When the topic of school is brought up, one of the first things that comes to mind for many people is homework. Being assigned homework used to just go without saying, it was just a reality of life.
I remember loving the idea of homework when I finally got to the upper elementary grades that actually assigned homework- just like my big brother! I was mostly enthralled by the assignment notebooks that we received to go along with said homework. I think this required elementary school assignment notebook started my (still ongoing) obsession with planners; my planner and to-do lists still go everywhere with me! It gives me a sense of calm to look over it daily, to create all my different to-do lists, add highlights, plans, events, tasks, and then eventually get to cross them off. Yes, I am that person who sometimes adds an item to my list after the task is already completed just so I can get the satisfaction of crossing it off. Anyone else??
Well, even though the assignment notebook was extremely thrilling in my childhood, I realized that actually doing homework eventually lost its thrill and luster. Time started to become a precious commodity and homework seemed to take up so much of that time- especially on weekends! As a kid, I tried to make it more engaging by sitting on my front porch steps doing my homework side-by-side with my neighbor peer as he did his. As I grew older and entered high school, I found that my brain does its best thinking and I and am much more efficient in the morning (as opposed to afternoon or evening), so I would start to wake up early to finish homework tasks that were just too daunting to do at night after school, time with friends, cheerleading practice, dinner, and other easier homework. Starting first thing in the early morning is a strategy I still use when working today!
All that to say, as a student, I had my own differing views on homework. However, as a teacher who previously worked in public schools for nine years, I gradually noticed differing views and a shift in the homework mentality from students, parents, and teachers alike.
When I first started teaching at an elementary school, the school that I worked at (as well as all of the schools in that district and surrounding districts) was required to assign homework to students. The expectation was that students would receive 20 minutes of homework per subject area, per night. Since I only taught Reading and Writing, that seemed to be fair, as I was only assigning 40 minutes of homework a night- at the very most. However, when I thought about how my team teacher, who taught Math, Science, and Social Studies, was also assigning the same amount of homework per content area, that definitely adds up quickly. If this was just at an elementary school level, what was expected of the older students?
We started to realistically think about students’ schedules and took into account their time spent at actual school, transportation to and from school, after-school activities that we were always promoting, family time that we were also encouraging, sports, time to read, and time for fun (After all, they’re just kids!). Was there really any time left for homework? Was there time left for kids to just simply be kids?
While there were district and campus expectations that I had to respect and follow from a teacher’s role, this really made me aware of the differing views that I was starting to be exposed to when it came to assigning homework to elementary kids.
My job for this blogpost is mainly just to present these ideas to you today and to get you thinking. Where do you stand on it? What experiences have you had with your child in school? What experiences did you have when you were a student?
At Dailies, we primarily don’t assign homework, but we do make sure we incorporate projects and tasks into the time we have with the students. We do offer optional curriculum resources and activities for those parents and students who do want more supplementary and independent learning.
Here are some thinking points for those who are in agreement with assigning homework:
- Allows more time for independent and application practice (There’s never enough time in the school day!)
- Acts as a great check for understanding
- Enables students to work independently and adopt study skills and responsibility
- Teaches students that schooling is important
- Inspires students to know that learning can take place anytime, anywhere
- Can involve parents in the schooling process
- Able to complete projects and have materials that are not available in the classroom
And for those who disagree with homework being assigned to young children:
- The work is not always the student’s own authentic work or representative of their true abilities
- Worksheets and other typical homework tasks might not truly help the student learn or reinforce ideas
- Prevents the child from spending time with family, community activities, and other methods of entertainment that can teach other important life skills
- May accentuate social inequities
- Can create negative attitudes towards education
As with all things, many educators and parents alike believe there’s a healthy balance regarding how much homework (and the type!) of homework that is actually assigned. Where do you fall on this spectrum? What other ideas could you add to the lists above? We’d love to hear from you!
Another important point to consider is that many schools are no longer assigning homework in the form of worksheets or answering questions, but they are “assigning homework” by asking students to spend that time reading. As an ELA teacher, this is the philosophy that I took on for my students when I was able to have more autonomy over my own classroom. There are many studies that show reading is more beneficial than traditional homework tasks. What do you think about this?
As we look at education as a whole and how is it changing, should we also be looking at how homework is being assigned?