Teaching Profession Opinion

It’s Time to Lighten the Load and Stop Giving Traditional Homework

By Starr Sackstein — October 13, 2016 3 min read
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Imagine carrying a 20 pound bag of textbooks and assorted supplies around like Atlas carrying the world on his shoulders. The burden is so large and overwhelming but each day you are expected to lug the learning home and back to school again.

Even in the age of technology, many schools are still using excessively heavy tomes to educate our children and expecting them to make use of them daily both in school and at home.

Aside from the standard emotional baggage homework creates, the physical load is demanding and unreasonable. For no reason should an elementary aged child be lugging a backpack that weighs almost as much as they do.

It’s simply time for us to reimagine homework in a way that works for all children, k-12.

So administrators, teachers, students and parents, please remember that one-size fits all nightly homework serves little to no purpose and just because this is the way it has always been done, it doesn’t mean that it’s best. In fact, I’d argue that with the stress of numerous activities and obligations, homework is more of an impediment than it is a productive tool for learning.

So how can we reconsider or reimagine homework?

Let’s think about how learning happens 24-7 and what we can do in school and how we can employ what is already happening at home to support that learning.

First, there is nothing about sending students home with worksheets or numerous math problems every night that helps to develop responsibility. What it does instead is create irrepairable damage that increases a student’s likelihood to hate math or whatever content area is being forced upon them beyond the school day.

Next, consider that students have spent up to eight hours in school if they are involved in extra curriculars and then we expect them to go home and do more work that then eats up much of their personal, family and play time. Even adults get a break after a full day of work. We mustn’t discount the necessity of down time. Students need to be able to absorb and reflect upon the day’s learning. This can be done without reading a chapter in a text book or filling out a reading log.

If we want to foster a love of learning, we need to show students how what they already do is in fact learning or application of learning. For example, on a day off, my son and I spent two hours Pokemon hunting. Not only did he get good physical activity, but we practiced math facts when trying to figure out how many more Slopokes he needed to catch in order to evolve the one he had. He had to calculate distance when trying to breed his eggs and we got to explore some local geography when looking for new Poke stops.

And the most important part is that he had fun while we did it.

Meeting students where they are and helping them understand how what they enjoy doing supports the application of many of the skills they practice helps them connect more with what they learn in school and it has the dual function of allowing them to interact with family members.

We need to recognize that children have very active lives both in and out of school starting at younger and younger ages now. They play travel sports which helps foster physical skills and team collaborative skills that build stamina and frustration tolerance. They play instruments which develops discipline and a love of music and additional fine motor skills. They join clubs that encourage them to dig deeper into their passions and connect them to what they are learning already in a social environment.

Rather than tell students to read for 20 minutes and log what pages they read and something random that proves they read it, encourage them to share with each other when they read something they love. Teach them to blog about what they are reading so they can develop their voice and publish for a real audience.

But never require them to do it.

Let’s involve families in the learning process. Open up the classroom and let them tap into what we’re doing so that they can bring the learning home in meaningful and tangible ways.

In what ways can you adjust current homework practices to foster an interest in the world around the students? Please share

The opinions expressed in Work in Progress are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.