My Kids' Life Without Homework

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John Spencer posted a blog this morning titled, Homework and the Real World. I started to leave a comment but my comment grew into a blog post.

Every time I read post like this it reminds me why the school I send my kids to is awesome! In spite of the title of this post, last night my kids each had "homework". However, even though it could technically be called "homework", it is far from what would be considered traditional homework. They both had to spend time reading books of their choice. My seven year old is having some struggles with comprehension and his teacher suggested that we talk with him about the story after he reads to us.

My oldest son does a spelling test the first day of the week. Whatever words he misspells on Monday, he has to be able to spell by Friday. His teacher gives his ideas on ways he can learn the words he missed on Monday. My seven year old has spelling words too. He practices them every day. Not because he's forced to but because he wants to do well on his test. I never ask him to practice or remind him. It's not written in his agenda book. He just does it because he knows it will help him and I think he likes it when he spells all his words right.

Everything my kids do as "homework" are just suggestions. There are no real consequences if they don't do them. My wife or I initial our sons' agenda books each night to show that we've looked at it. It usually just has some announcements in it. Reminding us of an upcoming PTA meeting, a field trip, or the next family night.

My oldest son's teacher emails me weekly these awesome notes, like the one below, about how much joy she is getting out of teaching him. She puts notes in his agenda book about how hard he's working and how proud she is of him. She talks to us in person when he struggles. She probably has time to do all of this because she doesn't have to waste her time grading pointless homework.



When my kids get home, they get to be kids. They read, play, do chores, draw comics, smile, laugh, wrestle...you know...the things we wish all kids could do at home each night.  They couldn't do those things if they went to a more traditional school that assigned homework every night. The other Friday my oldest son went over to his 8 year old friend's house after school. He was sent back home because his friend had too much homework. Think about that! An 8 year old...on a Friday night...had too much homework to play...

Teachers, I encourage you to check out The Teachers Against Homework page on Facebook and sign the Abolishing Homework Pledge!


8 comments:

  1. I'm all about them being kids. Let them run, play, do sports, draw pictures, work on projects, do puzzles, talk to the neighborhood kids. Let them be kids. Thanks for the post!

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  2. You know what kills me, though, Brett: I've got a MASSIVE curricula to churn through during the course of a year and a new evaluation instrument that is going to hold me accountable for the performance of my kids on some crappy standardized test that the state is whipping up this year.

    I have no idea what content will be on the test, so skipping content from the curricula is a risky move for me. If I skip the wrong stuff, my kids will score low. If my kids score low, there will be consequences to my employment.

    #scarystuff

    That's why we need our administrators to be open with us about the notion of "organized abandonment." I've never had a principal tell me point blank that making choices about essential and nonessential skills and content was okay.

    Any of this make sense?
    Bill

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    1. I totally get it Bill. This is very scary stuff. There are so many things wrong with how students, teachers, and schools are evaluated that it's hard to know where to begin. I honestly believe we can have it both ways. I think we can abandon the things like textbooks, letter grades, and homework, make learning fun, give students choice and voice, and still raise crappy standardized test scores.

      I have seen it done in my own kids' school. I try not to bring it up too much on here because I try not to celebrate things I believe harm our students in the long run but my kids' school had one of the highest growths in the state on our standardized test scores.

      "Delaware Elementary School's ISTEP score pass rate jumped from 48 percent to 72 percent" - http://www.courierpress.com/news/2012/feb/24/no-headline---ev_delaware/

      Until standardized test go away, I think I'm in about a good situation as any parent. My kids go to a school that has helped them fall in love with learning, makes me happy as a parent and educator, and performs well by the state's standards.

      Education Dreamer

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  3. I"m with you on this one. The school I teach at (and that one of my kids attends) has chosen (mostly) to adhere to the policy laid out in the most recent provincial guidelines, which says that "wherever possible, work that is being graded should be done in the classroom, under the supervision of the teacher". The idea being that the teacher gets to see what the kids are actually capable of producing - on their own, not with a parent correcting, or editing, or typing, or pasting, or building, etc. As a parent, the difference in my stress level over the last few years (since the adoption of the policy) has been huge - no tears over projects that need to be worked on to meet a deadline (without a rubric, most of the time), no anger over spelling worksheets that need to be completed, even though they know that there won't be a mark. My older son has recently switched to a new school, within the same board, which doesn't seem to have gotten the same memo....and he has pretty regular homework (including practising an instrument, which he's okay with, because he's internally motivated to do it - he knows it's the way to be a better player) - whether it's theory sheets for music, or writing assignments for his class. Some of the work is great, and I love the creativity, but if the workload increases, I'm going to have to ask how it fits into the provincial document. I need my kids to have time to be kids.

    As a teacher, I occasionally put a link to a fun curriculum-related website on my homework webpage, so that if kids want to do extra practice on a theme (I'm a second-language teacher) they can, but it's a suggestion, as you say above.

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    1. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. That's a good policy but I worry about the phrase "wherever possible". It seems like that would give teachers a pretty large loophole to jump through. Keep up the good fight as a parent and educator!

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  4. Homework as a suggestion is an interesting idea. I wonder how that would work in a school culture so focused on extrinsic motivation? It would really push me to make my content (SS)engaging enough for students to want to do the homework.
    John Spencer's recent posts on this issue have had me thinking more about homework (again). Here's my response to his Week Without Homework Challenge: http://livingislearning.edublogs.org/2012/10/03/homework/

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    1. I will admit that I wasn't always viewed in the best light by my colleagues. I was often viewed as the guy who "didn't grade" because I gave no homework and/or the guy who "didn't teach" because it was an extremely rare thing to find me in front of my classroom lecturing. So if the school culture is focused on extrinsic motivation it could be a struggle for both the teacher and students.

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