Usually it is the children, not the parents, who are loath to spend their evenings practising spelling and learning times tables. But a Canadian couple have just won a legal battle to exempt their offspring from homework after successfully arguing there is no clear evidence it improves academic performance.
Sherri and Tom Milley, two lawyers from Calgary, Alberta, launched their highly unusual case after years of struggling to make their three reluctant children do school work out of the classroom.
After waging a long war with their eldest son, Jay, now 18, over his homework, they decided to do things differently with their youngest two, Spencer, 11, and Brittany, 10. And being lawyers, they decided to make it official.
It took two years to negotiate the Milleys' Differentiated Homework Plan, which ensures their youngest two children will never have to do homework again at their current school. The two-page plan, signed by the children, parents and teachers, stipulates that "homework will not be used as a form of evaluation for the children". In return, the pupils promise to get their work done in class, to come to school prepared, and to revise for tests. They must also read daily and practise their musical instruments at home.
"It was a constant homework battle every night," Sherri told Canada's Globe and Mail newspaper. "It's hard to get a weeping child to take in math problems. They are tired. They shouldn't be working a second shift."
"Why were we putting our family through that stress?" she wondered. "If we don't want it all, we shouldn't have to have it."
Two years ago, Sherri began collecting studies on homework, most of which suggest that, particularly for younger grades, there is no clear link between work at home and school performance. Working with the staff at St Brigid Elementary Junior High School, she formed a homework committee. When no firm changes resulted from the committee, the couple began negotiating the legal document that decided the matter.
"We think it's a parent's right to choose what's in our children's best interests," said Sherri. "But we're thankful the school did the right thing."
I'm torn. I hated homework and thought the majority of it was useless to me, however I was a KID, and that was what we were supposed to think! Plus I'm still not very mature and have trouble seeing this from a parent or teacher's perspective.
But I know that it helps kids understand the work...at least...that's what they told us...