Homework is a tough one. We all have our opinions about it. Reading Alfie Kohn’s work on the subject reveals that the research can’t really agree on whether homework is valuable or not for young kids. For my son, who is 15, homework is not pleasant but with prodding he’ll do it. We make sure he has the space and time to do it. With my daughter, well that’s a whole different story. She’ll either love it or hate it. Mostly she hates it. She sees little value in much of the work sent home. With all her interests I see no value in the work she brings home. Sometimes it’s an outright battle.
Why should we be battling during our wonderful family time over school work that isn’t done at school? Why do we as teachers feel it necessary to dictate to families what they should be doing with their kids during their time at home? In second grade we had to ask my daughter’s teacher to excuse her from the homework. The math sheets literally took my daughter’s love of math right out of her. We couldn’t stand it. Now in fourth grade again the homework rears its ugly head. We met with her teacher and she had some good points about some parents wanting lots of homework while some the homework never got done. We had to make sure the homework policy was flexible. It is. If she’s got better things to do we won’t sweat it. If she likes it, she’ll do it. We want to empower our kids to choose for themselves when it’s appropriate. And we certainly don’t want to see our child’s love of reading or writing diminished because it’s assigned for homework!
As a teacher I’ve done it all with homework. From assigning it, to grading it, to weighing it less and less, to making it optional, to not assigning it at all. What I’ve seen after 21 years of teaching is that the majority of kids, whether in South Central Los Angeles, in hippie-town Port Townsend, or in rural Chimacum, don’t do it. For many of them it’s a struggle at home and many parents hate it. Kids hate it. Sure, there are those who like it and want it for their kids but that’s their choice. Overall, I see homework as a negative experience.
A couple of years ago I brought the movie, A Race to Nowhere, to our community. Many teachers did not attend and so weren’t part of the conversation. I am still disappointed because so many good topics were discussed such as our obsession with homework. I’m still hopeful that things will change in education so that it doesn’t look in the 21st century much like it did in the 19th century. Frankly, that is embarrassing to have to admit.
I’ve collected a few great links to others’ thoughts on homework (well, it’s skewed towards abolishing it). Check them out. There’s some great reading there if you’re against homework and if you’re for it see if there’s something there worth rethinking homework.
Please share your thoughts on homework in the comments section. I’d love to hear what others think about this and maybe ideas for how I can reach out to our primary and elementary teachers who are giving our youngest kids homework. My view is that kids need to be kids and play and be outdoors and socializing. Not sitting doing homework. It’s enough to do that at school!