This Teacher Makes Homework Optional and Everyone’s a Winner

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There has been a lot of debate about homework, and a lot of research supporting the fact that homework doesn’t actually have the effect its meant to have. With the number of time kids spend in school, taking tests, completing common core worksheets, and taking more tests, by 3 pm they need some time to be kids. Whether it be sports, art, dance, reading their favorite book, or just playing in the backyard, kids learn more in the long run when they don’t have to go home and stress about finishing their homework every day. Many kids have such busy schedules after school, their parents end up doing the homework for them. Which just makes for grumpy parents and a lot of tension at parent-teacher conferences.

But while they may be unhappy with the amount of time they spend “helping” their children with homework, by the same token, a lot of parents understand that homework has value:

Homework is a fact of (American) life. It’s an essential part of our educational system, it teaches responsibility and independence, and besides, our already overworked and under-appreciated and underpaid and under-supported and under-everything-else teachers can’t be over our kids shoulders 24/7. Some things kids need to take on for themselves, and homework teaches them how to do that.” -Mike Julianelle, ScaryMommy

All in all, I think we can all agree that moderation is the key word here. While teachers give out homework with the intention of it having a positive effect, sometimes the amount or frequency of homework that is given can end up backfiring on its true purpose.

Simpsons doing homework gif

American educator, Deborah Meier, stated in the Homework Myth:

Kids are natural learners: we do not need to inspire them to be so — we need to keep from extinguishing it.

A teacher in Eugene, Oregon, Mel Dormer, seems to share the same spirit about homework. She shared her daughter’s fourth-grade homework guidelines with Scary Mommy, which allow the parents of students to decide whether or not the homework is valuable for their kids. If yes, she provides different options for them to refine their education at home. GREAT IDEA!

This is what it looks like:

homework optional_Photo of actual Homework assignmentMel Dormer | ScaryMommy 

At the bottom of the homework guidelines, she writes:

I do not have in-class rewards or consequences for homework since I’m not in charge of whether it gets finished. Whether or not you do homework is a family choice. Students will receive a homework grade on their report card, but students will not miss out on any class activities or receive prizes for homework. It’s up to families to decide if homework is a priority.

For parents who have a hard time determining whether or not the homework is beneficial for their child, the teacher states at the end of the notice:

Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.”

homework optional_Photo of above quoted text

The different options for homework she offers are broken down into three subjects: reading, math, and spelling. However, she doesn’t require any of the 3 categories to be completed in a single night. Instead, she writes roughly how much time each subject should take to complete. Whatever her students complete, she asks them to record it in the homework log and pass it at the end of each week.

Not only does this give children (and parents) more freedom and flexibility to spend time together as a family and participate in other childhood activities, it builds a relationship of trust and responsibility between students and teachers, and parents and teachers. On top of that, teachers don’t have to spend their free time correcting, grading, and giving feedback on homework assignments each week. Instead, they can focus their energy on developing engaging lesson plans, and maybe catch up on some personal time and sleep, if they’re lucky!

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