Dear Bored Teachers,

I’ve read every single article, watched every single video, and read every survey in the book about homework. It looks like those of us who do still give homework are viewed as evil. Honestly, I believe in math homework, and I’ve seen my students’ progress skyrocket when I assign weekly worksheets for them to practice more after school. I know it’s taking away from family life and extracurricular activities, but I don’t believe I can get them to pass the standards without it. There’s just not enough class time. How do other teachers do it?

Homework Helps

Dear Homework Helps,

Look, I have been around a lonnngggg time in education. I came out of college at a time when phonics was viewed as “evil drill and kill.” Well, the pendulum swings, and it swings often. Whole language is now considered evil, although all strategies have their merits; it is when they are taken to the extreme that problems ensue.

Trends always come full circle, and you are correct that homework does not seem in vogue at the present time. But, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have value if given the right way, and I certainly wouldn’t call it evil unless you are assigning mountains of busywork for students.

Quality over quantity!

I am not convinced the research fully supports having no homework at all. It seems that the majority of research focuses on the quantity of homework without looking at the benefits of quality homework.

Giving homework to give homework seems to be the problem. Many schools still stick to the idea that they must give homework every night without considering if it is actually appropriate and would aid in helping students learn a particular concept. This is why there are so many homework haters, and I agree with this case. Homework must be purposeful, relevant, and short.

The notion that students need time to participate in play and extracurricular activities is the biggest criticism of homework, but the 10-minute rule of first graders doing 10 minutes of homework, second graders doing 20, etc. would leave students plenty of time for those activities. Not overburdening students with homework and leaving weekends free is crucial.

Giving math homework is important.

Math requires mastery and automaticity and is very sequential. Students who have not mastered one concept will certainly fail at the next concept. There is often not enough time for some students in school to achieve mastery, and they will then fall behind. My daughter had trouble with math, and homework allowed me the opportunity to see what she was having a difficult time with and attempt to help her. Homework was a lifesaver to remediate and practice much-needed skills.

Research backs this up with disadvantaged kids, as parents are more likely to help with homework if their child is struggling, and their children achieve more as a result. Parents should be encouraged to help with homework in order to stay connected to what their child is learning and fill in the gaps. The partnership is key.

You are the judge.

Here is the crucial thing, and I want everyone to listen carefully: You are the professional and must trust your own judgment above all else.

I can find research in support of and against any educational topic. You said that your students are more successful with homework; other teachers might not come to the same conclusion for their students. You have to do what you feel provides the greatest overall benefit to your group of students. Ignore the homework haters.

Am I a bad teacher for giving homework?