Across North America, most parents are either frantically preparing for, or have just settled into, the new school year. Returning with the yellow buses and the pile of books is the perennial debate about homework: too much or too little? Does it serve no real purpose, or is it an important review tool? etc.
The Torah does not talk about homework. It does, however, specifically command a parent to educate a child. Throughout history, a large number of parents have delegated the task of education to schools or to private tutors. In fact, the Talmudic sage Joshua ben Gamla “came and ordained that teachers of young children should be appointed in each district and each town”(Baba Batra 21a). Sending a child to school does not, however, absolve a parent of responsibility to ensure that the child is being educated. The important role of a parent in education is reflected in the following Talmudic passage:
"Rabbi Chiya ben Abba found Rabbi Joshua ben Levi wearing a plain cloth upon his head and taking a child to the synagogue [where he had his lessons]. ‘What is the meaning of all this?’ he demanded. ‘Is it then a small thing,’ he replied: ‘that it is written (Deuteronomy 4:9): ‘and you shall make them known to your sons and your sons’ sons’...? From then onwards, Rabbi Chiya ben Abba did not taste meat [eat breakfast] before revising [the previous day's lesson] with the child and adding [another verse]. Rabbah son of Rabbi Huna did not taste meat until he took the child to school" (Kiddushin 30a).
Although this quote does not answer the homework debate, it does enforce an important message that is agreed upon by educators around the world--few factors are as important in education as parental participation.
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