Homework and homework policies have been all over social media lately. A Texas teacher sent home a note with what is essentially a no homework policy, a parent posted it and it took off from there (you can read all about it here). I began thinking about homework and how best to administer it long before it reared it's head online, however. I have done my own research (which shows that research overwhelmingly does not support homework in elementary schoil), I have experimented with various different ways of assigning homework and have lived it as a working parent trying to carve out a bit of time with my child between dinner and bedtime; from all of that, I have distilled these 5 thoughts about homework.
1. Fitting it in is hard.
Families these days are busy. Kids these days are busy. Very busy. And as much as I have searched for a way around it, I cannot seem to find one (if you've figured it out, please please let me know!). As a parent, I believe that after school activities play an important role in giving my child skills they will need as an adult, so I'm not willing to cut those out. So when do we fit homework in?
2. Family time is precious.
As much time as our children spend at school, it is still home life that shapes who they are. Time spent with family - eating dinner, playing outside, curled up on the couch reading books - is so important to growing kind, caring citizens. Too often, these things (or sleep!) are set aside because families feel pressured to complete home reading logs, flash cards or other well-intentioned homework assignments.
3. Practice anything and you will get better at it.
Landing firmly on the pro side of the homework debate is the fact that practice really does make perfect...or better, anyway. Research shows that the more time you spend with a skill the more likely you are to master it. Therefore, homework, when designed as practice of previously learned concepts, does help your child improve and solidify their skills. That being said, there are many other things your youngster can and should be practicing - sports, music, social interaction, crafting, building, and more!
4. Learning is about more than just reading, writing and 'rithmetic.
While no one can argue that reading, writing and math are hugely important, there are many, many more things to be learned in this wonderful world of ours. Focusing solely on reading and math (which tend to be the two homework items sent home in the primary grades) means that there are many missed learning opportunities in other areas.
5. To reward or not to reward?
An extremely common practice in the primary grades is the reading log - kids record the number of books they read each night and then return it for a small prize once they have reached a certain number. Seems like a fairly good system for motivating kids to read and, for many kids, it works really well. However, for some children it moves them from enjoying reading for the simple pleasure of entering another, imagined world through the pages of a book to reading for external rewards. Many students are eventually turned off by the expectation that they will read nightly, often a book that is not of their choosing.
In the end, we all want what's best for our kids. Sometimes, we lose sight of the long-term goal - creating healthy, literate, numerate, curious and kind adults - in favour of having the "smartest" student in their grade. We live in a highly competitive society and it feels good as a parent to know that your child is doing well in comparison to their peers. As teachers and parents, however, we need to remember that children are developing along multiple strands - physical, social, emotional and academic - and it's our job to support them in all of these.
Unsure of how to meet your child's needs in a developmentally appropriate way? Having trouble letting go of homework? Check out this amazing post from parent.co for a fantastic list of ideas (click on the picture below to link to it).
I'm Bryn, teacher, mom, book lover, athlete. I am passionate about literacy, collaborative teaching and finding new and innovative ways to engage & motivate all kids. I hope you find something that speaks to you here on my blog and would love to hear from you too!