To Assign or Not to Assign Homework, That Is Not the Question

To Assign or Not to Assign Homework, That Is Not the QuestionHomework is a hot topic, with teachers, families and school districts sitting on both sides of the fence. I’ve read countless blogs and articles from both camps. The conclusion I’ve drawn is that a one-size solution may not fit all.

I’m not only a teacher but a parent of a second and a fourth grader. My kids are “school kids,” if you know what I mean. They’ve grown up with a teacher as their mom and have spent countless nights and weekends in a classroom since they were little. And so far, we are lucky; they love their peers, teachers and school in general.  Yet they don’t like homework. As their mom, I play a big part, reminding (nagging) them to do it and helping them with things I know they should know how to do. We do this while I make dinner or organize lunches for the next day or when we are sitting at the table together. 

I wonder: What does homework time look like at the house where children can’t stand school? Or where they struggle all day long and then come home to just struggle some more? What does it look like in the house where the student is alone all afternoon? Or where the fifth grader is taking care of younger siblings? What about the students who don’t go home to a home? Or those whose families have reading or language barriers? And of course, there are the families where the kids are running from one extracurricular activity to the next. 

I’ve decided that homework is not a one-size fits all type of thing. So I offer my diverse learners a choice. Students can do two Home Connections each week. Students can create their own homework problems and solve them using the online apps or complete one of the challenges in the sessions and workouts that I didn’t get to during the day. This menu of options helps me differentiate and engage my students in doing what interests them, at the appropriate level of development. I don’t grade the homework because I don't know who received help, and how much. I do grade for participation. My students often discover something they want to present to their peers while completing their homework options. This is a great integration with language arts, listening, and speaking standards.

I think assigning homework this way keeps families informed, engaged, and invested in their child’s learning without overwhelming them or their child.

~ Written by Grade 5 Bridges Teacher Bethany Morrissey


Perfectly said, Bethany. I've got a range of learners just as you describe and your idea is a good one.
Hi Bethany, I couldn't agree with you more. You are right on. There are so many varied circumstances when it comes to homework. I think we should call it 'parentwork' because many parents want their students to have it to keep them busy. Spelling is probably the most popular homework with moms and dads. Math used to be, until it got to the point where parents could no longer understand it because there are so many different strategies in the "modern" math. I think the problem solving is most difficult for parents. For awhile, I gave homework in a notebook that used the New Zealand style of combining Art and content, thus accessing both sides of the brain. This was popular with the kids. But now, in today's world where families are so diverse, it no longer makes sense to me. Time with your child is valuable. Use it for what suits you best. I like the choices to you give your 5th graders. Ann