Professor's House

Should Students Be Required to Do Homework over the Holidays

Gone are the days when kids could enjoy holiday breaks homework-free. Sadly, the trend seems to be that students are getting assignments that they must complete during their time away from school. Whether it’s a complicated science project, or a reading log proving they’ve put in the required hours with their noses buried in a book, children are now often burdened with having school work on their shoulders, when they should otherwise have a respite from their school duties.

Not only does homework over the holidays hang over the heads of students’, but it’s also a hardship for the parents who have to ensure their child completes the tasks the teachers have given them. So, is it fair for teachers to give out assignments over the holidays?

As a parent of three school-age children, I become somewhat disappointed when informed that one or more of my kids is required to work on a school project during a break. I simply can’t comprehend why their teachers refuse to allow them to relax and take a step back from all the work their required to complete on a daily basis during the school year. Of course, I know that teachers have good intentions, but I’d love for them to cut the kids some slack when they’ll be out of school for an extended period of time.

When I was kid, sometimes schoolwork was optional over the breaks, as extra credit or simply for extra enrichment. I remember electing to complete the public library reading challenge every summer. We would log the books we read and hopefully win a prize at the end. Of course, plenty of greedy and dishonest kids would simply write down unread book titles and their respective authors unchecked, as the entire thing was based on the honor system. I always truly read over summer, but never won a coveted library reading challenge prize.

Speaking of extra credit, one teacher I consulted didn’t believe in it and stated that it was an out for kids who didn’t feel like doing the “real work” that was outlined in the curriculum. He revealed that some eager students would actually request over-the-holiday homework in an effort to impress him and attempt to win brownie points, and he would actually refuse these students’ request for extra work!

I guess there’s might be a bright side to homework over the holidays. I know my kids certainly get bored after being home for several days. Threatening them with having the complete their assigned school work would certainly spare my ears from the assault of unwanted complaints. My kids already know that if they tell me they’re bored, then I have a long list of chores I can consult for a way to keep them occupied. Adding homework to that list might help them to keep their complaining to themselves.

Another positive aspect of doing at-home schoolwork would be that it would keep kids from staring at screens all day. Laptops, tablets, video games, movies, TV shows, phones, and other screens all conspire to occupy all the hours of a child’s day. Forcing your kids to turn off the devices and grab a pencil to work out a few math problems can only be for their own good.

Of course, if your child is struggling in school, not only would vacation homework be beneficial, but perhaps hiring a tutor might also be necessary. In fact, vacations and holidays are the perfect time to play “catch up” for a student who’s lagging behind their peers. Upon reviewing a poor report card, engage your child’s teacher for suggestions of supplemental work your child can be working on during off-school hours.

Even if your children don’t get official homework, spending time with them over the holidays or vacations is the perfect time to teach them life lessons. Not only are they rested, relaxed, and receptive to soaking up your knowledge, but you can make things fun and teach them something at the same time. Use baking to teach measuring and fractions, and get cookies as a result! Break out your dusty sewing machine and instruct your child in the art of quilt-making. Take a class together to learn how to knit, or acquire the skill of origami. You could even have your children journal about each new experience to show their teacher and possibly still earn some extra credit simply for going the extra mile while at home. You will always be your child’s first and best teacher! Maybe these teachers are onto something after all.

In the end, if you find the idea of over-vacation schoolwork to be troubling, simply contact your child’s teacher to let him or her know. Most teachers are reasonable and will explain their thinking behind assigning the extra work. Perhaps their curriculum is full, and the only way they see to complete it before the year’s end is to give the additional homework. Or, maybe their feel their class’s test scores as a whole are below national, state, or county standards and find that these supplemental tasks will give their students an academic boost. Maybe, they simply think it will benefit the parents to keep the children busy when they may otherwise become bored.

It’s important not to display distaste for over-break schoolwork in front of your children. Take it up privately with your child’s teacher if you think it’s an issue. Your child is watching you and will pick up on your negativity regarding school and possibly even towards his or her teacher. Make it a point to never associate school, teachers, or homework with bad feelings, or your child may possibly begin to hate school. Holiday homework may not be ideal in your mind, but in the end, it will likely benefit your child.

Well, maybe the “unschoolers” have it all figured out after all. Kids can discover so much from the environment around them and don’t need paperwork to learn everything in life. Why not let kids be kids and allow them to explore the world without having to document everything? Teachers’ hearts are in the right place, but perhaps they should reconsider their policies on homework…especially in regard to holiday breaks.

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