Monday, March 25, 2013

I've Absolutely Had It With Homework

For those of you who regularly read my blog you know, I think about standards based grading OFTEN! The other topic I am obsessed with is HOMEWORK.  Last May, one of my favorite education bloggers, Joe Bower wrote this piece on opting out of homework:
Alfie Kohn's "Opt Out of Homework" letter shared by Joe Bower

If you read the comments you will notice the long one I posted.  I have not done much writing here about homework.  I am not sure if it is because I feel it is not a battle worth picking since my views go against the mainstream thoughts of most educators.  Or if it has just taken a backseat to my need to write about other topics.  I have been collecting blog posts and articles for the better part of 2 years which are here for you to explore:
Kristen's Evernote Standards Based Grading and Homework Notebook

The resources I have been collecting (and obsessively continue to collect) have provided a burden of proof for me to share with those who question my philosophy on all things related to homework and standards based grading.  They have also given me enough peace that I haven't felt the need to push my views here or anywhere else except when I have to defend myself.  Interestingly two things happened this week that have awoken a sleeping giant and require my immediate attention.

Last week the second EVER chat for #sbgchat on twitter addressed homework:
Storify Archive of #sbgchat on Homework 03/20/13
It was a lively discussion that blew my mind with the speed of the chat and resources and thoughtful comments.  It also created a fire in my gut that told me I need to advocate for my views on homework.  Two days after that chat I received my son's first grade progress report in which he scored an S- for homework.  I would like to say that a light bulb sparked, however, it was more like an explosion of some sort.  So here goes another one of my "I Believe" rants which will be followed by a reflection on homework as the parent of a first grade student.
  • I believe that students should read or be read to at home everyday for at least 30 minutes (any type of media) and discuss, debate, question, with family members what they have read for an additional 10-15 minutes
  • I believe that students should have at least an hour of time to unwind or do whatever they choose
  • I believe that students should actively participate in some sort of family ritual every day (including preparing dinner, attending sporting events, attending other events, helping with chores, caring for animals, any other family time/event)
  • I believe that students should get a minimum of 8 hours of sleep a night
  • I believe that if students do all of the above, they will have not other time for "homework"
  • I believe that if students spend more than an hour on homework a night they are wasting their time.
Ouch, I am going to hear it on these!  First, the kiddos who are going to stay up until all hours of the night completing the homework you assign already know the material and most likely do not need the practice.  The ones who do need the practice will not do it anyway, nor will they do any of the things I mentioned above.  So, homework punishes the high achieving students by taking ALL of their quality family time and free time when they should be rewarded for their hard work during the school day.  The students who "need" homework" are usually the ones not completing it because they do not have the support at home.  They do not even do the things I mentioned above because their parents are usually working, and the student has to take care of siblings and/or cook dinner and/or be the parent.  

Please don't get me started on the responsibility argument!  It is an illusion to think that we can make anyone do anything, even our students.  This I have learned by becoming a parent.  The last thing I want my son to be is a blind rule follower.  I want him to be a thinker, problem-solver, questioner, creator, builder, includer, writer, reader, information consumer, member of a community, and contributer.  Because he is an individual there is no way to standardize this.  Unfortunately, school tries to.  

As I write this I have come to a realization, I do not fit into the system of school as an educator and as a parent.  Sadly, I have found that is also true for my son.  I just noticed the connection at this very moment.  Neither one of us truly fits in, in my case I can adjust as needed.  But for my son, is writing an "Opting Out of Homework" letter to his teacher going to be enough?


  1. Hi Kristen...your post was referenced today by Rick Wormeli on FB. Your thoughts on homework and sound grading practices parallel my own. I taught middle school social studies prior to retirement in 2003, then did eight years on our school board, finally passing an SBG policy in March of 2010.

    I have tried to subscribe to your blog, but Feedly won't recognize Atom. I'll try a few more things, but you might want to check it out. Also, the newsgator link doesn't go anywhere.

    Keep on keeping on. There are lots of us out here, although I haven't been active of late. Glad Rick put me on to your blog.