Monday, January 18, 2010

Homework Revisited

Many years ago, when my oldest son was in kindergarten, he had a friend whose father was a philosophy graduate student. This family was ambivalent about schooling, and in fact unschooled their kids for several years. (If you don't know what unschooling is, take a look at this Earl Stevens article.) Fast forward a decade. I have lost touch with the family, but I found the dad making an interesting philosophical argument to the school board where his kids now go to school. (And somehow, I was not surprised.)

The essence of the argument was this:
His son was a good student with no disciplinary problems. He did well in school (on tests and in-school work), but he didn't do his homework. He didn't do his homework because he was more interested in other things, and chose to spend his after school time engaged in those other pursuits. His parents knew about these choices. His son still did well on tests, despite not doing the homework. The teachers responded first by cutting out the son's recess time (which in this district, as in many other districts, is against written school policies), and then by denying him the opportunity to go to electives.

My acquaintance argued that
it did not seem like...sound...policy to punish someone for an academic choice; their lives belong to them and if they decide not to do their homework, they will just get a lower grade. (Emphases added.)
 He asked the board to make this their policy. 

I find this argument very interesting. What do you think?


  1. I love the dad's argument. Can you put him in touch with me? (I'm the co-author of The Case Against Homework and run Stop Homework,

  2. The longer I teach, the less I expect done at home. (I find I am more effective in the room and work them hard all day: they need a break!) Reading nightly is assumed and I don't consider it "work".

    Some homework is pretty silly. (Writing spelling sentences will never help you learn to spell those words! Don't get me started...) I think a compromise is often in order, with input from both parties. But occasionally, some aspects of homework are essential and should not be simply dismissed.

    Completing homework is also about being part of a community. I would hope that students would hold themselves accountable to meaningful assignments and that busy-work be pulled from the rotation.

    We all need to be active in determining how we use our free time! Protect recess!

    Great post!