The Great Debate
There’s a slim chance that you haven’t personally been part of the great homework debate. It boils down to this:
There’s too much! No, there’s too little! It’s stressing the kids out! But they’ll lose academic advantage without it!
It’s such a widely debated argument, and we want to delve into it a bit—to review both sides of the debate, to share our viewpoint here at 2nd Nature Academy, and to offer a few ideas on how to make homework take less time and be more meaningful.
Maybe, in the end, it’s not so much about the amount of homework assigned… but the content of the homework itself.
The Argument For Homework:
- It acts as continued education which provides an academic advantage
- It teaches children that they must sometimes do things they don’t want to do, building on responsibility, self-discipline, and motivation
- Research shows that homework is correlated to working memory and that providing one concept in multiple environments will improve their retention of the subject
- It prepares them for the “real world,” where higher education and the workday doesn’t necessarily end after class or clocking out
- It helps students become independent learners
The Argument Against Homework:
- Children are at work all day during school and need time to let off steam after school
- Outdoor and physical play are more valuable than busy work
- The amount of homework often results in sleep deprivation, undue stress, extended sedentary lifestyles, and less time with friends and family
- Homework as busy work depletes motivation and the natural excitement and joy for learning
- It swaps positive family time with stressful and argumentative family time
Less Is More
At 2nd Nature Academy, we tend to think that “less is more” when it comes to homework. At our school, they already spend at least 7 hours on campus. To send them home with 2 more hours of worksheets would not only be unnecessary, but irresponsible as stewards of their academic and developmental well-being.
We believe that physical activity and fresh air fuel the brain—if a child has the opportunity to play outside after school, they’ll be better equipped to effectively and mindfully complete any homework after, and the day only allows for so much time to do both.
With the amount of stress, anxiety, and depression resulting from the classrooms these days, it seems unjust to extend it far beyond the already lengthy school day. A healthy kid is a happy kid and a happy kid is a willing learner. Plus, it’s unfair to suggest that no learning comes out of free-play. In replacing time for free play with hours of homework, we take away time for natural skill building in critical thinking, problem-solving, creativity, and collaboration.
Not to mention, we (as parents, educators, admissions officers, and employers) always harp on the necessity of “well-rounded” individuals. There’s nothing well rounded about straight curriculum for more than half of our waking hours.
Content Over Time
Take a moment to consider that all students learn differently. This means that what might take one learner 20 minutes to complete could take another learner over an hour. Time, when it comes to homework, is almost an irrelevant argument.
What’s as important is the content of the homework given. It’s almost as if every educator and administrator decided ahead of time that children must do SOMETHING after school… filling a spot that may have not needed any filling. It often feels like our school systems have planned in a second shift of work simply for the sake of work.
So, how do we assign meaningful homework?
Before Creating An Assignment, Ask Yourself The Following Questions:
Will the homework excite students about the subject?
Will the homework make them think deeper about the subject?
Will the homework build upon their learning, instead of simply revisiting it?
4 Less Time Consuming & More Meaningful Homework Ideas
1. Long-Term Projects As Time Management & Self Discipline
If you assign a long-term project with a detailed rubric, students can organize and chip away at the project in a way that emphasizes focus, time-management, and self-discipline. They will learn quickly that it benefits them to work a little each night, instead of having a few sleepless nights before a due date.
2. Practicing Foundational Skills That Must Be Maintained
Some things must be practiced to be maintained, such as your multiplication tables or reading skills. It only takes small but steady and regular increments to maintain such skills.
3. Real Life & Personalized Application That Interests, Enriches & Motivates
If homework teaches positive skills such as motivation, self-discipline, and independent learning, then it might benefit the educator to instill some sense of agency into homework. Assign projects and homework that take what’s been learned in school and applies it to the real world… and, even more specifically, to their real world. Not only will it improve understanding, but there will be personal motivation to learn. Improve writing skills with journaling. Let them choose their own pre-approved books for nightly reading. Make language study fun with DuoLingo assignments.
4. Studying For Understanding & Skill Building Vs. Rote Memorization
At 2nd Nature Academy, we always push the practice of learning for understanding. Why wouldn’t you extend that after school hours? Whatever you do, don’t assign busy work. It’s painful for the student, for their parents who are trying to help them and, in the end, for you to grade the same sheet 18 times over (or 24 times over, if you’re a public school teacher!). If it has no meaning or doesn’t help maintain or build upon a skill… maybe let the kids go outside and play instead.