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Elementary School Bans Homework: Thoughts?

General Posted by glen 4 months, 2 weeks ago

My daughter has just entered kindergarten, and apparently will have occasional homework. I've heard of other classrooms in our district that assign it regularly to kindergartners. I, for one, think this is kind of dumb, but understand the underlying reason: forcing parents to actually take responsibility for their children's education. (Or at least being marginally involved.)

So this article about an elementary school banning homework caught my eye. The gist is that instead of assigning homework to kids in elementary school, they instead urge them to play outside, read, play with parents, etc.

Anyway, I'd love to hear what you all think about this. I'm old school and didn't even go to pre-school (gasp!), and I think I mostly agree with this, especially for young kids like kindergartners.

18 replies

  • trigjoh

    Interesting Glen. A similar story at an elementary school here in MA. http://www.masslive.com/news/index.ssf/2016/09/holyoke_dogs_going_hungry_grad.html (Strange url for a school related story - let me know if it does end up going to a story about dogs). Here it's in response to a school underperforming on the standardized state metrics and includes extending the school day by 2 hours. It will be interesting to see the results of this, though wonder if it'll make a measurable difference in one year. I get the idea, and think homework for kids under the age of 11 is excessive. if they're getting more in school learning & play, that seems to be a good thing.

    Reply

    • glen

      Exactly, I think knowing how to relate to other people is probably a better skill to learn at that point, but that's just my take.

      Reply

  • Chet_Manly

    Glen, that's an interesting topic you put forth and one I think every parent considers at some point. I saw the topic this morning and have spent the day thinking about it mostly because I couldn't stop thinking about it. I'll just share my thoughts and what influences my decision on how we handle things in our home. I don't know that there is a right answer, just a best fit for you, your family, and your kids.

    Background: So my wife and I both have masters degrees, nothing special just a check the box type thing. Schooling was something we HAD to do. We value education but we have come to see the need for developing a "love of learning" in our kids. A person who loves to read/learn (as opposed to just reading crap fiction) will never stop improving themselves. We are both coming late to this realization but that's ok. As a result, we are trying to create a culture of learning at home: reading, discussing ideas, questioning each other's ideas, tinkering with numbers. Just trying to create curiosity; a love for that so that the learning will never stop, even if it may slow at times. So that's how we approach education.

    With regards to homework, I would ask what is the oportunity cost of homework? Our time each day is finite, so instead of doing homework, what would she be doing? Hopefully the answer is something that helps her developmentally; playing with things that she manipulates with her hands, imagination games, anything needing her creativity to do, learning to play an instrument, dance, riding a bike, etc., even just sitting and talking to adults or being read to from books with complex enough ideas that challenge her. If these are her activities, I'd say homework isn't as helpful. If she spends her time on tv or (hate to say this here because I know how guys can get) any kind of video game....that's probably not helping, it's hurting. That includes iPads etc.

    We use a couple apps sparingly and with very limited time allowances for them. I mostly use the iPad as a way to help them learn and memorize poetry. It's amazing what a 5 year old can memorize with the right tools and encouragement, but I digress.

    Homework can be important when a skill needs to be developed that requires repetition: math or memory work of some kind. Then homework can be the key to success.
    So let's say some math homework does need to happen. At her age, that can be done verbally, and done in a fun way that works on the 5 old's level. It's amazing what a 5 year old will do (adding or subtracting) in his head for a small little treat. A little chochlate chip for answering addition questions 1-10 will go along way. The extra math work at this age doesn't have to be written either, in fact it's often easiest when it's verbal. Fingers and constent repetition are their best tools.

    So I've written a lot. The quality of my kids is one of my highest priorities in life until they are grown and on their own.

    Reply

    • Chet_Manly

      Every kid is different so every parent has to approach things differently.

      Sorry to write so much, but ask about beer next time and I'll be much shorter in my reply: "dark, good."

      Reply

    • glen

      Great response, and I'd agree with everything. We do a lot of learning, and limit screen time as much as possible, the exception of an educational cartoon (they barely exist) and iPad games sparingly.

      We do a lot of math, as well as estimation games. For example, we'll drive and ask "How far away do you think destination XYZ is?" or "how many minutes do you think it will take to get there?". (A lot of math without the math, so to speak.)

      Anyway, great points all around. Thanks for the insight.

      Reply

      • Chet_Manly

        So you might already be aware of this, but the Animaniacs (YouTube) have some great educational songs out there. "The Presidents" song and the "States and Capitals" are how my kids memorized that information, just by repition. They have a song about Magellen my kids love as well. Only problem is that you have to be ready to correct their lyrics or help them out as they learn it, so I look up the lyrics and save them in my phone.

        Also The Simpson's "The Raven" is how my kids learned the first half of that poem and were introduced to Poe. Lots of great tools out there.

        Reply

        • Chet_Manly

          If you'd like, I can provide some links to those songs.

          Reply

          • glen

            Oh man. The Raven! I loved that when I was a kid.

            I watched some Animaniacs when I was a kid, and really liked it. I hadn't thought about using their songs as learning tools... that's a great idea. Gotta love clever cartoons.

            Reply

  • jordan

    I think occasional homework is a good thing since then parents know what their kids know. My situation growing up was different since my parents homeschooled us through most of elementary school. My mom knew exactly what we knew and how well we knew it. She worked with us on our weaknesses and knew our strengths.

    On the flip side of that, my stepson moved in the middle of 5th grade, and because he never had homework, we never realized he totally missed learning fractions. The teachers never talked to us and pointed out that he was struggling, and of course, he didn't analyze why he had bad grades. He just hated math. Finally in 6th grade because he did have occasional homework, we picked up on the knowledge gap and addressed it.

    Glen, I'd agree with your assessment that parents need to be at least marginally involved with education, and homework is a decent way to do it. The teachers sure didn't pass along any information about him not understanding subject material in our circumstance. Plenty of warm, fuzzy emails from them about inclusion, bullying, safe spaces, having fun, blah blah, and nothing about legitimate academic problems but that's another forum topic...

    Reply

    • glen

      Yeah, we seriously thought about homeschooling--and we're certainly not ruling it out yet. For our oldest daughter, though, socialization at this age was going to be way more important.

      Anyway, interesting view from having the homeschooled background and the son in public schools. Glad you guys righted the ship!

      Reply

      • Chet_Manly

        You mention home school and it's been a few days but I wanted to share a little on that as well. We are on our second year of it right now. I run things since my wife has a great job and is close to retirement. It's both very rewarding and very busy. All three kids are doing it this year and I'd be happy to discuss details if you'd like to hear how we've made things work. But to get to the point, if you're unsure about taking the plunge into HSing, you could do a hybrid approach using supplemental educational tools as a part of your family activities.

        There is a great four part comprehensive history book by Susan Wise Bauer called "The Story of the World". The kids enjoy history because it's just me reading the book to them one chapter at a time. You should be able to find it at a local bookstore. I got ours on Amazon.

        Also, you can get CDs from a program called Classical Conversations without actually belonging to the program. Lots of songs, and though they might seem hoaky at first, it gets better over time. Just by listening in the car, in the background while doing other activities or for quiet time, kids pick up an amazing amount of information without even really having to work at it. But I did have to make them listen and try to learn the songs at first. Once they learned a few, they were off and I didn't have to coerce them anymore. Then with those songs, there are lots of opportunities to have discussions about the information as they are processing and learning it.
        http://www.classicalconversationsbooks.com/necy2aucd.html These are the CDs we are using this year.

        I have found that trying to find ways to learn without the kids feeling like I'm making them learn has been my biggest asset. It saves their patience for whatever subject where I do challenge them each day.

        I was doing a hybrid approach before we ended up having to HS and I would have continued to hybrid it if we had a school I really liked and we hadn't moved so frequently. But what we are doing now is working well also.

        Hope there is something in there that helps.

        Reply

        • glen

          That's excellent stuff, Chet. This is a great thought:

          I have found that trying to find ways to learn without the kids feeling like I'm making them learn has been my biggest asset. It saves their patience for whatever subject where I do challenge them each day.

          That's the secret, right there. You're a wise man for understanding that.

          Reply

          • Chet_Manly

            I've just listened to wiser people than me. Mostly the other home school moms who have these amazing kids that can have adult level conversations but they are 10 and 11 years old; and they're as sharp as any kid I've ever met. These (sometimes frumpy or very passive looking) women are a wealth of information and inspiration. Now I prefer a good lecture/discussion to fun activities so this has really caused me to grow as I find my way forward.

            Reply

  • sam_acw

    I'm a teacher and I am generally conflicted over this. I am strongly against the idea of homework most of the time - especially when it's given as an extra rather than continuation of class work. It's usually a case of compliance and obedience rather than learning and I'd say there is a definite gender split which is more visible in class work than homework. The main counterpoint I have is that virtually all of my highest level and most successful students self-study or do homework regularly. I'm not sure if this is the benefit of homework itself, or simply those that are motivated to do more achieve more and this becomes a self-sustaining cycle. I set homework for my students most weeks, but largely to fulfil parental expectations. When it comes to my students learning English I'd rather they flicked through their books for a minute or two between lessons and tried listening to things in the original language - both would give more tangible benefits than pages of controlled exercises.

    Reply

    • glen

      Ah, I was hoping a teacher would weigh in! Welcome to the Parlor, Sam!

      The main counterpoint I have is that virtually all of my highest level and most successful students self-study or do homework regularly. I'm not sure if this is the benefit of homework itself, or simply those that are motivated to do more achieve more and this becomes a self-sustaining cycle.

      Exactly. And I think this is why people think homework is necessary, and it's a good argument.

      When I was in high school, I didn't have any web development classes. But I was insanely interested in building websites. I spent the majority of my spare time tying up our house's landline being on this new-fangled thing called the Internet, building Geocities sites and learning Dreamweaver. This provided me with a valuable skill that I could earn an income on later in life.

      I will say there is an important component to homework that shouldn't be overlooked: Life is hard, and sometimes we have to do things we don't want to do. Homework certainly falls into that category.

      Also, as I'm thinking about it, homework also taught me how to not give up. I have vivid memories of struggling through math problems at home, spending 45 minutes on a hard problem until finally getting the right answer. It was a happy moment, and a good lesson on not giving up.

      Reply