It's finally time to rethink homework

It's finally time to rethink homework

Homeschool can feel like extended homework

Social distancing, and its unintended offshoot - social homework - are here to stay. Social chat has the potential to create a sense of connection around critical educational content. Social games could also become increasingly important as a means of teaching children.

We need to start thinking about how to re-organise the school day.  How can we change the way we assign homework more fundamentally to embrace these trends? How do we rethink the purpose of content, and the way in which we deliver it to kids? Schools would still be schools. It’s just that homework - which we’ve questioned the validity of for years - would be transformed. Homeschool that’s nothing more than a string of homework assignments can feel dismal or unengaging.

Social homework could be transformative and have real impact

Children of all ages could improve their critical thinking and problem solving skills if they were given tasks that promoted collaborative problem solving. They would develop team working and leadership skills. They would have to learn how to listen and to take turns talking. We could design word problems that required input from several children instead of just one. The problem solving could combine solitary work you do to prep ahead of a social homework sprint, and then teamwork. 

Spelling and grammar - which are pure rote learning and still required by the curriculum - could be so fun and easy if assignments were devised so children could test each other. Rote learning tasks are probably the best tasks for social homework because they could instantly be transformed by simple social gamification. For example, kids could quiz each other and earn points. 

The debate around homework needs to shift from whether it’s a good idea or bad idea, to how to make it impactful in a social homeschool setting. Homework as it’s set up today is a dismal failure. It’s typically unengaging. It doesn’t provide enough spaced repetition. Research shows that children need to repeat tasks or learn content several times in spaced repetition in order for it to sink in. And it takes away from valuable reading time. 

Sofia Fenichell is the CEO and Founder of Mrs Wordsmith. She is also on the Advisory Board of Common Sense Media.