Vacation Homework: Aren’t We Supposed to be on Break?

Vacation Homework: Aren't We Supposed to be on Break?

Carolyn Fenerty

Jessica Simms working on April Break math homework.

Emily Bauer on Vacation Homework

Carolyn Fenerty, Writer

Assigning homework over school vacations undermines the purpose of vacations- to relax and to be able to leave town without missing school- and is detrimental to students’ mental health, difficult to complete when a student goes away for vacation, and places unnecessary stress to students’ lives.

Vacation is no longer a break for students, but instead more time to do more school work.

Major arguments for vacation homework include keeping the information fresh in students’ minds, preventing students from being idle, and even making up for lost time when a class is behind.

Practice helps to keep students from forgetting information over the break, meaning that teachers do not have to waste time in class reviewing the information. When teachers must teach certain information by the end of the year, class time is crucial. However, especially for students who take higher level classes or who struggle in class, constantly learning new information can be overwhelming. A week to decompress, rather than having even more information thrown into their faces, can help students to learn by giving them a chance to let students process information without more being pushed onto them. Also, seeing as most work to retain memory is busy work, the value of break homework is questionable.

Schools also assign homework over break to continue learning beyond the classroom. But more homework, especially busywork, does not directly connect to better test scores or increased intelligence, and doing busy work- work only assigned for the sake of assigning work- is tedious and can make students resent school or homework. Packets of worksheets seem like a waste of time, and readings related to the topic but with little application to the actual material can be time consuming both because of the actual work and because students resent having their time wasted on a subject or material in which they see no value: having to read a large book about Thomas Jefferson, for example, during the Revolutionary War unit.

When a class is behind, teachers may assign reading or work over break to catch up. But this is unfair to students, who have their break taken away for the sake of catching up on material they should already have covered. After two months with little break in the work for courses, having the one week of vacation taken up by homework is annoying, unnecessary, and stressful as school work takes away the short break students are supposed to have from school work.

Some teachers do not assign homework over break because of an existing long term project. This is acceptable because the students choose whether or not to take advantage of the time, and many of them are grateful for having days with nothing planned to get ahead on projects. However, assigning a project the day before break and having it due two days afterward is not a long term project and forces students to do the homework over break.

Vacation exists to allows students to take a break from classwork and stress, and to allow students to go away with their families or even to visit colleges.

After weeks of strenuous classes, homework, sports, and extracurricular activities, having a week with nothing planned and no requirements is relaxing and necessary for students’ mental health, especially for students with more difficult course work. Students taking six honors and advanced placement classes would benefit from a week of being able to sleep and hang out with friends, or marathon 4 seasons of a TV show on Netflix in order to escape stress. Homework over break forces students to stay in “school mode,” making it difficult to simply relax and enjoy not having responsibilities for one week.

It could be argued that, because high school is supposed to prepare us for the real world, not having responsibilities is unrealistic and does not help students in real life. But adults are allowed a certain number vacation days from work in order to enjoy time with their families or just relax or travel, and they are not given assignments while, for example, traveling to Disney World with their children.

This brings up another important point: travel. Many students travel during the holidays; they go to Europe, the Caribbean, Florida, and hundreds of other places either to visit family or to take a vacation with their family. On a vacation to Ireland or a cruise around the Caribbean, or even visiting grandparents in Ohio, doing homework can be difficult, impractical, and distracting what is supposed to a time to relax. School encourages students not to miss school for vacations because of the work they will miss, meaning that assigning work on the days where students are allowed to take vacations is counterproductive.

Giving a free week to work on a long term project is fine, but while students are on vacation, we’re supposed to be taking a break from school, not spending our break on more school.