No Homework – A New Policy at our Elementary School
Something new happened at our elementary school this year. The principal implemented a school-wide rule: no homework. No worksheets, no book reports, no times table drills. No homework for the kindergarteners, no homework for the 5th graders, no homework for all the grades in between. Nothing.
Well not nothing. Families are still asked to read with their kids on a daily basis. But that’s it. And that doesn’t really feel like homework. It feels like our normal bedtime routine.
Our school is not alone. You may have read this article in Time, which discusses the idea that our societal reactions to homework are cyclical. We swing from demanding more homework, to refusing to do any at all. And right now, the societal trend is toward less homework. Especially for elementary school kids, because research hasn’t been able to show a correlation between homework and better learning at young ages.
We’re now 3 months into the school year and I’ve had a chance to see how it has affected our kids and our family time. Here’s what I’ve observed.
– After school, evenings and mornings are definitely less stressful. No question. There is more time to just hang out and be a family. I notice there’s more playing both in and out of the house, and we bake a lot more than we have before. I also feel like the kids help out more around the house. I can also say the kids have practiced their music more this school year than ever before.
– Last year, Betty would get particularly stressed out by homework. She wanted to get it done on time and to do it perfectly. It’s not even that the homework assignments were too much last year, it’s just that on busy days with gymnastics or music lessons — or even just those days where there are interruptions to the schedule, like houseguests — homework might get pushed aside till the evening, and by then she was too tired and it felt like a heavy burden. Tears and mental flagellation were practically guaranteed. So it’s been amazing to have the stress completely eliminated.
– In contrast, Oscar and Olive still have homework, and it still causes stress, but not daily. This is Oscar’s first year of middle school, and Olive’s first year of high school, and some of the stress is simply growing pains as they adjust to new expectations and a new workload. But some of it is just stress because the homework is burdensome.
– For June’s 1st grade class, the teacher sends home a weekly report of what the class has been learning, and suggestions on how to further that learning at home. But there’s no checklist or requirements. If you’re a parent that feels like homework is a benefit, these notes provide plenty of ideas that you can implement yourself.
– For Betty’s 5th grade class, we were told there would be at least one special project that would require some at-home creativity and work. Oscar had the same teacher last year, and I know what the project is, so that doesn’t stress me out. But maybe it will when the assignment actually arrives.
– We haven’t received report cards yet, and I don’t know how teachers are feeling about the new policy. Is it easier for them? Do they feel like the students are still thriving? Or have they seen a drop in progress compared to other years? I’m sure they will let us know. But from my parental standpoint, my kids seem to be learning as usual.
– I’m for sure a fan of the new no homework policy and have thanked the principal personally for implementing it. I know there’s been some pushback. But wow, it has been hugely beneficial for our family in very real ways. That said, I completely understand that all families are different and may see this new policy as a big loss.
I’d love to hear your thoughts. What’s the homework policy this year at your elementary school? How would you feel if they got rid of homework altogether? Would you embrace it or would it stress you out?
P.S. — How to cover textbooks and how to set up a study space:
66 thoughts on “No Homework Policy”
We sent our son to private kindergarten this year because it was half day and no homework. If I cannot find a private school that is homework-free, we will probably homeschool. (I’m a former teacher, so the prospect isn’t that daunting. I won’t have to create busywork/homework) At the elementary ages, it’s usually an added burden to the students for whom school is already a challenge. If parents want to provide enrichment at home, they can.
To me, this falls under the umbrella of: as a nation, we need to decide what the parameters and expectations are for our public schools. We are asking far too much of them and each family brings their own expectations and demands. We need to decide what we want our schools to do, within reason, and stick to that. Easier said than done, sure. But we need to have that conversation before our schools implode under their heavy weight.
Betsy look to Waldorf for homework-free early elementary. I think that it is typical for kids starting in 4th or 5th grade to have some homework like spelling words and finishing up something they didn’t complete in class. But Waldorf in general is a huge proponent of kids coming home after school and playing outside.
Thanks, Cynthia! Unfortunately the Waldorf school in our area is over 40% unvaccinated and over an hour from home – both nonstarters for us. But it’s a great thought. I appreciate it.
“To me, this falls under the umbrella of: as a nation, we need to decide what the parameters and expectations are for our public schools.”
So true. We need to have some big talks about education. And of course since states get to make most of their own education decisions, the quality varies hugely from place to place. Plus, policies rarely see to take into account that not all families have a parent home in the afternoon ready to supervise homework.
I love that states get to decide their own education decisions. Local level decisions are best on all accounts. The teachers see the needs of their kids based on what is happening in those students’ lives and get to make educational and instructional decisions that best meet those needs. Too bad decisions are not even more locally made. My girlfriends who currently teach (I do not teach in a public school any longer) and I agree on one thing politically…that even at the state level, decisions are too far removed from our community to be best for our students.
And you are right about the policies re: not all parents are home and available to help with homework. However, like in all things, we cannot, nor do we want policies for every person or every situation. That would be so stifling, simply is impossible statistically, and would be an absolute time and money suck. Parents, schools, friends, extended family members get to decide how to tackle all of that, and I have yet to hear of a situation where it couldn’t be worked out to the satisfaction of the parents re: their children. (One sort of situation, I suppose, was an older brother who left the reservation and got an engineering degree – works for Honda – begged his younger brothers to come and live with him in Ohio and get an education here as opposed to WA state where he felt their lives were a dead end. They lasted only a few months here b/c he couldn’t find Saturday care for them. The school had options and suggestions, and there was care available, but the 8th grader and sophomore just wanted to go back to the reservation in WA. More of a situation where the kids were not satisfied, but I guess still ‘a situation.’)
Our schools are experimenting with the no-homework policy here in Massachusetts as well, and I’d say that our family observations have been very similar to yours. It’s been an adjustment, but overall it’s been really good for my boys (2nd and 4th grades). There are occasional project-based assignments for my 4th-grader, which are great, because they are over a period of time and therefore flexible in how they manage their time. My 2nd-grader just needs to keep up his reading, which, as you said, we do naturally as a family anyway. I personally see no disadvantage to eliminating homework, and in fact see a lot of benefits.
Glad to hear it’s working out for you!
Oh man, I am so jealous!! Especially since my kids are also in a public CA school. One son has totally struggled with homework and we’ve had lots of tears and frustrations. The other son seems to do the homework quickly and without any issues, so I think it can really depend on your kids. But I would much rather have some long term project than nightly worksheets that seem like busy work.
I wonder what the transition will be like for them when they get to middle and high school. That would be my main concern. But I definitely don’t think the younger grades need it. I grew up in Oregon in the 70’s/80’s and I remember not having any homework until 4th grade. So interesting to hear that your school has changed it’s policy though.
Mindi, my sons went to Waldorf through grade 8 and b/c we didn’t have a Waldorf HS in our city then (we do now), they transitioned to an urban public high school that happened to be the AP funnel for the city as well as the math/science magnet school. Here were two kids who had never had grades or textbooks and lo and behold they both graduated with nearly 4.0, took many AP classes, and had zero trouble handling the load. They went on to graduate from top-tier colleges in similar fashion. My takeaway: imagination and curiosity are paramount with reading a close second. These skills need to be fostered at all costs in the elementary years. Homework often serves to create boredom and resentment and take time away from the child’s true interests which often involve creativity and imagination.
I think you’re right that it can depend on each individual child. But when you have one that is getting stressed out by it (raising my hand!), it ends up being such a negative cycle.
This is such an interesting subject for me. As the mother of 5, I preferred when *any* teaching was accompanied by “smarter” work, not just “more” work. Be efficient and effective. If a child has conquered a skill, why beat it to death?
I’ve noted some schools that flip the scenario in that learning is done at home, tests and practising done at school.
An elementary school I attended back in the 70s had an interesting schedule (“periods” similar to upper grades) wherein students would have a starting “home” room class for 20 minutes during which the teacher would check homework and set the tone for the day. M-W-F schedule would be set but W schedule would be completely flipped, meaning whatever class you had first period M & F would end up being the last period of the day on W. T-TH schedule would still include math and language/English classes, but also science with labs and experimenting, music, dance/movement, theater/drama, and other ‘elective’ classes. Also included in the schedule were 2 “nutrition breaks” – brunch and ‘social’ where the children were given milk and fruit in the a.m., and juice and crackers in the p.m., and encouraged to socialize with children other than classmates, and then a required 20 min. school wide ‘conference’ on Friday afternoon just prior to going home – usually a sing along or other ‘upbeat’ gathering to send us all home for the weekend on a ‘high note’. – I attended a different school almost every year (sometimes twice a year) throughout my childhood – this was by far, my favourite school experience! The change of schedule and subject everyday made learning exciting, challenging, and walking around the campus like the older kids made us feel “bigger”!
“I attended a different school almost every year (sometimes twice a year) throughout my childhood – this was by far, my favourite school experience!”
It sounds like such a unique school! I want to hear more.
I think a little homework isn’t a bad thing for grades 3+. Kindergarten-2nd grade homework is a waste of time and ridiculous. For the older kids though, I think there is some value in extra practice of math and studying spelling words. However, one of my kids had a teacher in 3rd grade who assigned so much homework it felt very punitive. She regularly had more homework that her 6th and 8th grade siblings. I don’t think that is right, and if there is no way for the school to get a teacher like that to adhere to a 30 minute max, a blanket no homework policy would be preferable.
I hear you on the silliness of homework for K-2nd grade. It seem like any learning they are doing at that point is far more effective if it’s integrated into their day instead versus worksheets.
And you’re right about certain teachers going overboard with homework. Maybe if a school isn’t ready to eliminate homework, they could put a limited homework policy in place. Though if they are trying to base decisions on the current research, it sounds like they don’t have much to back up doing any homework at young ages.
I’d prefer the no-homework policy to a time limit. As a former elementary teacher, I can testify that time limits end up being meaningless. The problem is, the teacher typically thinks “This is 10 minutes of work” but she’s visualizing a rested, focused child who’s using his time efficiently. But after a day at school, odds are, that’s not what’s happening. What really happens is a tired, cranky, and likely hungry child, antsy from being cooped up at a desk all day and dying to get outside and play with his friends for the few minutes before it gets dark, and then the parent gets the fun job of nagging him to do it. The upshot is that the “ten minutes” of homework takes 40 minutes, and everybody’s miserable and angry at each other by the end of it.
Gabrielle, I’m jealous – if there were a no-homework public school where we live, I’d be beating down the door to get my son into it. 7 or 8 hours a day should be more than enough time for academic work. There are millions of other important things children need to learn and practice: doing family chores, climbing trees, taking care of younger siblings, making friends, building lego, flying paper airplanes, riding bikes. . . I’d rather my son do any one of those things than fill out a worksheet.
Oh man! I dream of NO homework policy at our school!!! This school is a blue ribbon awarded school. So…my son is in his third year and is already facing FOUR homework daily plus online math homework. So….it’s too much!!! As a former teacher, I am tempted to pull him out and homeschool my son completely. He’s already stressed out. Even over 15 spelling advanced words he has to study such as: thumping, chicken, plugged, trusting, sciencitific, notebook, compose, or microscope. Hea doing well with most words but I do not see those words get used often for a reason? It wasn’t implemented into daily writing assignments or anything? Just basically knowledge of spelling words and then forget? It’s maddening.
So I dream of no homework policy. I do allow projects from home for school. He was the youngest to be selected to showcase his 3-D book project for a tv. He was nervous! LOL. But he told me he had fun learning those that are different from classroom. I’m going to keep dreaming. And probably start planning homeschooling projects for my son if he starts bringing home more homework for a damn 7 years old boy!!!!!! He’s seven! Add on five daily homework. Is that too much?!?!!?
That sounds like a lot of homework for a young kid!
I wonder if there’s a happy medium to be found. Maybe take some of the research to the head of your school and perhaps they’ll limit the homework requirements.
I’m not in favor of this trend, and I’ve talked to some parents that are in schools that are not doing homework this year that don’t like it. I understand the reasoning for it, but I think the problem is more about the kind of homework kids get or how much at certain ages. I like my kids to have homework because I think it truly can help reinforce concepts they are learning and because I am an involved parent and it helps me learn what they are doing by reviewing homework when he’s done. I love that you get such a detailed note on what kids are learning each week Gabby, but I’ve rarely seen or heard of that, and on a regular basis. So homework keeps me in the loop. I am strongly in favor of limited homework that does not take long for a kid to do at the elementary level. My son’s homework (2nd grade) takes about 10 minutes, 15 minutes max, each day. I don’t think kids should have homework that takes much longer at that level. We don’t get weekend homework either, which is nice. My son’s teacher typically sends home the week’s worth of writing/grammar homework on Monday, which I really like. She outlines the activities for each weekday and everything is due on Friday. This is great because if we have a busy Wednesday coming up, on Tuesday he can do the work for both days. We also are big on not over scheduling our time with extra activities, so we rarely feel like we can’t fit in the 10 or so minutes it takes. I also think it gets them into the habit of doing homework when they are young. I can’t imagine going from no homework to an hour every night. There should be some transition.
My husband recently posted an article about this on facebook, and we were in the minority of those who commented. Most of our friends with young kids liked this idea, but many said they spent 45 minutes on homework with their elementary aged children! We both studied education and have worked in the field (I still do in higher ed), so we were surprised. I don’t know if this just speaks to the stress level families feel today, the large difference you find from school to school, or if we are just old fashioned!
“So homework keeps me in the loop.”
I think that’s true. If you want to know what your kids are learning, homework is one reliable indicator.
I suppose trying to assign only 10 or 15 mins or homework for a second grader gets tricky depending on the second grader. For one is may only take 10-15 minutes, or another is may turn into a really stressful hour and reinforce negative learning experiences.
We had a tough time with second grade homework last year. I believe my son was just not developmentally ready to do the journaling work he was assigned and in spite of huge efforts on my part to set him up for success, he ended up feeling like he isn’t good at writing. Repetitive timed math worksheets had almost as bad a result. We were seeing a really bright boy learn that he’s not good a whole broad academic categories. I felt resentful that my time with my family was being overtaken by homework I didn’t even believe in. We were seriously considering home school or trying to swing paying for private school if this year kept going as last year had. Luckily the school district seems to be moving toward a no- or low-homework policy for early grades, and we’ve had a much more reasonable homework load this year. I’m hoping the new stance on homework will stick!
We’ve had a ‘no homework’ policy implemented this year in our school, as well. It was given with a caveat that there could be homework as long as it added to what was being taught in the classroom. This has led to some students having no homework and others having homework as usual. My kids are in the homework as usual boat. So not much change for us.
Our school also decided to do away with timed math fact tests and spelling tests. I have to say I do not miss the spelling test, but I do miss the math facts. The kids don’t really learn the basic math facts quickly with our math program, Everyday Math, instead focusing on strategies. So, without the math fact tests, I feel they miss out on the basics that they will need to use as math demands and the need to quickly solve problems increases in middle school.
I hear you on math facts. I fee like it’s a life skill that everyone needs. Though I remember as a kid when calculator watches came out thinking: well I guess we no longer need to memorize times tables! Hah.
I also think eliminating timed math fact sheets is an odd decision. When I taught elementary school, the kids absolutely LOVED doing them. And since they take less than 5 minutes per day, including logistics and grading (at least the way we did them at my school, which used the Saxon math program) and the kids ended up with complete mastery of their math facts, it’s a fantastic use of time.
Our schools had timed math facts for grades 1-5 for many years, and just this year added a computerized system for middle school students. My 7th grader has to do the computer system 4 times a week until she demonstrates 95% mastery of addition, subtraction, multiplication or division since automaticity is key to being able to move through higher level concepts easily. It takes 10 minutes max so isn’t a big deal for her although it isn’t her favorite thing to drill on. I do see the value of this routine because it is hard to do algebra, trig and calc when you are counting on your fingers!
The upside is that once mastery is demonstrated, the kids test out of it and don’t have to do it anymore for that school year.
I hate homework. My kids are 18, 16, 12 and 8-and I think across the board: high school, middle, elementary-WAY too much homework. We’re burning kids out before they even get to college.
My public district elementary school in Gilbert, AZ, has gone no homework this year too. It’s LIFE CHANGING. We have been here at this school for 5 years and the homework was ad hoc, inconsistent, and often felt busy and not productive. I found out most teachers in younger grades don’t even grade it! (We were at a different school for 6 years previous and it was a heavy homework school. But it was much more structured). Having done intense homework and useless homework, I am so happy to be part of this NO homework year. It has taken a couple years of a new principal to get staff on board, but we are there and love it. It isn’t district wide; this is a site specific decision. But I hope best practices can move throughout our district.
Ps: my kids are 15, 13, 8,and 4. This is not my first rodeo with homework.
I wonder if this has been a very welcome change to overworked teachers as well. I know several elementary school teachers who find it stressful to mark homework, and they are most often doing that during the evenings and weekends. They’ve said to me that if they didn’t have to do that, they would be far more able to adapt lessons to the changing needs of students each year, incorporate more current events into their lessons, and be more present with the students because they are not as tired. I really like the idea of being given some guidance on how to further learning at home without the mandatory homework assignments – it seems to allow each family and child to decide how they want to approach learning outside of school. When I was a kid I LOVED homework, and having further exploration outside of the classroom would have satisfied that need.
“I really like the idea of being given some guidance on how to further learning at home without the mandatory homework assignments – it seems to allow each family and child to decide how they want to approach learning outside of school.”
For us, it’s definitely a happy situation. And I hear you on overworked teachers. I imagine this is one less stress for them?
My son is in first grade and his public school also has a no homework policy – the philosophy being that family time is just as important as time spent at school (although there is an expectation the students should read at home each night). Every Monday, the teacher sends home two worksheets – one to track time spent on reading and what the new spelling words are and one to introduce and practice new math concepts. But it is up to the parents whether they are completed and returned. Some weeks we fill them out, some weeks we don’t. But we always review them together, read together and practice the spelling words. It’s wonderful to do it at our own pace and makes things much less stressful when there isn’t a deadline. And knowing the value the school places on family time makes me love the school even more and makes it more of a community I want to be involved with at a greater level.
Wouldn’t it be shocking to get into middle school and have homework for the first time ever?? I agree with some of the other comments that for K – 2, homework is pretty ridiculous (the bulk of the learning at that age is still play-based!), but I think there has to be a middle ground of some homework starting in 3rd grade or so. Maybe instead of a policy for/against homework, there should be a policy for how much time spent on homework is appropriate for which grades.
There is also something to be said for the learning that happens through the process of being responsible for homework. Even if the content of the homework isn’t improving grades, I think it’s still valuable for kids to have homework as a way to learn how to manage their time and keep themselves (at least a little) organized.
I see this argument all the time, but it doesn’t make sense to me. 1-year-olds don’t prepare for being 2-year-olds by doing 2-year-old stuff: the best way to prepare to be 2 is to do 1-year-old stuff. Why doesn’t the same apply to homework? If 6th grade (say) is the developmentally appropriate time to start homework, that’s the time to start. Doing it earlier to get accustomed to it makes no logical sense. Should we make our kids spend their days in cubicles under florescent lights to prepare for working in an office someday?
It makes sense because at age 8 or 9 (around third grade), a child is capable of remembering to bring home a worksheet or assignment and to remember to take it back to school the next day. That IS a developmentally appropriate task at that age whereas expecting two year old tasks of a one year old is NOT developmentally appropriate (or even possible). Third-graders are also capable of some level of time management and of remembering to do something that needs to be turned in the next day. Homework helps build and encourage these skills.
In middle school there are much larger, more involved projects (short essays, book reports, midterms/finals to study for, etc.). These require much more advanced time management skills. If you had never been expected to remember even a worksheet and then all of a sudden you have a 2-page essay due next week, that would be the rude awakening that I’m referring to. Although maybe schools are no longer asking for that level of work from middle schoolers? They definitely did when I was in middle school in the early 2000s.
I’m not sure if it would be shocking. I mean, there are already big changes in middle school and perhaps it would just be one of several new and exciting things.
Mother of a 6th grader here. I would love for homework to be either eliminated, or moved to the weekend when there is time to do it! It’s been an ordeal for us, and it means there is almost no time on weeknights for chores, playing outside with the neighborhood kids, relaxing, etc. Even reading often gets pushed because the worksheets are the priority. Ugh!
My kids were in elementary school during the 90’s. Their school was groundbreaking in our area for their “no homework” policy. I loved it.
YASSSS! Our Portlandia elementary is quick to implement research — for example, we have recess before lunch, which is SO great! — but still gives out homework. At back-to-school night, teachers said homework should be abandoned when kids become upset but I find that’s too vague. (Is she being stubborn, or upset? Will the teacher think I’m a slacker mom?) And while 15 mins of homework + 20 mins of reading isn’t a big deal for one child, when you multiple that by siblings, it can take up an entire afternoon or evening, which should be dedicated to PDF (playtime, downtime, family time).
I’m really struggling with our school system lately. Even though our public school is pretty amazing — passionate teachers, interactive play, fun activities and a decreased emphasis on testing — I feel like school comes with so many side effects: friendship drama, exposure to bad habits/attitudes, too much structure, etc. They just implemented full-day kinder, which has turned my happy 5-year-old into a grumpy tween. I know there are options, but I’m not a homeschooler (trust me!), and our budget can’t cover Waldorf. ($10,000 a kid!)
“I feel like school comes with so many side effects: friendship drama, exposure to bad habits/attitudes, too much structure, etc.”
Really good observation. We all hope the good far outweighs the bad, but sometimes it just doesn’t.
My 2 elementary kids are in chinese dual immersion in public school and have quite a bit of homework. My first harder especially. Her teacher is determined to not have any of her students below grade level which is common and expected in dual immersion kids. She comes home with 4 half pages of every day, 2 additional full pages to work on throughout the week, a take home library book and 4 different computer programs she is supposed to get on a number of times each week and of course logging reading minutes. And ahe has homework on Fridays! She is my 4th child and we just do What we can wih the time we have. To be honest we rarely get to the online programs. My goal is to get the daily work done and whatever else we can do is just extra in my book.
The 4th grader has a much more reasonable amount with a page of math and of language arts and a packet of chinese for the week.
My middle schoolers have very little homework except for their orchestra practice sheets. They have built in periods for homework during school and only have homework if they don’t get done in class. But I find myself nagging then to work on something since the other kids have so much. But they are also getting busier with sports and scout and church.
I’ll chime in as a f/t working parent: our Oregon school has “no” homework this year. my kiddo is in 1st grade, and the teacher sends home weekly worksheets that we have to initial each day and send back on Friday. This includes 15 mins of reading, and then items like “hug someone”, “help a parent with a chore”, “remember to wear sneakers for PE tomorrow”, etc. I think it’s to appease parents who like to check things off a list, but it’s such a nice alternative to the busy work she got last year in Kindergarten! And as a working mom, we get home at 5:45 pm and have time for dinner, playing a game/hanging out as a family, and a bath, and then book & bed time. I was miserable last year trying to fit in “10 minutes” of homework with a tired 5 year old every night. What should have taken 10 mins (or less) was more like 20 mins of whining and sighing because she has been at school + extended care for the past 9.5 hours and just wanted to chill out. We didn’t even have time for bedtime books most nights! This year is muuuuch better. I have time work with her on reading together, it’s a much nicer pace!
“What should have taken 10 mins (or less) was more like 20 mins of whining and sighing because she has been at school + extended care for the past 9.5 hours and just wanted to chill out.”
Yes. I think lots of parents can totally relate. And for the child, it also builds a very negative response to the whole idea of homework.
I’m a teacher. Does every student need homework? No. Are there times and circumstances when homework is necessary and needed? Yes. I teach students that are 1-2 years behind in their academic skills. We work our tails off everyday in class so that the students can get as close to grade level as possible by the end of the year. I ask parents to spend 10-15 minutes a night working with their children on specific reading skills that need improvement. The students that get that extra practice consistently finish the year with greater gains than students that don’t do the work. Looking at what each child needs to learn and grow as an individual is more appropriate than making broad sweeping statements.
My kids have been both to no-homework and homework schools and I find I’m more comfortable with a reasonable middle ground. I can totally relate to all the positives you have noticed, however, it also meant I might not find out until later that the kids were not learning as well as I had hoped.
I really appreciate homework designed in the right way – for instance, my 6th grader had a study guide to fill in the other night about what they had been learning in Social Studies about population change. This gave us a chance to chat with him about how we see that in the world now and how that relates to our work in genetics too. It enabled discussions we wouldn’t have had because we had a lot of detail about what they were learning. I guess it’s like Betty’s teacher who gives you a summary. We often didn’t get that kind of feedback on classroom topics routinely in the no-homework schools.
Sometimes with math or science homework has given us a chance to get them unstuck or detect if they really didn’t understand something as well as they should. We could show them an analogous way of doing it or spend time with some additional examples. I think if we didn’t see the wheels turning in person, then we wouldn’t have been able to reach out and help this process. The kids might have missed that and then not been able to connect later material. So it provides some window for gap filling as well. The teachers may not always have time for this 1/1 working to figure out what the sticking point is and work through it. Similarly, with Language Arts, we might rediscover a poem or share enthusiasm for a book we had also read.
Our mixed schools (public and private) generally set a time limit for homework and encourage parents to reach out if the homework exceeds that – for 1st graders it is no more than 10 minutes, 2nd grade 20 minutes, and so forth until a max of 1 hour through 8th grade. Our teachers always say that if we have guests or something comes up to leave a note and that homework will be excused or can be turned in late. We have 2 schools that purposely don’t assign homework on the weekends/holidays to make that mental time off and not to make Monday mornings extra stressful.
2 of our 4 schools also use Reflex math which adapts to the students capabilities with an online system. The kids are encouraged to do use it 5-10 minutes a day, but it is not checked, (some positive certificates are posted in the classroom about cumulative time spent in the application).
I think all of this discussion assumes involved parents who have the financial freedom and energy at the end of the day to provide this support. Perhaps homework provides more benefit for kids who would otherwise be only playing video games while their parents work other jobs or care for family members, probably better for the teachers in the group to weigh in on that.
Btw we have 4 kids 11th grade -> 3rd grade and experience of 8 schools so we’ve been to the rodeo before too :)
I’m a kindergarten teacher in a school that is homework free. Like your school, we strongly encourage families to read together for at least 20 minutes per night, but that seems to be a part of bedtime routine for most anyway. I really like being free of homework for a few reasons:
-There is simply no reason to fill a small child with stress and anxiety about school. It will be such a long road for these kids if school is negative from the get-go.
-I felt like I was always punishing students whose parents don’t have it together. Yes, kindergarteners are able to be responsible in so many ways, but homework falls on the parents. And when we have consequences (whether it be grades, study halls, etc) for students who don’t turn in this work, it is often punishing children whose parents have not prioritized homework.
-Traditional homework can serve as good practice, but it never gave me a good glimpse of what the student really knows because their parents have such a hand in it. I felt like homework really just shows me what their parent knows, and I would certainly hope that an adult could circle that “hat” begins with an h.
My school has also gotten away from the traditional math fact checks. I enjoyed these as a kid because I was good at them. But these tests produced so much anxiety for so many students. I had kids in tears literally every time we did one. Additionally, these tests don’t really help kids practice or understand the facts. We practice math fact fluency in so many different ways, and we now assess using “fact fluency interviews” (linked below). These provide us great information about how a student is thinking about math facts and what skills they need to improve upon. This has been a total game changer in such a positive way.
It really has been exciting for me to see all the ways schools are changing to promote problem solving, social learning, and inquiry in a developmentally appropriate way. We just got an email today about getting light tables, sensory tables, and play kitchens in our rooms! I’m so glad my five year olds get to act five again! :)
Math fact fluency interview information: https://math.madison.k12.wi.us/files/math/Fact_Interviews_teacher_pages-9.2012.pdf
Really, really love your observations, Lindsey. I’m especially thinking of the idea of kids having to deal with the fallout from their parents not prioritizing (or not being able to prioritize) homework. So true.
Our 5 year old is in a mixed age classroom (K and 1st grade) in a public school. At the beginning of the year, the teacher said they would not be getting homework because it was not developmentally appropriate. (Interestingly, a friend’s child in the same city public school system, but in a different school, does get occasional homework, which my friend said is like a worksheet.) Anyway, I’m all for no homework at this stage, so I was delighted. But then the teacher sent home a list of words and we’re supposed to check off when our kid can read them, and then he gets a sticker on the board or something. I’m stuck because I don’t want to do this, not only because I think the new expectation that every kid needs to come out of kindergarten reading is ridiculous, but also because she is sneaking in homework! Of course we read with our kids every night, up to an hour sometimes. But I would like my kids to understand that learning to read is rewarding in and of itself, and not something you do for a sticker. On the other hand, I don’t want him to feel like the one loser who can’t read the words and doesn’t have a sticker, because I want him to feel successful at school, in a general sense. Who knew kindergarten would be so fraught with problems?!
Oh. I hear you. The pressure for kindergarteners to read is intense.
My ten-year-old son came home from his school (in South Africa) and shared this video link called ‘I sued the school system’ – the teacher let them watch and discuss it during class. It feels like there is change underfoot in education and I think it’s about time. So no homework falls under that – it’s part of a bigger movement. I’m open to trying it out and my kids are more than keen too :)
I’m a 7th grade middle school history teacher and “homework” translates to “whatever isn’t finished in class.” We do most of our assignments/projects on Chromebooks and the kiddos have access to our Google Classroom for any “fresheners” (which the majority never use anyway). Clearly, in the no homework boat. To boot, where I teach, giving out homework pretty much meant throwing away paper. About 50 percent of my students wouldn’t even turn the homework in with 25 percent turning in I-did-this-in-five-minutes-in-2nd-period work. Yet, most of those students had high marks on everything BUT homework which only brought their grade down. I do think homework has a time and a place (like over the summer), but I think it’s not something that should be given out daily.
Former ELA & ‘math teacher here – my “homework” was the same as yours, whatever wasn’t finished in class. I always gave ample class time, yet there would always be those who wasted their time, then never brought their work back. Argh!
Really interesting observations, Grace. The waste of paper, the homework bringing grades down. Fascinating.
In the 1950’s, elementary HW was rare; HW began in jr. high. I wonder if it hasn’t seeped into lower grades in the hope of creating “good work habits.”
Although a teacher, as a mother in the 80’s it was hard for me to make my small children do HW when they came home tired, hungry and needing to go play. It just didn’t ring true.
We moved to Scotland last year from Texas. My oldest son (age 9) changed from a small private school to the local public school here. We’ve had quite the adjustment to make since he went from having very structured homework M-Thurs every week to having very sporadic homework here. I am happy to have less to battle with him about after school but what I miss is that I no longer know what he’s learning in class or if he’s understanding what they’re teaching. Before, I knew exactly what was expected of him and here I don’t. They don’t ever even get grades. They get one report card at the end of the year that gives vague comments if he’s met the base requirements. So, I wish he had a weekly sheet like you get to notify me what he should be learning so I could help make sure he doesn’t fall behind. It would probably be hard for the teacher to do though since they seem to have all the kids on their own pace.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts on a topic that I am deeply passionate about. I live in Ireland, where homework begins in JK. I think prescribed home work is damaging to a working family. We are lucky to live beside the sea and there is nothing better for us than to head to the beach after school for a dip and a complete refresh. What is better for my children after a six hour day in school? A swim in the sea and the associated curiosity that comes with sand, rocks, crabs and jellyfish – or – home to do more school work. Notice I did not say more learning, because learning is in everything we do. No homework means we have a calmer after school time and the children can help with dinner – following recipes, measuring ingredients and spending time with their dad and I chatting about their day. No homework means we can head to a museum, a park or just rest after school. Yes I think a weekly communication about what is being taught each week, is a good idea, so you can incorporate daily life into consolidating your child’s leaning.
I do however see a middle ground – a weekly homework list. That is home work given on Monday and returned on Friday, or the following Monday. This way a family can be in the loop as to what your child is struggling with, but can also wait until there is time on the weekend, when everyone is not so tired, to work through it.
“Notice I did not say more learning, because learning is in everything we do.”
So much wisdom in that sentence. It’s true. Even if kids aren’t doing homework, it doesn’t mean they aren’t learning. There’s so much learning happening with or without worksheets.
Super interesting! I’d love a no-homework policy, for sure. We’re in our first year at our elementary school, and my son is in first grade. The policy for his grade is to send homework on Thursday and it’s always due the following Tuesday. That means most of the week is homework-free (save for daily reading). The principal has told us this policy was instituted out of respect for our family time, which is greatly appreciated. They also try to avoid sending anything home over holiday weekends or breaks. While no homework at all would be lovely, this seems like the next-best thing. [Sidenote: while I cannot stand the times I have to nag him to get things done, I do appreciate the time-management and self-motivation skills the homework helps encourage…]
That sounds like a pretty reasonable policy. I do love when they consider family time.
I’m definitely a fan of the no homework policy, especially for here where the kindergarteners have to go full day anyways, they don’t need to be in school all day, and then keep it going when they get home too. Just my opinion. My understanding here though is that only some schools in our district have the no homework policy, but it’s not at every school. Crossing our fingers our school is one of them next year when my son starts Kindergarten.
We loved full-day kindergarten, but you are right, the kids are absolutely done when school is over.
I love the ideas for my own kids (who are not yet school aged), but when I asked my mother a long time teacher about it she said that some families are doing great with no homework, but unfortunately many kids are just getting that much more screen time, which is a sad, but not unforeseeable side effect. It probably hurts the kids without resources the worst, which is sad.
My kids have to read for 100 min per week and write a journal entry about that reading. And practice math facts and typing 2 times per week. I love the flexibility, but it also keeps us honest and suddenly my son who is not a strong reader and gets tired at school is blossoming. I want to cry when I see him curled up with a book.
For the last few years, my child’s elementary school has used “backwards” teaching for math. For homework, children watch a 5-15 minute instructional video recorded by their classroom teacher. The kids write down any questions along with the time stamp and can rewatch segments of the lecture, if they didn’t understand a portion. In class the next day, they review a portion of the video, review questions, and then spend class time working on practice problems related the the content delivered the previous evening.
It is an amazing method. It takes the stress away from the stereotype of homework and allows kids additional time to process the content at their own speed while allowing for practice of the skills to be done with the help of the content expert.
I’m going to be so sad to lose this approach next year as we send our kiddo off to middle school.
Not a mom, but a hyper involved aunt. My nephews are in a no homework school. They have reading requirements (especially in grade 1) and some spelling. The other day, my sister-in-law accomplished their “homework” in the car on the way to piano lessons for her twin sons.
The school is also rural, so most kids are on the bus for up to an hour a day (round trip). It’s nice knowing that after they get off the bus, the families’ priorities are what takes place. Some kids have farm chores, some have music practice, a lot have hockey practice. I think it works well. I don’t remember having homework in elementary school growing up and most of what I had in high school was what I hadn’t completed during the day. I mastered the necessary material.
I have found that talking with the teacher about our experiences at home helps a lot. All the elementary teachers we have worked with so far have been pro-10 minutes tops homework time. We literally set a timer for 10 minutes sit down with a small snack and focus on homework. When the timer is up, clean up, and it’s off to play outside! We always read at bedtime. This has been working great, and I haven’t had any complaints from my kids’ teachers about us not getting 100% of homework done every week.
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