I think I might be the queen of unpopular opinions when it comes to my teaching philosophy. If you were feeling scandalized by my refusal to acknowledge holidays in my classroom, this post might not be for you. If you think spelling tests and math practice sheets are awesome, this post is definitely not for you. That’s okay! You don’t have to agree with me. This post is all about what works for me and why I do it. It is in no way meant to imply that you should be doing the same.
– – – – –
I don’t give homework to my students.
Every year, I make sure to tell my students’ families about my homework philosophy (in that there isn’t any) right at the beginning of the year so that they are prepared. My students, of course, are quite excited to learn that I don’t “do” homework. Their families’ reactions, on the other hand, range from “oh thank you, we were so glad to hear you don’t have homework in your class!” to “I don’t think you’re preparing them for the real world by not providing them with homework.”
People feel strongly about homework. Who knew?
Before I get into my reasons for not giving homework out, let me talk about what I consider to be homework in the first place. When I talk about “homework,” I’m talking about Math practice sheets, language work, spelling tests, finishing projects at home, etc. I do NOT consider reading to be homework and absolutely think that all students should be reading at home.
So, why don’t I give my students homework? Here are my top five reasons. I could go on for hours about homework and how I don’t give any, but I’ll save you all from that and limit myself to just these five.
1) You can’t assess anything done outside of school. Without the student completing the work at school, you can’t be certain that the work wasn’t in part done by someone else, meaning it isn’t an accurate reflection of what the child can do independently. Many boards have policies against using homework for assessment.
2) It’s a lot of busywork for the teacher. Preparing homework for students, checking for completion, and marking (if you mark it) all take a lot of time. It’s a lot of work for very little gain, in my opinion.
3) Families are busy. Some of my students have a different extra-curricular activity every night of the week. Many of them are gone on the weekends to sports tournaments, family get-togethers, religious services, etc. Some of my students just have very busy homes where finding time to sit down and work on homework is difficult. I don’t feel right asking all families to somehow make the time to sit down and work on homework when I can’t really do very much with that information anyway.
4) You aren’t there to help the child with the work. In the classroom, you can check in with a student regularly to make sure he or she is headed in the right direction. You can do a lot of course correcting as students work, meaning they don’t have the chance to do too much work the wrong way before you redirect them. At home, you don’t have that benefit; a student could think they understand the directions and spend hours working on something only to find out they did something wrong right from the beginning.
5) Not all families are able to help the child with the work. Language barriers, for one, are huge problems when it comes to some students getting help at home, and it’s unfair to assign work to all students when they don’t all have access to help. There are a lot of reasons why children don’t all have equal access to help at home – language is just one of the most prevalent.
In my opinion (which I keep writing because then I feel like I’m making myself painfully clear that it’s really, honestly, completely okay if you don’t feel the same way), there isn’t anything you can teach a student through homework that you can’t teach at school just as effectively. Many of my colleagues assign homework as a way to help their students develop good work habits or responsibility; that’s great, I’m not denying those are useful things to learn, I just think I can teach them other ways.
I could write about this topic all day, but I’m sitting in a villa in Costa Rica enjoying a much-needed vacation with my whole family (which is a little crazy) before going back to work in January. A glass of wine is calling to me.
Try not to hate me too much when you read that, okay?
I’m curious, though… how do you feel about homework? Do you assign daily practice for your students? How do you mitigate the problems I mentioned above?