Elementary News: 10 Common Home Learning Questions Answered





Q: I am concerned that my Francophone child’s mother tongue language skills will suffer because there will be no practice going on at home.

A: Reading is the most effective way to develop language skills. We encourage your child to read each evening for at least 30 minutes in their mother tongue. Reading with your children and talking to them about their reading will do wonders to build their fluency and comprehension.



Q: What is the basis for the schools’ choice to embrace Home Learning?

There is a great deal of research* that supports the philosophy behind Home Learning. Several studies show no correlation between better grades, improved test scores, and time spent on homework. Children learn and grow best through explorations that are undertaken in context (personal interest, needs, wants, applicability). A child’s own passions should direct his/her activities after school. We want to encourage unstructured play and family time. There is a fair amount of evidence to support the value of unstructured play.* Physical activity builds brain schemas that accelerate cognitive development. With this in mind we want to empower and encourage your child to pursue their interests unencumbered by expectation. Our school also recognizes the paramount and sacred value of family time. You should have the option to choose how to spend your time together after school without the burden of academic tasks laid before you. There are no studies or research to show that repetitive elementary homework practice is an effective means to build skills or increase comprehension.

*http://www.challengesuccess.org/resources/research/publications/

*https://padlet.com/kellych1/318yvqb4hctz



Q: I feel that homework teaches discipline, builds academic stamina, and develops accountability. How will my child acquire these skills and attributes with no assigned homework?

There are many ways to instill the attributes of stamina, discipline and accountability. Athletics, musical pursuits, the visual arts, drama, dance, gardening, cooking, pet care, family and community service will go much further in developing positive attributes in your children than repetitive academic practice. Your child should have the time and choices to follow their passions. Pursuing passion can lead to personal goal setting. Setting and achieving personal goals builds many attributes that define character.



Q: I have high expectations for my child’s academic future. How will this school prepare my child for more rigorous academic institutions later on?

One of the most powerful forces toward academic success is a love for learning. Inundating your child with large quantities of homework in elementary school provides no guarantee that they will find success later on. In fact, mistaking volume for rigor will very likely imbue your child’s sense of wonder. We don’t want children to grow and see academics as simply a series of unending tasks. By removing the burden of anomalous homework assignments, we free them up to pursue their interests. Children’s activities should resonate with them and satisfy their sense of self. It is evident that we all learn more when we love what we do. Loving what we do is a fundamental component to happiness. Happiness and a sense of well being are what we all really want for our children anyway.



Q: If there is no homework after school what is my child going to do?

The choices are almost unlimited. If you would like a starting point we can provide an initial set of activities designed to promote family interaction and/or individual pursuits. In the end how your children spend their time is between you and them.



Q: What does Home Learning actually mean?

Home Learning means that our school will not assign nor hold children accountable for extended skill practice. This would include traditional homework such as spelling lists, math worksheets, grammar practice, comprehension worksheets, handwriting, sight words, or any memorization tasks.


Your child may be asked to enrich their learning experience through a family activity. They may be asked to further explore an idea, interview you, teach you something, or attend to a question they came up with themselves at school. Your child will also be asked to read anything of their choice for at least 30 minutes each evening. Reading with your child and discussing what they are reading will increase their interest in this activity.



Q: I want my child to have homework. Homework is the norm back in our home country and someday we will have to return there. How will she/he be prepared for the transition?

We realize that various cultures hold different expectations for homework, academics and the time commitment required to attend to such. While we recognize these different perspectives, we choose to hold true international research and its conclusions on homework for elementary aged children. The freedoms your children will enjoy to follow their hearts after school will generate confidence, curiosity, creativity, appreciation, independence, enthusiasm, and most importantly balance. These attributes will provide far greater benefits back in your home country than hours of prescribed homework tasks.



Q: How will you prepare my child for homework in middle school?

Middle school home learning policies vary. Our own middle school begins sixth grade by stating that a reasonable amount of homework lasts a maximum of one hour per evening. This is not a huge stretch from the 30 minutes of reading we ask in elementary school. As the second half of fifth grade gets underway, teachers may ask students to independently research a concept or idea. This research could carry over into a home learning experience. We feel that homework assignment tasks designed to simply prepare for an increased time commitment in middle school are not an effective use of your child’s afternoon and evening. As they cognitively develop in middle school, students will naturally build the stamina required for age appropriate homework assignments.



Q: What if my child requires Learning Support?

There may be times when the teacher, parent and child create a plan to address an academic challenge. There are times when some students may require additional language support or extra practice with math facts but these instances are not the general norm. We want to make sure that all of our students’ learning needs are met while also ensuring that students are given an opportunity for self-directed activities.


Q: What are some examples of Home Learning?

  • Preparing a meal/baking

  • Researching a topic of interest

  • Painting a picture

  • Creating a sculpture or collage

  • Building something from scrap materials

  • Practicing an instrument

  • learning/studying an additional language

  • Interviewing someone

  • Writing a poem/story/song

  • Keeping a journal

  • Starting or joining a club

  • Playing a sport

  • Taking a dance class

  • Making up your own dance

  • Creating your own experiment

  • Starting a collection

  • Investigating a hobby

  • Playing a game with the family

  • Designing a comic book

  • Community service



The International School of Dakar

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