Oh, homework! After a long school day, do we need to push our students to keep working? Is additional academic time via homework essential for academic success? This is one of the questions we always hear from parents and as we begin a new school year, the timing is right for a discussion.
A Minimalist Approach
At The Grayson School, we have a minimalistic approach to homework for our younger students: we believe that we are stretching our students to discover and learn new material during the school day, so we encourage families to let them run and play after school. If they can send them outdoors to stretch their minds and bodies and to connect with nature, even better. During the day, students are expected to work hard and follow a schedule, but once at home, pursuing their own interests has benefits beyond the classroom.
Allowing your younger child to choose an after-school activity — whether it’s reading, Lego-building, a team or individual sport, or working in the garden or preparing a meal with you — enables kids to interact with their world on their own terms. Think of the child who may struggle socially but excels at playing the piano, or the student who has a hard time writing but shines on the soccer field.
Research Explores: Is Homework Essential?
So, if your children aren’t doing homework, will they keep up with students do who study after school?
Research says not to worry.
Karen Rogers, Ph.D. is a Professor of Gifted Studies in the Special Education & Gifted Education Department, College of Education, Leadership, and Counseling at the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and a member of the Grayson Research Advisory Board (GRAB). She presented a summary of her research on gifted students to our parents. Her research shows that gifted students are significantly more likely to retain science and mathematics content accurately when taught 2-3 times faster than a “normal” class pace. Correspondingly, gifted students are significantly more likely to forget or mislearn science and mathematics content when they must drill and review it more than 2-3 times.
Inspired by Alfie Kohn’s book, The Homework Myth, Katie Charner-Laird, principal of Cambridgeport School and progressive educator, led her own team in reevaluating homework’s worth. Her research, published in the Washington Post, came to the same conclusion Kohn did: “There is no evidence that homework in elementary school leads to an increase in student achievement.” In fact, “One by one,” she says in her article, “my reasons for considering homework an essential part of the elementary school experience were dismantled.”
Making Meaningful Connections is Important
There are parents who believe that some homework is beneficial. We don’t entirely disagree, but would argue that when required, it must be meaningfully connected to what they are doing in the classroom. For gifted learners, in particular, it should not be repetitious drills, but further explorations from class projects, or to engage their minds with “prep work” to allow students to bring their thoughts and questions into the classroom as new topics are introduced.
We are confident that our young gifted learners will actually benefit if given the option to choose an after-school activity that lets them grow, learn and play beyond the structure of school. Given the choice between homework and getting outside, we encourage a walk in the park.