Homework or Work of the Home?
For most of us, homework doesn’t enter our thoughts until the mid-elementary years and is typically thought of as worksheets and assignments that are given by the child’s teacher. That’s where we are different. Traditional homework emphasizes the repetition of rote behaviors rather than the development of understanding. These assignments limit the possibility for exploration, substituting the mere completion of a task for the joy of discovery and personal understanding.
Montessori schools, on the other hand, think of homework, or rather the work of the home, as an opportunity for real purposeful work, decision making, and an opportunity for the child to show choices about their learning. To that end, the work should be of interest and meaningful. At the Children’s House level that takes the form of self-care in washing and dressing, caring for the environment by wiping up spills, putting things away, setting the table, etc. They can help care for pets and learn vocabulary at the grocery store. It means leaving plenty of time in their day to explore the natural world and make decisions about their free play.
At the Elementary level they can learn to knit, sew, build a bookcase with an adult, learn photography or learn a new song to teach the class. It could mean finding a newspaper article to discuss with your family, play Scrabble, or write poetry and stories. It can take the form of comparison shopping, keeping statistics of when you go to bed or helping with the family budget. They can plan a family vacation, play on a sports team, learn an instrument. The list is endless!
Our Upper School children experience homework by preparing writing assignments to read aloud to their class, reading and writing responses to seminar topics, completing math assignments that they will then present to their classmates and teacher, and practicing their Spanish. The focus here is on real, purposeful work. This homework is intended to wrestle with ideas and to think deeply about questions that matter.