I don’t remember an excessive amount of homework when I was in school. I do, though, explicitly remember doing specific homework assignments, but that’s because I don’t think I did that many. The few I did, therefore, stand out. Weekly, I did a workbook page or two of my foreign language, a short study guide for history, the few math problems I didn’t get done in class, and added finishing touches on English essays. A couple hours a week, maybe? And my husband tells me he did even less than that.
Then education changed, as it always does, and homework became mandatory. Rote. Ubiquitous. Lots of it. Every night. As if the homework itself created rigor and had the power to transform learning. If I had to pinpoint a cause, I would look to No Child Left Behind -- high stakes tests and expectations for kids to know excessive amounts of content knowledge.
With recent changes in standardized testing, current educational reform, and clear parent voices, districts are beginning to rethink the purpose of homework. They are even beginning to place restrictions on the amount of homework kids can be assigned, limiting the amount of time or number of pages sent home each night. The days of “piling on the work” in the name of rigor are being revisited. In professional development meetings, educational research is being disseminated on local campuses, and school faculty are discussing the research findings -- that too much homework can be a detriment to learning.
I say, “It’s about time.”
The research tells us that too much homework causes undue stress. Research tells us that there is oftentimes clear disparity between homework and achievement. Research also tells us that excessive homework results in diminishing returns.
So thank you, local school districts, for having these tough conversations and challenging teachers to reevaluate their status quo.
If your child’s teacher hasn’t yet embraced this new direction in assigning homework, however, I have one question you can ask on your next Back to School Night, Parent/Teacher Conference or Open House to hopefully get your child’s teacher to think more carefully about her practice.
“What is the purpose of your homework?”
Is it given in the name of practice? Is it given to attain mastery of a skill? Is it to introduce new concepts or content? Can less be done with the same result? Is it necessary? Regardless the answer, just make sure the teacher has one. Homework for the sake of homework just isn’t a good enough answer any more.
Imagine your home without homework every night. What might you talk with your kids about instead? What could you do more of as a family? What extracurricular activities would you now get to enjoy? How might your child’s life be more fulfilling? Could all your lives be less stressed? Would there be fewer tears?
Ultimately, more purposeful homework planning on a teacher’s part will create more purposeful living for a child.
Imagine all the free time. What will you do with it?
Anything you want --- and that’s the purpose!