“Beacon has no homework?”
This is a frequent question prospective parents have for Beacon’s faculty and administrators. The puzzlement and fear in the question is almost palpable, and often leads to more questions: How will my child become an independent learner? How will my child develop the self-discipline needed for success in middle school, high school and beyond without homework? Is my child at a disadvantage without the experience of homework? Beacon’s response: For more than 30 years our policy has fostered inquisitive, thriving and fearless life-long learners.
Established with the founding of the school, Beacon’s no-homework-until-5th-grade policy is grounded in the understanding that homework requires independent learning skills that are best taught in the classroom under teachers’ direction and supervision. Our developmentally responsive curriculum identifies which skills each child is ready to learn. The teacher then sets the pace of instruction that leads each child to early and frequent success. Aligning curriculum and goals with a student's readiness to reach those goals sets the stage for deep learning, without having to send additional work home.
Beacon’s truly year-round program (225 days of instruction in Elementary School) provides more than enough time for students to accomplish the appropriate levels of intellectual, social, and emotional skills, as well as independent work habits and time management skills, under the direction and supervision of the classroom teacher.
So what do Beacon Elementary School students do at home to support learning? Having no homework frees up time for our students to play, relax, do chores, interact with family and friends, as well as get a good night’s sleep. These activities help build the energy level for the next day’s demands at school. At Beacon we recognize and value a child’s need for family life and parents’ need to have time to enjoy the growth and development of their children. Parent/child conflicts over homework use up that precious time. No homework allows room for our students’ natural inquisitiveness to play a role in fostering joy in life-long learning. Beacon parents report frequently about their children’s curiosity and interest in reading and learning new things in everyday life.
To be most effective, homework should be a positive and educationally enriching experience for students. Beginning slowly in grade 5 and increasing in Middle School, Beacon students are assigned well-chosen activities that build independent ability and time-management skills. By 7th and 8th grades these assignments more closely resemble the work that is expected in a traditional school though they require less time on task at home. Beacon Middle School teachers coordinate dates for tests and longer homework assignments so the student is not overwhelmed with work from multiple teachers.
Beacon alumni (and their parents) report being well-prepared for the adjustment to more rigorous homework assignments in high school. They note that they approached homework with a sense of confidence and, unlike their peers from other schools, did not experience homework “burn out” in middle school and beyond.
The discussion of homework policies (and the concerns about the stress placed on students at a young age) frequently resurfaces in media and publications. On many occasions Beacon has been recognized for our no-homework-until-5th-grade policy, including two books published in 2006: The Homework Myth: Why Our Kids Get Too Much of a Bad Thing (Kohn), and The Case Against Homework: How Homework Is Hurting Our Children and What We Can Do About It (Bennett and Kalish).
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