To Homework or Not to Homework?

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As I began my elementary teaching career, I was unsure about how I felt about assigning homework…. but in the interest of upholding school policies, I gave it four days a week to my itty bitty second graders –and I held them accountable if they didn’t complete it. I began to believe that homework was an important part of every child’s education. I gave it four days a week as a second, fourth, and fifth grade teacher; by the time I started teaching eight grade, I had changed my tune, though. Now based on my experiences and all the research that I have read, I have completely altered my thoughts on homework –especially in the elementary years. Now don’t get me wrong; when I taught little ones, I didn’t give much homework. They read, did some math practice, or spelling work depending on the night. It was all in the name of responsibility I told myself. By the time I taught older students, middle school, I wanted the projects to be completed in school for many reasons: 1) I wanted to assess what my students knew rather than than what their parents knew, and the best way was for projects and writing to be done in school; 2) middle school students have very busy lives between sports and other extra-curricular activities; I needed to plan around their other seven classes so that they didn’t have a ridiculous amount to do on a given night.

I don’t have children of my own but sometimes watch the evening routines of my friends and laugh (or cry) to myself. I see how exhausted children are by the time they get around to completing work; and how frustrating it is for parents; I begin to understand why they give in so often to hinting at answers or even going so far as to do homework with their children –gasp! What is the purpose of homework? As elementary educators, this is something that we have to carefully scrutinize. Responsibility? Practice? Higher-level thinking? To prepare for the next day’s assignment? Family projects? Could we give our students time during the evening to read with their families?

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