When the topic of homeschooling comes up, many people get a quizzical look on their faces before they ask a funny question: “Do homeschoolers have homework?” My first response —and that of my own children — is “All of our work is homework!" Actually, the answer is more complex than saying because we do school at home, all our work is homework.
What about the classes my children take outside the home at a co-op or with a tutor? Is that homework just because we are homeschoolers? What about the field trips we take to zoos, museums, and theaters? Surely those cannot be called homework, right?
First Define Homework
According to Merriam-Webster, the school related definition of homework is an assignment given to a student to be completed outside the regular class period.
Using this definition in our homeschool context, I would say yes, my children have homework. I would also go so far to say that pretty much all of their formal bookwork is homework. Why?
My teenage children use curriculum that is mostly self-taught and student-directed. That means I'm not really teaching or holding class. They have a basic outline that tells them what needs to be accomplished each week. Working within that framework, they study independently. I may be in the room, but I'm not directing their learning. I assist only when questions arise. So in our homeschool, I deem independent work analogous to homework for students learning in a more traditional school setting.
Maybe Homeschoolers Do Not Have Homework
On the flip side of our working definition, you could say that since homeschooled children do not attend a class in the traditional sense that that they do not have homework at all.
Homework for homeschoolers becomes an all or nothing proposition. Everything we do is homework because we are learning at home. Or none of our work is homework because we are learning at home.
A Thought About the Value of Homework
Viewing homework as work done outside of class, outside the direct supervision of a teacher or parent, homework can be translated into homeschool parlance as independent work. I find great value in having our children engage in independent work especially as they grow into the middle school and high school years.
Homework or independent work helps teach responsibility. It allows children the space to own their work and take on the task of getting it done on their terms, within the allotted time given.
Perseverance is another lesson to be learned from homework. Not having a teacher or parent hovering over head to jump in at every stumbling block gives kids the opportunity to struggle a little, problem solve on their own, and eventually be confident of their own abilities.
Independent work teaches time management. When students are set to a task to complete on their own, in a given framework of time, it pushes them to create a plan and work out how the will manage their time to complete the task on schedule.
So in the end do homeschoolers have homework? Maybe not by the standard definition, but independent work shares many characteristics of homework. And homeschoolers definitely have that!
About the Author
Heidi Ciravola has been married to her husband for over seventeen years. Together they have three children with whom they began their homeschooling journey with in 2006 when their oldest was beginning second grade. Heidi is a mother, taxi service, and homeschool parent by day and an avid reader and homeschool blogger whenever there is time left over. You can visit Heidi at her blog Starts at Eight where she blogs about homeschool products and unit studies, homeschool organization and general tips, and homeschooling high school, as well as many book reviews, lists, and unit studies.