Homework While Working From Home


Friday, October 16th was a half-day for students in the Grand Ledge School District. Students were scheduled to be dismissed at 10:55, in contrast to the usual 2:55, granting students an extra four hours outside of school. It was a cold, cloudy day fit for a long walk and I was looking forward to getting out early. 

 However, I found myself toiling over homework until 2:30, being kept “in school” almost as long as a regular school day. Could I really assume that this is an isolated instance of students doing homework long after they are scheduled out of school? This eventually got me to thinking: what is homework when students are already working from home?

They seem to achieve the same outcome. Homework keeps students doing the same work often hours after school is out. When students are working from home, they are demonstrably dealing with enough, adjusting to the world in and out of school as we are pushed through a global pandemic. Under these circumstances, the idea of online assignments is already harmful when accounting for student’s unequal access to quality technology and sufficient internet bandwidth. What’s the point in making students continue homework if they effectively are jumping through the same hoops in their online classes? Drawing out school days to unpredictable times seems like the only intuitive outcome of homework when students are working from home.

When considering and researching these questions I inevitably found myself hearing arguments for why students generally should not be subjected to school work at all. Not arguments from students who feel wronged because they have to do ten math questions on a Friday night, but arguments from reputable journalists and scholars who work for organizations such as the University of the People or the New Republic. Many sources claim that homework can promote a sedentary lifestyle among students and has been shown to not improve student’s academic success. At first, I was surprised by these claims but upon minimal consideration, I realized exactly how much sense they made. I realized that the strongest arguments I could have made for stopping homework during the pandemic carry over to regular schooling. Schooling from home only serves to show exactly how congruent homework is with regular school.

But of course, I would be remiss to not credit the merits of homework. Homework can certainly help students with time management or organization among other things. It also prepares students for the very real possibility that their job will have some sort of “homework.” Many jobs do require their employees to take a case or workload home and continue working. 

But then again, how often is this really the case that your workload should be so inconsistent or consist of busy work? Unless of course, one is working a job where they already work from home. And as for time management and organization, these are virtues that can be learned in the classroom in a way that is more academically advantageous.

I’d encourage any reader to do more research into this topic to at least find a better understanding of the topic, even if you would disagree with me personally. The homework debate seems like the contention that needs to be brought closer to the forefront, not just during COVID, but always. If we can’t figure out how to properly organize K-12 academics, why should students be expected to achieve more than they could with the utilities we’ve given them?