On the day before I sent my son off to kindergarten, I sat down and wrote his new teacher a letter.
A homework opt-out letter.
I know, I know. I’m awesome at first impressions, right?
I already had all these reservations about school. Reservations that I really couldn’t do anything about if we chose to send Theo to public school, which, for the time being, is the decision we made. But there was one major concern I had that I knew I had some control over: what our evenings at home looked like after Theo returned from school.
From 7:15-3:30, Theo is in the very kind and capable hands of his school. Outside of those hours, he is first and foremost my kid.
It’s incredibly important to me that our home be a safe harbor for our kids. A nurturing place for them to land. Whether they have had a good day or bad, I want them to know that their home is their safe space. And I have really specific ideas about what it means to have a nurturing home. I want to nurture my whole child. Not just the school portion of my child.
One glaring issue with homework is this idea that what is happening during the school hours is somehow a kid’s main purpose in life. I’m sorry, it’s just not.
Wait. I’m actually not sorry at all.
I don’t believe a kid’s main purpose in life is to be a student of school. A student of life? That is a whole different story.
When my kids are with me, inside my home or out and about on one of our adventures, we will be instilling in them a lifelong love of learning, creativity, adventure, exploration, and the list goes on and on.
Homework, is not on that list.
The good news is that science backs me up on this.
A growing body of research concludes what many parents already know from experience: homework doesn’t work. According to Harris Cooper of Duke University, the leading U.S. researcher on homework, “homework has little to no benefit in enhancing learning or performance in elementary and middle school, and only minor benefits, usually in math, in high school.” (source)
Not to mention that, but home is a time for kids to be kids, and for parents to be parents. I refuse to be reduced to a homework monitor.
I am first and foremost my kids’ mom. Second, I am the captain of our explorers club. I’m the mad scientist in our kitchen. I’m the reader of books, the teller of stories. I’m the first one to say, “Let’s go for a walk and see what we can discover.” I’m the lead craft-maker, the silliest dance-shaker, and the flour-iest cookie baker. I am all these things, and through these activities, I lead my kids into hands on, real life, the fun never stops,
L E A R N I N G.
So no, we won’t be doing homework. Not now, and probably, not ever.
Our school sent home a “Parent’s Agreement” letter that we were supposed to sign saying we could create time and space for our kids to do homework and oversee the process to make sure it was completed and returned. I did not sign this “agreement” because I do not agree. In this “agreement,” the school stated that they strive to teach the children discipline and that homework is part of those efforts. I take major exception to this. I also strive to teach discipline to my children but there are about a million and one ways to do this that fit better into my home and my ideology. Homework isn’t one of them.
If I get feedback from my kids’ teachers that they aren’t able to complete all their work during school hours, then that will indicate a much larger issue than them simply needing to bring their school work home. Why can’t they complete it at school? What barriers do they have to completing their work during school hours? Is this a larger issue with their development, their understanding of a topic, or a social/physical/emotional struggle?
Not participating in homework doesn’t mean we stop learning at our home’s door. Quite the opposite, in fact. And it certainly doesn’t mean we won’t discuss school. I love talking about my kids’ days, and if school is part of their day, then you can be sure we are going to talk about it! Saying no to homework simply means creating healthy boundaries, respecting childhood and the family unit for what it is (and what it is not), and allowing education to continue to unfold in its multifaceted, never ending, completely spontaneous way.
Opting out of homework isn’t for everyone. Some people love homework. Some parents might decide that their child will benefit from homework.
I also get that sending in this kind of letter is a bit of a risk. Will my teacher dislike my child because of this decision? Will he/she dislike me? Am I starting off on rocky footing? Maybe, maybe.
But I believe in standing up for what you believe. I believe in taking risks. I don’t believe in doing something just because I’m told I’m supposed to, or because everyone else is doing it. I don’t believe in not saying something just to avoid a potential awkward conversation.
But mostly, I believe in my kids. I believe in this thing we have going. I know they are already budding little life-learners. And I know how to keep them engaged, excited, and asking for more.
I believe in education. I just don’t believe in homework.
What about you? Will you or have you opted your child out of homework? Here is the letter I wrote to my son’s school this year to opt him out. Take a look at it and feel free to use it to draft your own letter!