Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Why I Hate Homework

I've had two conversations in recent days with parents of kindergarteners. One is a good friend who works in higher education who contacted me because her five-year-old daughter was in tears over her fear that she would get a bad grade on her reading group homework (not assigned by her kindergarten teacher but by a gifted-and-talented specialist). The other is a mom whose son is in my daughter's swimming class. He, last week over spring break, had to write a book report.

Hearing from the first mom about her daughter infuriated me. I don't believe in homework. I don't really believe in grades. Grading reading group homework for a kindergartener goes against everything I believe. It seems as though the intention is to shape a child who hates to read. I know this mom will follow up with this teacher about her concerns. I'll be curious to hear what happens.

The other mom was only mildly frustrated. Her son had not really had any homework all year (yea!). When I shared that there is no research to prove that homework is beneficial in elementary school she seemed visibly relieved. She shared with me that she had withheld some things that her son enjoys last week to get him to complete this book report. She was frustrated by having had to do so. I told her that is one of the reasons I don't believe in homework for kids so young.

Most teachers structure the school day so that kids are learning from the time they arrive until they leave. They get a break to eat lunch with their friends and maybe fifteen to twenty minutes to play at recess. Otherwise, they are working hard. Most adults don't spend that high a percentage of their working day working hard. Then they go home and do the things they enjoy, not work someone else has assigned to them. Why do we treat kids so differently?

12 comments:

Summers School said...

I agree, completely. I hate homework too. The only time I really want to give it is if a child hasn't done the work during the day and instead elected to not work. However, parents and administration here get upset if there isn't some homework. So I assign it. Then, we grade it in class. That's it.

Kristen said...

I am now, after 13 years, debating the idea of homework. I give it, and I give a lot in some people's mind. I used to give a lot more til a parent complained that it was too much for her with a new baby. Most parents expect it, so I give it. What do you tell parents? Your principal? I would love to not give homework next year, but I feel I need something to go home to show the kids are practicing something outside of the classroom. Ideas?

Miss Wilfong said...

I teach kindergarten, and unfortunately we do give homework...however, our homework focuses more on parents spending time with their children. For example, part of our homework is for parents to read 3 books to their child per week and document the books that they read. We recognize the importance of reading together, and we want it to carry into the home as well. As the year progresses, we encourage the students to read the books to their parents. They love the idea of reading a story to their family.

Jill Fisch said...

I completely agree with your views on homework. Unfortunately, I am required to give the math homework that goes along with our math program. Thankfully, it is usually very short and generally not "busy work". I would still prefer not to have to send it home, though. I do try to complete it in class with the students sometimes as way to minimize what gets sent home.

Jenny said...

Summers School, It's bad enough that we subject our students to things we don't believe in (I'm thinking of standardized test after standardized test here) because the state and/or federal government requires us to. But then the parents and administrators also push us to do things we can't stand. I'm always impressed by how teachers manage to do what they have to without completely abandoning what they believe. It's pretty awesome.

Kristen, The only homework I give my kids each day is to read (we send home guided reading books they've read) and to go to bed by 8. Every once in a while I'll ask them to count (by 5s, 10s, from 25-40 or something) but I don't send home any written homework. My administration has no problem with that, luckily for me. I do have parents voice concerns, but I explain that I expect the children to work really hard from the time they get to my classroom until they go home and that once they leave I believe they need time to play and to spend with their families. I am always willing to recommend workbooks parents can get for their kids if they feel strongly their child needs something more. I've never had a parent get upset about this. Most seem pretty happy once I say I want their child to have time with them. Good luck!

Miss Wilfong, It sounds like the homework you are giving is exactly what we hope families are already doing. I expect students to read each night and send books home with them, but I love the idea of making reading with parents (with either one doing the reading) part of their homework, especially at the beginning of the year.

Jill, You use Everyday Math? My daughter brings home those pages each day. As homework, they aren't too bad. I will admit that often her homework doesn't get done and at the end of the week (or a couple of weeks) she'll pull a bunch out of her backpack and do them. She doesn't mind doing them, we just have other things going on most evenings as a family. Her teacher is not concerned, fortunately.

Sneaker Teacher said...

I teach half day Kinder and we give weekly homework. We are required to send home the math homework that goes along with our new math adoption, and we include an additional sheet to reinforce our weekly sight word and weekly sound. I send two math worksheets and one reading sheet per week and kids have it over a weekend so there is a lot of time to complete it.

One reason I think homework is beneficial is that it helps parents who aren't able to volunteer or come to my classroom stay aware of what we are working on. The work is not hard and it is not that time consuming, but I know that as a result of having the work to do at home, parents are spending time with their kiddos and staying involved in their progress. I also think the weekly work provides more flexibility for busy families. I can definitely see the other side though.... it can also be a big source of stress for families who struggle with time or who value having their children do other activities after school.

Jill Fisch said...

Jenny,

We do use Everyday Math and I never, ever nag kids about homework or hunt down homework not turned in. We are having a tough time at our house over homework tonight. Our daughter is making herself miserable over it and won't let it go even though we have said that she could. Yet another reason to hate homework. Ugh...

mrs.tabb said...

you've given me some things to think about... =)

www.anotherdayinfirstgrade.blogspot.com

teach5 said...

I teach kindergarten in a title one school. I give homework. What I give is a weekly reading log, we ask the parents to read with their child for 20 minutes a day 5 days a week. With the reading log, I include a progressive list of the letters and words that the child should know as the year progresses. If they haven't master the letters, sounds and words, then the expectation is that the parents will provide additional help at home. The kids who don't do the homework, usually don't do the class daily work, are generally behind the rest of the class, and the parents aren't helping.
I give it because beyond what we do in class, homework is pretty much my only other option for some of these kids. I don't have any elusions that miracles will happen.

Jenny said...

Sneaker Teacher, I would definitely prefer weekly homework (although we seem to have approached it that way in my house even though it isn't assigned that way). The flexibility to do it when it works best for us would be good. But, honestly, I'd still rather spend our time reading together, playing outside, talking about things, and just being a family than doing homework.

Mrs. Tabb, Thanks! For me this blog has been a place to push my thinking and it has helped a lot.

teach5, It sounds to me like you are expecting parents to read with kids (very worth the time) and offering them information about what the kids are learning so that they can support it. That sounds just about perfect to me.

Launa Hall said...

My own children, in 5th and 3rd grades in metro DC, have a phenomenal homework load. I hate it. They hate it. I do not give homework to my Pre-K students, although I have been urged to by some parents (!!). I send home a "share book" every night with every child, and that's it. However I've been thinking about telling parents that the homework is to turn off the TV.

Jim Randolph said...

I know this is an older post, but I'm cleaning out my feed reader and have had this starred for a while. I hate homework and grades as well and am often questioning these practices. Not that it's done much good but I keep plugging away at it. Thanks!