A group of French parents and teachers have called for a two-week boycott of homework in schools, saying it is useless, tiring and reinforces inequalities between children.
They say homework pushes the responsibility for learning on parents and causes rows between themselves and their children. And they conclude children would be better off reading a book. (via French parents to boycott homework | World news | guardian.co.uk)
I conclude that I love the French even more now.
Worksheets, busy work, and spelling and math drills do not create a home environment of literacy and learning. Homework that is not engaging and meaningful in a home is does not contribute to lifelong learning.
Cuddling up with a book before bed. Story time. Nature walks. Trips to the library. Experiences with learning at home outweigh bringing schoolwork home to be completed with an atmosphere of stress in an already stressed culture.
My own experience on an Indian reservation where the nearest library is 60 miles away, the stability at my students homes changes daily, and homework is very rarely completed has led me to question the value of homework. Earlier in the school year, I felt frustrated every morning when 4 or 5 out of 18 students would return with completed homework. I tried rewarding students who completed homework, but extrinsic motivation simply flopped. The principal’s policy for students who do not finish homework is 10 minutes off of reccess. I still had the same kids losing recess time everyday!
My initial inability to let go of the status quo (teacher gives homework, students complete homework) made me uneasy…And I followed that uneasy feeling to come to accept that the culture here is not conducive to homework folders and backpacks leaving school at 3pm and returning with students at 8am the next day. It wasn’t happening. And if I can’t change people, I can always love them. I needed to embrace what my students value most: Family time and outside time.
My students go home and are desperate to be outside, riding horses, playing basketball. It is what they value as children. My job in the classroom here is to teach them to make the choice to go home and find time to read and write and do math. All it takes is giving them a fresh picture book to borrow every night. Usually, they love the book so much, they ask to keep it all week.
I’ve been able to invite parents into their child’s learning by having the expectation that parents will read with their child every night and help him or her complete a writing or math assignment. Recently, my students have been keeping data on the birds they’ve seen outside of their window and using complete sentences with “juicy adjectives” to describe their observations. Little scientists.
If students don’t complete their homework, it doesn’t ruin their learning in class for the day, but when each student has a chance to discuss what book he or she read last night, students who didn’t read sure do wish they did!
Here’s to happy teaching and stress-free home time.