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On the Subject of Homework

by Nadine Elmgren
Friday, February 7, 2020

This past week I received an email containing an article about banning homework nationwide from a popular teacher website. The article asked us to weigh in as lawmakers contemplate this controversial topic. Another article, shared by a colleague, discusses how homework time has increased dramatically, especially for teens, yet shows no benefits for elementary students and little benefit for middle and high school students. As parents, we all want what is best for our children, but to me the real question to think about is “does doing more equal being more”?

Having no homework has been a cornerstone of our Montessori philosophy for over a hundred years. Just as we don’t dictate the work the students do in class, we don’t do so at home either. Instead, we encourage using the hours outside of school to nurture interests and enjoy leisure time together as families. Home is a place to explore curiosities, and to share in the responsibilities of the household. Skills are naturally honed by cooking alongside a parent, writing a shopping list or playing a board game. Time spent curled up with a good book, or tackling a challenging jigsaw puzzle together is invaluable.

As children walk out the door the final day of school they often share with me the topics of future studies they are excited to pursue independently over the summer. Parents have sent pictures of their child’s cardboard creations held together rolls of tape, paint and glue. I hear tales of fantastic tree houses built, bread baked, trails hiked, books read and bike rides taken. To me this is real homework. Given the time and space, our children challenge themselves and investigate what is meaningful to them. This in turn develops happy, well-balanced human beings that we all are striving to become.