Homework- Yes? No? Maybe So?

The longer that I have been a parent of school aged children, the more the teacher and administrator in me questions the value of homework. Almost every school mission statement talks  about the value of education of “the whole child”, yet asks families to cram extra academic work into time that could be spent on artistic or athletic endeavors that truly meet needs that the school says it values. As a teacher, I am still not sure exactly where I sit so I am going to lay out my thoughts and hope for some feedback from anyone who is reading.

Why do students have homework?
I believe the two main things that teachers are trying to accomplish when assigning homework are to either have students finish up what they were working on throughout the day or to reinforce concepts that are being taught through extra practice.

Does homework accomplish those things?
I guess that depends. Not all kids complete their homework on time, so a teacher still has the issue of not all students being at the same place. Additionally, there has been quite a lot written about the fact thst homework, particularly for younger children, does not appear to have many long term learning benefits.

What about those kids that work more slowly than others? When would they finish?
I don’t think that kids that have brains that take longer to process than others should be penalized for that. Fair and equal are not the same. There is no reason that teachers need to assign the same number of questions to each student or that each assignment has to be the same for each student.

Is homework fair to all kids?
This is a tricky one. We all know that each child walks into our classroom with a unique set of gifts, talents, and challenges. They also all come with unique home situations and level of parental support. I am not so sure that asking kids in difficult home sutuations to be able to navigate the same homework expectations of others is quite fair.

What can you see as benefits to eliminating homework?
Beyond creating a more level playing field for all kids? How about not having the aggravation of kids that constantly don’t have their homework completed on time and what that can do to a child’s self-image?

What would be the major challenge of eliminating homework?
In a word, change. Eliminating homework would mean that  many teachers would have  to change how they  do business. It would mean they would need to do a better job of personalizing learning for their students and communicating learning to parents. Many parents would also need to change because they  would need to see schools today as different from when they went to school.

I am still not sure. Writing this post has helped me think things through a little bit, but I am hoping that anyone out there who is reading can give me their two cents.

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