One of the silly questions people ask homeschoolers is:  Do you do any homework?  Homework is defined as school work assigned to be done outside the classroom (distinguished from classwork).  Culturally we understand homework to be school work done at home.  So on the face of it, we probably don’t do homework.

Though many parents I know struggle with how much homework is sent home there are benefits:

  1. Parents can be aware of what the children are learning
  2. Children learn responsibility by managing their time and assignment due dates
  3. Children learn to study on their own
  4. Teachers can see how much the children really understand

Benefits aside, if I was a school parent, I would struggle if I saw homework as busy work and if it took up the time we could be using as a family after school hours. But since I’m writing to homeschoolers I wanted to think about homework and the homeschooler … maybe we should be doing homework.

One of the things that I established early on in my homeschooling journey is that I don’t need to replicate what the schools do.  I have a different situation, and therefore the benefit of different choices.  So I am not suggesting, at all, that we gather our children at 4.00pm and sit them down to do homework.  It is the benefits of homework that I want us to focus on.

  • Are our children learning to manage their time with various assignments?
  • Do they work towards a due date?
  • Can they study (research, question and record) on their own?

I have two students who have already graduated from homeschooling.  As I look back on their experiences I can see that though they studied well on their own, they didn’t work to any due dates.  Joshua, who has gone on to university studies, where there are due dates and time restrictions has learnt quickly and well.  He had the character and ability, just didn’t have the practice.  As I have two others still in homeschool/highschool I am learning from our past efforts.

photo credit:  stockphotos and www.freedigitalphotos.net

photo credit: stockphotos and www.freedigitalphotos.net

My challenge is to find ways to give them the due dates or time for the assignments without taking away the benefits of working with their weaknesses and strengths, and allowing for life to happen.  As I said of Joshua – he had the character to be able to learn to work with due dates very quickly once he was in a different situation, this is because we had worked on time frames in other areas of his life – like chores and responsibilities around the home.  So these skills are transferable.   But I would like to find some way to apply this to their studies, and I have come to think this is more important as they get into the upper highschool years. This is what we are working with to teach these skills:

  • A study routine – this gives them time to study, regularly.
  • Using a student diary – this is for their whole of life so it includes their chores, projects, commitments and studies
  • Set time for independent work.  Our kids generally study their discipline studies (any subject that needs daily drill/practice) by themselves:  math, typing, music, language arts, handwriting, drawing etc (different for each student, and different at different seasons of life)
  • Time to record what they have learnt.  This is done in terms of notebooking, creative, hands on or digital projects.
  • Set some projects with due dates, and though I have provided some time to work on these projects, I expect the kids to plan how much work needs to be done, and if they are running out of time, I expect them to use their productive free time to make sure it gets finished on time.

Project for term 1 was to complete a media project for Australian History.  For Naomi this has been a collaborative project so she’s worked with another homeschool student (for Daniel it has been an independent project, though he has asked his friends to help out with one aspect).

Project for term 2 will be to update personal blogs once a week.

So homework may not look the same as our school-going counterparts – but it has been worth thinking about.  Here are some other issues that school-parents have to deal with – are there lessons for us to pick up from this list as well?

  • Handing on notes from school to mum
  • Emptying back pack, dealing with lunch boxes
  • Putting shoes away
  • Knowing your uniform, PE gear, project etc is ready for the next day
  • Keeping tab of library books

Please don’t take this as a homeschool vs school debate.  I’m simply looking at the skills that kids at school have to develop – and making a switch in my thinking – are my kids learning these things too?  My kids take both business and personal phone messages, do they pass them on?  When the kids were little they took a backpack wherever we went, these days they take a bag of their choice and so often it gets dumped on the dining table when we walk in the door – we are working on this!  They are responsible for having all they need when we go somewhere – hats, waterbottle, book, shoes etc or whatever is appropriate for our activity.  They are responsible for knowing where their library books are – there is a library book shelf to help them with this.

Teaching these skills to our kids are important – whether we homeschool or send them to school.  The key for any parent is to be intentional:  to know what you are aiming for, and to have a plan of action.  We need to be actively working on it, not hoping for the best!