Like many families, my husband and I placed great emphasis on coursework when determining the right school for ensuring the academic success of our daughter, Adrienne ’28. We sought a course curriculum that provided homework as more than the standard practice and preparation for, or extension of, the classroom. As the mother of a Lower School student for the past three years, I can attest that GDS provides the aforementioned and so much more.
I have witnessed both the progression in difficulty and the amount of homework. For example, in 1st grade, though there is no daily homework assignment, my daughter had the opportunity to flex her research skills for an end-of-school state research project and presentation. While there were specific guidelines for the assignment, there were ample opportunities for students to expand upon individual interests. Adrienne was assigned the state of Tennessee for her research project. During her research, my daughter was stunned to learn of the Trail of Tears, the forced migration of the Cherokee nation, where many did not survive the journey due to malnourishment, disease, and exhaustion. While I pondered how Adrienne would decide to incorporate the information neatly into one of the predetermined categories, she, without hesitation created a new section and titled it, “Something You Need to Know.” On the surface, Adrienne and her classmates were invited to further their knowledge of the 50 states. However, as students dove into the research process, it became clear that the assignment was designed to encourage curiosity and challenge students to establish their own value-set for filtering information.
Homework prompts in 2nd grade allowed for weekly open-ended learning guided by the student rather than learning confined to specific subject matter and assigned by the teachers. During the school year, students developed techniques to learn and explore new subject matter, building independence and fueling the love of learning. For one component of Adrienne’s homework, she chose to write a jingle about Girl Scout cookies. Unable to do so on her own, Adrienne proactively sought the assistance of her music teacher, John Barnes. John freely gave of his time and expertise. At GDS, the teachers are fully engaged. Students learn to be comfortable approaching teachers and seeking guidance. Their confidence is solidified as they are met with unwavering support in their endeavors to pursue individual interests and curiosities.
Third graders learn that time-management and self-motivation are critical skills to their academic success. Teachers provide all of the homework assignments for the week on Mondays, with scheduled due dates throughout the week. This allows my daughter to learn study skills by completing assignments based upon our family’s schedule. It also helps to keep families informed of their child’s learning. Homework assignments may also include challenge work for those who may be interested. This way, Adrienne self-challenges by choice rather than having it forced upon her. In addition to the weekly assignments, students manage long-term reading assignments and book reports at home, as well as projects such as the immigration study completed at school with a classmate.
While having a self-motivated child was one of my husband’s and my goals for our daughter, I never fathomed that would grow through exposure to homework. The longer my family is part of the GDS community, the more we experience—through our daughter—the pedagogical intentionality here. By trusting the process, I have been able to watch my daughter blossom into a self-motivated child. That is why GDS is the right place for us.