Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Is Homework Necessary When Homeschooling?

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I had an interesting conversation with a friend of mine (whose kids attend pubic school) the other week. She was shocked that my kids, ages 8 and 5, do not have homework. I could have jokingly replied that all of our work is homework, but I didn't. My friend went on to tell me how frustrated she was with the amount of homework that her kids had every night. The homework was actually interfering with their family time as well as the kids' rest. She went on to tell me how they struggled every night to balance the care of a toddler with the night time routine that included helping the kids with hours of homework. So, of course, seeing my kids done with their schoolwork and off working on their areas of interest was shocking to her. It made me really wonder, "Is homework truly necessary?". This is a huge debate that I am sure will not reach a definite conclusion anytime soon, but I was curious about what the majority of experts are saying...

What the Experts Say:
In a 1989 study conducted at Duke University, experts came to a conclusion that less is more. In elementary school-age children, the findings were that there are no measurable academic advantages to homework. For middle schoolers and high schoolers, there is a direct correlation between homework and achievement if assignments that last between one to two hours per night. After two hours, however, achievement does not improve. A recent study also suggests that proper sleep may be more essential to brain and body development.

What I Think:
As I listened to my friend, I really felt blessed to be able to school my kids the way that I feel is necessary. I don't think anyone else's choice of education for their children is wrong, I just really enjoy being able to be guiding them along in their educational journey without interference from the government, or anyone else. I really believe that in many cases, homework is given as a means of reinforcement. I think that teachers believe that the homework not only reinforces the lesson, but also gives parents the opportunity to participate in their child's education. I believe that teachers believe that a parent is able to see what the child is learning, and is able to evaluate whether the child is learning what they should. However, is this really necessary? I believe that a parent who stays on top of their child's grades and assignments, can easily keep track of what their child is or is not learning. Since I really can't tell you the entire reason behind homework, I can only speculate what educators may believe. Maybe it is given to help develop study skills in preparation for a higher education. This theory would make sense for the middle and high schoolers, but I believe that study skills can be taught at any time, not just after school. Could it also be a way to keep kids busy and away from television after school? Well, couldn't this be achieved by having them read a book that interest them (building a love for reading), working on a puzzle or model car, or by simply working on a fun at-home project, or even cooking with mom or dad? Not only would the child be learning and keeping busy, but they would also be spending quality time with their family before going off to bed to begin another 8-10 hour day.

As a homeschooler, there are no homework assignments (unless there is a project to complete), and we don't have 8 hour days. We usually finish our work in 4 hours everyday. At the end of our day, we have completed about 3 days worth of assignments compared to "brick-and-mortar" standards. This is due to the fact, that we don't have 30 kids to teach, lunch breaks, recess breaks, or many distractions (other than a very busy 18 month old). Our lunch and recess is usually done after the school day is complete. This leaves our after school activities such as creating games, learning coding, working on 8-bit Art, drawing, cooking, or simply spending time together. I can respect the idea of homework, but I just don't have a lot of use for it. I would rather my kids be well rested and ready to tackle the next day's tasks. To me, having a 6 year old work on homework until 9 or 10:00 at night really doesn't seem right. Isn't 8 hours enough to learn what is required? Can an extra 2 hours a night actually make a difference? This is something that I am sure will be debated for a long time to come.

So, do I feel that homework is necessary to learn and master a skill? In elementary, I can say, "no". However, in middle and high school, a few extra lessons or studying for a test won't hurt, it will probably help them prepare for those late night college sessions that are soon to come. For now, having happy, healthy, alert, and well rested kids is what I think is truly necessary and beneficial to their education.