Thursday, September 5, 2013

Ninety-two Reasons. . . No, not really

My younger friends love Babymouse.

Yesterday I posted part of a homework letter that came home with my best friends' kids. I dislike it for a whole host of reasons, as I said. But in fairness, of course, I don't know the teacher, the school, or even the district very well, and my friends have been pretty happy with the education for their kids. I still don't like several things that letter represents, but I don't want to vilify a stranger on the Internet.

But. . .

I hate homework. I hate the word homework. I hate being told that I don't give enough, and I hate hearing that my students never have any. I would love to banish the word forever, and honestly, I kind of think we need to. "Homework" has become too loaded, too synonymous with busywork. I don't think homework can be saved.

I do, however, assign work to be finished outside of class. I do ask students to memorize countries. I expect them to read fifty books in a year, something that can't be done in school alone. I ask them read Charles Dickens on their own. I ask them to respond to reading, to expand their vocabularies, to study the world around them. All of this requires work outside of class and study hall. A key difference, in my mind, is that I'm asking them to either reflect on something we've done together ("Please answer these questions about today's reading.") or to prepare for a future lesson ("Please read these pages about the French Revolution for Thursday so we can talk about it."). I don't assign group work to be done outside of class. Writing and revising happen in school, for an entirely different set of reasons.

My best friends' kids love books. The older two are reading Harry Potter with their parents; the younger "reads" along with her picture books. Coming home and sprawling on the couch with books from the library, making videos with their new Babymouse toy, watching (again) videos from Mr. Schu's summer road trip. . . These are all better uses of their time than a worksheet so they can build the homework habit.



  1. I'm not a homework fan and completely agree with your philosophy of reflecting or finishing outside of school. People I work with know how I feel about homework and this post on my blog still gets the most hits.

    1. It isn't studying or reading or working on an assignment that I object to as much as it's the daily work assigned separate from anything that happens in a classroom. That I REALLY obejct to.

  2. I dunno. I teach English at the high school level, and I assign a journal reflection every night. While the students have time for silent reading in class, I read their journal entries. I give extra credit for detailed responses, and double-credit for responses that give examples from the literature we're studying. So students have the option, if they choose, to think more deeply about the literature one night - and then skip the homework the next night with no penalty to their grade.

    Even if they choose not to give direct support from our texts, many of the topics connect thematically to what we're studying, so simply responding from their own ideas and/or experiences gets students thinking about the ideas and perspectives presented in the literature. Other prompts ask them to discuss their goals for the course, or what they want out of life, or how they feel they've progressed so far.

    I think a ten-to-fifteen minute reflection, daily, is a good use of their time.

    1. I think high school is different, and I don't actually object to something that happens regularly at home that students can do independently, which is often not the case in elementary school, when assignments require adult help. I have zero problem with reading as homework at all levels, though I hate reading logs.

      So is the journal optional if students can skip it? Or do they only have to do a few? I do ask my 8th graders to write/reflect at home when we read A Tale of Two Cities as practice for high school work.