Thursday, December 17, 2009

No Homework Instead of Zeros

I just came across this story from Bloomfield, MO, "Bloomfield Middle School issues no homework policy". You can read the story here.

What I really like about this story is the way the principal reacted to a situation where many students were failing because of zeros from incomplete assignments. Instead of mandating after school make up sessions or instituting a "Zeros aren't Permitted" policy, or blaming the students for their incomplete work, the principal eliminated homework assignments. Now, the students will complete all of their work in class.

This solution gives the teachers the opportunity to provide immediate feedback to the students for their work done in class. This "no homework" policy also takes the pressure off the parents to feel like they must "help" their children with homework. Often when parents help their children too much with homework the children establish a pattern of learned helplessness because they feel they can't complete their work without outside help.

I'm not suggesting that parents remain totally hands off in their children's learning. But I am suggesting that instead of doing homework with or for your child, a parent should simply ask their child what he or she is learning in school and have a discussion about it. Read over some of their writing samples, talk to them about their different subjects, and ask them how they feel about what it is they are doing in school. If they ask you for help, give it, but don't do their work for them.

And if your school electronically posts grades and homework assignments, resist the temptation to look at your child's grades on a daily basis and resist the urge to question them about every homework assignment, quiz or test. Let them take ownership of their learning. And relax about their grades, instead put the focus on what they are learning, not on what kind of performance they are giving their teachers. We need to see our children for who they are, not for what they do, or don't do.


  1. Kerry,
    Thank you for this post. This is just the issue we have been struggling with, with my 11-year-old son, who is in middle school.

    His progress report says that he is getting an "F" in math. What? He was doing fine in math last year. Yes, he talks in class and has not completed some assignments... But an "F"? He now feels like a failure... And, we've had huge debates in our family this week about his not wanting us to help him, because he feels "pressure."

    Something I can write about myself. But this was just the write thing to read right now!

    AKA Soccer Mom at Crazy in Suburbia

  2. Kerry, Just getting caught up on your blog. Thank you for all the fantastic info. Even though I agree with all the points regarding homework and being more "hands off", I find it a real struggle. Dear husband just spent two weekends working with our 11 year old on his solar system project. When I asked him this morning if he was proud of his work and how nicely it turned out, he seemed more upset that it was dad's vision rather than his own....ugh. I'm guilty of this myself. Why am I so afraid to let him possibly fail??? My favorite quote is above the toilet in his bathroom: "Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail" Ralph Waldo Emerson. Wish I could practice what I preach. Jacquie Elmore

  3. It IS hard to practice what you preach regarding homework. It's always a lot easier to go with the flow and do what everyone else is doing. I was guilty of this for years with both my sons. There were many science projects that my husband got an A on for my sons. There were many papers that I edited too heavily for my sons. But, once I made a conscious decision to stop doing this, I noticed that both boys took more control of their learning. The irony in doing science projects for our kids is that any real scientist will tell you that the only way to make breakthroughs in science is to continuously fail and then learn from our mistakes. We have to let our kids make mistakes, otherwise they will never learn how to move forward.

  4. Thank you so much for this post. I just told my son the other day, "I refuse to let you fail." OMG! I am going to post the Emerson quote on my kitchen wall above the homework space. I think the pressure from my son's fourth grade teacher
    causes me stress and then I put it on my child. This will change!