Homeschool Homework: Yes or No?
Homeschooling parents, especially those just getting started on their homeschooling journey, will have to address the issue of homeschool homework at some point. There has been great debate over this topic for years, but it all boils down to personal choice. For some homeschooled children, homework can be a necessity, a way to help keep homeschool families focused and on track, or even a means of satisfying an insatiable desire to learn. I went through this myself when I had to buy college texts for my third grader, because she simply could not learn enough about geography, specifically earthquakes!
On the other hand, some homeschooled children are super-fast learners and seem to absorb everything in record time, during classwork. In instances like this, there is simply no point in homework, right? Well, we wish it were that easy! There are always extenuating circumstances that can help plead the case “for or against” homework, and that’s what we'll delve into here.
Is There a Case for Homeschool Homework?
Let’s be honest, most homeschooling parents might not even think about homework if it weren’t such an integral part of the public school system. But is that a policy we want to mimic? Reports are abundant of what is now being called “homework overload”, with some parents complaining that their elementary-aged children sometimes have as much as two hours or more of homework on many evenings. I read a study, which was conducted in 2005 and released in the American Journal of Family Therapy that said it’s not uncommon for traditional school students in the elementary levels to be asked for more than three times the homework than is recommended by the National Education Association. The result is stressed-out children, stressed-out parents, and an overall picture of a generation that is “subpar” in their education because they can’t measure up to this heinous model of compliance expectations.
The truth is, homework is necessary for the public school environment because there’s no way a single teacher, or even a teacher with an aid, can meet the specific, individual needs of each of their 20, 30, or even 40 students. They must, by government public school model, present set lessons, covering a certain amount of information in a certain amount of time, and are really given no room for stopping to assure mastery of any of it. So, they simply assign homework and move right on to the next lesson. The information retention is then in the hands of the child himself.
With home education, however, there are far more real-world experiences that come into play that acts as a kind of homework, even though we might not classify it as such. In fact, what homeschoolers consider “homework” might not even be achieved at home, but rather at a park, museum, or zoo, spending less time in the books. They might pick up mastery as they work with a volunteer organization or their church youth group. There are a million ways information can be solidified and reinforced without the aid of homework in the homeschooling environment. But because that doesn’t look like the model for the “status quo” model for most of society, it is frowned upon by the general population. Homeschool homework might even look like free time, at times.
A Definition of Homework
To properly address the issue of homework in homeschool properly, or any other setting for that matter, we must first have an understanding of what homework is. According to the Merriam-Webster website, homework is, “an assignment given to a student to be completed outside the regular class period”. If we’re being thorough, we could then say that homeschooled children actually have TONS of homework, especially those using the Charlotte Mason Method. Self-taught online classes might be considered “homework” by this definition. And certainly, any type of community activity that yields educational advancement could be construed as “homework”.
Homework Has Its Place
Whether you’re for or against homework in a general sense, there’s no doubt it has its place. Allowing your own children an opportunity to work on certain material from under your watchful eye is a great way for your child to learn to work independently, a real-life skill that is extremely important, especially the closer they get to their college career. It brings with it a sense of responsibility that must come to help them learn that important things come before fun things and that in life, there are certain tasks that simply can’t be put off.
There’s no doubt that perseverance will be gleaned from these situations, and struggles will happen. However, it’s simply not feasible nor beneficial if you scoop up your child at the first sign of trouble. Life will not afford them this luxury and we should allow them, within reason, of course, to experience little bits of this while there is time to rectify any mistakes that are made in the process.
Homework can also lead to a keener sense of time management, especially if you tack on a due date. Have a frame in which to work allows your child to understand the importance of getting things done in a timely fashion, learning how to schedule around important tasks already on the calendar, and understanding how long certain things take so as to schedule appropriately.
In all of these things, keep in mind that you know your homeschooled kids best and that’s the only way to proceed if you choose to assign your version of homework. Lumping on tons of homework for a child who is already struggling in a given subject can sometimes be a blessing, yes. However, if it only makes the load unbearable, especially when they need lots of help understanding the materials, are we really doing them any good by demanding it?
Should You Assign Homeschool Homework for Your Children?
Even in the public school system, homework is completely at the discretion of the teacher. And since you're the educator in your homeschool, it’s your call. Even if people are constantly in your ear about the “necessity” of homework, that doesn’t mean you must assign it. On the other hand, if other homeschoolers are saying it’s unnecessary, but you see that your child would greatly benefit from the practice, then it’s perfectly fine to proceed with the amount of homework you view as acceptable for the specific subject and situation in which you find yourselves.
Just remember that the goal of homework, especially in the homeschooling arena, is to build on the initial love of learning and solidify information and character traits. If you see that a specific homework task or assignment is creating an overwhelming burden on your child, I suggest you withdraw it. Perhaps you can alter the schoolwork to make it a better fit? No, I’m not asking you to cater to their whim. You’ll know if it’s a real obstacle or if they’re just trying to get out of the assignment.
Just be sure you’re not tacking on so much work that it’s legitimately “too much”. For instance, don’t cover a few tidbits of information about the United States Constitution on a Monday and then create a homework assignment that includes, “Read the entire Constitution, summarize it, and be prepared to debate topics tomorrow morning”. Of course, this is an exaggeration of any homework that we would reasonably give our children, but we can still sometimes expect more than what they are physically and mentally capable of delivering.
Should you assign homework or not? The truth is you are the only one who can intelligently answer that question. You know your child, you know what they can handle, and so your judgment on the topic is your absolute best guide. Perhaps it’s not really a question of whether homework is appropriate for homeschooling families, but whether you can feel comfortable in doing what you know is best for your child. Let me be the first to tell you, you have that right. And, you have the ability. So, by all means, forge ahead in the way that best benefits your school day and homeschool family!