What is the purpose of homework? As an educator, I find myself having this conversation-turned-debate too often with colleagues and friends. While I understand that at its core, homework is meant to reinforce what’s being taught in the classroom and technically, provide parents insight into what’s being learned at school, I struggle with the concept of homework, as is, to be completely necessary.
I know I can sound contradictory as I advocate for Dual Enrollment, Advance Placement and involvement in numerous extra-curricular activities. With all that, it’s no wonder so many kids suffer from anxiety and stress. However, homework shouldn’t just be another task added to an already busy child. If the purpose of homework is to truly reinforce, there’s no reason for students to take home packets of worksheets. How is busy work meant to reinforce? They should be taking home a menu of choices of activities that will actually reinforce the material being studied. Perhaps in high school, homework can be a little denser as it’s meant to help prepare students for the dreaded essay assignments in college; and technically, middle school prepares students for the not-so-fun homework life of high school, but there is no reason for elementary kids to be going home, stressed out about the infinite amount of homework they’ve been assigned.
As a current elementary teacher, I want to believe that homework isn’t just busy work being sent home for completion. I know some teachers send it home as a form of teaching students’ accountability, time management skills and organization. But what if we rethought homework and allowed it to be an opportunity for students to make-real world connections? What if instead of the homework packet we provided students a menu of activities to engage in with their parents? What if we provided parents an opportunity to be a part of their child’s education without the stress of having to figure out Common Core math but rather facilitated their conversations with their children?
Homework serves and should serve multiple purposes. It should definitely be used to teach responsibility and accountability but why not enhance its purpose and allow it to be an extension of school in a way that is both engaging and beneficial to all students? Parents are busy, but I don’t know of many of them who don’t want to participate in their child’s learning. In the same manner, students shouldn’t hate the word ‘homework’. They should not think of it as something worth stressing about.
Perspective is everything. Perhaps if we become more intentional about the way we assign homework, students and parents’ views on it will also shift. Maybe the unnecessary detentions for no homework can finally end and we can teach students that life is about so much more than turning in packets of homework on a given date. And maybe, if we made homework an opportunity for parents to get involved, our parent engagement would also increase at the school level. Truth is homework isn’t absolutely necessary, but if it’s being assigned, allow it to at least be meaningful.
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