What is the Point of Homework?
This might be one of the most debated topics between parents and educators. “But why?” Well, the correlation between homework, performance, test scores, and grades is quite weak. So why do educators insist on giving homework? Why do some give so much? Does it really help?
My aim here is not to answer these questions, although that may cause some of you to stop reading right now. If you made it to this sentence, I implore you to finish. It won’t be a long article, but I think it will provide some answers to the questions you should be asking.
“Do I need to read the syllabus?” “So, what the heck does this have to do with homework?” Well, everything! First of all, you were probably required by your student to sign it as a homework grade. Don’t you read everything before you sign? Second, the syllabus provides information for almost everything that will be covered in class including class rules, materials needed, class policies, subject matter to be taught, and — wait for it — the infamous grading criteria. If you look at the grading criteria, it will break down the percentage of your student’s grade dedicated to homework, projects, labs, class participation, tests, and finals. Look more closely, and in most cases, you’ll probably find that homework is somewhere between 5% and 10% of a student’s grade. That means that some students will only impact their grade by a small amount in most cases by not doing ALL of their homework.
“So does my student really need to do homework?” NO … and YES. No, if your student is one of those students who can just hear and/or see something and get it. Those students most likely only ever need to complete projects and labs and participate in class and will get an “A”. For the clear majority of us, homework is what will bring us from a “B” to an “A”. The reason is twofold. First, that 5%-10% is a half a grade to a full grade, and the points are fairly easy to maximize, and second, for those of us who need practice in order to improve, it provides the necessary practice. Homework is what some call the “necessary evil,” meaning the points count, but it seems more like busy work. The misconception that homework is just busy work is that it’s not needed but takes time. Look at it this way: we are only good at what we do a lot. Since many students don’t do math a lot or read a lot, they are not good at it. But what they are good at is video games, because they play them all the time! Sometimes correlation statistics are not needed to see why homework may be useful, even if unwanted.
“But my student is only in 3rd grade, why do they need homework?” This may be why the question of homework is so debated. Most parents of students in 6th grade or above are not the ones complaining. It’s the parents of students in K-5th grade. This is where I may agree with those parents. Being a father of younger children, I see the benefits of creativity, discovery, curiosity, and playing. That doesn’t mean my children don’t work and learn at home. They learn life skills, reading, math games, responsibility, and the list goes on. But we do these things as a family. We create games out of learning, and we answer questions and look things up together. My children also attend Lighthouse Tutoring on a regular basis to practice skills there, but Lighthouse Tutoring does not give homework. For younger children, I’m more of a proponent of a maximum of 30 minutes of homework, most of which should be reading, writing, and math. No more than one subject through 3rd grade and maybe two subjects in 4th or 5th grade.
Homework is not going anywhere anytime soon. Think about what most of us do as adults. We do homework as well, so why should we not expect our children to learn this skill? I believe it should come in stages, and the amount dictated by age and level of course, but practice is necessary to build proficiency even if it does not correlate directly to grades and test scores.