Homework - a topic that will always bring about discussion…but one that rarely achieves total agreement. It can be applied to schooling, work, hobbies, and even relationships. We often hear the old admonition, “But first you must do your homework.” In that sense, it is a lot like doing physical exercise: everyone ought to do it, but few find great pleasure in doing it.
I have found myself dealing with this issue in schooling throughout my fifty-year career, and I have yet to come to a precise answer as to the proper ratio of homework to grades. I do know that parents from other countries desire more homework for their children than do most from the U.S. I have seen kindergarten students from India with as many as seven books in which they write in answers and copy words for two hours every evening. I have also had students from Korea and India who went to school all day, then went to tutoring classes for two more hours each evening.
Most of our U.S. students have sports practice, dance, or scouting type of activities and some have church activities after school. Many have activities every evening and weekends, too. It is a nightmare for a teacher to find the “ideal” time to send home a homework assignment. So, we are constantly adjusting and readjusting the assignments for homework.
It has been my belief that homework for its own sake is just wrong. Why should a child who understands the concept taught, go home and do it many more times? Homework will definitely eat into family time. Yet, I have sent home some homework in the past for two reasons: (1) to teach the child the responsibility of returning work to school the next day, and (2) to have the child practice a concept he/she didn’t get in class, so progress will go on the next day, (only after I helped clarify the problem area to be practiced).
One thing parents don’t consider when they ask for homework to be given so “my child has something to do besides play video games,” is who will grade the extra homework? The teacher already teaches all day, then grades for hours at night and on weekends. For instance, I spend about an hour to an hour and a half grading one assignment and recording the grades. Multiply that by five to six classes per day…and you have countless hours beyond the regular school day. So, I’ve begun telling parents who ask for more homework, where they can purchase grade level workbooks which they can use with their children…and answer keys are in the back.
One other difference I have noticed in this issue as regards U.S. vs. other nations’ homework policies is this: many of the schools in other countries require strict memorization of the facts. We tend to seek comprehension of concepts rather than rote memorization. I do think memorization has a place in education, but I want my students to be able to think…not just recite knowledgeable facts. So, I guess I shall go on without coming to a conclusion about the amount of homework needed for students.
I always point out to parents how they like to come home and relax and forget about work at the end of the day. Are their children any different?