With many of my private clients, we discuss the struggle to get their students to do homework. And to be honest, I struggle myself with my own 10 (very soon) 11-year-old. In my work, I am interested in helping uncover the root causes of school struggles so students can thrive. Often we put band-aid solutions on symptoms thinking we are addressing the problem, but we are just spinning our wheels without addressing the underlying reasons why a child is failing, struggling, resisting, complaining, or slipping. After many years in the business of education, I've come to understand there are 4 common root causes of homework struggles. In this post, I'll discuss reason 1: "no homework policies."
Recebtly it seems that every school I work with has adopted a "no homework policy" which at face value is awesome. Decades of research show that homework for homework's sake doesn't work. It doesn't improve academics, morale, or motivation. After a student spends 7+ hours at school doing "work," it is the last thing they want to do when they get home and if we are creating balanced, well-rounded kids, they need time outside of school to do things other than school. So hurray for "no homework policies" but here's the rub.
There are times that homework is necessary- say finishing up an assignment that wasn't completed in class, studying for an upcoming test, or when a student needs more time to practice new skills (double digit multiplication) or to reinforce weak skills (left over from the terrible 3rd-grade year...). But when a school proclaims a "no homework policy" students and families take it as that. NO HOMEWORK. When the need arises to do some school work at home it is even more challenging to have to argue with your kid that yes, there's a no homework policy, except for you this one time and probable again in the future.
Recently, our daughter's math teacher recommended, via email, that she practice math facts at home to get more fluent. Here's how it went.
Me: "Hey sweetie, Ms. X recommended some more math practice at home."
Flurry of replies:
"But it's a no-homework school."
"You're just trying to get me to do more when I don't need it."
"No one else has math homework."
"So my teacher thinks I'm dumb?"
"Why can't I have a break when I've worked hard all day?"
See the struggle and we haven't even gotten to the actual homework yet.
Schools should stop declaring a "no homework policy" because at some point there will be work to be done at home. And if there is a need to study for a test, or to reinforce skills, it's a lot less difficult for folks at home to get their kid to do it.
At home, set the expectation with your child that while there is a no homework policy, there will be times when they will need to study or finish things up or get some extra practice. That way when the need arises, at least it won't be a total surpise.