The New School

There is a growing trend in education that has been gaining momentum and transforming the way children experience school. The trend is reducing or removing homework from elementary education.

Historically, elementary education has offered homework to children---in the form of worksheets and packets--that are to be completed weekly in Kindergarten and daily as the children advance in grade. The homework standard is guided by the ten-minute rule. The ten-minute rule states that children are to be given 10 minutes of homework per day based on grade level. A first grade student will have ten minutes of home work a day and a sixth grade student sixty minutes and so on. It appears that so much homework has the primary role of assisting teachers cover material for standardized tests they do not have time to cover in depth during the school day.

In my experience as an afterschool educator and director, children are given worksheets that feature math, science, spelling, writing and geography along with a form to record their daily reading practice. All of these assignments will take more time than the ten-minute rule allows especially in the upper elementary grades. We must ask ourselves, is this the best choice for children?

The homework trend is changing, being influenced by parents, education practice in other countries, and the educational practice of learner centered pedagogy. Homework started trending on social media when many teachers and parents shared their desire to eliminate or drastically reduce homework in their classroom at the beginning of the academic year. The social media trend started the conversation and encouraged more research and proposals to change homework in their local schools. A recent article by Ashley Bateman for the Heartland Institute talks about this growing trend.

The people who are calling for less or no homework have a desire for children to reclaim their childhood. For children to have more time to pursue interests, play with friends, rest and recreate, read for fun, and allow the knowledge gained during the day soak in. Children need more time for quality play experiences not directed by adults. This is the time to practice socialization and nurture friendships and build community. It is time for children to escape from their workday as adults do and enjoy the hobbies that inspire them.

To have a well rounded life we all need to have time when we focus and time when we recreate. This builds a balance to life, a connection to nature, and a connection to others that constant work cannot provide. In Finland, the children are given a fifteen-minute break for each hour of instruction. The educators in Finland recognize through observation and practice that the children’s ability to turn the mind off for short periods throughout the day allows for greater mindfulness, engagement, and enjoyment when at work in school.

The continuing examination of homework here in the U.S. will determine if the new found interest in less or no homework is a fad or a step toward embracing more free time for children to pursue their interests and have time to use what they learn in school for actual work in the community on which they live.

What are your feelings about the trend toward less or no home work in schools?