In Defense of No Homework

More discussion about homework today. John Spencer linked to a blog post (by an educational psychologist, not a teacher) called, “In Defense of Homework.”

I won’t recap her points her – please read them yourself.

I truly appreciate John Spencer’s rebuttal to the post:

  • after school time should be used at the parent’s discretion. Spencer argues that sports, music and other non-school activities can also teach time management.
  • kids already spend 6+ hours in school. That can be enough. (It certainly was for both my kids.)
  • let kids pursue their passion afterschool. Incredible learning can come from that. (Again, this has definitely been the case for both my kids. I truly believe they’ve learned far more from being involved in a theater production than from doing yet another math worksheet. And for different reasons – my son could fly through them, it was pointless. He already knew it. My daughter just doesn’t think this way. It’s excruciating and she’s not going to learn it no matter how many worksheets she gets.)
  • authentic assessments can show better true results than “drill and kill” tests. (e.g. a History Day video v. a multiple choice Scantron test)

I really wish I had seen these discussions when my daughter was in elementary school. I was just going through some files from when she was in 3rd grade, and has an assessment. We were interviewed, and we talked at great length about her struggles – our struggles – with her homework in 1st and 2nd grade. SERIOUSLY – why did I ever let that happen? Why didn’t I tell her teachers that this homework was ridiculous? Even then, I knew she was getting far more from her other outside-of-school activities (choir, theater, swimming, etc.)

She is now in high school. It’s harder to make the case against homework, I suppose. But it shouldn’t be hard to make the case that homework should be purposeful and meaningful – not just homework for homework’s sake. I still see too many pointless worksheets and busy work coming home. So far this year, I have yet to see a project where she’s required to interpret content, create something new, or do anything she’s even proud of doing. It’s all taking in vast amounts of information and spitting it back out on a test. While I’m sure I can’t make the argument that there shouldn’t be homework in high school, I’d like to see it purposeful, more than worksheets.

3 thoughts on “In Defense of No Homework

  1. Shana, thanks for linking to my post. I’d appreciate your readers checking out the full post because I think the bit that you wrote here fairly represents the entirety oh what I wrote. My main point was actually NOT that I’m married to homework, but rather that the reasons that the “anti-homework” folks espouse aren’t convincing to me. I hope your readers will judge for themselves.

    By the way, I taught at the University level, have trained teachers for years and am an instructional designer. Does my not being a K12 teacher mean that I can’t have an opinion about this?
    Karen Mahon

    • crossons says:

      Thank you for the comment. I fully intended that readers do go to your post – it isn’t fair for me to rephrase what you’ve said. Actually, my comment about not being a teacher means quite the opposite — it stems from the fact that as a parent and a content/curriculum designer, I often do not feel I have any leverage in these discussions about educational philosophy whether is it about homework or something else because I am no longer teaching. In meetings with our district/schools, I feel that I am dismissed and not taken seriously because I am “just a parent.” Therefore, I appreciate your voice in this discussion. We are all entitled to our opinions, whether we agree or disagree. Actually, I was intrigued by the title of your blog, and intend to look deeper into your writing.

      As a student, I loved homework. I was good at it, and it was easy. As a parent, I have watched both my children struggle with meaningless assignments and homework that did more harm than good for them. My husband and I both feel strongly that our children have learned more from their extracurricular activities, such as music, theater, and travel, than they have ever learned from another spelling test or algebra worksheet. While I’m not sure I would say that homework is coercive, but it is a power situation between the parent and the teacher. I wish I had had more confidence when they were younger to say no the homework that we felt was pointless. I never felt that I could stand up to a teacher, even when we knew what was best for our children. Your point #2 talks about students needing to do homework before freetime. My experience as a parent was counter to this — my daughter was so exhausted and ground down by a day at school that she was incapable of doing any homeowrk. If you read any more of my blog, you’ll also see that she is a strong visual learner and is twice-exceptional. In the strongly text-based school system that rewards primarily one type of learner and has never adapted itself to her learning style (just demanded that SHE change), she struggles to succeed, so we have found other areas where she pursues her passions in order to find the strength to withstand what she faces at school daily. It was those extracurriculuar activities that we felt were far more important.

      We find positive results with homework that feeds passion – not deadens learning. I think your point #4 is exactly what I’m saying.

      Personally, I agree with many of the points made by the folks who started this recent discussion. I do, in fact, despise the current standardized testing movement. My daughter is horrible at those tests, yet she has incredibly talented in producing other types of assessments. (I have another post about this.) I also appreciate those with other points of view, as we must be able to have a respectful dialogue about these issues.

      • Thanks for the response, Shana. In my haste to write my comment here yesterday I see that I wasn’t careful and made some spelling errors and omissions. Sorry about that!

        I’m sorry that I was defensive about the “not a teacher” piece. Like you, I’ve felt dismissed many times because I’m “not a teacher,” and I’ve become quite sensitive to that, so I apologize for jumping to that conclusion with you.

        My point generally is that if homework (or schoolwork, for that matter) is meaningless and/or ineffective then we need to examine that and figure out how to improve it. Just eliminating homework because it is meaningless doesn’t solve the real underlying problem. I suggest that if teachers are sending home meaningless homework then there’s a better than even chance that the work they assign in class is meaningless as well.

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