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Is homework really necessary to learn?

The following are some considerations of an Italian teacher but we would like you to share you considerations about homework in your country. Can you relate to what she wrote? Is your experience different?

It has happened so many times to call some friends to invite them out for a day trip and hear them answer: “I’d love to and my kids would be elated but they need to finish their homework by Sunday night…  we’re not gonna make it if we go with you to the mountains/cinema/amusement park/museum.”

Homework is like an alien invader who takes away time (and serenity) from families. In fact,  while in no way can parents dictate how their kids should  use the time spent at school, schools are forcing families to organize their time around homework; sometimes the workload is unreasonable and often unnecessary.

I can hear those who don’t share this thought about homework gasping: unnecessary? Ok, let’s talk about it.

What’s the purpose of homework?

The common answer is that homework is useful because through repetition abilities and knowledge are improved: maths, grammar, spelling, reading.   So the purpose of homework is reinforcing what has been taught in class and possibly gather some extra information.

Unfortunately the results are often quite disappointing:  even after doing homework there isn’t a big improvement and the knowledge acquired is not so strong.

It looks clear that the problem is not how much is done but what and how.

How do children learn?compiti

So the real question should be: what are the methods, the tools, the processes that school should use to teach learning in an effective way, so that what is learned will never be forgotten,

Like when children learn how to ride a bicycle or swim?

We should aim to answer this question instead of giving more homework in the attempt to solve much more critical problems.

Individual study is a different matter and I think it’s really important but schools should rethink their methods so that students won’t need to study more at home.

Written homework is a repetition of what has been done in class; worksheets, pages and pages of  math, grammar, logical analysis:  a series of dull and useless exercises that both parents and children hate to do. In fact parents are usually involved in helping their children doing their homework.

Parents’ role

Because it’s true that in an ideal world children should be able to do their homework with ease and without any help (so why give them any homework, if they can do it so easily?). In the real world, though, parents are very involved: even if they don’t need to help their children, they are usually required to engage in exhausting negotiation to convince their kids to do their homework, to hurry up.

All this has a negative impact in the children-parents relationship.  A parent can be a good teacher and this is true if I think about homeschooling, which is a situation in which parents consciously decide  to be responsible for their children’s education.

However parents who step in to help their children with homework, are usually not respected because they are not the teachers and the result is often a mutual discomfort.

If we think about evenings spent arguing, ruined weekends and the pressure on parents who feel they’re not good enough if their children don’t finish their homework we can see how insane it’s this homework routine that we might consider normal because it belongs to our school memories but whose effectiveness is questionable and which should arise more than one question.

What are your thoughts about it?