How to Reduce and Eliminate Homework

April 04, 2012

You want to make your life better. But you're probably not quite sure where to start. One of the best things to start with is reclaiming your time so you can do more things you want and like to do instead of pointless and boring drudgery.

How much time do you spend doing homework from school? 30 minutes? An hour? Two hours? Some of you will already have no homework. In that case, you don't need this article. But for everyone else, that stuff has to go. You don't want to spend any more time than necessary doing things you don't like to do. (Unless you like doing homework...)

On most days, I have no homework (or studying for tests) to do after school, yet I maintain a 90+ average as a Grade 9 at one of the most expensive private schools in Canada. The Grade 8s I've talked to say they have an hour of homework. The Grade 12s say they have 2-5 hours. Some students have even said that on many nights, they stay up to 11 PM (some even 2 AM!) doing homework. To me, that is suffering needlessly. You will feel a lot less stressed, a lot more relaxed, and have a lot more time to do things you want to do when you kick out all homework from your life.

To cut your homework to a minimum, follow these steps:

1. Work Efficiently and Effectively in Class

If you spend any of your time in class chatting with friends or going on Facebook or playing video games, you're wasting your time. Talk to your friends outside of school. Then you can have a proper conversation without teachers constantly telling you to "Get to work!"

(Going on Facebook or playing video games in class is common in my school where everyone has a laptop. It might not happen in other schools.)

Get as much done during class as you can. Make everything more efficient. If you're trying to remember information by repeating it over and over, you're using a very common but very inefficient (and very ineffective) method. Learn memory techniques to remember information faster than by repeating it over and over. A good website is (Go to Tutorials) A good book is The Memory Book by Harry Lorayne and Jerry Lucas. (Find it at your local library or use interlibrary loan.)

Don't just move fast. Make sure you learn the information properly. If you are doing this right, you never have to study before a test or exam. Studying before a test is probably the biggest time waster of all, because when most people say they're studying, they're really relearning the whole course since they didn't learn it properly the first time. I never study for more than 5 minutes before any tests or exams. To check whether you learned the information properly, ask yourself whether you are ready to be tested at this moment on everything that you have learned up to this point. Also make sure that you can explain the topic to someone who was just started learning it.

When you are working hard in class and learning the information properly, you will likely end up having free time at the end of class. When that happens, work on unfinished homework from other classes and get that done too.

This is how I eliminated the majority of my homework. Even if you only use this method, you can expect to eliminate the majority of your homework just like I did.

2. Work Ahead

The rest of my homework was eliminated through working ahead.

When you are ahead, you can work separately from the class. You can usually be much more efficient learning from the textbook or other resources than by listening to lectures. In the classes where you are ahead, you will have very little homework because you would have already completed them ahead of time in class. Another benefit of being ahead is that whenever you get a big project from one of your classes, you can use the classes you are ahead in to work on the project.

To get ahead, take any class time where you have finished all the day's homework and use it to finish the next day's work. Ask the teacher if you don't know what the next day's work will be. If you have no time at the end of class to get ahead, try investing an hour outside of school.

After you get ahead, use the class time to work ahead further. Tell the teacher at the start or end of class that you are working ahead and won't be listening to the lectures a lot. Then, pull out your textbook and read while the teacher is teaching.

If you are ahead in a class, and move forward faster than the rest of the class, and you only use school time to do that, you will have no homework for that class. Do this for enough classes and you won't have any homework at all.

3. Negotiate

Sometimes you will be assigned some homework that is pointless for you. You might already understand the topic or you have found a better way of learning the topic. To make things easier, you can talk to your teacher to opt out of some small (or big) pieces of homework that you can show you don't need.

Remove things like math practice problems that you are already a master at or Spanish vocabulary practice for vocabulary you've already studied ahead of time. You can also negotiate to change or modify assignments if you can show that your version will help you more than the default.

If you're falling behind, it's probably not a good idea to try this. You probably need the extra practice!

Other Tips

If at any time a teacher has a problem with you doing any of these things, talk to him or her and tell them that you are trying to reduce your homework to a minimum and tell them about the methods you are using. In my experience, teachers have been very open to me working ahead, using memory techniques, and negotiating for reasonable changes. They never have a problem with me working hard in class!

Some good articles to read about time management are 10 Tips for College Students and Do It Now by Steve Pavlina.

A Typical Class for Me

In my Geography class, my teacher posts all the work for the next month or so on our class site. At the start of the class, I look on the site to find out what the next activity is and I read the matching section from the textbook while the teacher teaches the class about the topic I learned a week ago. When the teacher is done teaching (usually in 5-10 mins), the rest of the class starts working on the activity for that topic. I start the activity for the topic I am working on. In this class, I can usually finish 2 days of activities in one period.

In other classes such as Math and Spanish, I had already finished the year's curriculum before March break. I am now working on the next year's curriculum for Math and I am using the time in Spanish to finish work from other classes or to get ahead in them.

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