Homework Dude

A couple of weeks ago I sat in my third grader’s classroom for back to school night.

It began predictably, like every other back to school night –we were all jammed into the cafeteria to sweat profusely and exchange pleasantries. We listened to the principal gush about her staff and students, got some basics about how the night would work, went over a few mundane PTA notes, and then we were released to our children’s’ classrooms where we all tried unsuccessfully to wedge our adult bodies into their kid sized desk space without looking awkward and ridiculous.

Pretty sure I busted my own lip with my own knee trying to dislodge my sandal from between the desk leg and the chair leg.

Do not ask.

But that’s not the exciting part anyway.

Because right after that, while my eyes and nose were still stingy from the pain, and I was trying surreptitiously to look around and see if anyone noticed, is precisely where it gets good.

Fifteen minutes into the teacher’s spiel that I was loosely paying attention to (look, it was great, but this is my third time in third grade, fourth if you count the time I slayed it myself), she said two of the most amazing and wonderful words I’ve heard in my life: NO HOMEWORK!

via GIPHY

You. Guys.

I feel like I have gotten my life back!

Like I’ve lost 75lbs and can fit into my pre-baby jeans again. Like I’ve just been reunited with my best friend from second grade. Like Oprah shared her favorite things with me and 300 people I don’t really know and then told us we were all taking them home!

Homework is optional and my faith in humanity is restored.

I know, particularly based on some of my classroom cohorts that night, that my enthusiasm may be baffling and that this new edict is a little worrisome for some of you.

So, let’s talk about this no homework thing and why it may be the best thing to ever happen to your kid (and you) at school.

What I Know About How Kids Learn

Normally, I would jump right into my lecture-y reasons here, but I figured in this case, a little background might help you understand my perspective more fully.

Educationally, I have a Master’s Degree in Education, Curriculum and Instruction to be exact. I have taught learners in every age group and a variety of learning scenarios, from preschool to college, in classrooms, enrichment programs, special ed. programs, tutoring programs, after school groups, and athletics. I was a part of Teach for America (class of 2000), and continued to teach following my stint in the program. I have been a board member in not one, but two PTAs, a board member for an athletics organization and, probably most importantly, a mom.

Basically, when it comes to how kids learn, I know my ish.

And, when I don’t know, I am not afraid to read the research.

Which is why I didn’t gasp in horror when my child’s teacher announced the no homework policy.

Now for the lecture-y part.

Why No Homework Works

Schools across the nation (and around the world), have been eliminating homework from their curriculums for year for good reason –because research has proven, time and time again, that homework as it works in most American schools of today, isn’t good for kids.

It’s not about to make them grow a third eye or anything but, when it comes to most effective learning strategies, and how teachers, students, and parents can use their time together to enhance a child’s educational development and academic achievement, homework doesn’t top that list.

Not even close.

It is most often just  busywork meant to appease parents, or drive you nuts, depending.

Which is not to say that there is no such thing as good homework.

Totally, there is.

And, schools like mine are focusing on that –encouraging children to do things like read, practice math facts, and spend time having meaningful moments with their families.

Word.

No Homework Research: The Facts

Still not convinced?

Fine.

Let’s hash out the research.

Personally, I have read countless, science-y type reports on this whole thing, so allow me to summarize it for you…

1. There is no evidence that homework even helps kids below high school age.

2. Quantity and quality are both issues in the homework debate –kids have too much and, basically, it’s crap. If you are going to give a kid homework, it should not be clipping letters out of a magazine and gluing them to a piece paper. That’s a total waste of time. And no one even buys magazines anymore.

3. Homework is hurtful in that it eliminates children’s opportunities to do other things, like hang with their parents against their will, fight with their siblings, and run around the hood getting dirty until the street lights come on. Important life stuff! Plus there are enrichment activities (like piano classes, and football practice) that get axed when homework starts to pile up.

If you want to read the science-y stuff on your own, try here, here, or here.

Now that your kid isn’t pouring over useless word lists for hours and really just testing his dexterity with all of the cutting and pasting, here’s what to do instead.

20 Things to Do With Kids Instead of Homework

Because you don’t want little Tommy to become a video gaming loser…

Eat dinner together.

Without anyone yelling or skulking or hurrying to finish because there is a mountain of worksheets to do.

Go for a walk.

Or do some other outdoorsy type thing. Like sit in your yard and look at the clouds. And talk about what kind they are, or how they move, or why they look like they are about to burst.

Have a conversation. A real one, with eye contact and everything. Did you know that conversations benefit children by helping them build communication skills, have higher self esteem, and better ability to analyze?

Even a chat in the car helps. Turn down the music, ask a couple questions, tell a joke if you’re awkward. Just show interest, even when they don’t, and eventually the words will become natural.

Cook dinner together.

Clean the kitchen. You can sit at the table, with your wine, and give directions for this one if you want. Because kids actually need to help out around the house.

Sign them up for a sport. Or some other physical activity.

Set up a playdate with a friend.

Read a good book. Here is a list of award winning children’s books and the Newbery Medal and Honor winners that will probably even make your kids better people.

Let them use technology to enhance their learning. There are tons of educational apps and websites they can try.

Watch a good movie together.

Play video games. So, you can’t just send them on their way and let them Xbox themselves to death. Not if you want them to be decent people. But, research has proven that video games are good for you. Certain types, in moderation (don’t let your kids fool you, we are not talking about hours of GTA here). Added bonus if you do it with them!

Play a board game. Personally, I hate the things, but I know their value.

Writer a letter. To grandma in California, or a friend up the street. My kids love getting mail so if you’re looking for a pen pal, we’d be happy to oblige.

Do some arts and crafts. These are great indoor activities for kids if you’re in a pinch.

Or a science experiment. Kids don’t get nearly enough science in school these days (Dude 3 gets a half year of science education) and he loves the opportunity to do at home science experiments.

Volunteer. Every year Dude 3 chooses a bunch of causes he wants to support and he figures out great ways to make that happen. It has made him such an aware, compassionate, emphatic person. His brothers are much less philanthropic, but he does inspire them and encourage them to help him in small ways.

Make up your own homework. Honestly, if you really want your kid to do homework, give them some and make them. Just because the teacher doesn’t assign it, doesn’t mean they don’t have to do it. After all, you actually are the boss of them.

Do your kids have homework requirements at your school?

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Homage to Kenneth Koch


If I were doing my Laundry I'd wash my dirty Iran
I'd throw in my United States, and pour on the Ivory Soap,
scrub up Africa, put all the birds and elephants back in the jungle,,
I'd wash the Amazon river and clean the oily Carib & Gulf of Mexico,
Rub that smog off the North Pole, wipe up all the pipelines in Alaska,
Rub a dub dub for Rocky Flats and Los Alamos, Flush that sparkly
Cesium out of Love Canal
Rinse down the Acid Rain over the Parthenon & Sphinx, Drain the Sludge
out of the Mediterranean basin & make it azure again,
Put some blueing back into the sky over the Rhine, bleach the little
Clouds so snow return white as snow,
Cleanse the Hudson Thames & Neckar, Drain the Suds out of Lake Erie
Then I'd throw big Asia in one giant Load & wash out the blood &
Agent Orange,
Dump the whole mess of Russia and China in the wringer, squeeze out
the tattletail Gray of U.S. Central American police state,
& put the planet in the drier & let it sit 20 minutes or an
Aeon till it came out clean

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