by Dick Buckingham, Administrator
In my 20 plus years in education, I have seen and heard just about everything there is to see and hear on the subject of homework. Is it valuable? Does it have a purpose? Is it even necessary? To be quite honest, when I first began teaching, we were encouraged to provide a lot more homework than is able to be given today. What has changed? Why is there always this struggle over homework between students and teachers, families and schools?
The biggest reason is our culture of life has changed dramatically. When I grew up, a family’s life revolved around three things, family, church and school. Each had their place and each was given priority. Gradually, over the years, other things have crept into the lives of families and children. Now the big three competes with soccer practice, instrument lessons, dance, karate, gymnastics, swim practice, drama practice, television, video games, texting, surfing the web, connecting with people on Facebook, Twitter, youtube, and Myspace, and a host of other social, athletic, artistic activities that fill our childrens’ lives to the point of overflow. Add to that the busyness of parents with their work and other responsibilities, and you have a recipe for everyone complaining about something they are not sure is all that beneficial. So let me answer a couple of questions you may be asking.
Is homework necessary? Yes, for a quality education, it is. When a teacher presents a concept or idea, she gives students the opportunity to express understanding in the classroom. But for most, we don’t truly display much of a level of understanding until we have tried it again later, on our own, without someone telling us what to do next. For some concepts, it is necessary that we get what we were taught today before we move on to additional concepts or levels tomorrow, so having a student practice a few problems or do some reading in the afternoon at home makes it clear to both student and teacher if it is time to move on. From my own experience, some subjects just cannot be taught adequately without there being some time with the student doing work on his or her own.
How much homework should my child have? Homework policies vary widely from school to school but at Faith Christian School, we use the ten minute assessment. An average student should on average be assigned about ten minutes of homework a night per grade level. An average first grader would have about ten minutes, an average second grader, twenty, an average third grader, thirty, and so on. Junior high students should expect about 90 minutes of homework. By the time a student gets to 9th grade, we expect an average student should have about two hours of homework a night, on average. At any grade level, there may be some nights with a little more or a little less, but overall it should average out to about the ten minute per grade level
Why don’t we just figure out a way to teach kids without all the extra work at home? To be honest, this is exactly what mainstream educators and education innovators have been trying to do for several decades. While they may say that they have successfully reduced homework while keeping the academic level high, the reality is all they have done is lower the standards to make it appear the academic level is the same. Look at any study that compares the academic achievement of students around the world and you will see over and over again when compared to students from other important countries, the level of education in the US has slipped dramatically over the past 20 years. We work with a lot of students from other countries at Faith Christian School and I often ask them what school is like in their native country. In most cases, school lasts hours longer than it does in the US, often well into the evening, and they do little other than school work at home. There is a high priority on education that keeps them working hard. The results cannot be denied.
Are you suggesting that my child shouldn’t be active in things outside of school? All of the things that I listed above have their value and benefit. I think it is critically important that parents carefully think through and prioritize what is really the most important activities and use of time for their child. More often than not, your child is not going to be a famous actor or athlete. But even if he or she is, they along with every other child will need to be able to read, do math, think critically and have a relationship with the One who made them no matter what they do vocationally. The education of our children needs to be a high priority in our families. You only get one opportunity to train your child in the basics. You don’t get a do over. You want to make sure they get the most out of their schooling opportunity. There is nothing inherently wrong with any of the above activities if done in perspective of what is truly important. Parents may need to reduce some of the extra activities particularly if their children are feeling overwhelmed. If given a choice, a child will no doubt choose what is fun over that which seems tedious and mundane. But as parents, we need to help our children see the important long term benefits of a solid, well-rounded education.
Have other questions about homework that I have not addressed? Respond to this blog and I will do my best to answer. Know someone you think this blog might help? Take a moment now to share it with them or share it with all your friends on Facebook.