Thursday, April 4

Homework: Oui ou Non?

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!

6 comments:

Amanda said...

I hate homework, I feel like it is yet another task for parents to undertake and then if you don't have time to get to it that evening, kids are penalized at school. Until the kids are old enough to do it on their own (with a little guidance from home) I don't want the responsibility and even then I feel it should be limited. Kids are at school from 8:30-3:30, 5 days a week. Leave the evenings to their other interests (or chores) Things like reading to your child or helping them finish things they didn't complete at school all fine, but thinks completely assigned to be done at home, like speeches........no thanks

Lisa said...

I personally don't agree with homework either, with four kids and afterschool hockey, gymnastics, guitar and one with a part time job we don't have time (I also know that this is our family choice) BUT with the amount of knowledge required to fit into the 8:30-3:30 we as parents have to help our children and their teachers at home especially since repetition is the key with many things like learning how to read and simple math facts. Two weeks approx. per unit is not long enough for some students to learn the concept for example to have the multiplication facts memorized, yes I know they do build on each unit as they progress through their years but sometimes it just isn't enough. We as parents are responsible for their future academics until they are old enough to take responsibility for their own. So we do need to ask "what did you do in school today?" and not accepting "nothing " Review anything the teacher needs and making sure our kids know how to multiply. P.S Mrs. Winn did teach one of my four kids and I think you did a fantastic job! thanks so much :)

crystal said...

Great discussion everyone.
The biggest problem I see with homework,some educators fail to consider the many different learning styles prior to assigning homework. We know that learning is not "one-size-fits-all". This concept should apply to homework assignments as well. Just as students have their own individual learning styles, they also have their own unique homework personalities. For example, my 9 year old daughter enjoys sheet work. She is a Visual learner and enjoys memory work, graphs and reading. On the contrary, my 7 year old son totally dis-engages when black and white sheet work is put in front of him. He's a Kinesthetic learner. He learns best when he's participating in a hands on activity or when he has to write things down. Interactive learning apps suit him best.
As a parent, I am most frustrated when homework becomes task orientated. Also, my husband and I both work 12 hours shifts. If homework isn't completed on the night it is assigned, I simply write note to the teacher explaining our work situation. The teachers have always been respectful and understanding, and the homework is always completed by the end of the week.

Mary said...

Even though it's often a fight at our house, I think homework is an important part of a child's academic career. If homework becomes a daily habit when children are young, hopefully it will continue when the children go to high school (with much less prompting from parents I hope!!)
We are involved in extra curriculars, but never use them as an excuse for not getting homework finished. Extra curriculars are just that - extra. Homework needs to come first.
My son's classroom teacher sends home homework on Monday nights and asks for it to be returned on Friday. I love, love, love this system as it gives us the week to work away at it. If we're busy one night, I know my son either has to do a bit extra the night before or the night after.
So, Mrs. Winn - you have my permission - bring on the homework :)

Sally said...

I think homework is wonderful, and honestly I wish my daughter had MORE of it to do! When I spend time doing homework with my sons, I see their confidence building along with their skills. I like homework because it gives me a first-hand view of what my child is learning, they way my child learns and if they are struggling in any particular area. I am sensitive to the fact that teachers have 20+ other little ones to be watching and may not pick up on the little things that make a big difference on beginning learners. So, of course, like a diligent mother (;0) I make sure I report any of these concerns to the teacher for direction.

Another reason I think homework is important is (and this might come out wrong) I remember school being easy for me and I rarely had homework. When I went to university, I didn't have clue HOW to organize my studying needs. I actually made use of student resources to have someone teach me how to organize my schedule to meet my class requirements. See Kate, organization is NOT innate in all of us;0)
I also like Crystal's idea that we can't always get things done, but a little communication goes a long way. This is a great way to teach the kids to learn to respect the requirements placed on them and to learn to negotiate. Teachers are, after all, human beings!
So, my vote- bring it on!!

Classof1 said...

A full outright ban on homework is not something that would be beneficial for the future of the student. Even if majority of the work assigned is completed in school, a smaller portion is to be assigned as homework just to cultivate the habit of reading/studying on a regular basis. However, this should not be overdone as well. So when assigning homeworks, teachers are to be aware of the purpose of the homework and always see the bigger picture.