From “Homework” to “Homelearn”

Something significant is going on in our school at the moment. We are addressing many of the difficult, very interesting, debates about homework that have been coming to the surface in recent times.

The leadership team in the elementary school are taking some very bold and highly creative steps to give us all a chance just to re-think homework, try some other options and see if we can find a model that takes the emphasis away from homework to homelearn.

The home learning will be based on the idea of learning logs. Here are some pictures of the way the students have responded to this challenge so far:

Based around a single question, the home learning should be highly relevant to the thinking that is happening – and needs to happen – in the classroom. Home learning and school learning should feed into each other and allow deeper thinking and connections.

Students will approach the question with only a double-sided A3 piece of paper as their canvas. The question should sustain their curiosity and provide enough creative possibilities for the students to work with it for a week. Their work should be presented with aesthetic consideration, clarity and increasing visual intelligence.

This will be quite a change, it will certainly cause tensions, it will challenge us all and it will be difficult. Which is why we should do it. I’m sure I remember some quotes out there about that!

The theory behind our new prototype approach is that it takes away the pre-determined forms of homework that we have all become so accustomed to and asks us to think, and record our thinking in different ways. I say “we” because this really is an approach that asks for many different types of thinking from teachers just as much as students, a redefining of what learning can/could look like. Parents are also going to have to re-think the models of homework that they have seen before and seek new ways – with our help – to get involved.

Another significant effect of this change could be one of relationship-building. We are all going to need to communicate very closely about how we go about things, have many conversations about how the students have responded, what effect that has had and how we work with it. I can foresee thousands of such conversations, between all the characters in the story, incorporating every emotion! We can only grow from that.

I think I’m going to focus my blogging attention on this experiment for some time as it is not only a very interesting idea, but also a fantastic example of leadership for learning.

P.S. I just started adding the categories to this posting, and ended up selecting them all… apart from technology. I am sure technology will become involved, but only when we’ve found the best ways for it to become a part of it that genuinely makes it better for learning. The fact that I selected all the other categories is very interesting as it could mean this change is relevant to… everything!



  1. Chye

    Homework, an overflowing can of worms! We plan to discuss the role and purpose of homework this year in our school as well. Shifting from the concept of ‘homework’ to ‘home learning’ is definitely an interesting one. If you do focus your blogging attention to this experiment, I will enjoy reading about it.

    • Mr. Sam

      Yes, this has been a very interesting move and I will certainly be writing about it quite a lot on here. You will be able to get the kids’ perspectives on it too from our class blog over the next few months:

      Say “hi” to Francois for me!

  2. Dale Cope

    That is really fascinating. I look forward to updates about how this is turning out. I would love to hear about the feedback the parents, staff and kids give. I will also poke in on the class blog 🙂

    • Mr. Sam

      Well, so far the teachers have responded very positively… mainly because the work done by the kids has been so illuminating. One major “side-effect” of this kind of home learning that works on one key question is the emergence of misconceptions and big-issues. Two examples of this are:

      – the idea of stereotypes (are boys messier than girls?)
      – the misconception that “peaceful” only means “quiet” (Can peaceful societies exist without rules?)

  3. Desiree Finestone

    Like this. Home learning should be interesting and fun for all involved. Yes the key is the task or the question! Does it tap into each student’s sense of curiosity, creativity, wonderment etc…is it deep enough to challenge thinking and tempt them to want to think about the topic further? Does it create a buzz of discussion, excitement? Who chooses the question? Perhaps a weekly brainstorm – majority vote wins the week’s

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