According to a tidbit in the April issue of Parents magazine, French president Francois Hollande has proposed a ban on homework. When Parents asked their readers, 65% were in favor of banning homework in the US, and 35% were against.
What do you think?
As a parent (note that my girls are only in JK and Grade 1) I have no concerns about the little homework they receive. I like getting them into routine at a young age, and any activities that come home help reinforce basic literacy and numeracy skills. But I also can acknowledge now, from experience, that it is an extra step each evening (and while just checking and signing planners takes only seconds, it is “one more thing” to get done on already busy weeknights).
Why are weeknights so busy? At the moment, our girls have dance lessons on Sunday evenings, and that’s their only commitment, though Spring gets busier. I totally value extracurriculars, whether they’re athletic, artistic or anything else, and I fully support the idea that school isn’t everything. But is playing hockey a valid excuse for never doing anything academic at home? Do the two have to be mutually exclusive?
As a Grade 3/4 teacher, I generally assign two kinds of homework:
1. Personal activities that require parental input (e.g. Religion sheet on ‘The Day I Was Born’ or Social Studies sheet on ‘Where Our Family Came From’). These take no more than 10 minutes to complete, and I usually give several days’ notice. When kids bring back this information, it gets shared with the class and sparks a lot of participation and discussion before being posted prominently in the room or the hall.
2. Work that is not completed in class, which only tends to be Math practice work. I’d say about 80% of my students finish practice activities (which aren’t done every day) during class time, and the other 20% take some home, whether that’s because the subject is challenging for them or they are still learning to manage their class time. I also encourage kids to take their books home anyway to review new concepts each evening or to prepare for tests. And I’ll be honest: I push a little harder because Grade 3 is an EQAO (our provincial standardized testing) year, and there is an awful lot of Math curriculum to learn.
I feel like it would be a disservice to my students if either of these types of homework was “banned”, as they would lose out on sharing curriculum with parents, and it would be harder for a few of them to consolidate our Math concepts without the extra practice time.
In (my) ideal world, kids would do a little bit of assigned work in the evenings, but then enjoy family time, with sports or other commitments a couple of times per week, and lots of time to play freely and read/write/draw whatever it is they feel like. (As long as they clean it all up after. Hey, this is my ideal world, I can make the rules.) But I know (because parents have told me) that it’s hard to motivate some kids to read even for pleasure, and it helps if “Mrs. Winn says you have to”.
I try very hard not to send things home that end up being the parents’ project (though it is certainly tradition at our school for parents to help write the kids’ Public Speeches). I can remember my own Grade 5 teacher asking us to build a Medieval project at home. A written report, I could have handled independently with ease, but “building” was not my forte (notice my use of past tense, as if implying that has changed). My parents (both teachers) had no interest in taking on my project, so I procrastinated (yes, me!) and on the last day my Dad agreed to cut a Coat of Arms out of wood for me to decorate. I brought it in…and set it on the table with 24 incredible, out-of-a-magazine-looking castles. I think that was the first “B” I ever received (okay fine, maybe I had a few in Art), and I was devastated. Did our home projects really reflect the students’ understanding of the Medieval Times?
Curriculum and assessment have changed dramatically since then (in Ontario, teachers are instructed to assess only the work that students complete with us in class and B’s are to be celebrated), but are we really ready to eliminate all types of homework entirely?
What are your thoughts? Would you support a full-out ban on homework? Do your kids get too much, the right amount, or too little? What homework gripes or questions do you have? I’d love for you to share here!