By Beth David, Editor
Both the LL Wood School and East Fairhaven School have changed their homework policies to focus on inspiring a love of reading. Instead of the usual written pages turned in the next day students need to read 80 minutes a week.
Wood School principal Amy Hartley-Matteson said the leadership team did hours of research, gathering information on how each grade handles homework and studying the most recent research on the effectiveness of homework for the lower grades.
“We knew last year we would change something,” said Ms. Hartley-Matteson. “We just didn’t know what.”
They decided that the new policy fit in well with the “core value” of the school, which is to help students become productive, successful adults.
“To inspire the heart, mind and body,” is a core value of Wood School, she said. “It really is just to inspire learning.”
She said homework did not get students excited about learning, but reading can. Students can read anything that interests them, including graphic novels (AKA “comic books”).
“The idea is to get kids to really fall in love with learning,” she said.
As for the responsibility learned by doing homework, she said there are many ways to teach responsibility.
“Homework is not the only avenue,” she said. “If they leave our school as literate kids then, the doors are wide open for them.”
EFS principal Wendy Weidenfeller agreed. She said there is no strong research to prove that homework is a real benefit either way.
“We’re instilling the love of reading,” she said. “To ignite a passion for reading and encourage book talk.”
Grade five will probably have some math problems, too, but that will be up to individual teachers.
Ms. Weidenfeller said that reading 20 minutes a day, a child is exposed to 1.8 million words per year; students who do not are exposed to 8,000.
“Even if they just fall in love with books, then that’s awesome,” she said.
So far, parents have mixed reactions.
Jean Paul “JP” Lemieux said he is “old school” and thinks that homework is better. He said he is afraid that Janay, who is in second grade, will regress without the extra effort of homework.
Janay agreed, saying she would prefer to have homework, “Because it teaches you.”
She does enjoy reading books, though.
Ken Chartier also said that he and his granddaughter Shyrae both prefer the old homework model.
“I think it’s better for them to have homework,” he said, because then she will continue to learn outside of school. “It’s not just school and then home and nothing.”
He said she is a big reader, but “reading is not the same.”
Kim Belong said her daughter, Montana, is in fifth grade so she might get some math problems. Ms. Belong said she thinks that some students will not do well without the homework, but her daughter will be okay because she is a good student.
“I kind of wish we still had homework,” said Montana. “I would like to have math homework.”
She said homework helps students to remember what they learned that day, and they might forget without it.
“I love the new homework policy. I love it,” said Katie Cozzens, whose son Tucker is in first grade. “He loves not having to come home and worry about homework. And we read all the time anyway. For kids that age, I think it’s great. I think reading is important and it’s somethig we did anyway.”
And, she said, it gives children more time with the family.
“They spend the whole day at school. Put me down as, I love it.”
Marianne Brodo echoed that sentiment. She said she battled last year with her daughter Chloe, who is in first grade now.
“Sometimes, we’d be so frustrated with each other, that by the time we were done with homework, we were too frustrated to read a book,” she said. “So it’s working out really well. We read to her so much already. She picked up a book on her own and started reading it. She’s never really done that before.”
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