No homework zone in effect this weekend: Some thoughts and a challenge

So here’s some good news for our students: This weekendbeginning on September 27is a No Homework weekend.

Additionally, Monday, September 30 and Tuesday, October 1 are No Homework evenings as well.

Years ago, we set up No Homework zones on certain weekends to give students a break and create space for families to do special things.

We also have given No Homework zones around Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, as those important Jewish holidays impact a large number of our students. Please know that families can always let their principal know to ask teachers to excuse homework for other special family events or religious celebrations not noted on our calendar. When we have these No Homework zones, it is very typical for me to get emails or calls from parents who note how wonderful it was to be able to sit down and have a family meal without students feeling they needed to run off to do homework.

So my question for all of our CA families for the next few days: How do you want to take advantage of this?

This is an opportunity for families to connect, to have conversations, to watch a movie, to take an evening walk together, and just generally have a good time. I hope you will avail yourself of this opportunity. Even as we try to not over-program our children, we know our students are busy. This No Homework zone is intended to give our students a break and allow them to be kids.

The educational world has in many ways turned against the entire concept of homework.

Studies have demonstrated that there are limited gains—particularly in the type of rote or “drill and kill” style homework assignments that don’t propel creativity and critical thinking.

For most adults, this is the kind of homework we experienced as kids.

At CA, we set appropriate time limits for homework depending on grade level and attempt to build assignments that pique students’ interest and drive home essential understandings.

For my own teaching, these days present a fun challenge for me. My Senior-level War on Terror course involves a fair amount of reading of complicated texts that allows me to cover more ground in class.  How do I sustain learning in my class when my students can’t read the night before? Well, it is actually not all that hard. With longer teaching blocks, I have my students do a little reading in class, followed by some explanatory and interactive discussions, and then a class learning activitysuch as creating timelines of key events or biographies of key people.

Ultimately, great educators understand that positive learning outcomes are more closely aligned with designing authentic learning experiences rather than just piling on mindless work. To be sure, there will be homework nights that just have to go through more foundational material, and that might not always be exciting for students. But, there is learning in even in those moments as students need to build up some resiliency to work their way through challenging material and seek out the relevancy of foundational material to their lives. Appropriate homework can really help students learn essential time management skills.

And, they need to be prepared for college, where homework awaits every night.

I hope you enjoy the autumn weekend. If you are observing the holiday, Happy New Year, and my hope is that everyone in our community will take advantage of this time to do something special as a family.