The Downside of HW-Free Weekends

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“Look… how would you make sure everyone in the world was well fed?’ She demanded.  “Me? Oh, well, I suppose I… I suppose you’d have to think about the prevalent political systems, and the proper division and cultivation of arable land, and-”   ‘Yes, yes. But he’d just give everyone a good meal.’ said Susan.”

-Hogfather, Terry Pratchett.

I know, I know. The mere title of this article has probably already provoked some outrage. But hear me out. 

First of all, homework-free weekends actually make it so that students have more on their plate at one time. A lot of assignments (readings, research papers, speeches) can be done by students over long breaks; refusing teachers the ability to assign such work, actually hurts students.  Here’s how: 

Let’s say a history teacher wants to assign work for a research paper over Christmas break. However, because of a homework-free policy, that work gets pushed into January, along with all the other work students already have in January, meaning students have the exact same amount of work, just condensed into a smaller amount of time. 

Does that really seem better? 

The teacher, of course, has another option, rather than pushing things back, he or she can push it up – making the due date before the “homework-free weekend” and thus not even allowing the student to manage time as they see fit.  Now the student has less, rather than more, time to finish that particular assignment. 

Does that really seem better? 

Another option for the teacher is to choose not to assign the work at all, which seems to be the belief when homework-free weekends are mandated- that homework can or should just be “cancelled” rather than moved.  If that’s the case, if homework can just be so easily removed with no discernible difference on student learning or performance, then you have to wonder if that homework was ever really worthwhile in the first place. 

Homework-free weekends don’t provide a solution to our homework problem . All they do is to provide a fake fix to a large, systematic issue; so when someone says “What is VHS doing to combat high homework rates?” homework-free weekends can be pointed to as the ultimate solution. The effect of this is that we (students, staff, and administration) are prevented from having a mature conversation about what students perceive to be an excessive amount of homework, and whether a lot of that work is really necessary. 

If we want to really try to decrease the amount of stress and unnecessary work that students have at VHS, simply limiting the amount of time students have to do that work is not the solution. We need to talk about this, see things from multiple perspectives, and make an informed decision on what the best method is. Because one thing is for sure: homework-free weekends aren’t it.