Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Space to Do Their Own Thing

At the beginning of this school year, I wrote a letter (okay, it was more of a plea) to my daughter's fourth-grade teacher asking her to refrain from assigning nightly homework. On Twitter, I received some harsh criticism for my letter, which I also published to my blog, suggesting that I was being confrontational. Luckily, my daughter's teacher could not have been more open to the #NoHomework conversation, telling me that she, too, had similar feelings about how students spend time outside of school.

Ironically, I think that my daughter did more learning this year without assigned homework than in any of her previous years in school. Certainly, we could argue that she is getting older and becoming a more independent human being, but upon careful reflection of her year as a fourth-grader, I am struck by how much I have seen her grow as a student and as a whole person. I asked my daughter about her year as a fourth-grader, and she told me that fourth-grade was her "best learning year." She explained that she felt that she was able to learn more this year because her teacher provided daily challenges inside the classroom but also gave her "space to do her own thing" when she went home every night.

This past year, the hours of time no longer occupied by homework became a blank canvas for my daughter to fill with her own ideas, passions, interests, and choices. Because she never had to race home after basketball or softball practice to complete nightly homework assignments, she had opportunities to talk to me about what went well at practice and what areas needed more attention. Because she did not have a single reading log sucking the joy out of nightly reading, I found that she actually read more often and more willingly than in years past. Because math worksheets were absent from our home, she spent hours of time on Khan Academy, learning JavaScript and other math concepts that pushed her thinking and piqued her curiosity. And because not a single book report or poster board was ever assigned to be completed outside of school, my daughter began a passion project where she recorded original digital music that she published onto her own YouTube channel. At the end of the year, my daughter's assessment results proved what I had hoped for...academic growth despite no assigned homework from her fourth-grade teacher.

Parents of elementary-aged students, we cannot be afraid to stand up for our children and advocate to reclaim their limited free time. If homework has caused tension in your home, stress among your children, or an intrusion on your child's sleep, remember that you can say no to homework. Try it!

If you are a teacher, please trust that you make a tremendous impact inside of the classroom where you are physically available to challenge, nurture and guide your learners to reach new heights. The skills and experiences your students gain from inside your classroom will be used outside of your classroom in ways you may never have imagined.

After an entire school year of homework-free, stress-free evenings in my household,  I want to publically thank this very special fourth-grade teacher who provided a rigorous classroom experience balanced with time and space for self-discovery. I am hopeful that future academic years prove to be as fruitful as this past year has been for my child, and I hope that other parents and educators will continue the conversation about what our kids really need to be successful learners in today's world.

1 comment:

Joy Kirr said...

Marcie, this is such a great follow-up post to what you went through at the beginning of the year! Thank you for sharing your story!