What a cheerful piece from Tim Bedley, a 5th grade teacher at the Earl Warren Elementary School in Lake Elsinore, California. He and his brother Scott are the founders of Global School Play Day, a grassroots movement to bring unstructured play back into the lives of this generation of children. It's coming up on Feb. 6th. See if you can get it going at your school! And while we're at it, consider Tim's take on homework:
The homework debate for elementary aged students rages on. Should we give it? If so, starting when? And how much?
For 25 years I was pro-homework. I gave it to teach my students responsibility and good study habits. And it worked! At least it helped my students to reach higher levels of academic achievement…
Or so it seemed.
But my brother Scott was giving his 5th graders “optional homework.” He liked it and his kids LOVED it. Did the “optional” option really make sense?
And then it hit me! If I gave no homework, I would be giving them something else -- something even more beneficial:
- More free time. Shouldn’t we consider other aspects of child development when deciding whether or not to assign homework? In not giving homework, my students have been freed up to play and enjoy family. For some kids, I gave them their LIVES back!
- A positive attitude toward school. Did I like school as a child? NO! Why? Because I hated all the homework. By taking away homework, my students all of a sudden LIKED school! And when we like something, we put more energy into it. We all know that 5-year-olds come to school loving it and excited to learn. But by the time they hit 5th grade, children hate school, and because they associate school with learning, they claim to hate learning as well. What a tragedy! Take away the homework, and much of this negative attitude toward school disappears!
- Less stress. Homework causes stress. Over my 30-year career I have had many parent conferences. Two topics have dominated these: behavior and homework. By eliminating homework, I eliminated much of the problem for kids and thereby eliminated much of their stress. How often do we hear about the terrible issues this generation of youngsters are having with stress? It’s an epidemic. Homework assignments are a major stressor between kids and their parents as well. By getting rid of it, parents can be more at peace with their children.
In addition I had two other realizations about homework:
- Sure I can hold kids accountable to bring back their homework each morning, but in reality, I am quite powerless to see that homework is completed. Is the teacher at the student’s home to oversee homework completion and quality? No. We must rely on parents to do this. Many parents feel overwhelmed with the challenge, especially those with other obligations..
- What business of mine is it to tell families how to spend their free time? The kids don’t belong to me. I’m a trained educator who enriches kids’ lives. But once they leave school, why do I think it’s okay to tell kids and their parents how to run their home? That is essentially what I do when I assign homework. I can’t justify this any longer.
Over the past five years, my announcement to parents of, “There will be no homework this year!” is normally met with cheers and sighs of relief. But sometimes a parent will express concerns about my policy. When this happens, I’m armed and ready. I give them a list of 250-something “homework” assignments for their child to complete. An upcoming blog post will list them and ask you for more!
Our culture is very work-, education-, and task-focused. I can’t completely change that, but I can do a little something to change the lives of my students and their families. - Tim Bedley