Homework has been a topic of debate for generations. How much is too much? How much is too little? How much is effective? Homework has also been the source of frustration for many families: It takes away from family time, but some parents worry their child will fall behind academically if they don’t have homework.
As an educator and as a parent, homework has been a topic of great interest to me and my observations have been mixed. I have watched my own children struggle with homework assigned by well-meaning teachers. I have heard my children whisper prayers of gratitude for teachers who don’t assign homework. I have also watched students become totally demoralized when assigned homework that was not appropriate for them.
There is a great deal of research on the topic of homework and its impact and outcomes. In theory, homework helps children expand their hours of learning by continuing the learning process at home. However, as with everything, school work does get to a point of diminishing returns, a point at which the student does not actually gain anything for their continued efforts. In fact, the more actively a student learns during their school day, the less likely it is that homework will provide any educational advantage.
In addition, the possible benefits of homework need to be weighed against the opportunity costs. Time after school is limited. For our youngest students, there are only a few short hours between the end of the school day and bedtime. What is the best use of that limited time? How beneficial are after-school activities like soccer or swimming? Children benefit from extra exercise and learning to be good teammates. What about chores? Emptying the dishwasher, walking the dog, and taking out the trash teach life skills that children will need into adulthood. In addition, studies show that family dinners have many benefits for children both in the moment and long-term, although parents often cite not having enough time to prepare and sit down for family meals.
So, what is best for our children? As is often the case, Lerner’s mission has provided the answer: One Child At A Time. This year, we have revised our homework policy to reflect our philosophy of meeting the individual needs of each student. We have asked teachers to focus on quality, not quantity, when it comes to homework. Our students can be assigned reading time each night, but additional assignments should be carefully and judiciously crafted to meet the academic, social and emotional needs of our students. To best reflect our One Child At A Time philosophy, I also encourage you to speak with your child’s teacher about how homework is meeting your child’s needs: academically, socially, and emotionally.
I have no doubt that homework will continue to be a topic of discussion and debate for many years to come. However, I sincerely hope that our updated homework policy for the elementary school will positively impact the growth and learning of our students.
Head of School