Thursday, May 26, 2011

Me and My Homework Issues

I have issues with homework. In 13 years of teaching I've drastically changed my homework thoughts and gone to basically no homework. Now that I teach first grade that's not really shocking. But even in fourth and fifth grades homework was extremely minimal and quite nontraditional.

A school district in New Jersey is reconsidering its homework policy (or, it sounds like, considering formalizing a policy). They are thinking of not assigning homework over weekends or holidays and that homework should only be ten minutes per grade level (meaning for third grade it would take 30 minutes, for seventh grade it would take 70 minutes).

The money quote, in my mind:

Giaquinto said. "We want to make sure the homework we are sending home is meaningful."

The recommendations are aimed at ensuring students are not assigned busywork such as 25 math problems when five would sufficiently prove a child mastered a skill. The changes would allow students to have time for extracurricular activities and quality time with their families, officials said.

The idea that we need to create a policy to make sure homework is meaningful causes me pain. Homework seems to me to be one of those things we continue to do because it has always been done. How many teachers have taken a serious look at their homework expectations, reflected on them, and continued to do what they've been doing?

I feel even more strongly anti-homework now that I have a child in school. She is not an overly-scheduled child by any stretch. But I want her to be able to run around outside after school, play around on the piano, or just read. She's doing plenty of great learning through those activities.


Teacher Mum said...

Our school has a very strict homework policy which is specified in the school diary. Each grade has a limit for how many minutes of homework a child in that grade should be doing. This excludes reading. My son in Year 1 is expected to do 10 minutes a night...I find the homework that is sent home never takes as long as that. It is now never homework for the sake of homework, but rather a matter of making a connection at home with what he is learning at school. It is working brilliantly.
My older son (final year of elementary school) is expected to do 30 minutes a night - but he is overloaded and there is no constant - sometimes he does more than an hour and sometimes nothing.

I fully support homework policies and meaningful homework that children can do independently (with you around for guidance) and that's it.

The Girl said...

I teach in a school that has a "no homework" policy. In our family handbook, it states quite clearly that no homework will be given, as we expect that students will be working hard to learn and demonstrate their new knowledge as much as possible within the confines of the school day. It also states, equally clearly, that if students choose not to do their work in school, it will then need to be done at home and brought back the following day.

I have been fighting for nine months with parents of students who refuse to follow the second part of our policy. They believe that no homework = nothing goes home that needs to be done. I've gone out of my way, adjusting my schedule to offer time after school (but we have activities!) and before school (but that's too early to have Johnny up!) and during lunch (but that's not fair! he doesn't have time to talk with his friends!). These are kids who have learned, through their parents actions, that they can do absolutely nothing at school except disrupt the learning of others and it is perfectly okay with mom and dad. I'm at my wits end.

Our school is a "project-based" learning environment, and sometimes that means that students need to bring materials from home in order to complete the projects. I have parents who invoke the "no homework" rule here as well--anything that requires the kids to be responsible for something, parents call "no homework policy!!" and I am then forced to provide materials and such for students because their parents won't let them suffer the consequences or help them remember to bring what they need. What is this teaching the child? It's teaching them to manipulate the system to ensure the LEAST amount of responsibility on their part.

I understand that families want family time. I understand that many kids ARE overscheduled with dance, sports, playdates, parent events, family events, church events, etc. I get it. I do believe, however, in providing opportunities for students to learn to be responsible. Parents MUST teach kids that their schoolwork is more important than ANY extracurricular activity and that not doing schoolwork will result in losing the privilege of having extracurricular activities.

Rebecca said...

I like no homework, and it works for many kids/families where learning and reading already happens at home, regardless of an assignment given(like your daughter).

However most of my students are way behind in their reading. Their homework (generally) is to read 30 minutes and night, do a reading response, and some math. Most of my students would not read unless it was assigned, and many still do not read even though it is assigned.

I do think kids are spending way too much time with hwk, and not enough time exploring, reading for the fun of it, etc...

I also teach in a low-income neighborhood in Oakland, CA- so there are not a lot of places to play outside. Families usually keep their kids indoors which = video games/tv... and I think I'd much prefer hwk to those choices!

I'm glad that your school is figuring out something that works well for your community :)

Tracy said...

I STOPPED sending homeowrk home this year. It wasnt fair to those who DO do it and those firsties whose parents dont care and never get anything done.
I am changing it up a bit for next year tho. I have a spelling tic tac toe board for the kids to do more spelling practice (before they had to do sentences...and it never got done). Also, since we are going to more of a math workshop method I will be sending home the games for the weekend for the parents to play WITH their child.

Sarah said...

I so agree - I still have to send home homework or I'd get in trouble with the principal. I wish she would reconsider for all the great reasons you mentioned!

Jenny said...

Teacher Mum, your last sentence hits the nail on the head in my opinion.

The Girl, that sounds like a lack of support from parents in regards to school in general. That's really unfortunate. The kids will quickly learn that school is not important. However, I do have to disagree that schoolwork is more important than any extracurricular activity. Kids who struggle in school but excel in an extracurricular activity need that in their lives.

Rebecca, I hate that families don't have good options for their kids after school. That's true for my students as well and it makes me so sad for them.

Tracy, when I taught fourth/fifth grades I sent home math games throughout the year as the kids learned them. I loved having that as their math homework. I should go back to doing that.

Sarah, ugh, it pains me that principals focus on such things.