Homework or No Homework

  • by Bryan Wetzel - Mon, 12/05/2016 - 10:51

 

For the past few years, there has been an increase in the number of headlines regarding parents complaining about homework.  There are even parent groups petitioning to ban homework.  The complaints fall into two categories.  The homework is too hard, or there's too much homework or both.  Fueling this has been the recent studies, which seem to show that homework has no benefit to students, which have been shared millions of times on Facebook. 

Before I go on, I should let the readers know that I put very little stock anymore in studies.  I’ve often joked that the internet, for all its good, has also caused an information avalanche and most people can not sort out good information from the bad information.  You can find a study that contradicts almost any study already circulating the internet.  Often people share the studies that support what they already believe or what they hope is true.  Without any concern about who did the study, who was tested, or how the study was conducted. Many people these days have become headline readers, without reading deeper into an article that may layout exceptions to the headlines key point.  Sadly a lot of misinformation is pass around and believed, despite contradictory information from other sources.  Case in point - this past summer an article ran on a website that no one had ever heard of, with the headline claiming that kids get all their intellect from their mothers.  This headline was re-published, shared on social media, mentioned in news broadcast, millions of times in the first week it was seen on Facebook.  If you are the mother of brilliant children, then you were probably very proud, but if your children were less than brilliant, you might have been depressed.  However, the articles from credible scientist and researchers, who debunked the study were almost never shared and so to this day many people are blaming their mothers for their poor math skills.  There are studies that prove both sides of the homework argument.  So going forward I will not use data from studies, I will use common sense, and I will tell you what teachers who work with children every day have to say. 

Let me first say that I’ve encountered only a few teachers that say homework is not necessary or needed to educate children more effectively.  Most of the teachers, I’ve discussed this with are pro-homework.  It should be noted that teachers don’t get extra income from assigning homework, in fact, it's more work for a teacher to create and grade, which means not assigning homework can reduce a teacher's workload.  Teachers assign homework because it only makes sense that a child who was taught something new on Tuesday at 9 am will need to see that information again before they can be tested on it at the end of the week.  Many readers have probably heard “repetition is the mother of learning and the father of action, which makes it the architect of accomplishment.”  Most parents who are reading this probably think that what is taught on Tuesday at 9 am is reviewed on Wednesday and Thursday, but that is not always the case in our current education system.  A daily review has gone more and more by the waste side as the rigor of the curriculum has increased.  As one teacher I spoke with said: “Because the volume of content I have to teach each week is so rigorous, I don’t have time to stop and make sure everyone understands yesterday’s lesson, we have to move on or we’ll fall behind.”  Homework provides a teacher a quick snapshot of who in the class understands the lesson and who will need extra help.  It also helps the teachers understand what the class as a whole doesn't’ understand, which can make their teaching better in the future.  Many students will be able to work through a lesson or a math problem while in a classroom, where they may feel more confident with a teacher being available to assist.  Getting a student to do the work at home develops confidence in being able to work through problems and to problem solve for themselves.  Plus, homework teaches good time management and responsibility for finishing a task.  Of course, your children don’t want to do homework, but that's another key lesson they learn.  When they go out into the workforce, they will be asked to do things they may not want to do but must be done to complete a task.  It's part of teaching your children to have a good work ethic.  Homework also helps teach study habits.  Below is a list of 10 benefits that educators say come from homework:

10 Benefits of Homework

  1. Homework teaches students about time management.
  2. Homework teaches students how to set priorities.
  3. Homework helps teachers determine how well the lessons and material are being understood by their students.
  4. Homework teaches students how to problem solve.
  5. Homework gives students another opportunity to review the class material.
  6. Homework gives parents a chance to see what their child is learning in school.
  7. Homework teaches students that they have to do things, even when they don’t want to.
  8. Homework teaches students how to take responsibility for their part in the educational process.
  9. Homework teaches students how to work independently.
  10. Homework teaches students the importance of planning, staying organized and taking action.

 

There are many reasons, in my view, that have lead to the villainization of homework and teachers who assign it.  Parents today have much busier lives than in the past.  Whether its sports/dance for their kids or long work hours, parents are looking for ways to reduce the time crunch they have at home.  Concerning sports and after school activities, these are voluntary, and I wish more parents would dedicate as much time and motivation to their children’s school work as they do in sports. I’ve heard from many teachers that parents will write a note asking for their child to be granted forgiveness or extra time because their nine-year-old child was out playing sports till 11 pm.  Sadly, some people will read that last line and not see a problem.

Another chief complaint is the difficulty of homework today, particularly math homework.  What a 6th grader learns in math today, wasn’t taught until 10th grade to anyone over the age of 35.  I have to give the schools a lower grade on this issue.  Very few schools send home books anymore, and the resources that are provided on many teacher web pages is not very much help at home.  When I was a kid, and I said “I don’t understand my math homework,” my dad would say “get out your textbook, ” and we’d go through the chapter together, often with a lot of yelling, but we’d figure it out ourselves.  Today, when that same scenario comes up, there are no textbooks, and now everyone is Googling and using resources that may or many not fit what they need to learn.  Much of Skubes’ success is because we help fill this gap at home.  Skubes has become the textbook in that scenario. 

Let me finish by stating that I didn’t write this to chastise parents with after school activities or who work long hours.  I also wasn’t attacking schools and the people that run them.  With textbooks, there are reasons why they have disappeared.  If your kids play sports, I get it, this is being written by someone who played sports through high school and coached his kids for many years. This article is to give some balance to the discussion about homework and to bring about a discussion on what is right and wrong with what your children are being asked to do at home.  If you are a parent who believes that the educating is done at school and relaxing and decompressing is what should go on at home (I saw that quote on a twitter comment), then you probably are not going to have your mind changed.  Although I didn’t go into it, there is such a thing as too much homework.  However, there seems to be an even wider gap of agreement when trying to sort out what too much may be.  Maybe I’ll read some studies and write another article.

The Ten Benefits list came from Hot Chalk Lesson Plans