend 10 minutes of homework per day, per