Two years ago, I decided I had had enough of taking my students' time outside of school. Two years ago I decided that I had had enough with worksheets, meaningless extra assignments, and sending work home with kids well knowing that they probably could not do it. I had had enough of giving kids zeroes and A's never quite knowing who had done the work or whether they truly "got" it. So I stopped assigning home work or at least tried to. You see, stopping homework in out test obsessed, common core aligned standards based education is not that easy. It looks great on paper and I wish I could say that my students have no homework, but it is not quite true. They have limited homework because there are some things I cannot get around. So here are some lessons I have learned in the last 2 years:
- Common core aligned does not mean more focused, it usually means more pages to get through. Our math curriculum went from averaging 3 pages a lesson to 5 - I now rush through them so that students can have some work time in class and I can reteach the concepts I need with small groups but I am sad to say there is almost always math homework at the end of the day. And don't even get me started on the crazy amount of pages in Lucy Calkins stuff.
- We don't have enough time to read. I used to have a luxurious 30 minutes of independent reading built into my day where students actually just read. I would confer with small groups, read one on one with students and move about leisurely discussing strategies with them. Now we have to have guided lessons, small groups, write about our reading and one-on-one discussions within 45 minutes. I am lucky if my kids get 15 minutes of pure reading time so every week I ask them to read 210 minutes throughout the week. I don't care what they read, as long as they read, and no, they do not have a log to fill out, we have the honor system.
- Kids will struggle with getting things done in time even when you give them classtime. We do spelling as our morning work so every day students have 10 minutes to work on it with being due on Friday. For most students this is no problem and they finish by Wednesday but those that have a hard time focusing, getting started, staying motivated; they still end up with late work. And not just for spelling, when I give students in-class time to finish science responses, do social studies projects and so forth, there are always some that struggle with deadlines. Every week I have this in my classroom and I am still not sure what to do about it.
- Taking recess is still against my beliefs. I very, very, very rarely ask a student to stay in during recess and if I do it is to discuss something behaviorally with them. However, once in a while a child gets so behind, so lackadaisical about getting work done and using their time wisely that they have to stay in. So far this year it has happened once and only after I had given the child a whole week to finish the work outside of school. Once they were done with the work though; out they go.
- Some parents will want more work, some parents will want less. To no fail some always feel I don't give their kids enough work to practice their skills or get them ready for middle school, while others still think it is too much. There is no magical way of making everybody happy, but only contuing to communicate what we are doing and why.
- I still believe homework is unnecessary but boy it can be hard to get rid of. Our curriculum is written to be extremely difficult to get through in a regular school day so I battle this every day. But it gets better every year as I get wiser and smarter about how my students can accomplish their learning goals and show me they have mastered something. I do not use worksheets outside of class and we do much more project based learning with student and teacher determined learning goals.
If you are looking at going no homework but unsure of what to do, reach out, I will gladly help if I can.