Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Dear homework: Family time is family time, so jog on!

Imagine this:

A mother who has been sober for 6 months decides that she wants to dedicate herself to being a mom for her 8 year old daughter. Both have fetal alcohol syndrome and require a number of supports if they are to make a go at life together.

You can imagine the difficulties that could and would challenge both mother and daughter and their attempts to stay together as a family. While it's true that child welfare can play a supporting role, they are also there to intervene -- it would not be out of the realm of possibility to see these difficulties challenge this family to the extent where mother and daughter are no longer together.

Out of all the challenges that could place this family's unity in jeopardy, what if homework was at the top of the list? What if homework was causing so much friction between mother and daughter that their was talk amongst their child welfare workers that perhaps the daughter might need to be placed in foster care?

What would you suggest?

I know what I suggested. If homework is rupturing the relationship between mother and child to the point that their living together as a family is jeopardized, then perhaps we should seriously consider no longer assigning the homework.

I realize that this is an extreme example, but I think there's a lot to learn from this story.

Who the hell gave school the right to tell families how they will spend their evenings and weekends? Who the hell gave school the right to draft parents as supervisors and enforcers for the school's agenda?

Research has shown that 3 out 4 adults were at one time children. And when we were children, we experienced first hand how frustrating, exhausting and pointless homework often was. Even if it coud be proven that homework had non-academic value (which it doesn't) or academic value (which it doesn't), parents still have the moral high ground to reject homework all together for three reasons:

  1. Teachers and parents need to respect some distinct lines of authority. Teachers would not appreciate having parents micro-manage how they do their jobs, and so teachers need to respect that parents are in charge of their family's evenings and weekends.
  2. We all want our children to develop intellectually and academically, but we also want them to develop in other ways such as socially and physically. Homework by definition does not acknowledge or respect this -- homework trumps this balance.
  3. Family time is family time. Period. Full stop. 
Kids go to school for 6 hours or more, whatever the school needs the children to do can be done at school. The rest of their day and night should be spent pursuing other interests. No second shift is necessary.


  1. Would there ever be a circumstance or reason (in your mind) for work done outside of the school day?

  2. Sure. Check out Kohn's article on changing the homework default. http://www.alfiekohn.org/teaching/default.htm

  3. Hello! My name is Jane Brundige, and I am a third year student at the University of Regina. On my own blog, myself and some peers are having a conversation very similar to this one based on a post of the purpose of homework that I did. I would love if you could check it out and share your thoughts with us! This is a link to the blog - http://pedagogicalpondering.wordpress.com/2012/05/23/homework-what-is-its-purpose/

  4. I was thinking of Alfie's work last night as I spent the only 20 minutes between school and leaving for a conference doing homework with DS 9. Frustrated by this, and he does work without complaint or struggle.


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