I did something this year that I've always wanted to do. I’m NOT assigning homework. For several years I've struggled with assigning homework. After all, the students who need the most practice are the ones who really need to be using the Montessori materials off the shelves, not working on abstract worksheets at home.
Over the years, I've tried several approaches to homework. I've had students work out of math textbooks at home and found that was inconsistent with what they were learning in class. I spent hours searching for the perfect worksheets to accompany math lessons that were given, making sure that they weren't too abstract if students were still using concrete materials.
What I found was that, in all of their good intentions to help, parents were becoming frustrated with their child’s homework and showing them “short-cuts”. This, of course, contradicted the Montessori approach of letting the child naturally come up with the shortcuts after having mastered the concept. Children were becoming frustrated and starting to doubt their own abilities.
Homework in the Montessori Classroom: Does it Actually Help Students?
I started wondering about why we assign homework in the first place. There has been an increase in the amount of homework assigned over the last twenty or more years. Children now as young as pre-school are coming home with worksheets to do at home each night. This has been done more and more as schools face ever increasing pressure to advance student achievement and test scores. However, research has shown that there is no connection between homework and academic success. As a matter of fact, author and educational researcher Alfie Kohn goes so far as to suggest abolishing homework altogether in his recent book, The Homework Myth.
I've also had parents tell me that homework is good for teaching their children about responsibility and time management. That it is useful for learning study skills and developing work ethics and that they expect me to assign homework based developing these principals in their children. Again, after careful researching, there is no direct correlation between these skills and assigning homework.
So, what are my students doing when they get home and have no homework? From the sounds of things, they’re working! That’s right. When it’s not assigned, homework isn't drudgery. Students are coming to school with stories that they've written at home and asking to read them to the class. They tell me that they’re doing math on their own. They’re researching far away places and about the seed pods and sea shells they've been finding on their weekend journeys. They’re reading voraciously.
In addition, there is no coercing and cajoling to get the work done. There are no tears and battles over not wanting to do homework. There are no late assignments. Now there’s time to play games and play outside. Relationships have improved at home and at school. Students are looking forward to coming to school in the morning and not dreading having to tell me that the homework wasn't completed. I think that this may have been one of the best educational experiments I've ever tried. And I’m sure my students would agree!
To read more about the Montessori method of teaching and philosophy, view Dr. Montessori's The Montessori Method online.
© North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Monday, October 15, 2007.