There are a handful of questions most people ask about homeschool, and among these, the question of whether homeschoolers do homework always comes up. To answer this, we have to look at what defines homework. If you think of it as a post-school-day assignment to follow up on learning a subject, then structure homeschool students may have homework. However, since all work for homeschoolers is done at home, then the idea of sending school work home with them doesn’t have much meaning. Most homework is meant to add to learning and help connect families to the subjects students learn by having them do some work at home for the family to see and potentially assist. Additionally, it helps cover more material when there isn’t enough class time in a traditional school. Ultimately, like all other educational decisions, it is up to the parents to choose whether additional materials outside the usual learning structure are needed.
Does homeschool have homework? Most homeschoolers don’t receive homework. Because they are already getting a highly customized and effective individual learning program, doing more work when the class time is over in a day isn’t necessary. However, in some cases, parents do assign further work. Especially for older children doing projects may require ‘after school’ efforts to complete them promptly.
The Purpose of Homework
Before deciding whether homeschoolers have homework, you need to look at the purpose and definition of homework. In a traditional setting, homework comes home with children ostensibly to further learning beyond the classroom time. This allows a student to continue their education away from class. Furthermore, it shows the family what they are learning.
Educators give this style of homework because it is the industry standard, and they were taught to assign it. It allows the administration to satisfy parents who are mostly otherwise uninvolved in the process. Moreover, it helps make up for the deficit in learning vital materials, which results from classroom overcrowding and too few teachers. In brief, kids get homework to keep their families happy and because they aren’t getting enough information from the school day to understand the materials adequately.
Since homeschool families dedicate most of their day to teaching students directly, they tend to have the time they need on any given subject. As a result, a traditional homework system is unnecessary. Not only are parents who teach at home already familiar with the material they assign themselves, but students do not lack time and information because of overworked teachers, limiting schedules, and district-mandated minimum learning.
Another Way of Looking at Homework
According to Merriam-Webster, homework can be either “An assignment given to a student to be completed outside the regular class period, or preparatory reading or research (as for a discussion or a debate).” When you opt to go by this specific set of definitions, then homeschoolers do homework often. Moreover, some home schools may consist of nothing but homework because it is going on at home, and some homeschools lack specific class times in their schedule. Families who unschool or who do work as it fits within their day are perpetually falling into this category.
Most younger homeschoolers have little need or use for homeschool. Furthermore, there’s evidence the homework for young children may do more harm than good. Especially in the first few years of school, children learn as much or more from playtime than in a classroom setting. As a result, younger homeschoolers should rarely have homework.
For older students, say those in junior high and high school, some ‘homework’ would make sense. Presumably, you will not spend an entire day of class time reading a book, but a book report might still be the assignment. Hence, the older home learner would indeed be doing homework after class.
However, they are also clearly learning something they do not need from a regular class day. In this case, they learn a story from an author, but the necessary work of clearly summarizing their findings would go on in class. Otherwise, they might read and write outside the class but discuss the book’s theme and the work during a regular class period.
As an educational tool, assigning homeschool homework can be useful. When a child sits with a parent all day and does heavily co-involved work, it certainly helps build a family bond. Additionally, it helps the student gain a deeper understanding because their teacher is always available to assist. However, that student may be missing out on an opportunity that homework can help fulfill.
Self-directed learning is also good for kids. Allowing them to take an assignment and handle it independently without a teacher/parent present gives them time for independent thought. Furthermore, it can aid in developing motivation, self-awareness, self-assessment, and even confidence. All of these are beneficial.
If that’s not enough reason to offer independent assignments or homework to homeschoolers, there’s another hidden benefit. Parents can also get a good look at how their home learners are progressing. Without a coach or educational assistant, they can only use their own minds and resources to solve problems. An unbiased look at how your children cope with self-directed learning is reason enough for occasional homework.
When Homeschool Homework Helps
Giving homework should never be a punishment, nor should a healthy homeschool family indicate that it is assigned because of a deficiency in understanding. Instead, offer additional projects as a fun way to bring more education into their lives.
Reading a book and writing a summary is one option. However, having a student design and build a model or create a piece of art is just as valuable for their education. These physically involved challenges are interesting and enjoyable for young learners. By creating these extra projects, whether you call it homework or not, you are giving them a value-added assignment that lets your home learner show off their class-learned skills.
Is Homework Necessary
Homeschool students who have homework should only get additional assignments when it is helpful to their development as a person. Traditional homework is not as ‘good’ as institutions would have you believe. In fact, it can harm students. The following list covers the many reasons why traditional homework needs to stop.
- Traditional homework feels like a punishment for many students. After working all day to adhere to their ‘job requirements’ as kids, they see the end of class as a much-needed relief, just as many adults look forward to clocking out at the end of a shift.
- Students with a long commute are often forced to do homework when they are tired. The end of a long day is not a suitable time to force more information into your head. Moreover, you’re less likely to retain information learned when you are exhausted.
- State dependant learning is real. A kid in a classroom recalls class learned information better than those things they learned somewhere else. Likewise, a child outside a classroom is more ready to remember lessons they didn’t have at a school desk.
- Kids need to play. Yes, even older students need time to free-roam and self-direct for amusement. Doing this will help reduce stress, which in turn helps them sleep better, make smarter long-term choices, and learn more readily, albeit indirectly. Underestimating how valuable it is to ‘goof around’ in your ‘spare time is a mistake.
- While some parents see homework time as a lovely break where they can do other activities while students are busy learning, it is also taking away valuable family time. Incorporating children in chore time, or other activities, or simply having a few extra minutes to sit and talk together is infinitely valuable. Certainly, it is worth far more than another hour of math, especially for students who are not struggling or in need of more practice.
- There are other ways to promote learning. A child who spends every evening studying has no time for a sport, volunteer work, friends, or other essential out-of-the-home experiences. Although it is difficult during a pandemic, there are always ways to become more involved in the community instead of filling out one more piece of paperwork.
Traditional homework is something more people, including educators, parents, and students, are arguing against all the time. Some schools and teachers refuse to assign it because of the excessive stress it puts on learners. Hence, if you plan to use homework in homeschool, make sure you’re only adding it sparingly, and always for the right reasons.
Every homeschool family has its own method for teaching and learning. Parents who choose to mimic a traditional school setting closely may opt to give homework after class. Ultimately, your definition of homework determines whether you think homeschool students can or should have any assigned.
Homework as a whole is one of many entirely optional teaching tools. Too much study can actually be unhealthy for a child, causing physical exhaustion, mental fatigue, and resentment. Alternately, some subjects require more effort than would otherwise have been scheduled to cover them in a normal curriculum. You can spend that time during a regular class in homeschool.
Whether you choose to assign homework to your home learners or not, it’s more important to focus on making sure that they absorb the information they need each day. As a learning tool, homework is neither good nor bad.