Abolishing Homework: Practical Thoughts

I hate my son's homework. I hate the shallow worksheets and the confusing directions. I hate the fact that it disrupts the time that he should be spending outside playing. I hate the way he has to remember to pack it and unpack it and track it.  As a teacher, I don't assign homework. I made that decision four years ago and I haven't regretted it. For those of you interested in doing away with homework, here are a few things to consider:
  • Research It: Check out Alfie Kohn's work on this subject.  He makes a solid argument and cites specific studies. Look into the research that supports homework and see if you can find a causal relationship. It seemed to me that there was a correlation, but that the greater issue was context.
  • Write a Rationale: Write out a rationale regarding why you don't assign homework. One of the biggest selling points for me was the explanation that I would not waste any class time. I had seen the way teachers would waste time and say, "I'll just assign that as homework."  The other big selling point was the notion of instant feedback and the potential lack of feedback at home.
  • Communicate with Stakeholders: Students need to know that you aren't simply a pushover because of your views on homework. Parents need to know that their children aren't lying when they say they have no homework. Administrators need to understand that you are not simply pushing for lower expectations. 
  • Create Options: Some parents are still concerned that their students won't get additional help when they are struggling. Offering individualized or small group tutoring can solve this problem. Other parents simply wanted their students to do additional work to develop a work ethic. For these parents, I created a list of extension activities students could do at home if they were interested. 
  • Be Flexible: There are times when I ask students to do homework. At the beginning of the year, they have to find an item for show and tell. When working on documentaries, they interview people. We've done community needs assessments and photo journals. However, these moments are rare and almost always voluntary. 
  • Work the System: If your school really pushes homework and you disagree with it, then call your independent practice "homework" or assign it weekly and keep it super-short. Give students class time to do "homework." Make the homework a meaningful connection to the outside world. 

John Spencer is a teacher, author, speaker, and incessant doodler.
He is the co-author of Wendell the World's Worst Wizard
and the co-founder of Write About .

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