by Lyn Lomasi, Staff Writer
The subject of homework has long been a debate among parents and teachers. Some teachers believe it is essential, while some find other ways to add to the curriculum. There are parents like myself who feel it takes up valuable time. This time could otherwise be spent reading, playing, or learning in other ways. As a mom, homeschool teacher, and former public school parent, I've seen it from more than one side. I've also done research over the years, as well as asked opinions of teachers. My research and opinions below are accompanied by recent conversations with three teachers.
Homework vs Study Time
Besides what is being taught in class, kids may need or desire to do extra research on their own. They also may want to read unassigned books for the pure enjoyment of reading. However, when homework takes up a substantial amount of time, this may not be possible. The student may tire or run out of time before extracurricular activities or bedtime. Children should be free to explore and learn as much as possible and too much homework may hinder that process. My personal thought is that study time needs to be reevaluated and should be done freely versus being assigned. I expressed some of my thoughts on how to do that in another writeup: "Should Current Homework and Study Methods be Reevaluated?"
Ann W, a teacher and parent, shared the following with me:
"There are several negative effects of traditional homework assignments, especially upon elementary school children. In my experience as a parent and former public school teacher, I've seen both sides to the issue. If homework lacks substance or too much is assigned, children become increasingly frustrated and may develop a bad attitude toward school. In our own experience, homework took four hours of time to complete. Not only did this take away from our family time together, it also reduced the amount of time our child was able to devote to individual reading.
"Down time and actually having the time to read for pleasure can refresh and prepare a student for further learning. Excessive homework, such as writing 20 spelling words 25 times each by a child who can spell all the words correctly and has a fine motor disability, creates a stressful atmosphere and is a waste of precious time. That is just one of the reasons, among many, that we eventually chose to home school our daughter."
Benefits or Drawbacks?
This is the area where it seems the answer varies depending on who you ask. Not all teachers agree and not all parents agree. According to an article on Scholastic.com, there is not credible evidence to suggest that there is a tangible benefit from homework. In fact, in that same article, there is evidence of a no-homework policy working well for students. The argument given by one teacher is that homework is essentially the same as if an adult went to work and then came home and kept working for several more hours. Some may in fact do this, but why put so much pressure on anyone, especially children?
Then, there are those who argue there are indeed benefits. For instance, Sandra Peterson, a teacher, tutor, and home educator shared this with me:
"Especially in the subject of math, homework is, in my opinion, essential. Homework is one of the best day-to-day assessment tools a teacher can utilize. Daily homework can alert a teacher to comprehension problems early enough that the lesson can be re-taught. This is important in math since one concept builds upon another. If the student does not understand how to find factors, they may not understand how to reduce fractions or make equivalent fractions from two fractions with unlike denominators. Many students learn best by practicing skills in a lesson or by summarizing what they have learned in an essay. Not that homework is rote learning, but homework can provide one more opportunity to cement those concepts in the brain. Homework can also be utilized to allow the student to express his individuality, especially in the creative writing portion of the language arts curriculum."
When Can Kids be Kids?
Another argument against homework is that often kids are spending so much time on it, there is no time left for anything else. What about extracurricular activities? What about family time or just regular kid time? When my kids were in traditional school, by the time my oldest was finished with homework, she had no time to do anything but eat dinner and prepare for bed. Yes, learning is extremely important. But so is downtime, fun time, and fitness. All have benefits and all are necessary. If children are spending all their time on homework, where is the time for any of this?
High school teacher Amanda Herron told me what works for her students:
"I teach on a block schedule, instead of traditional, which means our students have four classes a day (instead of eight) and stay in one class for 90 minutes (instead of 55). I rarely, if ever, give homework because I feel that as an effective teacher I should cover what I need to in 90 minutes. Research does back up that daily practice of concepts helps with memory retention, but I feel that in 90 minutes my lessons should teach the concept and offer practice time. By doing traditional 'homework' assignments in class, the students have peer coaches and teachers to ask questions and get help. Especially at the high school level, few parents can help on homework assignments. Also, our students have such full, high-stress lives. At my school, we have a high teen parent rate, added to the necessity of after-school jobs for essentials like gas (and unfortunately for some of my students, family groceries due to the high-unemployment in our area). Colleges are looking for sports, extra-curriculars and community service. If every teacher assigns an additional 45 minutes of homework, our students (with only four teachers) would need an extra three hours in their schedules.
"The average schedule for one of my students:
7:00 a.m. ~ Bus stop.
7:40 a.m.- 3:00 p.m. ~ School day
3:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. ~ Sports (football, basketball, etc)
5:00 a.m. - 9:00 p.m. ~ after school job or baby sit children/siblings until parents get home from later-shift jobs
"There is no time in my students schedules for homework every night. They would not be finished until after 1:00a.m. At schools with traditional schedules (more classes meeting in a day) that could go longer. So, I'm not a fan. I get a better result from my students by keeping practice and project times in class and I have no problem doing this and still covering my state-mandated standards."
What is Being Taught in Class?
A final question that I struggle with often: "What's being taught in class?" If a child is learning for hours throughout the day, why is it necessary to then come home and repeat the process? Haven't they been learning all day already? As someone who has had children in public school and has educated them at home, I have seen things as both a parent and teacher. Whenever we are homeschooling, I have found the children complete more lessons in less time than when they attended traditional school. That's why I struggle so much in understanding why it's necessary to repeat lessons during a time that should be family time.
Because of homeschooling, the performance of most of my kids has increased. They sometimes complete two grade levels per subject every school year. This is without having extra work to complete at the end of the day. Because of this, I'm left to wonder why traditional schools need to assign extra work outside of class. Shouldn't the length of their school days compensate for that? I have the utmost respect for educators and believe most do have the students' best interests in mind. It's just something I have yet to understand, based on research and personal experience.
*Thanks to Amanda Herron, Sandra Peterson, and Ann W for your opinions.
**I originally published this content via Yahoo Contributor Network
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