Ditch the Homework


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In general, I am anti-homework. After teaching math for 14 years I observed that the kids who needed to do the homework didn’t and those who didn’t need it did. Instead, I stopped talking so much so the students could get the practice during class. This did require a rethinking of how I structured my class, but I felt it was more important for students to practice while I was there rather than being frustrated and alone at home.

I intentionally live in a high poverty neighborhood, I look at the kids around me and realize many of them do not have a home situation where homework is doable. They may not even have a good place to do the homework let alone get the support from parents to do it. My husband and I are fairly well educated so when my children ask for help with their homework we are able to explain and teach fractions to them. Not all parents can do this. This creates a divide between the students who parents can teach and help them and those who can not.

This isn’t to say that students should never do things at home. Sometimes, some students need more practice. I doubt all students need the exact same practice. Projects will probably need to be worked on outside of class as will research, but how do we ensure that students have an opportunity to do this at school in some capacity?

Relying on a students ability to do it at home punishes the students who can not do it at home.

Speaking as a Parent

I have seen my children come home with worksheet after worksheet. Typically the outcome is one of two things. 1) They know how to do it and blast through it. Thus they did not need the homework. or 2) They are frustrated and then I have to help them/teach them how to do it.

When I have to help my children with their homework this sometimes can become a battle. I view the homework not as a learning opportunity, but rather as a device to make me the bad guy with my child. Very rarely do I think that the quality of the assignment warranted me having an argument with my child. My children go to school all day and my husband and I work all day. If we meet up at 5 or 6pm and then bedtime is around 8pm that does not give me hardly any time to spend with my children. As a parent I want to decide how to spend time with my kids, rarely would I choose to spend that time doing inane math worksheets.

Parent Guide

Some parents welcome, heck demand, that homework be sent home. I recommend sending home a weekly newsletter with a parent guide. Let the parents know what is going on in your classroom for the week. List the lesson objectives, resources they can explore to find out more, videos you made that the parents can watch with the students, daily discussion prompts to help parents talk to their children about school, links to activities and practice parents can do with their children, along with opportunities to extend the learning.

By providing optional activities, parents can choose how or if they want to review the learning with their children. We can sit around and complain that parents do not get involved, but every parent has different reasons they do or do not work on school work with their children. Most likely we are not going to change all of the parents behaviors, so let’s stop punishing the kids and make the best of the time we do have with the students during school time.

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6 Responses to Ditch the Homework

  1. Susan wells says:

    Alfie Kohn, author of Homework Wars, discusses new research of support http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alfie-kohn/homework-research_b_2184918.html In my 29th year as a public school educator, teacher, central office, principal I couldn’t agree more. My sons are grown but the inequity of homework you describe was present then as it is now. I applaud your words and your work.

  2. wmartin4 says:

    “Parents can choose how or if they want to review the learning with their children” By sending our kids home inspired, they are more likely to engage their parents in their learning.

  3. Darin says:

    If homework is given as an optional guide, won’t there still be a disparity between children of educated parents who can use the guide and the children whose parents who can’t? In fact, won’t it be exacerbated because the less educated parents may not be able to discern what is beneficial?

    • admin says:

      Darin, there will ALWAYS be a disparity between wealthy parents who work with their kids and those who don’t. You can’t stop, nor should you want to, parents from working with their kid. Before there was suggested homework, or even pre-school, the parents were working with their kids. Providing a list of directed things students can work on is a valuable resource and I think it should be provided. If they are going to work with their kids anyway, why not find ways to suggest they work together that align with what is going on in the classroom. This also helps those parents who do not know how to work with their kids, maybe they want to but feel unqualified or don’t know what to use. This can expand the options for the parents who are currently not.

  4. Nikhil Sharma says:

    Teachers can actively participate by letting students self assess their homework.

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