Homework (or the lack of it) in Waldorf Schools March 05 2023

Over the last decade or so homework has taken center stage in many child development debates and research projects.

In a child’s early years, there is concern that homework will restrict a child’s active learning by limiting self-motivated play and socialization. It is during play that a child’s imagination blossoms and intuition is strengthened. Homework can restrict a child’s time to interact with friends and family thus affecting relationships. Less social time means less socialization, which can indeed interfere with a child’s overall development, for it is during these periods of interaction that a child learns impulse control, conflict management, and other basic social skills.

In Waldorf schools, homework does not usually begin until around grade four and even then the goal is not to have schoolwork at home but to have consequential experiences from what they learned in school. Waldorf teachers strive to ensure that homework has value for students’ overall well-being and is worthy of the child’s time. Sometimes the homework will include main lesson book illustrations, nightly reading, or practicing string instruments. It is vital that homework not interfere with a student’s down time – doing so could affect the child’s circadian rhythm, which regulates sleep patterns. When homework interferes with sleep and deprivation occurs, headaches, stomach problems, and exhaustion can easily become issues. It was also determined that when sleep deprivation occurs, it is less likely that the lessons taught the following day will be understood and absorbed. 

Homework in high school is a little different. A recent study by a Stanford researcher suggests that 10 minutes for every grade level is “acceptable” but anything more can be counterproductive. They found that the more homework a student is assigned the more stress, physical health problems, and alienation they feel. The amount of pressure associated with homework in high school makes it more likely that students will fore-go social activities and hobbies instead of cultivating the critical life skills that come from social interaction and self-reflection. They often feel pressured to choose between homework and other extracurricular activities. 

To top it all off, the research shows little correlation between homework and academic success! So if you needed a reason or two to justify no homework, there you have it!