Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Another Reason to Love Canada

In addition to its great hockey and the dozen or so wonderful friends I’ve met from Canada, I now have another reason to love Canada. Canada is becoming more and more progressive with regard to homework. Yea!

Last week many Canadian newspapers, radio and TV reported the story of the Milleys, lawyer parents from Calgary, Canada, who have successfully negotiated an individual contract with their children’s school allowing them to opt-out of homework. You can go to Sara Bennett’s blog StopHomework.com for more information.

Here is an editorial (also from StopHomework.com) from The Globe and Mail discussing this historic “peace treaty.”

For those of you geographically challenged Americans (like me!) who aren't sure exactly where Calgary is, I’ve included a map above.

I’m not surprised Canada is on the ball with regard to homework. When I was on the homework task force for our school district, I urged the task force to consider modeling our policy after Toronto’s. You can see Toronto’s policy here. There’s a lot of good stuff in it, like this:

"If homework is not completed, consequences shall not be punitive. There is no connection between punitive measures and student achievement, punitive measures actually provide powerful disincentives."

BTW, Toronto is nowhere near Calgary (geographically) - you can see this on the map - yet both sides of the country seem to be connecting on the homework issue.

The main reason I agree with a homework opt-out policy is that it gives parents and students choice.

Another reason I like it is that using it means teachers won’t grade homework. Homework shouldn’t be graded (in my opinion) because sometimes parents do homework for their children. Or, kids cheat off other kids and don’t do their own homework. Teachers can’t really be sure how to gauge the student’s learning if the work is done outside of the classroom.

[If homework can be cheated on, it isn't a good homework assignment to begin with...in my opinion.]

In my ideal school setting kids (of all ages) would be busy working on their (multi-disciplinary) projects and individual learning plans. Teachers would be walking around helping students as needed and every so often bringing the class together for a short lesson. Teachers from other subjects would be on hand, too, to answer questions. In this scenario, homework isn’t even an issue because most of the work would get done in the classroom. And if a student needed to bring some work home to finish or embellish, that would be fine, but they wouldn’t be graded on anything until the project is complete. I also wouldn’t have tests in my project-based learning scenario.

So, if more parents and schools (and countries!) accept homework opt-out policies, perhaps it would open the door to even more progressive thinking in terms of homework, teaching and learning.

Do you agree or disagree with homework opt-out policies? You can join a discussion about it at: http://www.squidoo.com/homework-opt-out-policy


  1. Kerry, thanks so much for linking to the opt-out discussion. Next week I'm hoping to add a running pros-and-cons summary to the page, based on the comments submitted.

    Canada seems to have its act together on a number of fronts! I admire the Milleys for sticking with this--it can't have been easy for them. You can tell even from their contract (linked at the Stop HW blog) what involved, thoughtful parents they are. Someday maybe there will be enough trust and collaboration between schools and parents that elaborate contracts are not needed. I can dream, right?

    Happy Thanksgiving!

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  3. Hmmm. This is a tough one for me, because I never did homework as a child (I'd do it in class while the lessons were being taught). By the time I got to the end of high school, I literally did not know how to focus enough to study, and dropped off the honour roll at the end of grade 12. Now as an adult I still have difficulty completing projects that I start.

    I enrolled my kids in Language Immersion (French) elementary because I knew that it would present enough of a challenge that they would be forced to acquire study skills at a young age.

    Mind you, my kids are just in Kindergarten and Grade 2, so I haven't seen the volume of homework that's to come... so... I may change my mind later and decide that homework should be banned. At the moment, however, I'm all for it.

    (PS - thanks for the kind words about Canada - that's where I'm from :)

  4. Hi, me again! I used a blogspot url by mistake for my profile on that last comment - that blog wasn't mine...oops. (See? I could have learned proof reading if I'd done homework, lol ;)

    This one is mine:

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