The question of how much work children should be doing outside of school remains controversial with strong evidence of both benefits and drawbacks. Many families choose an independent school for academic rigor and those families should be provided with opportunities for extra home learning if they so choose.
In an effort to provide differentiated instruction for the unique needs of every child, we think that it should provide enough flexibility to meet the needs of different families. Homework can fulfill several important purposes:
- strengthen the link between school and home,
- allow parents to understand more about what their child is learning in class,
- provide opportunities for revision of skills learned,
- in some cases allow for a preview of concepts that will be learned in class (what we call the flipped classroom)
- allow students to gain responsibility and independence and engage with their academic learning.
Reading is most beneficial
Recent research has shown that the most beneficial homework for students at the elementary level is reading at home. Depending on the child’s age, this can and should include hearing stories read to them by parents and also independently reading themselves. Some written exercises, practice in math skills or other activities can also be included in homework assignments.
Children at the elementary level should not be required to complete excessive homework. To ensure this, French and English teachers coordinate to make sure their combined homework does not exceed the maximum limits. It might also mean that homework in both languages (outside of reading) does not occur every night. EB understands that families have many commitments to juggle including work obligations, extracurricular activities, family time, meals and opportunities for unstructured play.
Weekly packets vs. daily assignments
In order to provide flexibility for families, teachers may offer weekly packets for homework instead of nightly assignments. This allows families to complete the assignments as their time and schedule allow. Teachers can also allow these weekly deadlines to include a weekend to provide families with more flexibility.
Finally, depending on the needs of the child/family, homework assignments should be adjusted. Setting a maximum time limit is one option (10 minutes per grade level eg, G1 10 minutes, G3 30 minutes etc..)--if the child has spent that amount of time on their homework, then they stop no matter if the assignment is completed or not. Differentiating the assignments is another possibility--some students receive a lighter assignment than others.
What does the research say about homework? What’s the ideal time spent on homework? What should parent involvement look like? Read more in this article by the Association for Curriculum and Supervision Development (ACSD).