HomeJune 2024Embracing Joyful Learning

Embracing Joyful Learning

The Virtues of No Homework at IHDS

Proverbs 22:6:“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”
     Central to the discussion of education and learning is the concept of “Simcha,” or joy, which permeates Jewish tradition and teachings. This verse from Proverbs underscores the significance of education and guidance in shaping the character and values of children. It highlights the enduring impact of early learning experiences as something spiritual-to be ingrained for life rather than ephemeral. For far too long the great majority of learning institutions (both Jewish and secular) have relied heavily on homework presumably to boost academic discipline. Too often, homework has had the opposite effect, serving as a “second shift” for both kids (and frequently their parents.) In fact, many scholars espousing homework’s importance are unaware of its origins where it was created as a method of punishment for children rather than as a method of concept reinforcement.
    Inordinate amounts of homework is contrary to Jewish educational philosophy which has long emphasized the importance of balance, rest, and spiritual growth. Irvine Hebrew Day School is one of the few Jewish Day schools in the county which respects and honors the limited time families get to spend with each other afterschool. We believe that this time is just as critical as what our children learn during the school day and may even be of greater importance on a spiritual level. Prioritizing focusing on family with the aim of joy and connection hold sacred value that cannot be quantified or graded. By placing joyful learning and connection with loved ones over homework, IHDS creates a more inclusive and fulfilling educational environment for children. Our no homework policy until the sixth grade is integral not only in promoting joyful learning, but in encouraging authentic communication and collaboration in our communities.
    In addition to its alignment with Jewish values, the virtues of no homework also resonate with contemporary research on education and child development. Alfie Kohn, a nationally recognized expert on child development has noted that “not a single study has ever supported the folk wisdom that homework teaches good work habits or develops positive character traits such as self-discipline, responsibility or independence.” Additionally, recent research at Stanford has uncovered that students who spend too much time on homework have more stress, physical health problems and diminished capacity to create a constructive work/life balance. Conversely, with the focus on learning during the school day and the freedom to choose how we spend afterschool time, an effect of cultivating superior critical thinking skills, and further developing a lifelong love of learning emerges.
    The virtues of no homework in alignment with Jewish values are manifold. By embracing principles of joy, rest, social responsibility and social justice, our educators create a more transformative and permanent learning experience for our students. Experiencing joy and learning should never be mutually exclusive. Our curriculum weaves the two together in unique and exciting ways. The success of these efforts is evident in the spirit of our students who cannot wait to get to school every morning and begin their day.
    If you are interested in a progressive and challenging environments that inspires joy, curiosity and social emotional growth we would love to show you all that IHDS has to offer. Please reach out and schedule a tour today:

Jennifer McNight is an IHDS parent and an educational therapist.

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