Why homework free?
October 2003. The rain lashes against the window. The sausage stroganoff is cooking peacefully on the stove. But it is anything else but peaceful in our home right now. My sons Max 10 years and Simon 8 years old, refuses to do homework. The same argument every day. They want to play, play football or ride a bike instead. Or curl up on the couch and watch a movie. But no! Homework shall be done! As a parent you feel incredible pressure when it comes to homework.
If the children do not complete their homework outside of school, they get yelled at when getting back next day. In development discussions, homework is a constant reminder. It is important to make them. For the kids’ sake. Sometimes I just wanted to throw out books and homework out the window and tell my sons that ”now we ignore the damn homework.”
Instead, I took the fight. I, as student studying to be a teacher, surely should be able to get his own children to do their homework. And what a fight it was. My sons were stubborn, but certainly not more stubborn than other children. I understand if parents give up and do not bother to nag about homework.
Here was the first seed sowed towards homework- and exam free teaching. If I, as teacher student, cannot get my own kids to do homework, how is the single mother of three who works shifts at the hospital succeed with it? Why cannot the children’s work be completed in school? What part of the syllabus failed so miserably that we have to send assignments home? It’s every teachers’ job to ensure that student learning occurs during school time.
Learning primarily, not homework
The core content is vigorous, and at times it feels as if I do not have time for everything. But is homework really the right way to achieve what must get done?
In a search for ”the homework history”, it reveals the following:
1962: The primary school curriculum says that homework is a form of labor education and a way to acquire knowledge.
1969: The curriculum states that all homework shall be voluntary for the schools.
1980: Homework for students is part of the school’s work.
1990s: The homework disappears completely from the curriculum, policy documents and school law. Even in teacher education texts and reports have homework disappeared. Meanwhile, the students’ own responsibility for their studies tightened in the policy documents.
Homework was thus a penalty in the 60’s, and apparently it is still a punishment. Because I have met very few students who have done the homework with joy. In the late 60’s homework transitions to become optional. The problem with the optional homework is that it is the teacher who decides whether students will have homework due or not. But in the 80s, a major revolution happens. The homework becomes apart of the schools’ way to operate. Of course this takes place during my school years. A look in the rearview mirror shows that I did not do my homework to the extent my teachers wanted. As a miracle, the homework is removed from the syllabus in the 90s. The question is how many teachers stopped handing out homework during this decade?
Homework is therefore not in any of our governing documents, but lots of homework is still handed out in all Swedish schools. The reasoning may be anything from that there is not enough time to go through the central content to that students must finish what they did not complete in the lesson. Students often become suffering for the school’s shortcomings. Fortunately for the teachers that there is not student unions. Because then the students had gone on strike. In my eyes it is a shortcoming in the teacher’s ability to educate if homework is handed out.
Sometimes I think back on that October evening. That my sons and I fought about homework, which was not mandatory but felt like mandatory. The feeling of I-do-not-want-my-kids-to-be-yelled-at-because-they-have-not-finished-their-homework was so incredibly large. And who am I to expose my children to that sort of humiliation when they come back to school?
According to John Hattie homework has no positive impact on the younger students’ learning. To the group of younger students, according to the Education Department, includes students in elementary school. The homework effect ended up on place 88 of the 138 influential factors of students learning. Which factor that was in first place? Students’ self-assessment of their performance against relation to the goal. In other words, students’ self-recognition. For those students who fail their homework, it can be a negative influence factor, as failure threatens to reduce students’ motivation. That something that is so low ranked when it comes to student learning, plays such a crucial role in the Swedish school is scary. Especially as the school is suppose to be based on research and proven operations. The scientific basis shows that homework has a low impact on the learning experience and the proven operations shows that homework should not be used as a part of learning.
/ Anders Enström
Translation: Simon Enström