Should Schools Eliminate Homework?
Recently, some schools districts in New York, Vermont, Florida, and Pennsylvania decided to ban homework. They claim that a student's time can be better spent reading, engaged in a sport/activity, or bonding with family members. Is it possible for kids to still process what they're taught at school and receive a solid, well-rounded education without doing any homework? At FamilyEducation we weighed the pros and cons of homework.
It Applies to Real Life
Adrian Ridner, CEO and Co-founder of Study.com green- lights homework. "Homework in the traditional sense (worksheets, structured assignments...) may not be appropriate for all kids, but continuing the learning experience is what's important," he says. "While traditional assignments might not contribute to academic performance, simple activities at home can help students retain concepts and apply them to real world situations."
Parents Can Reinforce Concepts
Homework gives parents a glimpse of what their kids are being taught in the classroom--and armed with that knowledge, says Ridner, parents should become advocates for their child's learning. "Involve kids in cooking to help them practice math skills, have them help with gardening to introduce basic science principles, or take them on short educational outings after school to encourage learning."
Don't Rule Out Screentime
Introduce kids to educational apps. "Short, animated video lessons can keep your child engaged and teach them new material, or help them brush up on information they learned in class," says Ridner.
Kids Learn Differently
According to Ridner, it's important to remember that kids have different learning styles; some may be visual learners while others favor written words. "Some kids may need that extra time at home to master certain subjects, while for others, class time is sufficient. Helping your child learn at home allows you to experiment with different learning techniques and determine what works best for your child." Adds educator Franklin Schargel: "Homework allows students to deepen their learning and to raise questions about the work they do not understand." That's where supervised online research at home may come into play.
Consider "Splitting Up" Assignments
To help prevent "brain drain", Schargel suggests elementary school teachers 'break up' work to do at home; so every night is a different subject. "Monday can be Science, Tuesday -- English, Wednesday -- Math, Thursday -- History and so on," he says. Barbara Hershey, Executive Director, Parents, Teachers and Advocates, Inc., recommends 15-20 minutes of assignments for Kindergarten to 3rd grade, 4 times a week; and 20-45 minutes for grades 4 to 8, 4 times a week, plus test prep.
Lesson Concepts Should be Done at School
Karen M. Ricks, a certified Montessori elementary teacher and chef at OurKitchenClassroom.com argues that homework makes "no contribution to academic achievement for elementary children, and may only moderately impact performance for older students." She believes that the introduction, practice, and review of lesson concepts and objectives can and should be done at school during regular elementary school hours. "This allows children the remainder of the day for exploration of other extracurricular interests."
Consider the Mental Separation, and Leisure Time
Homework elimination, adds Ricks, gives young children plenty of free time after school in which to pursue music, art, sports, and leisure; provides adequate time for family meals, reading (independent and/or with a parent), and rest, and ensures ongoing enthusiasm for learning by allowing sufficient mental separation from academic activity. "Rather than resulting in laziness and a lack of desire, I believe homework elimination has exactly the opposite effect, motivating children to dive more deeply into activities which most interest them."
Kids Can Only Process So Much
"The school day is already long and it feels developmentally inappropriate to make children continue to work in the evening," says David Robinson, Elementary Building Principal at School Lane Charter in Bensalem, PA, which recently eliminated at-home assignments from its curriculum. "The brain can only learn so much in a day." He adds: "Most of the work was rote memorization where the students had to regurgitate what they learned that day. At SLCS, we approach classroom instruction with a model that is much more inquiry-based and exploratory, so why would we change that approach when students got home?"
Remember: Parents Cannot Always "Help" With Homework
"Some students have a parent at home who knows how to support them, and some don't," says Robinson. "Factoring homework into a student's grade is unfair at such a young age because it is so dependent on what a parent is able to do." At Robinson's school, those who agreed with homework elimination felt like it reduced stress at home, allowed families to spend more quality time together, and made their children happier. "Those that disagreed felt like they weren't as tapped into how their students were doing academically and wanted the extra push for their children."
Students Can Still Learn Responsibility
"Students can learn about responsibility in a variety of ways," explains Robinson, "and if you as a parent are nagging your child to do their work each night and find yourself in a constant battle, are you really teaching them to be responsible anyway?"
Nancy Gretzinger, EdD, an Arizona-based retired teacher, feels homework should be given as extra credit. "I don't believe kids will become lazy without homework, however, they will be unprepared for the responsibility, discipline, and amount of homework in middle and high school," she argues. "By middle school and especially high school, it can be hours of assignments per night."
Reading is a Solid Alternative
"I would highly recommend reading for 10 -30 minutes a night," says Gretzinger, who suggests schools supply a reading log documenting what kids are reading, and for how long. "Families might consider a group silent reading time for all members for several reasons, such as, it would give the family 'together time,' and illustrate the importance of reading. An alternative would be some type of game or puzzle, which can also be logged."
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Rachel is a NY-based mom of two daughters and a nationally-published writer.