We’re already into week three of the new school year here in our neck of the woods. I know it’s been quite a while since I’ve written anything here; last school year ended with little fanfare, and our family had a busy, busy summer break that went by way too quickly.
So now I have: a high school senior, a seventh-grader, two fifth-graders, a third-grader, a kindergartener, and a toddler at home. Last week my husband and I attended Back to School Night at our kids’ elementary school and listened to the teachers talk about the merits of Common Core, which has officially been rolled out. I can’t help but wonder how many of them truly are on board with it, and how many are just following the script they’ve been given by the Powers That Be. In any case, that’s a topic for a whole other post.
What I want to talk about now – again – is homework. At Back to School Night, each teacher, of course, handed out their classroom Homework Policy. Here’s the Homework Policy from my third-grader’s teacher:
I was also chagrined to be given by my third-grade daughter her weekly reading/homework log, which requires MY signature, verifying that I have reviewed my child’s homework.
Ahhh, reading logs! My fifth-grade twins are also (still) being required to fill out reading logs. Why?!? Why does any teacher believe that mandating daily reading of a pre-determined duration of time and mandating that such reading be tracked and documented instills a love of reading? Why? If this practice is actually based on a distrust of parents, on a belief that if reading and providing documentation of said reading is not mandated by the school then parents will miserably fail in their “duty” to encourage their children to read, then it is sorely out of line and misguided.
Also, I will not sign anything verifying that I have reviewed my child’s homework. The teacher states right here in her written policy that she reviews the homework – so why am I being required to review it and declare that I’ve reviewed it?
Some may read this and decide that I am a slacker parent who doesn’t care about her children’s education, who refuses to support the schools. This is the farthest thing from the truth. The truth is that I’m weary of doing battle – with my kids, with teachers – over an institution that I do not believe in because the evidence does not support it. The institution I am talking about is the institution of homework.
There is no intrinsic value in homework. Homework is not an evidence-based practice. In and of itself, homework is merely schoolwork done in an environment different from the classroom environment. One of the claims often touted is that homework reinforces what is learned in the classroom. So, it’s practice, then. But that practice, that reinforcement, can and should be taking place in the classroom directly following the lessons, no? To be sure, practically applying those lessons outside of school is valuable – but there are plenty of organic opportunities for actual, real life reinforcement and practice that do not involve forcing a kid to sit at the kitchen table with worksheets and reading logs.
Another claim is that homework teaches good study skills, self-discipline, organizational skills, and responsibility. Kids should be learning good study skills in class. Self-discipline, organizational skills, and responsibility can and should all be taught in ways that do not involve schoolwork being done at home. This is another example of parents not being trusted to be decent parents, and a perceived necessity of intervention by school.
If homework consists of assignments that cannot be completed at school because of time constraints, then, yes, that homework carries the value of that particular assignment, whatever it may be. But that’s placing an unfair burden on family time.
Homework has the exact value it’s given by the teacher: if it’s worth a grade, then that is its value. But that’s extrinsic value, not intrinsic.
The fact is – and study after study backs this up – homework has no correlation to academic achievement in elementary school. Sadly, the very idea of homework as a given is so deeply ingrained in our culture that it’s nearly impossible to convince teachers and even many parents that homework doesn’t make kids learn more or better, and they can be just as successful – arguable more so! – if homework was not a given.
The fact is, the school has my kids for six and a half hours a day, five days a week. If that’s not enough time to cover what needs to be covered, then something’s got to give – and sending schoolwork home is NOT the answer. Dictating how any of our time at home outside of the school day is spent is just not okay.
A friend of mine who lives in another state (Mississippi) shared this with me:
This was sent home by her child’s fourth-grade teacher. Can you imagine? Not a one-size-fits-all homework policy that assumes daily homework for everyone is necessary? Kudos to this teacher!
I’m still trying to decide how to handle my own kids’ homework this year. So far none of them are complaining about it, so I probably should leave well enough alone. I will not sign any logs, though, that’s for certain. And if their homework starts becoming an impediment to peace, harmony, or other pursuits we may have, well, their teachers will be hearing from me.