Homework- a new approach

Author: Sue Musson

Homework…a loaded word for many.

Anxiousness, frustration, exhaustion, boring, or too much are some typical descriptors that emerge when one thinks about or talks about the topic of homework. These descriptors may remind you of your own school experience or match what it looks like in your home today, as a parent. As Peter Senge states in his book, Schools That Learn, “ …some people believe that if a student does not have homework every night – and lots of it – the student isn’t learning and the teacher isn’t doing a good job”. He continues to say that the emphasis on homework is sometimes even used to measure a school’s success.  

There is no doubt that homework can evoke a “powerful punch” of feelings and has had a major shift over the years. The distinction between the end of a school day and the beginning of an evening has become increasingly blurred, and one wonders… How did this happen? What can we do? What is the true purpose of homework, anyway? Alfie Kohn, an educational researcher, writer and speaker states in his article, “Rethinking Homework, “I’ve spent a lot of time sifting through the research. The results are nothing short of stunning.

For starters, there is absolutely no evidence of any academic benefit from assigning homework in elementary or middle school.”

Wow! That caught my attention.

Therefore, at the start of this school year, we decided as a faculty to address some of these homework questions and statements and to be intentional about re-examining our current practices and purpose through the lens of our progressive model and our philosophy.

We know that during a typical school day at Virginia Chance School and as part of our progressive approach, we encourage and allow students to have time for individual practice, differentiated opportunities, and student ownership and responsibility for their learning. Daily, learning is an invitation to stretch yourself beyond what you know and identify what you need along the way in order to become successful and independent. Therefore, on a given day, not everyone’s work will look the same; not everyone will work within the same timeline; and not everyone will have the same goals to accomplish.  

With this understanding and further reading and research, we decided that homework at night needed to better reflect the same progressive principles and practices that we teach and model during the day.

So…our homework approach has shifted.

You may have already noticed some of the changes we have made to better match our school day model and practice. Moving forward our homework approach will display…

  • purposeful and meaningful home practice that is connected to current classroom learning
  • a better balance between student and teacher-facilitated homework decisions, including more student voice, choice and ownership of home practice
  • differentiated, individualized practice opportunities
  • individualized timelines based on personal goals

Also, there may be the occasional evening when specified homework may not occur, allowing for more personal time, or family time to play a board game, take a walk, or share some  pleasure reading or writing time together.

Hopefully with this new understanding and better focus, we have helped “unload” the word homework for you and your family, while honoring our progressive approach in all that we do while working with your children.

There is a wealth of information on homework. For further information or to extend your personal interest on the “homework debate”, please enjoy the following resources or links:

Rethinking Homework

The Homework Myth  

Homework: Why Do It?

Book: Schools That Learn, by Peter Senge

 Sue Musson, Director of Elementary Program

Virginia Chance School