It’s Okay To Say No To Homework

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Say No To Homework

We’ve been tremendously lucky when it comes to homework with Elena. And when I say lucky, I mean that she rarely has more than 20-30 minutes worth a day. There’s even a day or two a week when she has no homework at all. For being in 6th grade advanced classes, that’s pretty amazing. So this post is absolutely not about us complaining about the homework situation in our family. But it is about making a decision to say no to homework every now and then.

Elena is in the school band, and as part of her class grade she is required to practice her instrument at home. She has a practice card she turns in weekly, signed by us, and the more she practices, the higher her grade. The other evening, she pulled out her alto saxophone and started trying to figure out the notes to the song “Let It Go” from Disney’s “Frozen.” She worked at it for close to an hour, writing down notes, playing them, thinking, erasing, and trying again.  By the end of her session, she had it figured out.

After she played it for me, her shoulders sagged. When I asked what was wrong, she said she wished she hadn’t spent so much time on it. Now she needed to practice her actual band pieces so she could write down her practice time for the week. Whatever excitement and pride was there from figuring out the music to a favorite song had vanished and was replaced with a sense of dread.

I’m not sure what her band director would’ve said, but I said, “No way! That certainly counts toward practice time.” And I signed her card without any reservations.

Not long after, she spent the entire time between the arriving home from school until bedtime (taking a break for dinner) on my laptop. She was hard at work on trying to develop her own app (Frappy Bird, if you care to know! It’s a riff on the ridiculously popular but impossible Flappy Bird app, only instead of pipes it features Elena’s other obsession: frappauccinos.) She had other things she could’ve been doing. She had vocabulary words to work on, a test in a couple of days, a book to read, a messy room.

In both instances, I decided that working on something she was passionate about was more important than homework. I want her to understand that there is value in the play that excites you. Sometimes feeding the soul and indulging in a hobby takes priority over busy work. I’d like to think that what she learns when she writes a song or fiddles with code will translate into learning. Maybe it won’t help her learn the song they’re working on any faster, or earn her a A instead of a B on a math exam, but it will build skills and spark further learning later on down the line. And I’m okay with saying no to homework if that’s the case.

 Have you ever let your kids choose another activity over homework? Or do you feel like homework, as it’s assigned, is the top priority?



  1. #1 I want to see a video of her playing let it go. 🙂

    #2 I absolutely agree 100% with you on this.

  2. Kids are being given too much homework. In my practice, working with multisensory learners who struggle with traditional teaching methods, I see clearly the emotional and psychological impact of the pressures children face at school in today’s world. Too much homework is one of the main contributors.

    France is thinking of doing away with homework. In the U. S., there are many classrooms that are experimenting with ‘flipped learning’ – homework at school and lesson delivery at home via technology.

    With younger children, it is imperative that school work be fun – goes against the grain for many parents. Young children are naturally curious and love to learn – to them play and learning are inseparable. It is we adults and the education system we have created based on a factory concept that takes the fun, play and joy out of learning and turns it into a dry, dull and laborious endeavor.

    I say – teach your kids how to love life and enjoy learning.

    • Thanks for your insight, Kimberley. My daughter spent K-3 in a Montessori classroom, and one of the many things I loved about it was the no homework policy. That, combined with the innovative methods they have of teaching, instilled in her an absolute love of learning. While we’ve been additionally blessed to have had teacher after teacher in the public school setting that doesn’t put a big emphasis on homework, I truly think the reason she loves school so much and faces the homework she does have with a positive attitude is that she learned at a young age that learning is fun. I’d much prefer that to the endless stream of one-size-fits-all lessons, busy work, and worksheets.


  1. […] Over at Risky Kids, Angie wrote the other day: It’s Okay to Say No to Homework. […]