By Julie Kucks
“I am who I am today because homework helped me build my skillsets.” – Nandini Menon, CHP Founder
To homework or not to homework? That is the big question.
There has been much debate about whether homework is actually beneficial for students. In the Decoding Education podcast, Ending the Homework Debate, CHP founder Nandini Menon builds a case for homework – pointing out what it is, what it is not, and being transparent that the power of homework depends on how we view it.
So, what is homework?
Homework is practice.
Research shows that the human brain has a huge capacity to store material. But it can only effectively store and recall material if that information is constantly revisited.
Homework is the practice of revisiting. The same way a masterful violinist goes over the scales, the notes, the dynamics, and the finger patterns every day, so a student becomes a master by going through their homework lessons.
Neuroscience research has shown that a child remembers 90% of what they learned. But, without review, they’ve forgotten 70% of what they learned after three days. Not providing homework robs students of the practice that leads to deep learning and skill building.
Homework is assessment.
Homework is a checks and balance system. It is a clear, unbiased way to check if a student really understands a concept they just learned.
To reap this benefit from homework, parents need to understand and communicate to their child that homework is not about the letter grade.
Imagine a teacher asking two parents what success looks like for their child’s education.
One says, “I want them to get good grades every time!”
The other says, “I want them to learn deeply, have higher critical thinking skills, and gain a sense of wonder.”
A teacher wants parents to be proud of their child and for the child to feel supported by their parents. With parent #1, the teacher will inevitably dumb down homework assignments and ensure the child gets good grades to build their self-esteem. With parent #2, the teacher will provide more complex problem-solving and new information, knowing the child will thrive and be supported in challenging learning muscles because the parents care about deep learning.
Nan wants every parent to understand that the way they view homework and educational success affects what kind of homework their child receives. Without parental support and involvement, a child will lose out on much of homework’s benefit due to performance anxiety.
Homework is partnership.
Why do we put our children in school? Is it because we want them to increase their skill sets, or do we want them to perform well so we feel validated?
It’s funny, but we often seem more comfortable accepting the ups and downs, the obstacles, the failures along with the wins when our child is playing sports. What if we took this same flexible approach with academics? What if we chose to see what magic children can create rather than let our adult fears of security dictate what children become?
Too often, we transfer own anxieties onto children. If a parent or a teacher is uncomfortable with a subject, research shows there is a predisposition to promoting the child’s failure in that subject. It’s important for parents to be self-reflective and ask themselves the hard questions about their own academic anxieties rather than blame a school’s homework approach.
Homework is the great honesty moment. It should be the place where students feel safe and accepted to say they do not understand something and need more help.
And homework is not created equal. Some children may understand the logic of something very quickly and finish their homework easily. But others may need to repeat and repeat a problem with different sets of solutions until it clicks.
It’s important to not live in mental silos! No one knows we understand something unless we tell them. Students, parents, and school administrations are a partnership – they need to be in constant communication about the process of learning and what is/is not working for homework to really do its job.