Homework: To be or not to be, that is the question

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Homework.  The word elicits great fear and trembling from many children and parents I know.  As a student, my experience with homework was slightly irritating, but not painful.  As a teacher, homework seemed like a chore.  I was always trying to decide what I could send home to meet the “homework requirement” that would take minimal time, but still be worthwhile.  This is a difficult task.  I always had children in my first grade classes who had no support at home to ensure that they completed their homework, and others who’s parents all but completed it for them.  Then I say, “What’s the point?”

In Alfie Kohn’s book, The Homework Myth, he talks about how schools are basically stealing childhood away from children with the unnecessary amounts of homework being assigned daily.  He reflects on a study that looked at the number of children from ages 6-8 with daily homework.  In 1981, only 34% of this group had daily homework.  In 2002, the percentage was at 64%.  Another study showed that homework is now becoming a regular part of the kindergarten experience as well.  Honestly, this infuriates me!  Again, what is the point? 

At my current school, we do not give homework.  Granted, we have 3-6 year olds, but in some schools even three-year-olds are doing workbook pages adnauseum.  I do, however, ask families to work with their children on a special research project, read a class book together, or play a game together.  The material ALWAYS relates to what we are doing in class and serves as a way for the children to demonstrate their learning to their parents in a safe and successful setting.  The activities are engaging the whole family in learning together.  I never send home a standard worksheet, but then, that is another issue altogether. 

Alfie Kohn and I agree on three types of “homework” that may be appropriate for all ages:

  1. Activities naturally suited to the home like projects to connect home and school and experiments in the kitchen.
  2. Family activities, such as family board games, card games, cooking activities, crossword puzzles,  researching something on the Internet together.
  3. Reading, reading, and more reading!

I recently read that the Detriot City school district mailed hefty packets of homework to each child in the district over the summer to be completed before school started.  This is a complete abuse of the very idea of homework!  How can work arbitrarily assigned over the summer really serve to “reinforce” learning.  At best, the children learned some of the information at the end of the school year and then had over a month before the packet arrived.  My thoughts: a total misuse of district funds, time, and a recipe for a lot of parent and student heartache.  Welcome back to school!  Ugh.

So, what do YOU think?  Homework… to be or not to be?

Here are some recommended books on the subject:

One Comment

  1. I don’t mind a reasonable amount of homework so long as it seems relevant and useful. I also like the sumer reading requirement, but that’s easy to say since the oldest is such a voracious reader (she INHALES books). I also remember spending the bulk of my childhood summers reading everything I could get my hands on to avoid the awful KY heat outside so it’s a fond memory for me. It was also books of my choice. If it had been a packet of math problems forced on me by the school my recollections would be far less happy.

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