There has been an ongoing debate in the education realm, that’s homework. Parents, students, and even some teachers argue whether or not homework is worth their time. On one side, there are people who find homework to be the sole reason for student success and on the other side, there are people who are convinced homework is just a distraction to more important things, like family. When I say homework I mean the traditional, out of class assignment given by teachers for students to complete at home by the next class period. This can range from anything from worksheets with repetitive problems to drill in math techniques to reading a passage and answering questions to prove you read it. All of these extra assignments are known to cause stress and anxiety in students but also have been proven to improve standardized tests scores and classroom performance, which is why this debate hasn’t been solved.
One of the main reasons homework is looked down upon is that it is repetitive and irrelevant to what is being taught. Pasi explains one reason why students do not finish their assignments is because the students may find the assignment is too plain or repetitive. Students explain that the homeworks given should be made more fun and current (Wilson). Often times, people will argue that the giving students “practice homework” will lead to greater knowledge, but drilling something you don’t understand doesn’t cause understanding. It merely causes frustration and boredom (Kohn). many explanations exist for why students are not trying or finishing their assignments at home,; the main reason recorded from students is that they were unsure of how to complete the work in the first place (Wilson).
Instead of giving out the same styled worksheets and readings, it has been suggested for teachers to assign other forms of homework to keep it relevant and current to the lessons in the classroom.teachers from around America have tried out homework alternatives such as reading everyday and group projects. An example of this would be a teacher from texas who assigned no extra homework. The only homework given was if the student had not finished their class work for that day. The teacher pushed the students to participate in different pastimes that also aide in student success such as playing outside, spending time with family, and reading (Students and Homework). We often times don’t think of playing soccer or participating in the family game night as homework, but recent experiments like the one just mentioned in Texas shows that giving children time to be children does improve self esteem, quality of life, and helps destress their life. All of this also aides in their classroom performance. in recent years a study was held in Marion County, Florida. Thirty-one schools around the county outlawed homework and substituted that with twenty minutes of reading a night with the students parents. As the study continued, there were varied feelings reported. However ultimately, the community as whole decided homework does not give elementary students an advantage (students and Homework).
This study shows that homework alternatives may be the way to go. Giving students a worksheet with the same problems over and over can be frustrating to the student and the parent. Teachers have been asked time and time again to introduce more exciting and more various homework assignments like projects, reading, and other “non-practice homework” (Kohn) As many people can attest to, homework assignments can be a huge cause of stress and anxiety in a child’s life. Children have tons of things to keep up with outside of school including sports, family obligations, clubs, volunteer work, religious activities, and many other things, and to add a couple hours of homework on top of it all can be extremely overwhelming. As talked about by trautwein et al. A student who spends ample time completing homework may experience a decreased ability to perform well in that subject. This is caused by the inability to keep the student focused on their work while they are in their own home, surrounded by distractions (qtd in Valle). For example, imagine a sixth grader who is taking a honors math class. This student is fresh into middle school and is figuring out who they want to be, therefore they are joining clubs, playing sports, and trying out instruments. All of this sounds fun until they get home at six o’clock in the evening and then have to complete the two hours of math equations that were assigned to them in class. This gives them no time for play, no time for family, and no time for adequate sleep. All of those things have been reported when we see scores drop and success rates plummet. Not only does overloads of homework introduce stress, it often is the reason for higher reports of exhaustion and anxiety. It may also lead to decreased time for personal time with family or friends. Since homework often times requires parent assistance with younger aged children, Homework also could bring up inequality issues because more lower class families have divorced parents, uneducated parents, or even parents who just don’t have time or care to assist their student (Matei and Ciascai). Students who spend too much time on homework are not always able to be as physically and socially active as needed for a child. The overload of homework young students have to complete on top of other things can and will negatively affect their grades.
The reason most often brought up in the debate of homework is that is oppresses the children’s ability to just be children. In the earlier, developmental stages of a child’s schooling, kindergarten through third grade, the required knowledge is known to be oppressive and damaging to young students instinct to play and use their imagination. This in turn damages their ability to learn and perform well in the classroom. Children learn best from playing and asking questions (Caplan). Simply giving a second grader a sheet of thirty multiplication problems isn’t going to help them learn it. It is instead making them use their brains in a way that haven’t learned to use it yet. Children are supposed to run around, play, and be imaginative. Homework doesn’t allow them to do any of those things. Because of the “one-size-fits-all” created curriculum we are noticing varied levels of readiness in students, as certain five year olds are ready to advance onto things some seven year olds aren’t even ready for yet. The required curriculum does not take these things into account which is obviously very damaging to the student, as not all students learn the same way and therefore are not able to perform all the same types of homework (Caplan). Loic Menzies explains, “whilst important, learning to play by social rules and norms is not the same as having the space to develop your own unique way of interacting with others. ‘Social adjusted-ness’ is not the same as ‘social fluency’”. This quote from Menzies sums up how homework and what is expected out of primary school aged children can be toxic to our society as a whole.
Therapists from all around say that problems in adult life are often rooted in problems we had in childhood. If teachers and schools do not allow children time and space for family, playing outside, exploring themselves, and using their imagination, then there is going to be gaps in the rest of their life. A stable, fulfilled childhood is what leads to stable, fulfilled adulthood.
Although giving homework in proportion can be beneficial to the student, it is not beneficial to the student body. Since no two people are going to learn the same, they aren’t going to get the same things out of it. Homework alternatives need be in place to help individualistic learning experiences. Things like art, reading, projects, and other ways to apply what they learn instead of just practicing it help students brains and their test scores. Places like Finland are already putting this strategy into place and the results are inarguable. In 2016 the OECD reported that Finland students are surpassing other children from all around the world. The report indicates that their success is due to the well-rounded style of schooling, where the days are shorter, homework is scarce, and family time is valued (Students and Homework). Young children need to be able to express their individual selves, not what the social norm is and homework is harming their ability to do so. Teachers need to allow students to go home and color, play in the dirt, enjoy family dinner, and just be children. Homework is okay in proportion but so is sugar, caffeine, and other things that are frowned upon for children. Too much of anything is not a good thing, including homework.
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