To give homework or to not give homework, that is the question. The summer homework debate is one that divides parents, teachers and students in every country. With summer underway, we asked parents and educators from around the world to weigh in on whether students should be assigned homework during their months off. Here’s what they had to say for this Re:Set regroup.
Scheenagh Harrington, Castres, France
Scheenagh Harrington, a mom of three, believes summer homework should be absolutely necessary though her children’s schools don’t set homework. “There’s no flexibility for weaker students. If you don’t keep up, you are left behind,” she told Re:Set. For Harrington and her family, summer holidays involve daily homework sessions to help the children prepare for the upcoming school year.
Their daily routine involves spending 30 minutes working from exercise books Harrington purchases from a local supermarket every year. Covering a range of subjects including English, math, geography and history, Harrington encourages her children to do at least one exercise per day. “We all sit at the kitchen table and participate. My husband and I get involved with reviewing and marking their work, and we find it’s a form of bonding,” Harrington said.
For Eleanor, her eldest child Harrington steps up the expectations. Eleanor’s summer routine usually involves a bike ride with her dad in the morning. She starts her homework for the day at 10:30 a.m. and the assignment — set by her parents — can include an essay on the role of women in the Harry Potter books. “Eleanor is revising for her exams so we structure her homework around those subjects. This makes sure she is prepared,” Harrington told Re:Set.
One of the main reasons Harrington believes summer homework can be beneficial is because of the 10-week summer holiday children get in France. “It’s such a long time to be off from school. Summer homework makes sure they hit the ground running and don’t forget what they’ve learned over the past year,” she said.
Francesca De Franco, Surrey, United Kingdom
On the contrary, Francesca De Franco, a mom of three, believes assigning homework over the break is unnecessary. “Kids should be given time to recharge with their family. If you filled their lives with homework, they wouldn’t want to go to school,” she told Re:Set.
In the United Kingdom, children have a 6-week summer holiday which is one of the reasons why De Franco is against summer homework. “It makes more sense in other countries that have ten or more weeks off. But in the U.K., we only have six weeks,” De Franco said. “Kids need to relax and enjoy themselves.”
Giving work over the summer break places additional burden on teachers as well since they have to come up with the assignments before the break and grade them when school resumes, De Franco emphasized. “It’s also a pain for parents because we have to monitor it and we can become bogged down with it too,” De Franco said.
“Kids need to relax and enjoy themselves.”
No homework doesn’t mean learning doesn’t take place in De Franco’s home. She prefers alternative activities to keep her kids engaged and ensures they have fun. The family mixes it up and goes on nature walks to learn about new animals and plants or they visit the local library to sign up for a reading challenge. They even turn their travels into mini-learning activities. “On a recent trip to Greece, we taught our kids 1-10 in Greek. It’s cultural, fun and they loved it!,” she told Re:Set.
According to De Franco, moving away from textbook learning has been beneficial for her children and they’re rearing to go when school reopens. “They’re eager and ready to start the next school year because they’ve had time to relax,” De Franco said. “It’s important for them to have their freedom in those six weeks to do that.”
Hamish Williams, Shanghai, China
“In China, parents expect students to get summer homework,” Hamish Williams, an elementary school teacher in China, told Re:Set. “They think worksheets and exercise books equals higher attainment.”
At Williams’ school, students are given homework every summer. It usually consists of a 40-page workbook that they are expected to complete during their vacations. Although, it’s not an idea Williams endorses.
“I disagree with textbooks. I think summer homework should be interesting with fun activities that still get children [to learn],” Williams told Re:Set. As a passionate English teacher, Williams would rather his students read for pleasure than complete grammar worksheets.
“In China, parents expect students to get summer homework.”
In Williams’ school, teachers aren’t expected to mark the worksheets when the new school year begins, which makes him question whether homework is really beneficial at all. “Students might complete them incorrectly or just look at the answers and copy them, and we have no way of monitoring that,” he said.
Although his school and the parents favour written worksheets, Williams assigned his students an alternative, non-mandatory piece of homework this year which he hopes will be the start of something new.
Using bingo-related inspiration, Williams tasked his students with 16 exercises to complete. These range from holding a 10-minute conversation in English to going on a picnic in the countryside. Every activity is designed to get students to use the English language, encouraging them to learn in an interactive way. Other ideas include having students create a poster with tongue twisters and a list of five websites their classmates can benefit from. “I thought this would get them practicing the skills they have learned over the last year and hopefully they return with an even bigger interest in English,” Williams told Re:Set.
Mark Trifilio, Vermont, United States
As the principal of an elementary school, Mark Trifilio doesn’t just side with the naysayers when it comes to the summer homework debate, but he’s banned it in his school altogether.
Trifilio realized “there was no link between homework and achievement in my school.” He found there was a lack of consistency with the work students were assigned over the break. Some teachers would give homework excessively, whereas others wouldn’t give any at all. “There was no difference between students having and not having homework. Our test scores weren’t affected at all,” Trifilio told Re:Set.
With the aim of giving his students time to pursue their passions, Trifilio is of the firm belief that a vacation is for students to unwind and destress. However, he does recommend some light learning activities to keep their brains ticking. Over the summer, Trifilio’s school opens its library once a week in a bid to encourage students to read. “We ask students to do 30-40 minutes of reading every night of any book of their choice,” he told Re:Set. The children also use a math app which lets them play games while honing their mathematical skills.
Although Trifilio is aware that there is a setback in learning when the new academic year starts, his school is willing to spend two weeks when school reopens to revisit key concepts learned before the break. “We know kids don’t retain all the information they have learned over the past year in the summer,” he said. “But, homework kills motivation and we want our students to discover their own interests.”
We want to hear from you — which side of the debate do you fall on? Leave a comment or email us your views: firstname.lastname@example.org.