We always remember the dreaded, H word… Homework. I can flash back to many Saturday mornings and Wednesday nights (3-5 grade) where for an hour or so I did my homework. Of course it would be a few years later in high school and college, where I really learned what homework was. Something I decided I wouldn’t do when I went into education was assign homework. Being a technology director and STEAM teacher, my curriculum really doesn’t ask that I assigned homework. In fact, mine is so hands on that even when we have days where I get little student work finished. I don’t push it out to: “Do it in study hall.” No, I have not seen any reason that sending extra work home with students is going to make a more positive impact on them, only negative. In fact, I have seen it hugely with my own son.
I’ll tell you the truth, my son has sensory issues and has his own IEP, but that doesn’t mean he is not a bright student. He is extremely bright, but like many other students, it’s getting him to focus on something that is always the challenge. Where has that never been a case with at student? However, for the last 2 years (yes, he just finished kindergarten) Tyler has been sent home packets and I do mean packets of homework. Many times redundant (we just did this a week ago) packets on a regular basis. The excuse… “this will help him do better.” In fact, he was given along with several of his own classmates the dreaded… Summer Homework packet! Why? Well, to keep him busy over the summer. Because you know heading into 1st grade, the answer for things is to have packets to work with so he can do something over the summer? Do something? Umm… it’s summer. What’s even worst, this isn’t even required for him to do. His future 1st grade teacher won’t even look over this or really have any reason to take it. She will be busy enough with her summer planning for the fall of 2017 for her new 1st graders. The teachers who came up with these packets are either retiring, leaving for other schools or won’t even have these kids next year because it’s out of their grade level. Why are they doing? Because they have the last few years, why stop?
That seems to be a large excuse for everything. “We’ve always done it.” It’s not just in my son’s school, it’s else where too. Where there seems to be an increase to send HW packets that really don’t do anything, but stress students and parents and guardians more than they need to. Something I have been blessed with the last few years is working with teachers who really don’t believe in homework either. Do they know that students aren’t going to finish their work all the time? Sure. Do they know that piling endless packets just so a packet can be complete really isn’t doing any favors or real learning to their students? Sure. But there is a line between a student not finishing work in class due to time and a few other things from kinder to college and then just giving endless packets just because that’s the way they have always done it.
My son needed more work on story structure, but how that meant the third night in a row of: “write down these works you did since monday” I have no idea. It was the same work for almost a week straight before: “Help your child find these shapes around the house and then sign your name.” Is that what we have turned into? Sending a sign off paper for learning? Sad to say, some parents will just sign off on the sheet saying their kid did it (most likely because they can do that activity any day). There is no way of knowing if authentic learning happened by finding two shapes in the house or counting a pillow on your couch. Even worst, what a waste of a piece of paper, that most likely will be clipped, check and then then thrown out. Good thing it was sent home.
Sometimes I wonder if homework went from finishing an assignment at home that couldn’t be completed to just endless busy work just to make sure a student was doing it. These days we have it happening online with the use of GSuite or another online platform. “Please read these four words and then write a sentence using them.” It might be electronic, but that is still just busy work to make sure students are just doing it. Not that sentence structure and vocabulary isn’t important, but where is the learning occurring? It’s just the same homework packet, but in digital form. Instead of: “please look around your home, find an object and tell a story about it. In your own words and use at least two paragraphs.” Now that fosters critical thinking, story structure, and authentic learning. Instead of tracing “the” five times for three nights in a row.
We have to get out of thinking we have to give students homework because that’s just what our teachers did to us or that the more work we give will make a student learn better. We know that isn’t the case. If anything is the case, we live in a time where we can really reach out to students and have them learn through real world experiences that will make them critical thinkers and leaders of tomorrow. Instead, we still look at: “more homework equals better students and better learning.” There has to come a point where you have to say: “am I doing my job teaching, or am I just trying to do what others have done to me.” Homework isn’t a key to student achievement, it can serve as a road block to authentic learning and understanding.