Calgary family negotiates homework ban
Last Updated: Wednesday, November 18, 2009 | 5:48 PM MT
- Kirk Heuser interviews parent Tom Milley on the Calgary Eyeopener (Runs: 6:24)
- Play: Real Media »
A Calgary family concerned about their children's homework load has signed a contract with their school to eliminate the problem altogether.
Tom and Shelli Milley have signed a formal "no homework" contract with their children's school.
"With two children in school there was just an inordinate amount of homework coming home and a lot of it was busy work," said Tom Milley.
The family has signed what is called a differentiated homework plan with their children's Catholic school. Their daughter, Brittany, and son, Spencer — now in grades five and seven — won't have to bring work home. Instead, they'll be marked only on work they do in the classroom.
The homework load kept his children from improving their weak areas, said Milley. He also questioned the value of the homework.
"The way they do grades is by marking certain assignments and homework," he said. "If you're going to mark homework, whose work are you actually marking? Because if you send it home, you don't know who's doing it. It could be their older brothers or sisters or their parents."
Children still study at home
When Milley's children return home from school, they still study for tests and practice what they have learned in the classroom, but they concentrate on the subjects in which they're weak, he said.
More than 40 per cent of nine-year-olds in Alberta schools bring homework home every day, according to Statistics Canada.
The decision to sign a differentiated homework plan is up to each school, which tries to support the needs of the student, said Tania Younker, a spokeswoman for Calgary's Catholic School District.
"It's certainly something we encourage them to discuss with their teacher and their school administrator," Younker said. "Depending on circumstance, we will ensure what is being done is in the best interests of the child."
Vera Goodman, a retired teacher in Calgary, has written a book about too much homework. She expects the idea will catch on with other parents.
"I know there's people who like homework and people who don't want to do it," Goodman said. "And this gives people choice to do whatever they want with their own time."
'Not just busy work'
This deal between the Milley family and their school is unique, said Jenny Regal, who is local president with the Alberta Teachers' Association.
"I've never seen anything quite like this before," she said. "I know that conversations between parents, teachers and students have gone on regarding homework for years, as all three participants in this process try to make sense of what is good for each child."
Sometimes, homework has to be sent home because teachers can't fit the curriculum into a school day, she said. But Regal sees value in homework.
"It's not just busy work," she said. "Sometimes, the best way to get a child to practice a concept may look like busy work to some.
"You need that repetition to make sure … the child [does] get it. That's when conversations can occur: … clearly, they have demonstrated they know it; what's next?"
The Calgary Catholic School District has a committee examining the value of homework and will introduce new regulations next fall.
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