Homework – Yay or Nay?

I am taking @IanAByrd’s challenge to create a personal philosophy about homework, or at least to have a clearly developed argument for when students and/or parents want to know why I don’t give homework.

This has become a topic of interest recently as other teachers at my school start assigning homework. All I say to my students is: “Remember to read in Spanish and English every night.” Even though I know this is enough, in fact I know it’s way better than”enough, I still ask myself: “Is this enough?”

In grade 5, students should not spend more than 20 minutes studying, ie homework. Kids need to go outside. Run around. Read, play, create and more. Students’ schedules are too structured and regimented by the adults in their lives.

So, here is my (short) list of beliefs about homework and why I will continue to say: “Read in Spanish and English every night.”

(1) Kids are in school for 6 – 7 hours a day. Some of them may be on a bus for up to an additional hour in the afternoon. It seems to me that burdening them with homework that I’m then supposed to check and/or correct is cruel and unusual punishment after a long day in a classroom with 25 other students and one teacher. Although this scenario may vary, it is the reality for many kids.

(2) Typical homework assignments, no matter what the grade level, often translate into worksheets. Is this really a good use of students’ time at home? The kids who know their number facts, for example, may breeze through assignments, while others may struggle with the work or may simply spend more time on it than can reasonably be expected. Homework that isn’t fast to complete and easy to check, becomes a burden for families and teachers. Not to mention the policing that inevitably happens when students don’t do the homework. And, even when we implore families to let their children do the work on their own, most families won’t heed our advice especially if they are the parent of a child who does not do school well.

(3) I value family time. I know how hard parents work to juggle work and family obligations. Let’s not add to an already full plate. Let’s instead encourage conversation about topics that are of interest to children. But let’s not turn that into another school assignment.

(4) My job is not to prepare kids for the next grade level. My job is to teach the kids I have in my class now and to be culturally and linguistically consequential with them. My job is to help students be mathematicians, readers, writers and thinkers so that they can extend this at home through unstructured play, books, art, words and conversations.

Although I’ve been around the block with respect to the disagreement around assigning homework, it seems like there are still teachers who may feel that they are not good teachers unless they give their students homework.

I’m hanging up my hat. Been there and done that. I am moving on to the next important topic in education. I don’t know what that is yet, but it’s sure to find me soon. This one’s had enough of my attention.

What about you? What is your thinking with respect to homework?

Cross posted to the Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Tuesday.

6 thoughts on “Homework – Yay or Nay?

  1. I’m 100% with you. As is the research. Yes to family time. Yes to reading. Last year I had a few parents balk at no math homework. So I send home the completed math work we do in class. If parents want, they can look that over and ask questions. Have a conversation with their kiddos about math. I have a math problem of the week, from the NCTM site, students can choose to do. They have all week to do it if they want. No stress. This has gone surprisingly well. Parents have gotten involved and work together to solve it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • This sounds great! This year we’ve started updating families on our website every two weeks about what’s coming up in the classroom. As part of that communication, we’ve been asked to share a couple of disciplinary websites that the kids can use for practice, research and exploration of different curricular topics. I am also planning to have kids take work home every couple of weeks or so to share with their parents as a way to insert parents into the learning conversation. More on that in another post.


    • This idea has been driven home for me once again at a presentation at my son’s middle school recently: kids need to be bored every so often, in part, because that’s how they can develop and strengthen their imaginations.


  2. TammyB says:

    I believe you have articulated the feelings of homework very well in this post! I do not believe in giving homework. I think that a lot of teachers send homework because they think that is what they are supposed to do. The kids don’t want to do it if there is no feedback, however, and I honestly don’t blame them. Teachers who give the homework and then only check for completion but not accuracy show the kids that it isn’t worth the effort to practice. I often see teachers sending home new content which is problematic. Homework should be something the kids already know how to do.
    The only homework I tried to give when I had a full classroom was reading every night – but I also always had time during the day for them to read too.
    Thank you for this post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Agree with everything you say here, Tammy. Homework creates more problems than it solves and does not teach kids anything. That is our job in the classroom. Feedback is so important and we know that with all teachers have to do, feedback on homework assignments should be the least important task they have to do.

      Liked by 1 person

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