News & Updates

Special Focus: Homework

Friday, March 1st, 2024

If you had to identify one facet of education that has been shown to improve the parent partnership, deepen classroom discussions, identify and ameliorate student learning gaps and teach students executive functioning skills - in only twenty minutes a day - what would it be? That's right, homework. Here is a snapshot of the reasons why purposeful homework is integral to education at Regents.

Homework aids in mastery

“Since we’re working towards mastery at Regents, repetition is key,” says Academic Dean Amy Lindsey. “Students are revisiting and reinforcing these concepts at home so they master them and know them for themselves.” Studies show that repetition with breaks is an effective way to build retention. The break between class and home actually improves student recall. For example, in Kindergarten, students begin learning to read through phonemic awareness. "Mastering reading hinges on practice and consistency,” says Kindergarten teacher Jackie Huemme. The students learn their phonograms at school, but applying them at home bridges the gap to create retention.

Homework increases parent partnership

Homework invites parents into what students are doing in the classroom, and lets them be involved in their child’s education in a way that would be impossible if none of it came home. “One of the positives of homework is that it deepens the connection between school and home,” says Grammar School Principal Mason Muur. “Parental participation is one of the biggest factors in school success, and parents knowing what’s going on in the classroom because they see extensions of that most nights in their child’s homework is a positive thing.”

Homework enables higher-level work in the classroom

At the Logic and Rhetoric School level, homework prepares students so that class time can be spent on discussions to broaden and deepen understanding. “Students do background reading and learn information so that we can do the hard work of having Socratic dialogues and Harkness discussions and debates in class,” says Amy Lindsey. “If we don’t use that time at home, then we can’t do the thinking work in class that needs the coaching and presence of the teacher.” Students self-enrichment and reinforcement allows class time to be spent wrestling more deeply with the material, to the end of fuller mastery.

Homework clarifies learning gaps

Students wrestling with coursework on their own can help parents and educators see more clearly where the student stands with the material, before the finality of an assessment. It can also help clarify other learning struggles, including attention, anxiety, or a student over-thinking their work. “Normally, if it is taking a student an excessive amount of time to do homework, there is something that needs to be addressed,” says Mr. Muur.

Homework creates ownership of education

In the later Grammar School years, students begin tracking their own assignments in a planner. This habit-building skill has implications beyond their years in school. “This holds them accountable, helps them organize their work, and teaches them to take pride in their studies,” says fifth grade teacher Charlotte Kennedy. At the Rhetoric level, homework is an important part of independence and students’ ownership over their own education. “They will take the initiative to email me with questions about the homework if there is a lack of understanding,” says Pre-Calculus teacher Stacy Hickory.

Homework builds time management skills

Homework gives students the opportunity to practice managing their time both in and out of the classroom. “In the Grammar School, We purposely build in “wise time” to our days and it is up to the students how they use it,” says Mrs. Kennedy. “Our goal is that students learn to use their independent time in class wisely, which teaches lessons about priorities and planning!” Students who learn to use their time in class well often have very little homework after school.

In the Logic and Rhetoric School, students have at least two study hall periods each week. For many students, this gives them plenty of time to get the brunt of their work done. Student Finley H. Finds that he is able to complete most of his independent work during Study Hall. “As a result I am able to do minimal homework at home, and sometimes work a job after school,” says Finley. In-school work time gives student the opportunity to practice time management and personal responsibility within the framework of the school day.

Homework is not busy work

Homework is not busy work. “I have noticed that the homework from the public school was more to ‘check the box’ of a task, rather than reinforce the lessons learned in class,” said parent Elizabeth R. “The homework assigned at Regents clearly reinforces the information that will be presented in tests and quizzes. The students are given a chance to ‘show what they know,’ which builds their confidence and produces tangible results." Mrs. Kennedy echoes this sentiment. “Students are never starting something, for the first time, during homework. Homework is always going to be geared towards continuing an assignment or finishing something, which increases students’ ability to intake and learn things the next day!”

Homework teaches healthy struggle and the ability to focus

Professional Counselor Keith McCurdy visited Regents School last year to talk about the value of healthy struggle for children as the engine for maturity. “The talk by Keith McCurdy has helped me see the gift in homework for my active son,” says Mrs. Lindsey. “Homework is a good opportunity to have high expectations and watch our children rise to the occasion.”

Recent research tells us that the ability to focus deeply is increasingly rare in the coming generation. Asking students to focus deeply for 20 minutes, attending continuously to one task, is setting them up for success in a modern world that often prioritizes momentary fulfillment over hard work. Developing this ability to focus this way at home is especially important because of the number of distractions competing for students' attention.

We believe students will reap the benefits of independent work long after they leave the classroom, as they build responsibility, take ownership, and truly master what they learn!

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