Families & the Community Opinion

Do You Want to Hack Homework This Year?

By Starr Sackstein — August 21, 2016 2 min read
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The way we handle homework has a lot to do with our philosophy of learning. And although it may be impossible to get rid of homework all of the time for all grades, the way we approach it can definitely be adjusted.

Connie Hamilton and I recently put a lot of thought into how we can start changing homework for all students K-12 and help teachers make learning more meaningful within the school day. Considering the challenges most families experience with over-planning after school activities or even lost time as a family as a result of too much useless work being sent home.

We toiled over what the essentials would be if we really wanted to reimagine homework for the benefit of all and so we started with typical pushback to changing homework and tried to find solutions for it.

If you’d be inclined to dig deeper into our work, you’d learn about:

  • Explicitly addressing responsibility, accountability, and time management skills during the school
  • Working around homework policies that haven’t caught up with the changes you’re trying to make
  • Establishing positive relationships with students so they are more inclined to want to do the learning you’re requesting they do
  • Modeling instructional strategies for parents so they can understand what their kids are learning and can help in a more meaningful way that also suits their lifestyles
  • Customizing homework assignments and timelines to suit the needs of every child
  • Supporting innovation and creativity by allowing students to play after school and making that play intentional
  • Sequencing learning to make connections that generate interest in learning before specific ideas are explicitly taught.
  • Meeting students where they are by harnessing social media for learning
  • Providing opportunities for student choice and voice in the products and content they decide is worth their time after school
  • Empowering students to track their own improvement and display progress rather than grading nightly homework to be used in a punitive way

What we realized while we were writing this, is much like grading, folks have a lot of deeply held beliefs attached to homework that have to do with teaching responsibility and holding kids accountable as well as making sure students really get the practice they need to develop their skills. We don’t disagree that these are important skills and ideas that need to be an honored part of the learning process, we just think they should be addressed more deliberately during the school day instead of at home.

There are so many responsibilities students have once they leave school that we often don’t give any room for their own personal interests and/or family time. We can respect those boundaries and value their home time by adjusting some practices we have during the day and what we expect once they leave to keep learning going.

Since we are both parents and educators, we know the toll that hours of homework can take on a family and each child. Every person needs something different and worksheets just don’t take student need into account. Sure, they’re easy to assign and maybe even easy to grade, but they aren’t terribly effective in how they teach or offer practice. So we’re hoping our suggestions help everyone involved.

What’s the biggest challenge you face when considering changes in homework practices? Are you open to trying something different? Please share

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