New Book: Rethinking Homework

There’s a new homework book, Rethinking Homework: Best Practices that Support Diverse Needs, by Cathy Vatterott, an associate professor of education at the University of Missouri, St. Louis, who calls herself Homework Lady. The first half of the book, which I loved, takes a fresh look at the research on homework and is written in a very accessible way. The second half of the book challenges teachers to rethink their homework policies and suggests ways to make homework more meaningful. Obviously, I would have preferred a book that followed through to the end with its indictment of homework, rather than suggesting ways to improve it, but I understand the author’s desire to appeal to teachers and this book certainly will. And, if teachers follow her advice to differentiate homework, then maybe those parents who don’t wish for homework at all will get that kind of accommodation.

My favorite part of the book is her Bill of Rights for Homework. She suggests that all teachers implement the following 6 “rights”:

1. Children shall not be required to work more than 40 hours a week, when class time is added to homework time.

2. Children shall have the right to homework they can complete without help. If they cannot complete homework without help, children shall be entitled to reteaching or modified assignments.

3. A child’s academic grade shall not be put in jeopardy because of incomplete homework. Children shall be entitled to an in-school or after-school homework support program if they are unwilling or unable to complete work at home.

4. A child’s right to playtime, downtime, and adequate sleep shall not be infringed upon by homework.

5. Parents shall be entitled to excuse their child from homework that the child does not understand or is too tired to finish.

6. Families should be entitled to weekends and holidays free from homework.

Next time you want to give your child’s teacher a gift, how about a collection of books including The Case Against Homework, The Homework Myth, and Rethinking Homework.

20 thoughts on “New Book: Rethinking Homework

  1. I’ll have to get this book because I have the first two on the list. But I want to take issue with the first “right”…why should children be held to the same standard as an adult, working 40 hours a week? School hours themselves average 32.5 hours, without homework. Isn’t that enough for youngsters?

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  2. All it takes is one little email. Cut the BS, the edu-speak, the phony cooperation. Save that for the press releases.

    One little email. Two lines. That’s all it takes to make this parent’s day. If only schools cut out the bromides, the platitudes, the plastic sincerity and instead use their energy to do little things like this to show us they really care about our child..

    http://themorechild.com/2009/10/07/the-power-of-an-email/

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  3. You need to check your glasses HWB..you wrote “cut out” not “cut cut”…

    I think I’m missing something….I like the reference to the little e-mail from school, but I don’t see the connection to todays blog?

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  4. Oh, boy, Psych mom. It’s not glasses, I take them off to read. it’s too little sleep!

    Funny. I wanted to write could cut and changed it to cut out. Then I checked the posting and thought, what happened to that correction? LOL! There it was and I missed it. I’m laughing right now ;).

    Sorry. There was no connection to today’s blog. I just didn’t know where else to put it.

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  5. To add, farewell, all. This too unrelated to today’s blog post. I need to take some time off, focus on lots of deadlines and pressing matters. I’ll be back in early spring. Just like the birds.

    Wonderful getting to know you on this blog, especially the regular contributors. Keep on talking and listening and lobbying for real educational reform. And while I read and get depressed, I also laugh. At the creative solutions, the humor used to cope with dire situations, the incredible stories from the land of the absurd. Thanks for the support.And thanks for loving your children and for caring enough for their health, well being and true learning to go out on a limb to affect change.

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  6. I really like #3, in the Bill of Rights. When I was in middle and high school, there were periods built into the day, called “study halls”. During these times, I spent one period in a classroom, either working on homework, studying for tests, or reading. These “in school support programs” are not available to my children. I don’t know whether they’ve disappeared altogether, or just in my district.

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  7. My daughter’s school has “study halls”. They’re punishment for not getting your homework done and they go there instead of recess. Yes, even kindergarten… Disgusting.

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  8. zzzzz: That’s AWFUL! Study halls, in my time, were not punishment at all. They were part of every student’s schedule, and didn’t take away from any other activities.

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  9. I have to say that I completely agree with this list of student rights. I am a high school teacher of students who are at-risk of not graduating high school. I firmly believe that teachers and students need to utilize class time in such a way that every minute counts. If time is structured so that learning is relevant and exciting, students are engaged, thinking, and excited to a point where they work hard.

    The only work that I have my students complete on a regular basis is free reading. My classroom is full of books aimed at a variety of interest and reading levels. My students read more books than many of the honors students I’ve worked with. I know that this is because they are not otherwise burdened with worksheets and meaningless, confusing dribble.

    Thank you for posting this list. I’m going to show it to my students and see what they think.

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  10. To Hattie

    You sound like a wonderful teacher..who actually likes her job and the students you teach.
    You know sometimes I think we adults have to remember what it’s like to be engaged in the moment. Imagine for a moment what it’s like for ourselves when we go to a public talk or lecture, or even live theatre ….we are active participants in what’s going on because:
    a) we are interested in the content
    b) we are invested (moneywise or we want to experience this)
    c) the presenters are dynamic and hold our interest.

    We can get alot out of an hour or two of being “presented to”. An hour! Sometimes we experience something that changes how we think about something for the rest of our lives, those ah-ha moments.

    Now think about some of the mandatory meeting, staff meeting, work retreats that we all have to attend from time to time. They are not engaging, there is no dynamic speaking going on…we have to go..they are boring

    That’s what school is like for a lot of kids…and they have to do it 5 days a week, 6 hours a day. Could you sit through staff meetings all day long, all week long? And then take work to do at home and be the slightest bit interested in it?

    We have to make school something kids want to engage in, something they bring themselves to because it has something for them. The teacher, in a way, is a performer and you know a good one when you see one because all the kids’ eyes will be on that teacher.

    Hattie sounds like one of those teachers.

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  11. When I was in college (back in the dark ages, apparently) on our first day of “Music in Elementary Ed” we each had to stand next to our seats and bark “Mary had a Little Lamb.”

    When we finished, the instructor (she was this short lady from some Eastern European country) said, “There, now you’ve all made complete fools of yourselves. If you want to keep your students’ attention, you must do this every day in front of the classroom.”

    She firmly believed that ALL Education majors should be required to take theater courses. I agree.

    When I was teaching, I prepared every day for my “performance” as any actor does (I did a lot of theater work in my time, too.) I was always “on”. It was exhausting but oh, so rewarding when you literally see that lightbulb go on over someone’s head.

    Children are not polite. They will not pay attention just because they’re supposed to. They will not learn just because you tell them they must. Teachers MUST keep them constantly engaged, no matter what age they are or what level they’re at.

    THAT’S how children learn, not by doing endless, meaningless, busy work.

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  12. Ah yes, zzzzz78759…you get what I’m talking about…

    I get the feeling sometimes that some teachers who post and who are annoyed with parents and students, feel that education is no laughing matter and that students, regardless of age, are not there to be entertained. But teachers who engage their students will get through to them, and the way to attract their attention is to be easy to listen to.

    I had a prof in university once who didn’t even object if we dozed in class while he talked because he said, (and it’s true), we are more likely to take in what he’s saying if we are in a trance-like state. Snoring of course was just rude, but when you sat from 7 to 10 at night, you could be forgiven for closing your eyes. Most of the time he was far too interesting anyway to doze.

    It comes down to knowing what you’re doing and who you’re talking to.

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  13. I LOVE the concept. I will be looking for this book on my next trip to Left Bank. The conversation inspires a bit of reflection on my part. Growing up, I did not have the help I needed to inspire confidence in my ability to learn in school. This dramatically stifled my desire to even complete homework. By the time I got to high school I had to turn to tutors for help in advanced math and reading. These days I can better understand where the disconnect was in my learning… It is all about the PERSONAL MOTIVATION. It is about time we re-examined how we are approaching education.

    Thanks for the perspective!

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  14. i’m a student… i say homework is a waist of our valuable free time…. projects are manageble…. but when we have to do pages a night… that’s just rediculious! parents know how much we get… but they dont know how much it really seems to us! teachers can be so inconsiderate knowing that we have a personal life too. that we have sport practice and other after school activities! i say homework should be ban though out the United States… because it makes me not want to go to school anymore…. also… it wouldnt hurt if they started school later in the day so we dont hav to get up so early.

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