Common Core: RH.6-8.1, RH.6-8.2, RH.6-8.4, RH.6-8.6, RH.6-8.8, WHST.6-8.1, WHST.6-8.5, RI.6-8.1, RI.6-8.2, RI.6-8.4, RI.6-8.6, RI.6-8.8, RI.6-8.10, W.6-8.1, W.6-8.5, SL.6-8.1

NCSS: Individual Development and Identity • Individuals, Groups, and Institutions

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We Write It, You Decide

Should Students Have Homework Over Breaks?

A year of remote learning has put many students behind in school. Is homework over the holidays the answer to getting teens back on track?  

The holidays are nearly here! It’s time to enjoy your favorite treats, visit with family and friends, and maybe even unwrap a big pile of . . . homework?

Assignments over winter break probably aren’t on your wish list. But some educators believe giving homework during school vacations is necessary to help students stay sharp—especially now. 

More than 70 percent of U.S. students in grades K-12 attended classes remotely for at least part of this past school year because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Months of school shutdowns and virtual classes have caused many teens to fall behind. Doing homework over winter break, some experts say, could help kids catch up.

But others argue that hitting the books over the holidays isn’t the answer. They say students need downtime—and that homework serves little purpose anyway. 

Should students have homework over school breaks? Keep reading, then decide what you think.

Homework Is Helpful

Many people across the U.S. are concerned that teens’ grades are suffering because of the pandemic. They support homework during winter break to help kids get back on track. But plenty of others are in favor of assignments during vacations even during normal school years. They say homework helps prevent students from forgetting what they’ve learned. Plus, they add, teachers shouldn’t have to spend time reviewing old lessons when classes start again. 

Homework over the holidays also helps students practice their skills, explains Janine Bempechat. She studies human development at Boston University in Massachusetts. 

“Consistent practice is essential for learning and growth,” she says.


Average time U.S. teens spend on homework per day 

SOURCE: Pew Research Center

Brian Platzer, a teacher and co-author of Taking the Stress Out of Homework, agrees. Putting in some time on tricky concepts over vacation lets students “hit the ground running when they return.”

Supporters of homework over winter break say assignments don’t need to involve detailed worksheets or reports. For example, students could read a book of their choosing and keep a response journal. Reading, experts say, may help students recharge after a tough year. 

“Getting lost in reading,” says Bempechat, “is a wonderful way to reduce stress.”

Lessons From Around the World

CHINA: Under new rules to ease pressure on kids, middle school students are limited to 1.5 hours of homework a night.

High school students attend school for five hours per day and have about three hours of homework per week.

Some government officials have asked schools to reconsider heavy homework loads so kids can relax.

Kids Need Rest

Others, however, are quick to point out that today’s students are already facing high stress levels, and the last thing they need over the holidays is more assignments. 

Homework over winter break is unnecessary, says Alfie Kohn, author of The Homework Myth. In fact, kids probably don’t need to do homework ever.

“Everyone knows homework can be frustrating and exhausting,” he explains. 

Some school districts across the U.S. have reduced or even banned homework. One reason is that not all kids have access to the same resources outside the classroom. For example, 15 percent of households with school-age children do not have high-speed internet, according to the Pew Research Center.


Share of teens who cite homework as a source of stress 

SOURCE: Challenge Success 

After her school district discouraged assigning homework over the holidays, eighth-grade teacher Christina Torres of Honolulu, Hawaii, altered her lessons. Now her students complete important projects before enjoying time off. 

“Taking the stress of homework out of my students’ holiday breaks is important,” she wrote in Education Week. “They deserve an opportunity to relax and rejuvenate as much as I do.”

Think It Over

Consider the pros and cons of having homework during school breaks. Then ask yourself: Should teachers give assignments over the holidays? Or are there other, less formal ways to continue learning when school is not in session? 

Write About It! Should students have homework over breaks? Write an essay that includes evidence from the article.

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