To give, or not to give homework?
Feb. 23, 2016
by Jenni Sebora

Age-old questions in the education world have been: How much homework is too much?, How much is too little? Do students need homework at all? It is one of those ongoing cyclical debates.

I am a teacher and a parent, so I experience the homework situation on both sides – and we know parents are part of the homework equation.

This is what I know for sure as an educator and parent – parents should never be expected to teach a new concept. Homework should not be about having to learn a new concept that parents have to teach.

Homework should be meaningful, relevant, and purposeful, regarding a concept that needs to be reinforced. Homework should never be busy work.

Research also shows that for young students, homework is less beneficial. Younger children have less-effective study habits because of their attention span and focus. Also, we know that differences in students’ attention spans and study habits most likely determine whether homework is helpful.

Those students with learning and attention issues will have a harder time with homework, so parents and educators have to keep this in mind.

Having a set study pattern is good for all students. Attempting to do homework at the same time, on the same schedule, in a well-lighted area away from distractions is especially important for students with learning and attention issues.

It is vital that homework is not given as punishment, and that educators ask themselves, “What do I want all students to learn from this assignment?”

Homework is not a tool that works for all students. In fact, it can have a negative impact, decreasing student motivation and interest; therefore, not getting the results intended.

We know that school work may be difficult for some students, and then assigning more for students to do at home only makes students have negative feelings about school.

This isn’t to say there are not benefits to homework. Students learn good study habits, establishing a routine – these are probably some of the best benefits; however, students can also learn this from doing chores at home, which is also crucial for life-long independent living for all.

Homework for all should be assigned moderately and judiciously.

The 10-minute rule formulated by the National PTA and National Education Association suggests that students should be doing about 10 minutes of homework per night, based on grade level, which equates to 10 minutes for first-graders, and 20 minutes for second-graders.

When students get to junior high and high school, homework should never exceed one to two hours. As an educator, I think two hours is too much.

Students are in school for seven hours already, which equates to a full-time job. After this full-time job, many students then participate in some type of activity – a club, sport, theater, religion, fine arts, music, or a job.

How about time with family and friends? How about some time to just relax? Put homework in the equation, and we have an overload.

Children’s brains are also still developing up until the early 20s, which means they need more sleep than adults.

Many children, especially teens, don’t get enough sleep because of their school workload and extracurricular activities. Sleep rejuvenates their brains for the next day. It is vital for physical, emotional, and mental health.

Which parent has not been up late with a teen who has “hit the wall,” because he or she needs to finish a project or some type of assignment.

Of course, students should not overload themselves with too many outside activities, but we need to remember that extracurricular activities are important learning tools on many levels for children.

At the beginning of the school year in the school district where I work, a high school science teacher sent out a memo to all of the parents of the students he has in his classes. The memo’s content was regarding homework.

This teacher was changing his model for homework. He stated that most of the work that students would have would be done in class, and it would be interactive and focused on exactly what concepts he wanted the students to get out of the specific lesson.

He would give time for students to come to him each class period for questions. He would ask clarifying questions of them.

The homework that he did “assign” included eating dinner with family at least once a week, going outside for at least 10 minutes each day to get some fresh air and take in the outdoors, and spend at least 10 to 15 minutes each night reading something the student wanted to read (a magazine, a book, etc.).

How about that for homework?

I love it.

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