Homework is a Free-Range Topic

I just finished reading what could be considered a perfect companion book to the Free-Range Kid movement, The Case Against Homework by Sara Bennett and Nancy Kalish. Lenore has blogged about this before, and Sara’s terrific website stophomework is on Lenore’s blog roll. In a nutshell: Bennett and Kalish state that there is little or no correlation between homework given in elementary and middle school and increased scholastic achievement. And health professionals state very clearly that children should be outside PLAYING and not spending time indoors doing schoolwork. As a matter of fact, some of the actual homework “incidents” mentioned in the book would make your hair curl—four hours or more of homework each night for example. The authors clearly present the issue, discuss facts, and advise parents about how to bring sanity back into their children’s lives. If you do have a too-much-homework issue, this book will be your champion and your guide.

What struck me most about the real-life stories, though, was how many moms and dads are allowing hours and hours of homework eat up their children’s childhood—as if it just isn’t under their control. As a society it seems that we have forgotten how to be parents; we are letting “systems”—be it after-school sports, media, toy companies, or schools—parent for us. So next time your child sighs and lugs his/her backpack to the “well-lit, quiet homework space”, say, “Forget about it! Go outside! I’ll write you a note!”

This is my last post; Lenore will be back starting tomorrow. Thanks so much for listening to a slightly different perspective on the very important Free-Range Kid movement! –The Deputy

172 Responses

  1. I’m not sure that all homework is bad. I agree that 4 plus hours is, but…
    My son is only in kindergarten and he is struggeling alittle. Mostly because he needs a little more one on one, which I know that when you have a class of 20 the teacher just can’t give him. His teacher has never assigned “homework” but we make sure that he spends a little time every night doing some school work. It was the same when my daughter was in kindergarten.

  2. Homework is a very sore topic for me. If my kids were in school I would not make them do their homework if we had something else planned. I would let them take a zero and bring their grade down. Kids need time to be kids. My 5yo nephew just started kindergarten and he has had homework every single night. Why?

    To be fair though, if you look at teachers who have tried to not assign homework it’s the parents who have a fit. The parents think their kids will fall behind and these teachers were forced to give homework again to make the parents happy. I read this in another book against homework. I’ll go find the title because it was a fascinating read.

  3. And when I say we spend some time doing school work I mean like 10 mins and some nights depending on how nice it is outside not at all.

  4. this is such an interesting debate and i don’t think people will ever agree. we often ask parents and kids how they feel about this and the reactions we get are as mixed as the ones discussed on her and in any literature.

  5. I don’t think homework itself is inherently detrimental for younger children — I think it’s the type of homework. We are all familiar with busy work, homework that our teachers gave us just because. Homework is important. It helps to reinforce concepts that were learned in class. But the vast majority of homework that children are given needs to be reflective and encourage critical thinking. Even at a young age, this can be possible. It’s all about quality over quantity. Homework could take the form of independent study, even for younger children. The most important thing is children are encouraged and taught to enjoy learning. Teach a man to fish …

  6. I don’t think it works to tell a kid to forget about the homework.

    Kids will have anxiety knowing they aren’t doing what’s expected of them.

    I say tell them forget about SCHOOL! You can stay home with me, play with the other homeschoolers, and get your work done in a couple of hours from start to finish.

  7. Leila, that’s exactly what I did!

  8. Try Montessori! A true Montessori school will NEVER assign homework, so if you can’t homeschool, now you have an alternative…

  9. Now, here’s a topic that makes me truly angry.

    I can, largely, control how “free-range” my kids are allowed to be.

    When they enter the public school system, I have NO control over their homework.

    As the mom of four gifted boys, I can tell you that it absolutely does no good whatsoever. It does turn them off, fast.

    My honors student in high school has an average of four hours of homework a night. That’s insane. Add in debate and his other extra curricular activites, and he goes to bed at 2am regularly.

    Gifted kids just get it. They get it immediately, or they don’t get it at all. Throwing thousands of pages of practice at them doesn’t make them get it any better–if they need help, they know how to open their mouths and ask.

    Homework does, however, make them tired, cranky and resentful. Just exactly what you want for your gifted kids.

  10. If my second grader doesn’t do every bit of his homework at night, he has to stay in for recess the next day to do it. I HATE THIS! So does he! He is a typical, active, sports-loving 7-year old and it just kills him when he has to miss recess. I think it is ridiculous. And it is very difficult to see him do his homework in the evenings while his older brother is outside playing.

  11. I can’t say how grateful we are that we found such a sensible school for our kids. From age 6 onwards, kids have homework assignments. Now, the teachers make sure we understand that the point is only to teach our kids self discipline. That is, they learn to do something they are not crazy about not because someone forces them, but because it is their duty. Sure, you have to insist at first. And sure, you can teach them that assigning them housechores such as washing the dishes, or tidying up their room or whatever. But when they really need to make a mental effort (preparing for an important exam) later on, routine will kick in in that aspect as well.
    Parents are warned that we should not allow our kids to sit down more than 30 mins each day, because they will not take in a word anyway, and frustration would be counterproductive for the self-discipline aim. And, we are told, children need to play, rest, find other interests in life and enjoy their family time.
    Excellent school.

  12. The Mother you keep talking about control, I thought that the whole point of being free range is to give up just a little bit of that “control”? Are you planing to send your kids to collage because I’m pretty sure that the proffessor isn’t going to care if our kids like home work or not.

  13. I’m with Hayley and Jerri. Not all homework is evil. Now, most of it my son had last year in kindergarten was🙂 but the teacher is doing much better this year, assigning work that reinforces classroom concepts, as opposed to last year’s blatantly busy work – write these words four times each. Ugh.

    I also with the notion that because my kids are involved in after-school sports that I’m letting “systems” parent for me. Actually, I’m letting them do something they enjoy. I’m very involved with my kids, but even as active as I am, I can’t be all nine people on a baseball team.

  14. At the school where I used to work in Kindergarten we gave out a “Homework Calendar” every month because the parents demanded it. It was really just a collection of ideas for educational activities to do with your kids but it made the parents happy.

    There was also a limit on the amount of time the older kids were supposed to spend doing homework each day (I think it started at 15 min for 1st grade and went up from there). The teachers tried to make the homework short enough but if it took an individual kid longer than they were supposed to stop and have their parents just wrote a note. My suspicion is that a lot of parents didn’t let their kids stop but there’s only so much the school can do.

    Having worked in the schools and seen how much time is wasted every day (just moving the kids around takes a ton of time) I do plan to homeschool my kids. We also plan to limit the number of extra curricular activities just like they were limited for me and my husband. The maximum is three activities at a time: one sport, one “lesson” (ie piano, art), and one other activity (ie scouts). If they only want to do one or two that’s fine but no substituting a lesson for a sport etc. Hopefully with those two choices my kids will have all of the make believe outdoor time that they need.

  15. Homework shouldn’t be assigned to younger kids. Instead, it should be assigned to the parents. Give them activities that they can do with their kids to help them reinforce topics being taught in school. It should be optional and not graded or collected.

  16. My 1st grader has home work about 3 days out of the week but it takes her maybe 5mins. She does it as soon as she gets home then she’s out the door playing.

  17. I’m not comfortable with telling my daughter not to bother with her homework (she’s 7 and in Grade 2), because I think that puts her in an awkward position with her teacher. But if, for example, she brings home a whole math workbook and doesn’t know which pages she’s supposed to do, I’ll tell her, e.g., to do the first 2 pages and call it a day (and then write a note to the teacher explaining why she did those pages). That, and remind her to ask the teacher the next time she’s not sure.

    Mostly, thank goodness, her homework is “read out loud to someone for 20 minutes” or “copy your spelling words X times”, either of which can be knocked off easily before dinner or (in the case of reading) at bedtime. Honestly, though, I don’t see the point of giving homework to Grade 2s. Nobody had homework in elementary school when I was a kid, except for maybe the occasional project (and of course the Science Fair!), yet we all coped perfectly well with the homework we started getting in junior high …

    Still, at DD’s school (public arts-based JK-8 school, ca. 350 kids), for every parent like me who wishes their kid didn’t get homework at all, there are at least two parents who think their kids don’t get enough homework, and worry that the kids will “get behind” or “won’t take school seriously” or even (!!!!!) that they’re “spending too much time just playing around” (the daughter of the person who said that to me was 6 at the time!), and if the teacher doesn’t assign “serious” homework every night they will sit their kids down with worksheets or send them to Kumon to make up for it. So really I don’t see how the teachers can win😛

  18. I am not a fan of homework for primary school children and I am a teacher. In my experience it doesn’t always re-enforce concepts learnt at school. Often homework has been done by and elder sibling or a parent. Written out in rough and copied with a correct version into the homework book.

    Personally I think too much of children’s loves are being taken over by organised activities and there is not enough tha is spontaneous.

    It seems (at least here in UK) that every waking minute has to be assessed, judged and justified.

  19. Saying “Forget about it! Go outside! I’ll write you a note!” is a non-starter for most parents, I think.

    The public school is assigning too much homework because they spend so much time in the classroom teaching a test, and if your children are not producing, they are labeled “poor performers” or worse.

    The private school is assigning too much homework because the school has a scholastic reputation to uphold and if your children do not meet the standards, they will be asked to leave. There is no refund of yr $11,000, of course. Administrative costs, you see.

    In the case of the public school, where they *have to* take your children, there is the very serious matter of being subject to the law and its standards & controls (real or imagined, no matter) of parenting as a way to “maintain society.”

    Also? A lot of parents *like homework.* It means their kids are learning. I have known people to remove their 4-year-olds from preschools with no homework & put them into schools where — the parents proudly boast on the playground — they have 2 hours of homework every night. Kids who can’t read. I don’t know. Maybe it isn’t like this everywhere, I do not know. I live in a large city on the eastern seaboard.

  20. Homework is part of the reason my 6th grader is homeschooling this year! The schedule at the public middle school is 9-4:30. Reports are coming in that there is then 2 hours of homework. That’s insane. For an 11 year old!!! Where is the free time? The family time? The play time? The social time? The music time? The chore time even? It’s messed up. And everyone tells us, “we’re just getting them ready for next year.” Why can’t they just be in this year as an 11 year old?

    My third grader gets a packet which I love. He can crank it out in a day or stretch it out over a week. It’s our choice.

    I have definitely written the notes before (although sometimes the kids protested). And I have even finished homework for a kid once I saw they got the concept down. And I have also had a tete a tete with my child – me telling her to get out and play and her telling me she had to do her homework.

    It’s too much. And I agree we have to voice our opinions against it. We only get one childhood. It shouldn’t be filled with mindless hours of worksheets.

  21. This is an important issue to me. I see both sides, though. Homework can be useful in some situations: Extra practice before an exam, extra examples to work through if you’re struggling with a concept and need more exposure to it, etc.

    However, we have to stop allowing public schools to send home hours of work with each and every student, whether they need it or not.

    For one thing, those backpacks are so heavy a grown man can’t lift one!

    Let’s make homework *available* for kids who want the extra practice, but not required. This is more like college, where if you need more work on something you study it more.

    Two last questions from me and I’ll shut up:

    1) What percentage of homeschool teachers cover a subject, make sure the student understands, and then after classes are done for the day make the kid sit somewhere and rehash it all night?

    2) In your adult job (other than teaching) how many of us are required to take 3-4 hours of work home each night after we’ve already put in a full day’s work, for no additional pay?

  22. @montessorimatters – I’d love nothing more than to put my child in montessori K-8. Unfortunately, few families have the 12-15K per year (and that doesn’t include materials fees, after school fees, etc.) to do it and we’re not considered low income enough for financial aid. For us it’s a choice between homework or living on ramen noodles. As much as I hate elementary level homework, I hate ramen noodles more.

  23. I’m with the “homework is not necessarily evil” crowd. I do think the problem is with what kind of homework we’re getting. The kind of homework most children get now is what one of my college professors, Dr. Thomas Rust, called “busywork”. It’s not there to help the students learn, it’s there to make them work so that it seems like they’re learning.

    My Japanese teacher did his best to make the classwork fun. He would tell us to watch Japanese shows to get the feel of the language, look at Japanese books and websites, and other things like that. Yeah, there was a lot of homework due to the three different alphabets you have to learn for Japanese, but even that was not too bad because of the shortcuts we learned (I forever amused one of my Japanese friends by my comparison of the ‘yu’ character to a fish getting stabbed). He did not let us consult the Japanese students with the take-home tests, though, which made things more difficult.

    Dr. Rust made homework rather fun simply because it was a lot of reading and visual stuff. He sent the class home one time from the Classical Archaeology class with a sheet we were to use to study the layout of and artifacts in an archaeological site and figure out exactly what it was. Eventually, we all came to the conclusion of it being a temple (as said one of my classmates: “It’s a temple, dammit!”). The readings weren’t busywork, either, since he rarely assigned textbooks and instead gave us real works of literature to read.

    And I think that is why homework is so bad in grade school. In college, the teachers have a lot of leeway to use the books they want their students to learn from, and to set their own homework styles (granted, this was more evident with the arts teachers than with the science ones). I have not experienced this as much, but do public school teachers have any kind of leeway in that? I highly doubt it. As regimented as life is in grade school, I don’t think the teachers have a chance to do much more than follow the stated curriculum.

    Maybe we should make grade school (especially in the higher grades) a little more like college and give our children a little more freedom. Anyone object?

  24. @Lafe — My children are homeschooled & have never been to school. They bought wistfully into the culture’s marketing of school and would write long lists of the things they were missing out on at home — birthday parties, cupcakes, valentines, field trips, etc.

    When they were about 6 & 8, they came to me after hanging out at the playground with big, wide eyes: “When you go to school, you are gone all day, and then –” they lowered their voices to scandalized whispers — “you have to do homework?” I have never heard a single word about the Golden Dream of School since that day, lol.

  25. @Lafe: Question #1 is right on the mark. That was going to be my next comment.

    As to using homework to build self-discipline and to ensure they can study as they get older – I just don’t buy it. When I taught my children the disciplline of sitting quietly in church I didn’t take them to church every day and make them practice sitting. We worked on it in church and guess what? They figured it out. Besides, don’t they learn self-discipline from sitting in a classroom, being quiet, raising their hands,etc. I think parents and teachers need to give kids more credit. I don’t think a 9th grader who has never had homeowrk before is going to buckle under the pressure. There will be an adjustment period but they’ll survive.

    As for studying for tests, my 6th grader has never had homework and never had tests or quizzes. This year her history program gives her a quiz each week and tests each semester. I chose this program because of that. It is a skill she needs to acquire. I sat down with her in the beginning of the year, taught her some study aids and then left her to it. The first time she failed a quiz because she didn’t study taught her that she had to study. She now does just fine. She did not need 5 years of practice to get ready for this.

  26. This is a very personal issue for me. As a kid growing up in the 70’s I had a horrible time with homework, both because I was a very unpopular kid (nerdy, low on the totem pole, geek etc.) and when I got home from school the last thing I wanted to do was spend 2 hours a night revisiting it, and because I was an undiagnosed dyslexic (very common back then). It was incredibly frustrating. Then at my Jr. HS (grades 7-9) they had a draconian policy in which every homework assignment must be turned in or you would get a failing grade. That’s right, I went from an A in 7th grade science to an F just because of one stupid worksheet about geology or something.

    In my freshman english class I wrote a paper proposing that assigning homework was a violation of my 1st and 4th amendment rights. I did it as homework of course.

  27. I don’t feel that my children are assigned enough homework. It seems like they are only given an hour or two a week (not counting reading which is supposed to be a half hour a day, but my children generally like to read).

  28. My kids had a teacher that rebelled against the homework norm. She didn’t give a lot, and was very understanding when life got in the way of school. Her take? “When kids in my class stop getting the highest scores on End of Grade tests, I’ll stop.”

    We loved this woman!

    (As an aside…she also took the kids outside each day for way longer than the amount allowed.)

  29. My kids are 5 and 7 in grades 1 and 2, and I am aghast at the size of backpacks they need for their “agenda” and homework. (yes, they have an “agenda” book from the school)

  30. As a certified Montessori directress (we even dislike the word teacher which implies that students don’t have the ability to teach themselves and other things) for ages three through twelve and the parent of two young free-range men ages 11 and 12, I have often dealt with the need of parents for homework – even for three-year-olds.

    The need to copy your work which was the original basis for homework had to do with the scarcity of books and the need to retain information which might not be available to you when the moment arose. In the digital age, retaining information is not the issue. Now, we must be able to adapt and “connect dots” during our careers. Knowing where to look and how to synthesize information is a key to life-long success.

    Mastery, as it is called in Montessori, is done solely through work in the classroom. For the years I have lead children (class size was 20 to 30), and not had one who was not at or above their peer group – public or private – in academic instruction, and I would never give homework.

    In the case of my children, one of whom has an eye tracking issue and didn’t read fluidly until his fourth grade year, they are often praised for their mature, thoughtful, kind behavior in one breath and for the intelligence with the next. Their emotional intelligence is brought about by interacting with peers in the classroom and hours outside in the neighborhood.

    As a professional and as a parent, I can not see a case for homework.

  31. I agree that excessive homework is unnecessary and unhelpful. Children need free time! But taking school work home provides a good chance for parents to interact with their children. Ten to fifteen minutes is enough. Good education starts at home, whether your child is in public school, private school, or is home schooled. If you don’t like the quantity of work your child is sent home with, don’t tell your child to just forget it, talk with the teacher and express your concerns.

  32. “The Mother you keep talking about control, I thought that the whole point of being free range is to give up just a little bit of that “control”?”

    No, I don’t think that’s the whole point of free range at all. I think it is about using that control wisely. When our children are at the ages we’re talking about here, of course we have control over them. Besides, the issue here isn’t giving them more freedom, it’s having someone else control their time. By my having control over their time, one thing I can do with it is allow them freedom. If someone else has that control, I can’t give them that freedom!

    I feel as other homeschoolers do about this. When I had a younger child in school, I would get frustrated about how the entire family’s agenda was controlled by that child’s need to do homework — unproductive homework at an age where there was little benefit. My older kids are/were in high school, but that’s a different ball of wax entirely. Of course there are papers to be written and tests to study for and math problems to practice (although their school is pretty good about giving them in-class time for practice-type work.) But for younger kids, it’s just a waste of time, and I agree with those who say it’s largely driven by wasted time in the classroom + parents’ perceived need to see that their kids are “learning something.”

  33. Laura I completely agree with you!

  34. Okay, first of all I have to say that I’m a little put off by the relationship that seems to exist between Free-Range parents and homeschooling. I don’t necessarily have anything against home schooling. I realize that homeschooled children who are sheltered are the minority. Many children can actually benefit greatly from homeschooling.

    But I’m disturbed by the prevaling (seemingly free-range) attitude that public schools are the root of all problems for children. Putting aside the fact that my parents didn’t have the time or money to homeschool me (or the desire, I suspect), I went to public school and I turned out just fine, as did many of my friends. We were smart kids and we had a lot of opportunities. Everyone I know moved on to great universities. So there are many public schools out there that are completely functional. And while lots public schools are far from perfect, I think they present an opportunity to understand how the real world works. Going to a public school provided me with a variety of perspectives. I also had to deal with people I didn’t like and do things I didn’t want to do. But it taught me that the world is not always going to work the way I want it and that I need to learn how to manage myself in a constructive way in order to make the best of things. Even schools that fall victim to teaching to the test — there’s a learning opportunity right there: the power of bureaucracy and red tape is not always avoidable.

    My parents were involved in my education and I think that is really what’s important; they didn’t control it but instead were active participants. Their influence taught me to enjoy learning and to take my education beyond the classroom on my own. But I didn’t need to be homeschooled in order to have that happen. If anything, it was the combination of attending a public school and involved parents that was incredibly effective.

    So, that being said … I have to say it again: homework isn’t inherently bad. Just like a lot of things in the world. It’s the type of homework. Homework needs to be constructive in order to be effective. Getting rid of homework is no more the answer than … well … getting rid of anything that can *sometimes* be a pain the butt or excessive. Everything in moderation.

  35. This is an interesting issue for me as one of my good friends just switched her daughter’s school mainly because of this issue. She used to have 2 hours of homework most nights as well as numerous extra projects that often took up large parts of her weekend. And this was in K-3rd grade. Amazingly enough she was totally stressed. They had little to no fun family time and even when it came to vacations their daughter just wanted to stay home.

    This year they switched schools and it is totally different. She still has some homework, but not near as much. She has time to play and just be a kid. And was totally excited to go on vacation. She is much less stressed. And although changing schools is always hard, this was a VERY good thing.

    I think the main school district here, at least the 3 elementary schools I know, have a reasonable amount of homework. For the younger grades, 4th and down, they get homework packets sent home at the beginning of the week and due at the end. It is basically one page a day plus 20 mins of reading. That is nice because some kids would do it all in one day and be done, others would do a bit each day. Either way, there was still plenty of time left for fun stuff.

  36. Thanks for the book recommendation. I’m fighting this fight now. I limit my son (4th grade) to 1 hour a night and that’s it. He could easily spend 4 on it nightly, which is ridiculous. And a lot of it is busywork. Are the teachers/system trying to train the parents to do the teaching by the mechanism of assigned homework? My son came home last night with an assignment to transform his outline to an essay by removing the numbering. This was after they told him to create is summary in the form of an outline (if they wanted an essay why ask for it to be started as an outline? It was never explained to him or me.) I have other things to teach – life skills, philosophy, cultural activities. I’m counting on my tax-supported public school to do the basics (and I’m monitoring).

    As an aside, I would also encourage other free-range parents to check out Montessori – it is a program that fosters child independence.

    In my household, the new legislation which is pushing out all the homework is referred to as “No Child Let Outside”

  37. @ Neil – I LOVE the idea of giving the parents homework. My understanding is that student achievement (and happiness) is consistently linked to parent involvement.

    Of course there will be some parents that cannot or will not do their homework. But that can be addressed separately.

    One thing I will say about homework, especially long projects that take more than a day to finish, is that it teaches perseverance and planning. These two skills, more than raw intelligence, will be the primary determining factors for anyone who wants to reach their goals.

    The homework should be relevant, but it doesn’t need to be fun.

  38. FYI @neil – my 2nd grader’s teacher does assign parents homework – 20 minutes of reading a night, 10 minutes of math flashcards 2x week, and working with a list of spelling words for the week (about 10 min 3x week). This seems reasonable for a 2nd grader.

  39. Count me with the “homework isn’t inherently evil” crowd. As others have pointed out, it does matter what kind of homework is being assigned. I seem to remember getting some fun assignments in kindergarten and grade school, like collecting leaves in the fall to make rubbings to bring to school so we could try to identify the types of trees they came from, or seeing how many objects we had at home that we could identify in French. The teachers definitely made a huge effort to make classwork fun. I wish more schools had the freedom to allow their students a greater degree of creativity because *gasp!* school can actually be fun! (yes, my nerdiness is showing, I know).

    Sometimes some drilling homework can be helpful and I remember my reading homework in kindergarten as being a fun way for my mom and me to spend time together, but it does sound as if the amount of “busy work” homework being given in a lot of schools these days is excessive. I can’t ever remember having so much homework that I couldn’t go out to play. I think Blake has a good point that in public schools especially, there is little leeway for teachers to be able adjust their programs to their students, and there’s probably also a lot of pressure to “teach standardized tests” which leads to a lot of busy work and rote factual memorization, rather than teaching kids how to process information and create solutions outside of a given guideline.

  40. whoops, forgot to check the notify box.

  41. I would wonder what the kids are doing all day if 8 hours isn’t enough to teach them the basics in elementary school. Or 6 hours, or whatever it is.

    We homeschool. So we either have no homework, or all homework, however you want to look at it.😉 But for my first grader, it takes maybe 1-2 hours a day, tops, including craft stuff. Then we go play.

  42. Laura says, “…taking school work home provides a good chance for parents to interact with their children…”
    Yes – I really enjoy having to nag, argue, lay down the law, fight, remind, check the work, check the backpack, check the agenda, compare it to the web page, etc., every night. Homeword has been the bane of my existence for the last… hmmm… 12 years or so and promises to be so for another 10 ’til my youngest graduates from high school.

    I don’t have any issue with homework when it’s useful, when it reinforces the knowledge for kids who need the reinforcement, or when it’s creative, interesting, or engaging. But the countless hours of busy work that count towards their grade – those make me crazy! There’s no flexibility, especially as you move into high school – kids who “get it” have to do the same homework as those who struggle to get it. I feel just like the mother of 4 gifted boys up near the top – it’s just pointless for gifted kids and turns them off.

    It seems the idea of the class being to teach the subject is being lost, in favor of the class being to teach the kids how to be responsible about homework. My favorite example of this is my son who was the only kid *ever* to get 100% on his history teacher’s final. This brought his grade up to a D, because he never did the homework. My contention is that if he can get 100%, he’s showing mastery of the subject, and isn’t that the *point* of the class? So why isn’t there flexibilty, with more homework for those who benefit, less (and more challenging) for those who would benefit from that instead?

    I love the system my brother’s AP Calculus teacher used, oh so many years ago: if you got 90% or higher on the test, you didn’t have to turn in the homework. If not, you did. Seems simple to me!

    On a free range note – the kid with the D tested out of high school his junior year and went to work full time. Nothing about his unwilingness to do homework was reflected in his work ethic on the job — they loved him — and now, at the age of 18, he’s moved out to Colorado and is managing a small ski shop on the slopes and living his dream.

  43. My attitude to homework during my own schooling was quite simple: ignore it. Even as a child I couldn’t see the point in repeating the same work with different input data – if I understood the concept once, in class, that was enough. If I didn’t understand the concept then no amount of mindless repetition was going to change that.

    Most children aren’t stupid – they can smell the dead rat that is the pointless busywork of homework.

  44. @ejly – I’m glad to hear that this idea is actually put into practice.

    One thing that I think helps prepare kids for doing homework is doing chores around the house. Kids learn to take instruction, follow direction, and act independently. These are the same skills they’ll need for when homework will become necessary. Just my $0.02.

  45. @Hayley – This discussion isn’t about public schools, it’s about homework. I don’t believe that public schools are the root of all evil but I do think most homework is unnecessary.

    My children don’t get a free pass from everything they don’t like because we homeschool. My daughter hates math but she has to sit down and do it every day. Both of my children loathe cursive writing but it is still required in one subject. They still have to deal with people they don’t like or get along with. That’s a life thing and not limited to the classroom. Also, our children learn about the real world in the actual world. Not in a classroom of same age peers that does not represent the “real” world.

    I would have no problem sending my kids to a public school if I had to. I am fortunate to be able to homeschool but we could make public schools work and my children would be just fine. I would however limit their homework. If they wanted to do it all, that’s great. But if we had tickets to the theater or it was their birthday night I would have no problem with them doing what they could and not completing it.

  46. @ Neil – “Kids learn to take instruction, follow direction, and act independently.”

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t that supposed to be the initial purpose of homework? You spent the day in class going over a new lesson under the teacher’s supervision, then were given work to do on your own at home to figure out how to apply the new set of knowledge without supervision, which was supposed to reinforce the lesson, give the kids confidence that they could use that knowledge on their own, and have any potential difficulties pointed out to the teacher so the teacher would know if a kid was having a problem with the concept and work specially to correct that. Homework was supposed to be a tool that helped foster a sense of independence and self-confidence in students. Or at least that’s how I remember it working.

    Then again, my parents were fine with me coming to them for help, but they never corrected my homework for me before I turned it in (my dad thought that would be cheating) and instead would try to help me figure out what I was doing wrong. Same with my teachers. And we weren’t given an overwhelming amount of homework, either.

    Reading all these comments about how kids are getting burdened with 4+ hrs of what amounts to busywork rather than useful homework a night is just depressing.

  47. @MFA Grad – The thing about chores is that the goal is explicit and immediate. Kids see the results of their work as soon as they’re done. They might not like doing it, but they can see the result. Homework is more abstract. They don’t see the purpose to it or the goal they’re trying to achieve. My premise of doing chores is to help bridge this gap. If they do the work, then maybe there really is a point to it all. Of course parents need to interact with their kids to help them see the goals, but if they have nothing with which to associate this work, it makes doing the work even more difficult. And yes, I’m talking about doing homework, not busy work.

    As far as the initial purpose of homework, the same skills learned by doing chores at home also help out kids in school too.

    Kids already see homework as a chore, albeit with negative connotations. We’re the ones responsible for teaching our kids how to think, how to handle situations such as chores and homework.

    Okay, I’m ranting now and stop.

  48. I agree with that book…it’s one of my very favorites! Homework was turning my son off to school and learning and eating up valuable (and precious!) childhood time and family time. We are now in our third year of homeschooling and we are SO happy! My kids are learning by leaps and bounds and all in a couple of hours a day. No more hours of homework at night! We are free people by lunch time.

    My kids are down at the creek playing right now, at 1:45 PM. 😀

  49. This is what bothers me about my kid’s Kindergarten “homework” – it’s basically a list of the kinds of stuff we’d be doing ANYWAY (draw a picture, tell a story, list the names of your family, collect some leaves, identify shapes around the house, etc.), more or less, but now I have to check it off that she did it in order to prove to the school system that I actually bother to have 10 minutes of involvement with my child’s life each day. Parents, after all, can’t be trusted with their own children. Without a state representative making us spend enriching time with them, we’d probably just leave them sitting glassy eyed in front of the tube all day.

    I believe my parents read to me every day in elementary school (until I could read well), but they never had to fill out a reading log to prove it to the school. I never filled out a reading log to record the 27 Nancy Drew books I read in 5th grade either. We just read, often under our desks, when we were bored in class, and, if we weren’t disruptive, and we did decently on tests, our teacher generally ignored it. Homework consisted primarily of written reports on assigned books or historical figures and studying for tests. We weren’t told specifically HOW to study. We were just told what we needed to know, and we could do the “homework” of preparation any way we wanted – any way that worked for us – whether that was doing 5 practice math problems or 50, writing our spelling words 50 times or 5.

    The only busy work homework we had were projects – the dread dioramas, making posters, etc. – most of which favored the artistic and taught us nothing specific. That I could have done without. The number of projects seemed to increase as I went through school, and I have always though projects in general a waste of time and wished there were fewer of them.

    Generally, I think children should not be given homework, but study materials (practice math exercises, vocabulary lists, reading comprehension questions, alphabet tracing sheets, sample essay questions, etc.). They can then use as many or as few of the study materials as they desire to prepare for quizzes and tests, and put in as little or as much time as they want, and see the results, and then adjust accordingly for the future. It is far better to teach study habits than homework habits.

    I don’t recall much homework in elementary school, but I recall that in 7-9th grade, I generally completed most of my homework in school, during the 10 minutes per class teachers usually gave us to “get started on your homework,” during my lunch break, and sometimes during boring moments of lectures in other classes. From 10th grade up, I did have to spend more time studying at home, but I doubt I spent more than an hour a day. The only thing that sucked time and joy away from me were the projects – the horrid, horrid projects – the science fair projects, the posters, the play performances, the stuff that took hours and taught little except that, in the work world, as in school, you will be expected to waste great gobs of unproductive time, learn to do all the work while someone else takes partial credit, and tolerate it.

  50. The problem is that, for many many kids, not having homework does not result in more time outdoors jumping rope and playing hopscotch and romping in the woods picking berries. If the real choices for a kid are between (1) reading an assigned book, (2) watching videos and eating junk at afterschool care, or (3) being dragged around to an adult’s errands and appointments, without anything to read… well then, I’m glad they’ve been assigned to read a book. It gives them an excuse to opt out of the less healthy activities that are on offer, and gives them something useful to do during a tedious afternoon.

    Free-range can’t be one-size-fits-all–it’s about thinking and deciding and constantly adjusting as your real kids grow, in the real place where you are. For some kids, that means sensible afterschool academic activities are a good idea; for some kids, they’re not. But both can be free-range friendly, depending on the details.

  51. Regarding the first response, Jerri, have you ever considered that it’s unreasonable to demand 5 yr olds to be doing homework at all? Pushing kids that age to do something they aren’t ready for is like trying to force a flower to bloom when it’s still a bud.

    Kindergarten has become like a hothouse, trying to ripen all the little tomatoes before they’re ready. Hothouse plants aren’t very hardy, though, and can’t survive well without that controlled environment.

  52. I couldn’t believe it about a decade ago when our neighbor’s son came home from his first week in first grade with a giant backpack. His mom told me his teacher required a minimum of 2 hours of homework a night.

    I’d already decided to homeschool my kids, but knowing my kids could get that teacher, that just reenforced the decision.

    Then about 5 years ago, I was a vendor at the national Talented and Gifted Convention. I got into some great conversations with convention-goers and other vendors. We could really tell which teachers were “getting it” about giftedness, and which schools really had no clue and would punish the gifted kids by just doubling the workload of the same boring stuff everyone else had, or require them to complete the normal classwork for their grade AND the normal classwork for the next grade up or so.

    The Mother is right. “Homework” that is the typical stuff for gifted kids is just busy work. Matter of fact an awful lot of what is sent home in the giant workloads really is just busy work.

    It just kills the sense of joy and purpose in learning: the Montessori directress is right. We’ve always used a Montessori-style approach in our homeschool, and as a result our kids are pretty self-directed. I could tell so many stories of projects they’ve come up with and pursued on their own, sometimes even earning the money needed on their own.

  53. @ Q – I tend to agree. I read like an addict (still do), but getting my kid brother to read? Assigned book reports were the only thing that did it, and with him getting him to do homework rather than run off to his friend’s place to play Nintendo was a struggle of Herculean proportions. I’d like to say that he would have rather been fishing down at the creek with the rest of us, but no, he was opted for video games every time.

  54. Here kids get up to an hour- depending on how much of their classwork they finish in school. Obviously this means that if they work fast they can have more free time. Of course htey finish by one thirty in the afternoon, which helps.

    They also have one ‘No homework voucher’ a year which they can give the teacher when they’ve got something special like their birthday, so they don’t have to do any.

  55. Oh yeah–our school allows a lot of “homework passes” for optional afterschool events–so if you show up for family fun night in the cafeteria, or attend a musical at the high school, or whatever, you can get a printed homework pass for the next day.

  56. @ Tracy R – have you ever heard of ISACS (Independent Schools Association of the Central States)? The school I grew up in specializes in education for gifted kids and is a member – the association seems to have a pretty decent track record with helping teachers and schools craft diverse and well-rounded educational programs. I was looking at the website and they’ve got a list of schools who are members of the association by state – looks like there are a bunch of Montressori schools, so I wonder if there’s a lot of sharing between schools regarding education programs?

  57. Jan S I’m not talking about drilling him for hours or making him I don’t know. I just mean pointing out a letter and asking him if he knows what it is.

  58. My husband teaches grade 3 and has a policy to never issue standard homework. He feels its his job to teach during class hours, and the parent’s job to decide how their children spend the other hours. Almost all homework is just busywork and if they’re doing it at home, he can’t monitor their individual needs. It’s much more useful for a child to do 20 math questions in class and hand them in unedited so he can see what’s being learned and what’s being missed than for a child to do 200 questions at home, have the parent check the answers and correct them, and then hand them all in perfect. Not all parents do this, but how can he know who needs the help and who doesn’t?
    One year he had a parent come to him, irate, to complain about her son not getting homework. She complained that without homework her son just sat in front of the tv all afternoon. My husband told her flat out that it was her job to decide how her son spent his time after school, not the teacher’s. Its parents like that who put the pressure on teachers and school systems and make life miserable for those of us who’d rather let our kids learn what they really need to know through play.

  59. What Mae Mae said. Goodness, the situation I referred to with my son was a PRIVATE school. This has nothing to do with public school. Private schools can be just as bad, and some public schools don’t create meaningless homework for seven year olds (though my impression that schools of any kind that do not are few and far between.)

    If I were convinced that most of the homework my son had in second grade was worth the time and imposition on my family that it cost, I wouldn’t be complaining about it. But not being able to do this or that in the evening because a second grader had “homework” that was not essentially different or more meaningful or more independence-building (I was expected to help him with every bit of it and it was of a nature that demanded parental involvement) than what he did in school, was annoying to me.

    So I chose the greater, but more meaningful and more flexible imposition of homeschooling him the next year and all subsequent years until high school.

  60. I don’t understand the “things can’t be one size fits all” argument at all — when it is used to defend the premise that SOME kids need to have their parents forced to interact with them educationally or be forced to do something more constructive than video games, so ALL kids should have frequent homework. That’s “one size fits all,” too.

  61. Those “homework passes” sound like a great idea, assuming the range of events that qualify isn’t too narrow. There are a lot of non-school-sponsored things that are also at least occasionally more worthwhile than homework.

  62. I’m already fighting homework and my daughter is only 4 years old and in pre-k. She gets homework every night (except Monday) and on the weekends too. She’s in pre-k and we spend sometimes 30 minutes a night on homework. I have a 19 month old who is usually crying or getting into trouble while I’m trying to wrangle a tired 4 year old into doing homework. It’s absurd.

    I tried to tell the school that she wouldn’t be doing homework on Thursday nights because on Thursday she goes to ballet class. We get home at 5:30 and my kids are in bed by 7:15. So that’s an hour and 45 minutes for one adult (my husband doesn’t get home until 8:30 each night) to get a 4 year old and a 19 month old fed dinner, bathed, and to bed. It’s hard enough on a regular night let alone when there is ballet. I was told that this was “not an acceptable excuse”. I nearly went through the roof, but calmly explained that it was not an “excuse” it was an explanation of why I as a parent made the decision that we weren’t doing homework on Thursday nights. The school’s response was to threaten to take privileges away from my daughter at school since she wasn’t showing that she was taking her homework seriously.

    So, now, despite my best efforts, they’ve blackmailed me into finding a way to do the stupid homework even though it goes against my better judgment.

    Oooh, I HATE homework! The school has made homework my new crusade!

  63. Ha ha, Elle Case! In my family it was the trips to the zoo and the park and the beach that brought them around. They would always ask to invite their friends and I had to inform them that their friends were in school. After a month of that, they were glad to be homeschooled and now have no desire to go to school.

  64. P.S. My daughter is at a private school. And on another note, I can’t think of anything her poorly photo-copied homework sheets can teach her that isn’t dwarfed when compared with the cognitive learning that takes place when she and I bake a batch of cookies together. That’s reading comprehension, fractions, spatial relations, and good eats all rolled into one. No ditto can do that!

  65. I don’t have a problem with it with my children’s school. It doesn’t take up much of their time, at most 30 minutes for the seven year old. Most of the time it bringing a book/spelling home so they can review for a test. We just read it together, that’s all. Her report card was fine.

    The school does of reading over the summer, which I don’t like at all. Parents were drilling their kids with questions.
    How do you get children to enjoy literature when presented in such a manner?

  66. @MFA Grad, I’ll have to check into that, thanks.

    Elizabeth, unless you’re proactive, it may only get worse. You’re right: kids that age learn much better with hands-on work. If it’s a stressful situation, it’s probably one for her as well. Learning at that age should be fun.

  67. @ Renee – Geez, are they actually requiring parents to grill their kids about their summer reading list, now? That’s a quick way to squelch a burgeoning love of reading! I loved doing the summer reading assignments, but if my parents were on me all the time about it, it would have killed the fun for sure.

  68. No requirement, but that’s what parents were doing.

  69. I think homework is a must. I would say that no more than 30-45 minutes a night until 7th grade. A little bit of work in the evening is a good thing. If it is required reading then good, it forces children to read a little, remember books = good.

    My girlfriend is a 4th grade teacher, she says that pretty much the only homework she gives is to finish incomplete class assignments.

    I think that a modicum of homework in elementary school may help to teach the kids a bit of responsibility. Homework means that kids are responsible for something during their “free time.”

    I feel that one of the tenets of free-range parenting is to teach kids to be responsible for themselves so that when they are faced with a situation they can deal with it. I think that education is one of those important responsibilities and homework helps teach that.

  70. @Elizabeth…you really must read the book, “The Case Against Homework”. You need the support! Also, check out Bennett’s website, stophomework.com, and tell your story. And finally, you’ll really need to consider whether your daughter’s school is the right one for her AND your family as a whole. It’s all under your control. –The Deputy

  71. Certainly some kinds of homework teach some kinds of kids about responsibility. But, unfortunately, evidence strongly suggests most homework is a waste of most kids’ time.

  72. Most of my homework was busywork (“do these 60 long division problems, even though you’ve demonstrated that you know how to do long division”. That one took me almost five hours.) Some of it was boring but useful (“memorize where the countries in Europe are on a map”: I’m part of the 1% of the US population who knows where Poland is.) A minority of it was fun (“develop a tour that visits three countries on different continents”: my teacher objected when I called my Norway-Syria-Brazil tour the “Hell and High Water tour”.)

    The most useful homework assignment, though, was the final project in speech class, halfway through tenth grade: “write and deliver a speech intended to convince people of a specific point of view”. I gave my speech on “School should be voluntary” on Friday, then went home and informed my parents that I wouldn’t be going back to school on Monday.

  73. This is such a complicated topic. I, too, am anti homework in theory, yet my kids have been receiving it almost nightly (in private schools) since kindergarten. I have always tried to help them keep it in perspective and get through it as quickly as possible so they could go and play.

    Currently, my son’s 2nd grade teacher has a terrific attitude about homework…do it if you can. No tears allowed. No questions asked if you don’t turn it in.

    She nightly assigns reading, math facts review, spelling review…all of that is actually quite helpful to my son, so I’ve decided to just make it a very fun time for the two of us. I set the timer. Challenge him. Offer incentives. He actually likes it.

    My very gifted 5th grade daughter has figured out how to get all her homework done in school.

    Sandy

  74. I am so glad that so far my son’s teachers have followed the ’10 minutes per grade per night’ guideline. I don’t mind a little homework but some people go overboard. My son is in the gifted & talented class for 2nd graders at his school and still only has maybe 10-15 minutes of homework each day. And it’s rarely ‘busy work’… it’s fun and interesting stuff like the ‘map in a month’ project they did (spend 10 minutes a day creating a map of a made-up country – he learned how to read a map, about indexes, roads, map grids, etc from making “MonsterLand”).🙂 His teacher’s philosophy that kids, even smart ones, need plenty of downtime to enjoy playing and being kids!

    There are plenty of parents of other students in his class, though, that actually complain about the minimal homework! I want to wap them upside the head sometimes to knock some sense into them.

  75. Homework is a less regarded instrument for learning in Australian schools. However there are important encouragements around reading and projects that require research. Parental involvement is helpful in both areas, especially reading.
    I have come to understand that life is learning, but learning is a many dimensional thing whose outcomes are: 1.ability to build strong relationships, 2. build a strong body and mind; 3. ability to assist the learning of the needy, younger, peers etc, 4. ability to learn useful skills (by useful I mean that you can eventually trade / share the resource of with others as your participation in the well-being and progress of society). Mostly schooling is hung up on a small window of nos.4. No 3. is the least well understood and, if incorporated into the learning process of each child, would ensure that the thing we call the ‘teenage problem’ would disappear. In otherwords that every child should learn practical service / community participation as part of normative culture.

  76. I am required to assign homework by district policy. I don’t think doing 20 problems wrong is going to help my students. Told my parents their children should not spend more than 10 – 30 minutes doing my homework. Most finish it in the bus line or on the bus.

    This weeks work – (I only teach writing, math, and science)

    Monday – Math reteach worksheet that explains concept they struggled with before mastering it and I want them to keep practicing – The set up walks them through the problem step by step and there is 1 problem

    Tuesday – Math reteach worksheet same format as above except there is 1 problem with 5 steps.

    Today – Write a paragraph about one of the following
    1a (G&T) Class Wii Math Baseball – We used the training game in Wii Sports to generate 3 digit number, rolled a cube for a single digit number. They multiplied the number to earn points for their team.

    1b (Inclusion) Wii Math bowling – same as above but we used the number of pins they knocked down and a number from the cube. They checked each other’s work before announcing Team answer.

    or 2 a paragraph about building the set for their science movie.

    I quietly don’t punish kids for not finishing their work.

  77. @Lafe – Thanks for acknowledging that teachers take home 3-4 hours of work. However, in my case, it’s two hours per night and then at least 10 on the weekend.

    @Blake – Yes, you are correct. Public school teachers do not have any leeway with their curriculum. We are required to assess and individualize everything, but only within the “programs” purchased by the district, even if we know it isn’t working for a child. All the while, trying to teach and keep 25 kids safe from the one (or more) child/children who is violent/aggressive in the class. I honestly don’t know how they can learn in that environment. I’m planning on HSing also. Hubby’s not on board though. Should I feel guilty that today I let them design scarecrows for the bulletin board instead of doing reading and writing?

    And yes, lots of wasted time waiting, especially for the kids who are behaving and are ready to learn.

  78. Thank you thank you thank you! Another great point about parenting in the new millenium: dont forget that you, as a parent, may actually know better than the powers that be what is best for your child!! We all need to have more confidence in our parental decision-making, and our ability to buck the system.

  79. As a professor of Educational Psychology, I’d say this issue is more complex than many make it. To simply debate “homework vs. no homework” is, I think, a bit simplistic.

    First, we should look at purpose or outcomes. Alfie Kohn wrote a book a few years ago called The Homework Myth, which I suspect is what these newest authors are rehashing. He presents evidence that strongly suggests that homework doesn’t do much to improve academic scores. Good point. However, one could argue (as some have here) that there are other skills homework can teach, some of which are self-sufficiency and time management. I don’t know if there has been any research done on these outcomes, but I think it is a suggestion worthy of consideration.

    Second, we should discuss type of homework. Repetitive busywork has been found to be completely useless because (as others have stated here), either you already get it or you don’t. Neither should homework be something the parents need to teach their children. However, arguments have been made that very effective homework would be extensions of projects begun in class, where time has run out. In this scenario, homework is less planned and more a function of a continuation of learning on a project that hopefully has gained momentum (and thus sparked motivation) in the classroom. This sort of impromptu homework, however, would be difficult for teachers to implement – can’t just run to the copy room at the last second, for example. But I think homework that leans toward this end of the continuum would be the better stuff to send home.

    Third, there’s the issue of parent-child interactions over homework. Some see it as a bonding/involvement opportunity, others as causing contention. I’m rusty on what the data say about this, but I do think there are some answers. Check out the book by John Rosemond, Ending the Homework Hassle. Sure, this guy makes some debatable claims from time to time, but I would argue he’s overall a “free ranger” in that he continually argues that parents should do less for kids and kids should do more for themselves. He consistently advises (in many sources) for children to be off doing something on their own. In this particular book, he says that’s the way homework should go. Give them a space, don’t help unless it’s requested, and most importantly, set a time when it must be finished or packed up. The trick is that you just have to let the child suffer the grade consequences (and subsequent home consequences) until they wise up about how to manage their work. Not savory, but I suspect effective. (Oh – for all you K/1 parents, he has suggestions on how to build this independence so they’re not on their own right from the start.)

    Then there is the issue of quantity. Rosemond also makes suggestions that are reasonable by age (e.g., 15-30 minutes for the younger set), and then discusses how to approach your child’s teacher when the demands really are just unreasonable (in which case you wouldn’t levy the consequences mentioned above). Homework may be mandated by school policy, but the amount of homework probably isn’t. If it is, then it’s time to start a movement in the district – granted, not an easy thing, but sometimes necessary.

    I helped my son become an independent “homeworker” in the 1st grade, even though the teacher wanted parental supervision. I gradually weaned off my supervision (especially once I noticed what a micromanager I was becoming) and just signed the form once I glanced at the work to see if it was done. Do I like having to “deal” with homework, especially on karate and choir nights? No. But it’s manageable and I see some self-regulation skills that have been built through the process.

  80. First grade teacher here…
    I feel that the reading time is the best “homework” that your child can get.
    Don’t ever hesitate to discuss with the teacher the length of time it’s taking to complete homework. He/She should make adaptations based upon your child’s needs. If they don’t, then have your child work for the required amount of time and stop. Draw a black line to show how far they got and call it a night.
    It doesn’t teach your child lack of responsibility. The opposite – it teaches them to appreciate limits and know when they’re reached theirs.

  81. I am for homework. Small kids can’t take class notes, so they need more practice. Also it’s a disciplinary thing. And a responsibility.

    Actually what outlawed should be multiple choice tests: in all school grades and in college. We all know it’s a *trickery*, not a real learning. You don’t have to master the subject, to get at least half of it right. By doing multiple choice test, checking the dots student’s don’t have to show any of their work/reasoning. No original problem solving is encouraged -“just check the dot”.
    Then don’t practice writing a coherent answer to a question, and their incorrect answers are not corrected on paper by the teacher. So students get a no feedback on their answers.

  82. Regarding repetitive work, specifically —

    When I was a senior in high school, I took an Electronics class at our districts Vocational-Technical School. Anyone who knows anything about electronics knows that, at its very core, it’s circuitry. Resistors, transistors, A/C vs D/C current, voltage, transformers, parallel circuits, series circuits, and so on. Half of the work was learning the differences and the formulas for everything and the other half was solving circuit (for those that don’t know, solving circuits was more or less like solving triangles in geometry/trig, you were given a couple numbers and were expected to figure out the rest). I will tell you right now, that although I understood the theory, I could not solve the circuits for the life of me — until I did about 10 of them. And until things “clicked,” I would spend a good half hour even on a relatively simple circuit, after it clicked…5, maybe 10 minutes per circuit.

    Now, that’s not to say that I think repetitive work isn’t busywork. I actually think most of it is. However, I don’t think ALL repetitive work is busywork, at least not for the ones who don’t quite get it right away. In many cases, it’s not really a matter of “if they’ll get it, they’ll get it right away, or they never will,” but rather, it’s a case of either something isn’t “clicking” and needs some time turning the gears until things line up, or they’re missing something–forgetting a step, perhaps–that after a few problems and a little rereading, they figure out. Then, there’s also work for skills that require practice, such as spelling and writing. These are skills that most can’t really learn without repeating (there’s a reason why the method to learn spelling was typically taught as “see, say, spell”) a few times.

    On the same token as my electronics thing is my elementary math. Now, when I got to high school, I aced my math classes. In college, I majored in a math-intensive subject (computer programming), and tutored math as a job. However, when I was in fourth or fifth grade, I could not do those damned, timed, times tables for the life of me. You probably know the ones I’m talking about, where you have 50 or so multiplication problems and you have like two minutes to solve them all. I knew the answers, I just couldn’t spit them out fast enough to ever finish one of those tests. I spent many a night copying 10 or 15 different math problems that I hadn’t completed 25 or 50 times each. A lot of good they did… *eyeroll*

    I also agree that those who can demonstrate that they understand the material taught in class shouldn’t have to do homework. If a child needs the extra work in order to get it, it should be available to them. Requiring busywork just stresses the kids and offsets the balance of mental vs physical exertion moreso than it already is.

  83. Lola – you have control over your child’s recess time. We have a similar teacher that keeps kids in at recess if they miss one piece of the homework. Our “notification” that my son would miss recess was received on the first week of school – in the signature I printed a large “NOPE” and had it returned. Shortly – days – after I was in the office of the principal with the teacher. After some heated comments, some quotes from the California Education Code, and suggestions that lawyers would be consulted (from both sides) an agreement was made that his wouldn’t continue for my son. Let’s face it folks – you are the only advocate that your child has at public school. If you don’t support and protect them you can’t seriously believe that the teacher/school will, can you?

  84. Our school assigns homework from K on up – but most of the teachers understand that it’s a matter of, “If you don’t get to it, don’t worry about it.”

    I’ve let my kids skip their activities (gymnastics especially) because it was a nice day out and they were doing what kids should be doing – playing.

    And play is first, homework second if they have some (which it’s a bit mandatory for my daughter in 3rd grade now). The way I see it, they can give 30 minutes to do the work when it’s dark outside and while I’m fixing dinner. I’m always there to help them and generally it takes no longer than that.

    I remember homework starting when I was in 4th grade – but I still managed to get out and play, then do the page or so required of me.

  85. I have 2 perspectives… and both are anti-homework.

    I taught 7th grade social studies in a struggling urban school district for 4 years. We were mandated to assign homework at least 2x per week, yet we were not allowed for that homework to count for more than 10% of the grade… so what did I have to assign- busy work. It was so frustrating. The kids knew it ws busy work, they knew I was mandated to assign it, and they knew it didn’t count against their grade in the class. It was a total waste of everyone’s time and energy.

    Now I’m the parent of a first grader. We chose to not put him in a public school because we knew he would be bringing home a backpack full of busy work every night. We chose to send him to a Montessori school. He does still have homework. He has one math sheet and several spelling sheets per week. These are not “graded”, but are practice for his weekly quizes, which re-inforce basic spelling and math “rules”. BUT he does have one nightly assignment I have serious qualms with- he is supposed to read aloud 15 minutes a day, and we are supposed to sign a calendar each day he reads aloud. I understand the reason for encouraging reading aloud at this age, but to mandate it be done for a set amount of time every day and then require the parents to sign a calendar rubs me the wrong way. We own a bookstore. Our child has been in love with books since we opened the store when he was 2. Now he has learned thanks to this assignment that reading is a chore. We don’t make him read aloud unless he wants to. WE don’t want him think that reading is work, we want him to enjoy reading… and he does, on his own time. His monthly calendar with our signatures is due back Monday, and I’m not sure what we’ll do. I don’t want h im to “get in trouble” with the teacher, but I also need to make this stand against reading becoming a chore.

  86. The more I hear about American schools, the more I appreciate the system(s) we have in Australia.

    A lot of posters here seem to be adopting the attitude that ‘either you get it or you don’t’ – and if you don’t you’re just going to do it all wrong, and if you do, what’s the point? This is based on a very faulty understanding of how memory works. The other possibility is, you ‘get’ it, but to help consolidate it into longterm memory, you need to revisit a new concept within a short time – 24 – 48 hours. If you don’t do that, it’s likely that the thing you ‘got’ is lost out of your short-term memory. That’s why ‘cramming’ is not a way of learning – it might get you through a test, but then it goes out of your head within a day or so, never to be remembered again.

    In the local Catholic school where my sons go, homework is compulsory. The system they use is a ‘homework grid’ – the shaded boxes are compulsory, the unshaded are elective. n the younger grades they are given their homework Monday and it is due Friday. From about Year 4 they have a fortnightly sheet. So they gradually learn (with parental prompting) about managing time, etc. It also means we can factor in dance class, tiredness, etc. If one day is missed it’s no big deal.

    The nature of the tasks is very variable, but commonly include such things as ‘Teach an adult one of the concepts we’ve learned in (Science) this week’ – an excellent activity, as it’s well know that having to teach somebody else really reinforces knowledge.
    Other tasks might include housework, a free-choice physical activity, finding a recipe, drawing the phases of the Moon every night, or designing a family prayer space (for the younger grades) as well as the standard Maths, Spelling, Reading, etc.They are almost always linking to whatever theme they are currently studying. I take the point above that this can seem like the teachers overseeing parenting – my mother agrees – but I feel it’s a good way of linking home and school, another proven important factor in successful schooling.
    In the higher grades they often have research tasks to complete, etc.
    I find this an excellent system. All 3 do well at school and they are forming good habits for lifelong learning.
    I have never come across a school that ‘graded’ homework in the way described above. The homework is corrected, of course. But school reports are based on class work only.

    The argument that kids are ‘put off’ learning by homework seems as specious as arguing that insisting they brush their teeth puts them off good health habits.

    I have taught for 20 years at a private girls’ school which routinely leads the State in its academic results, and includes among its alumni Supreme Court judges, University Chancellors, Rhodes scholars etc. Homework is expected, though not given for the sake of it. It’s understood that hard work is the way to academic success. Our school motto is ‘Nil Sine Labore’ (nothing without work) When girls come to us with no concept of homework, revision etc, we see how much harder their high school career is as they struggle with time management and other skills that their peers already possess.
    Surely a good education is the ultimate ‘free range’ tool! It’s the one thing that guarantees a child choices in his/her later life. The attitude that education is something that teachers do to your child between 9 and 3 is a very poor model of learning to pass on to children, and I believe reveals a basically negative attitude to school life.

  87. As others have stated, it shouldn’t necessarily be a question of homework or no homework – yet the more I read the more I think there is a giant difference between good homework and bad homework. Pointless work, given on a compulsory, one size fits all basis is totally worthless in my opinion (and there is probably a good argument that it is detrimental to people’s lives – never mind this exclusive focus on educational outcomes that seems to be the norm. I have a life, and I want the children I look after to have a life too – and that’s *way* more important than hours-logged-doing-paperwork).

    Getting penalised for failure to submit your grind work certainly does teach kids a lesson – just not necessarily the one that is intended. I know that when I was a child, homework was my first exposure to pointless drudgery (if you don’t count schooling as a whole. Not everyone who is born smart is born with the finances to pay for an education appropriate to that fact) – it was also the beginning of my education in social conformance in the workplace. I *knew* these teachers didn’t give a damn about the work they were setting – the work was irrelevant – it was *doing* the pointless task that mattered. So, I didn’t (even though I didn’t consciously understand why I made that choice at the time). That taught me a lot about human (in this case supposedly *adult*) behaviour, about the possibility and value of saying “no” (especially to authority figures that I been told I couldn’t say no to), than any intentional lesson ever did.

    I understand why teachers are compelled to set homework, many of them simply don’t have any choice about the bureaucracies in which they work (and many more of them simply haven’t figured out how to achieve their own outcomes within those rules. Blind adherence to the rules *is* the rule in society, not the exception). I wish that teachers and schools wouldn’t be so quick to embark on homework death marches (and I especially wish that the no-life-but-my-child’s parents would get off their backs about it, terrified that their precious little snowflake might have a few unprogrammed and unstructured seconds. God forgive the thought that their children might be able to take a breath or have a thought, heaven forbid they might even figure out you can have a life instead of a non-stop competition). I see the level of anxiety and frustration this meaningless homework causes in both children and their parents – how is it beneficial to anyone to be locked in this more-hours-is-better mindset that is the homework arms race?

    I want to thank every teacher that says no to this pointless work.

    ¹ There really needs to be a word (preferably a pejorative) for an academic stage parent. We all know parents who are so dead focused on little timmy being a doctor or lawyer (because he knew what he wanted to be when he grew up from prior to his own conception) that they insist that he have 10 hours of homework from day one, and then constantly want more – because more is better. It’s these kind of abusers (because it *is* abuse. Everyone who knows the parents today *also* went to school with the child of that kind of parent. They weren’t happy or confident or anything else, these children were *terrified* of their parents – of what would happen if they didn’t get the best marks in the class, of not getting the perfect score) that lead the charge into homework hell. I blame them for turning learning into an ordeal for all the children – their hyper competitive attitudes have turned homework into an uphill slope, because it only takes the thought that someone else’ child might have some advantage to cause them to run to the teacher, to the school, baying for more work (because more is better). I really *hate* those parents.

  88. “The attitude that education is something that teachers do to your child between 9 and 3 is a very poor model of learning to pass on to children, and I believe reveals a basically negative attitude to school life.”

    Patricia, I agreed with your post and liked what you have to say about the system you work in. And I only have a quibble, not a disagreement, with what is quoted above.

    There ARE people who think that education only happens from 9 to 3 and only comes from teachers, but I don’t think that’s what’s really underlying what people are saying here. I think they are saying, or at least my own view is, that education happens all day long, but the school ISN’T the only source of education and SHOULDN’T be controlling (to a very great degree) how education happens outside those hours. It’s perhaps only a shade of meaning in difference, but I think you’re incorrect in attributing the “education is only what happens in school and not the parents’ problem” attitude to the specific anti-homework (or really anti-excessive homework of the wrong kinds at the wrong ages) arguments being made here.

    In fact, I think that the way we’re talking about this is just a tad misleading as far as what’s being said (I know that doesn’t make a lot of sense, but bear with me.) People are using the rhetoric of “anti-homework,” but I doubt more than a very few people on this thread think all kinds of homework are wrong all the time for all kids, or even believe it should be greatly restricted in the upper grades. Rather, we’re concerned that kids are getting homework that isn’t really useful, of types that are redundant and superfluous rather than real reinforcement, and more than is necessary for legitimate purposes of discipline, reinforcement, and so on. I have ZERO complaint about the amount or type of homework my kids are getting from their public academic high school, even though it’s quite significant at times and does force them to juggle and manage their other activities and teaches them that leisure isn’t always something you get whenever you want it. At that age, those things are totally appropriate. In first grade, filling out an extra phonics worksheet when you’ve been reading fluently since age 4 just because of a belief that homework as such is always useful, not so much.

    So even though we’re talking about “anti-homework,” I think what most of us really mean is anti-what homework actually is and the way it is used, at least in many U.S. schools, not really “anti-homework” as such.

  89. Homework can be a useful tool to help keep the parents connected with what the kids are learning in school. My 3rd grader completes her homework in less than 20 minutes per night. I can see what they are working on and make sure she gets it. I am hearing from other parents that their kids, in the same class, are working on the same assignment for hours at a time. If the kids aren’t getting it at school, then talk to the teacher and develop a plan to help them learn the material. I haven’t encountered a public school teacher yet who actually thought an 8 year old should be spending hours a night on school work.

  90. Ughhhh. Homework . It really is crazy when you think about it, how our kids are in school for approx. 7 hours a day in addition to their bus rides. They essentially get home from an 8 hour day- a la most ADULTS- and have a very small window to be a kid, eat dinner with family, bathe or just unwind before bed. To add homework to their 8 hour day is wrong.

    If we could reform our education system (for starters, kick NCLB to the curb!!!) so as the school day had such high quality education taking place, there would be no need for homework.

    Indeed teachers are in a bind, assign no homework and the parents complain, assign too much and the parents complain too.

    Its a lose lose situation.

  91. I thought I’d share this website/song with you all- It’s by the fabulous Tom Chapin.

    http://www.notonthetest.com/

    I think it fits in nicely with this discussion!

  92. Amy–thank you so much for sharing that!! It is great. Absolutely loved it!

    **I’d like to add on that same note, a great site:

    http://www.fairtest.org/

  93. I am a little confused by all those homeschoolers here. I never liked homeschooling and I do not agree that homeschooling provides a better education. I think homeschooling is another trait of overprotective parents to remove their children from uncomfortable situations. Yes, there might be circumstances where homeschooling is necessary. However, I disagree that this should be a real alternative to official, public or conventional schools. I would rather have parents shape the current school systems and do something to really change education. Instead of avoiding the system altogether… I doubt this helps kids and society.

  94. Well, Ines, do you know anybody who homeschools?

    I ask because I read what homeschoolers say they do for homeschooling, and it bears no resemblance whatsoever to what people say they “dislike” about homeschooling.

  95. Ines,

    As a parent of public school children, each year I begin to ponder more and more whether or not I should homeschool. My motivations are not as an overprotective parent, quite the contrary. My motivations are because I want a different and more well-rounded, tangible educational experience than what they are getting.

    To think that parents can shape the current school system is completely naive. There are many, many parents who are trying desperately to do such and it is like throwing a deck chair off the titanic. It is a HUGE task that requires tremendous efforts, resources, time, ability, and massive endurance. Considering most parents work FT jobs, it is simply not realistic.

    I applaud the homeschooling families out there. I think the movement is going to grow rapidly here.

  96. @Patricia – THANK YOU for the example or your children’s school’s homework policy. I am not against homework at all – I know without homework my kids never would have learned their math facts – but I sometimes have problems with how and what the homework is. Your school’s solution addresses so many of the problems – kids at different levels, parents at different levels of invovlement, days that are busier than others, focus on worksheets. I’m definitely going to share your example.

    I live in a relatively poor district, and we don’t have many of the homework problems others have listed above. The teachers have even stated that too much emphasis on homework is unfair to those kids who don’t have parents at home or parents who have a language other than English as their first language. Those of you in districts that assign a lot of homework – is there an implicit (or explicit) expectation that the parents will monitor closely and/or help their children with homework?

  97. Ines, that’s a common misconception. The majority of homeschoolers don’t “shelter” their kids. If anything, our kids get out in public with a wider range of people of all ages and backgrounds than kids stuck in a room all day with people segregated by age and zip code.

    Do they still get that all-important chance to be bullied and to be part of/excluded from cliques? Sure, if they are let out to play or participate in actvities of any kind. My son, out of the 6 years he played baseball, was one year targeted by the coach’s son and a couple of his friends. With ADHD, he needed to be a baseman or shortstop, but the coach stuck him in the outfield, where he was quickly bored (but turned around fast once he was playing in the infield). We didn’t intervene as his drinks were knocked out of his hands; his bat hidden; he was tripped, etc. He and a couple of others tried to tell the coach but he wouldn’t believe it until his son and the friends were actually holding my son down and punching him (and yes, we did step in at that point–it was 3 older, stronger kids on one DURING a game–no surprise they came in last, when my son was on the championship team the year before).

    Since then, he’s been threatened when he goes to neighborhood school’s dances (because he was invited by friends) but managed to have fun without getting into a fight. He never picks fights and has only been in a couple. He also has good groups of friends in several areas of his life and geographically.

    My older daughter has had to go from being one of the top students at her old, not-too-good ballet school, to being in the middle of the pack at her new one, which is one of the best in the country. Several of the girls in her class, whose moms are either employed by the school or volunteer heavily, and who get more attention from the teacher, are a clique who’ve treated her pretty badly sometimes (along with everyone else). She sees them as the jerks they are, and has developed her own set of friends. When the divas tried to dictate who was going to be in their choreography for a student contest, half the girls walked out and went to my daughter instead, which really put the collective noses of the divas in a twist.

    My kids have also done things like start their own small businesses. Older homeschooled kids I know have volunteered heavily–our library, several area museums, hospitals, a horse rehab therapy center–all have special programs for homeschooled volunteers, meaning they need young people to help during the daytime.

    We actually have more opportunities to let our kids fly on their own, not less.

  98. I said it earlier and I’ll say it again. Uncomfortable situations are not exclusive to the classroom. We couldn’t shelter our kids from uncomfortable situations if we tried. That’s life. Even if I sheltered my two homeschooled children by never letting them out of the house or around other people they would still have the opportunity (since so many people seem to think this is a vital part of childhood) to experience feeling bad. Sibling rivalry anyone? I’m no saint either. I have yelled at, spanked and grounded my children – think that makes them feel all warm and fuzzy inside? Ines, I wish you would take the time to get to know some homeschooling families before you make judgements and denounce our way of doing things.

  99. To Ines: I have met a lot of homeschoolers — at certain “homeschool-oriented” events who parent as you are describing. It bowls me over, because I can not believe they would elect to have children who would be so very helpless *and* under their feet *all the time.* At least with clinger/manager parents of the “usual” variety, I figure the kid gets *some* time away and *some* latitude & autonomy in the world.

    So, yes. Those parents are out there. Mind-boggling.

    That said, we are not two of them. Ever since I pulled my son from his preschool because the teacher called me to complain that he barked like a puppy during free play (“Um, ok,” I said. “You don’t have any tools for that? Are you calling me to tattle on a 3-year-old? Aren’t you the teacher?”), I have been convinced that not tying up the kids’ days in brick-school all day every day gives them more, not less. As someone wrote above, there is so much time in school spent on necessary administrative tasks + crowd control, and that is the way that it is, but I mean … my husband telecommutes most of his days, too, because his office thinks having personnel exert resources on working and not so much on commuting and chitter-chattering by the water-cooler is time, money, & morale better spent.

    This is all getting away from the point of homework, but I want to address your surprise at the alliance of homeschool + free-range. So, 1. I have an opportunity, because my children have more time, to show them & teach them how to do *real things* right in the *real world.* An example is my daughter’s ballet class: she has been since 5 free to take her time & fumble her way through dressing in tights on her own since we are not in a mad dash from the pickup line to the school, running late, trying to feed her a snack in between, etc. In her class there are girls 8 & 9 years old, literally being dressed by their mommies, not because they are invalids or their moms are nuts, but because of a lack of time. Kids doing chores or anything on their own mandates time, which to many families with children is a great luxury, one for which I am grateful all the time.

    2. Because my children have the leisure of time to practice competence (and effing it up), they tend to be more competent & in a deeper way than their peers. I mean, whatever, it doesn’t mean they are better — they will be horrible drivers at 15 like everyone else, lol — but it does mean their leash can be longer, that I can be more confident in letting them take things on themselves. So, my daughter gets herself to her ballet class from the center of town, my son gets himself to the library, I wait for them in an assigned location & blah, blah, blah, so do we all, this is not the point.

    The point is that this rarefied privilege of this kind of time means that my children are frequently the only ones doing this kind of thing of which they (and any child in similar circumstances) would be more than capable. But because of a prevailing culture of smothering lunacy, I am not in the way I would like to all the time able to take fullest advantage of the benefits of having the kind of time afforded by homeschooling, in large part one of the major reasons I chose (and choose) to educate them here at home.

    I hope that helps. All best.

  100. “However, I disagree that this should be a real alternative to official, public or conventional schools.”

    Why, because you mistakenly believe that homeschooling done properly can’t provide an adequate education despite much evidence to the contrary, or because everyone must do things the “official” or “conventional” way regardless of what they think is best for their kids?

  101. @Ines

    Homeschooling can be used to shield children from uncomfortable realities – the religious nutters do it all the time. Education *is* indoctrination, and you can just as easily teach someone how not to think as how to. However, most people don’t live in a compound, armed to the teeth, praying for the end times, and most people who do homeschool their children aren’t that different to those who don’t.

    Most people simply don’t have a choice about homeschooling, they haven’t the time, money or ability to do it.

    Conventional education caters to the average – doing anything else would be a waste of resources. If your children are gifted or if they are impaired they won’t be properly catered for in a conventional setting (although how underserviced they are can vary wildly). If you don’t fit the middle of the road then conventional schooling is very likely to be sheer torture. I speak from bitter experience (If I had the resources, no child of mine would ever set foot in a conventional school – not because of any of their needs, but because of my experiences in them. Not every decision needs to be a solely rational one). That doesn’t make conventional education universally inferior – it just means education isn’t a single elastic bag that everyone fits into. Those lucky enough to have a choice can make up their own minds about what constitutes a better education for their children.

  102. Stuart: Alfie Kohn refers to the style of parenting that’s aimed at doing everything possible to get Junior in Harvard as “Preparation H.”

  103. As a homeschooling dad, I just want to be clear that it’s not for everyone. My dearest friends have had their two kids, 16 and 13, in public school and will continue to do so. They both thrive because of a solid, trusting relationship with their parents. As long as there’s that, everything’s fine, no matter what choices are made.

  104. Yes, homeschooling isn’t for everyone. Although there are loud voices asserting that it ought to be, I’d wager that as a proportion of homeschoolers, there are fewer who take that line, than the proportion of people who think that everyone ought to go to school in a separate building.

  105. You know, I think it’d be better for kids all-around if more people could/would homeschool. If you have more people able to homeschool, that means you have fewer kids in the classrooms, which would result in smaller class sizes, which would open up more opportunities for more personalized education.

    Of course, the governments probably wouldn’t see it that way and just find ways to cram the kids into fewer schools so they’d still be sardines…

  106. Dragonwolf, unfortunately, if there’s fewer kids in schools there’s also less cash in the schools. They get paid by the head.

  107. Mmh. I have probably to just meet homeschooling parents that I would trust. Most people I know that are homeschooling live too far of reality. I have met 5 parents that homeschooled that I consider too extreme left or too religious. I have met three kids that were homeschooled while I was in college all of hem were awkward and not up to competition and task.

    And I am yet thinking about homeschooling kids myself. Just because I do not believe in the American school system anymore. So I sympathize with those parents that choose this path.

    However, my experience shows me that these kids turn out strange. And the parents are nut-jobs. In most cases. That makes me not want to be part of that movement. And honestly, I do not believe a parent can give the same good education a well trained and well motivated teacher can. Unfortunately, I do not know a lot of those either.

    I went to a public school. And I have always been an A student. Have been to three Universities on three different continents. I earn 6 figures. I like working and I like teaching my kids the same values I learned. I could and would not be able to do so, if I was homeschooling. That said. I am still skeptical. In particular because my experience tells me that homeschooling is not the solution to this societal problem.

  108. I thought this was about homework?

    But when when I see posts like “Homeschooling can be used to shield children from uncomfortable realities – the religious nutters do it all the time.” or “I have met 5 parents that homeschooled that I consider too extreme left or too religious.” These statements bother me, whether you disagree or agree with a particular family ways of being, this is America and to some extent have liberties in the way they may raise their children.

    What is missing from public schools, is a matter of philosophy (religious or not) that can’t really be touched upon like in private or homeschooling. While civics is great, a value system seems to be lost. I don’t like the ‘golden rule’ or ‘there is my view and his view’, there has to be a way to come to the ‘truth’ because what is the point of learning all these historic facts and equations if I truly don’t have the thinking skills place them all together; except for playing along with Jeopardy sitting on my couch.

    OK I admit, I’m a ‘religious nutter’, without noting by religious identity on certain topics such as sexuality, family, and human dignity, and social justice issues; people nod in agreement or if the disagree respect the whole thought process on how I came to the conclusion. Then I say I’m what I am…. I feel a bit of some unjust prejudice.

    But well I listen and speak if necessary, I felt this was one of them.

  109. @elle case …I feel blissfully naive, here, but what on earth is wrong with a 3 year old barking like a puppy??? My three year old is not in preschool because I figured it would be counterproductive for her, but I hadn’t guessed at how absurd it really could get.

  110. Sam D,
    I like your point about not making reading a chore. A couple of thoughts. I have been a reader since a very young age – I can’t read aloud well to save my life. I’m dysgraphic with some dyslexia one trait I have is I read chuncks of text at a time so I my mouth can’t keep up with my mind.

    When I was in 2nd I brought home a big basel reader. I sat down and started reading. Time was up and Mom told me to go do something. I insisted on reading that book. Mom told me to go read one of my good story books. I insisted I had to read a huge chunk of this huge book because I had to finish by Friday. Mom figured I misunderstood the teacher – humored me and sent a note. 2nd night same thing happened.

    Next morning she went with me to school to talk to the teacher. Mrs. Blue explained I didn’t have to finish the book in a week. I stomped my foot and said I did. So Mrs. Blue asked why. I said last year I finished all the stupid books and Mrs. Maloney let me get extra real books from the library. But she was mean and didn’t tell me I could do that. Now I know. You have X stupid books. So if I read one a week in x weeks I can read real book. (according to Mom I crossed my arms and gave both of them a just try and stop me look.)

    Mrs. Blue, bless her, took the “stupid book” out of my hands and told Mom – I think it would be better if we just go her extra library books starting how.

    Now I’m a teacher and I try to use Mrs. Blue’s lessons. We had a 34 parents that we conferenced with. Some of the kids are terrific readers being turned off by AR. I HATE AR with a purple passion, but we must have accountability. I suggested to the Reading teacher we let the kids tell us about the story in other ways. So now they can get a high interest book that isn’t AR and do a review making a podcast if they want.

    We also have a group of reluctant readers. Some just don’t care for some books. I suggested graphic novels, with parent input or nonfiction books base on the kid’s interest. I also suggested audio books. Especially for kids struggling with LD’s . Studies show that kids listening to audio books and following along increase their indepenent comprehension levels.

    I never thought about it but all my suggestions were about making reading fun and not a chore for the kids.

  111. @Ines

    If you’ve got the money and you are concerned how socially acceptable your children are/will be, then my advice to you is to buy the most expensive private education you can afford for them. That kind of education is generally better than public, it’s still conventional and run by teachers, and you get the added bonus of buying them (and generally yourself) higher social status. They’ll learn how to fit in there and they’ll get A’s – those two things seem important to you (and let’s be clear: that’s not a problem).

    @Renee

    This is America is it? That’s funny, ’cause from where I’m sitting this is the global internet (ie. I’m in Australia – and yes, the cultural differences between Australia and America are *huge*).

    Whilst you (as a self confessed religious nutter) have every right to raise your children with whatever beliefs you want, you have *no right* (not even in America) to be free from criticism (both positive and negative). I don’t know you, or your beliefs, but I certainly hope you aren’t one of those people who uses their right of freedom of speech to complain about other’s being able to exercise that same right. That kind of cognitive dissonance is disappointingly common.

    Homeschooling is about complete control over the educational process. With that kind of power comes the possibility of abuse of power. Most people don’t abuse that power, but *some* do. Enough people do this to give people cause for pause when thinking of homeschooling – some of the prejudice directed towards some who homeschool is anything but misplaced.

  112. Homework is a valuable tool to practice skills. I’m free range, but I don’t agree with you on this one.

  113. Ines, there’s not as much research on homeschooling as I wish there was. But the research that has been done, has clearly demonstrated that there is no evidence whatsoever to suggest that homeschooled kids fare worse, academically or socially, than kids who go to private school.

    http://www.eric.ed.gov/ERICDocs/data/ericdocs2sql/content_storage_01/0000019b/80/29/e6/28.pdf

  114. Stuart, here’s the way I see it, in regards to prejudice. If there was evidence that homeschooling parents abused their powers more than schools and teachers do, then prejudice towards homeschoolers wouldn’t be misplaced.

    But since there’s is absolutely no evidence to suggest that homeschooling parents do worse for their kids than parents who send their kids to public school (see the link above), then such prejudice is misplaced.

    As an example, if there was evidence, not that homosexuals occasionally molest children, but were more likely than heterosexuals to molest children, it might not be wrong to ask a homosexual couple who want children if they found themselves attracted to children.

    But since there is no evidence that homosexuals molest children at higher rates than heterosexuals, the question is not just silly, but actually offensive.

    The way someone chooses to educate his or her child is one of the most personal decisions one can make. So, it makes sense that questions regarding one’s kids, which have no basis in reality and which imply a thoughtless or selfish child-rearing philosophy, would be received in a less than positive way.

  115. @Stuart

    Because one has the right to criticism, isn’t an argument to itself. You’re a perfect example of individuals having no sense of philosophy, you know you have the right to speak one’s mind, but you really don’t have any thoughts, instead you simply repeat a concept to defend a non-thought. You have no capacity of thought process, instead your initial post recites insults.

    Back to homework, homeschooling, and parenting. The primary caregivers of a child are his/her parents. As a society we should respect their decisions on how to raise their children, because it is their obligation. Here in the states even where the definition is redefined as family, even non-traditional families are acknowledged and respected for this obligation to children within their home. The more we promote healthy parenting, the less of a burden a child is on state. Even children who go to public school, if family is stable at home, the easier to help educate.

    We know a just civilized society promotes and obligates a mother and father to care for their children, to ensure they are not neglected or abused, and that children are accepted, nurtured and loved. No state can provide that, but a state can protect that obligation. With that obligation, the state also gives rights and a rather broad ability to parent as he or she wishes.
    —-
    Stuart, the only thing you proved to me is that you are unjust prejudicial towards those who have a religious faith. You’re demeaning and uncharitable, as a way to feel smart and superior towards others. Yes you use really big and educated words, but I think it may be you that is suffering from ‘That kind of cognitive dissonance is disappointingly common’.

    If you ever choose to have another conversation, lay off the personal attacks. i.e. ‘religious nutters’ Just say, I’m not religious, but I respect others who are. Just as one can simply be an atheist or non-religious, one could just as easily be an ‘atheist nutter’ taking so much pride in their stance they’ll take a quick swipe at the first moment to put someone down.

  116. It is unfortunate that you are personally offended by my broad criticism of homeschooling. Please be aware that if I thought you thoughtless or selfish I wouldn’t bother to imply it, I’d simply say so (I think that it is more likely that my critisms remind you of other people who have explicitly accused you of exactly those things. I am not those people and I cannot speak for their criticism, only my own). I don’t know you, I don’t know what you are teaching your kids – so there isn’t much to go on in forming any opinion on you or your teaching. If you wish to take my comments as a personal affront then there isn’t much I can do about that, other than advise you to toughen up.

    If you want me to say that homeschooling on average is no worse than conventional education, then I can agree with that statement. If you want me to say that homeschooling can never be worse than conventional education, and that it is impossible to teach kids poorly at home, then I don’t see how I can agree with that. If you want blanket approval for your personal decision to homeschool – forget it. I don’t know you.

    As far as your example goes, I’m finding more than a little difficult to put being accused of paedophilia because you’re gay with someone being disapproving of your homeschooling in the same league. Some would consider your co-opting the struggle against homophobia as grossly offensive, I primarily consider it a product of ignorance. Perhaps you could teach your children something about the recent additions to the Hate Crimes legislation in America – it may help you to develop a more realistic and balanced perspective on your own situation.

    I doubt there is much value in my continuing discussion with you (and this certainly isn’t the forum for it).

  117. @Renee

    You are wonderful at putting words into other’s mouths, I’m sure that it isn’t new to you.

    You want a pat on the back from me for you making a decision about parenting your own children? Really? Respecting your decisions (which, for the record, I do) is hardly the same as heaping you with undeserved praise for what is, by your own admission, is your obligation as a parent. Where I come from you don’t get unconditional fawning praise for just doing your job.

    How many of the words you’ve used to describe me also describe you perfectly? Try all of them. You are so puffed up with self righteousness, indignation and entitlement that you cannot bother to consider how the rules you are so pissed off about me breaking don’t seem to apply to you at all.

    This is a world where not everyone has to agree with you 100% all the time, and where it’s not the end of the universe when they don’t. Figure it out. Your thin skin isn’t serving you well at all, grow a tougher hide.

    As with my reply to LJM, I doubt there is much value in my continuing further discussion with you. The only particular advice I can offer you is to pick up a dictionary rather than taking smug comfort in your own ignorance – being a fool is neither an achievement or the moral high ground you seem to assume it is. If you wish to keep using religious persecution as an excuse not to address your feelings of inferiority that is your choice – it is obvious that you are of the belief that your faith is somehow a detriment to your thinking (why else the sheer contempt for the mind if not fear of that?) – but in that you are wrong. Faith and an open questioning mind needn’t be in opposition, God doesn’t just go away the minute you look at him critically. Have some faith in yourself and the validity and strength your own beliefs, and stop hiding behind ignorance.

  118. Want to give your kids all the one-on-one time they need and ensure that they have the freedom to be kids, give home-schooling a try. And before you say it, you can do it. You are just as qualified as a teacher – probably more so when it comes to your own kids. We have been at it for three years now (three kids actively home-schooling, one infant) and we love it.

  119. I’m not against homeschooling and am considering it for my kids (though I think it fits less well with the free-range philosophy espoused on this blog and in Lenore’s book than many homeschoolers here seem to). But (you knew there was a but coming didn’t you?) much of commentry (that touch on homeschooling-not just homework) on this thread by homeschoolers frankly verges on smugness and advocacy. That does not seem appropriate given the fact it is not the focus of the blog. Surely there are plenty of other places you can go to pat yourselves on the back?

  120. I have found that it is useless to argue with people who are so against homeschooling. I’m not going to be able to change their opinion and they aren’t going to change mine. Sometimes we have to call it a draw and agree to disagree. Maybe that’s what we should here.

  121. Five sets of parents, Ines, is not “most homeschoolers” As for the three kids you met, let’s not go putting the cart before the horse here. There’s every possibility that they were homeschooled BECAUSE they were socially awkward, not the other way around. Many parents choose to homeschool their aspie kids (whether or not those children have an official diagnosis) because school is not a safe or stimulating environment for them. (And by safe I mean *safe*. Autistics are bullied at a very high rate. Unsurprisingly, the suicide rate of adult autistics is excessively high.)

  122. @ kherbert – I’m so thrilled to hear that you include graphic novels in your alternate reading material suggestions to parents of kids who don’t show as much enthusiasm for reading. I’ve been an advocate for graphic novels as a legitimate form of literature that (depending on the material/subject matter of course) can be appropriate for a wide variety of ages for a very long time (I’ve used GNs in a few of my graduate lit classes as subjects for lit theory and criticism). The blend of visual images with text seems like it would appeal more to kids who maybe have a harder time visualizing plain text or finding plain text appealing. For instance, Neil Gaiman’s Stardust is a lovely fairy tale novel by itself, but the illustrated version has additional depth because of the beautiful work by Charles Vess (it’s more of an “illustrated storybook” than GN, but you get my point). I’d be very curious to hear what graphic novels you might recommend for children around ages 8-10 – I have a niece that age who is not as into reading as her sister and wonder if that might be a good way to pique her interest – I’d love to introduce them both to Stardust, but I’m not quite sure how age appropriate it is.

  123. “Surely there are plenty of other places you can go to pat yourselves on the back?”

    I believe we were responding to blanket criticisms that we believe to be false, based both on our personal experience and the research that’s been done on the subject. I’m sorry if you find that correcting misconceptions frequently held by intelligent people in the hope that they will be better informed constitutes “smugness and advocacy” and “patting ourselves on the back.” I thought that correcting misconceptions about parenting was one of the main thrusts of this blog, even if homeschooling is rather tangential to it.

  124. I think the idea of telling your child that they don’t have to complete an assignment, and sending a note to the teacher stating that you won’t do it is something very “helicopter-y.”

    My job is to teach my child how to be a successful adult. I am not doing my job by telling my second grader that he doesn’t have to do what he has been assigned. Life doesn’t work that way. As an attorney, I can’t tell the Judge: “no, I won’t be tendering that order to you — I’d prefer to do something more fun at the office.”

    Sending a note to the teacher telling her how to do her job is NO different than requesting that she change the grade for your child/make special exceptions for your child. Which I think most on this board would say is being a helicopter parent rather than free-range.

  125. Now I had to laugh, Uly, that was a cute reponse, so emotional and biased. I am with Stuart on this one. Criticism is perfectly fine and I am speaking of my own anecdotal experience. And that should be acceptable here, shouldn’t it?

    The question about free ranging is to allow your children free range. That to me includes letting them learn from other people including teachers. There are excellent teachers and public schools out there. I cannot teach Physics well or Spanish. I might be a good French or Chemistry teacher. And I am excellent at Math. How can any parent assume they can do, know and teach all?

    I am still a skeptic when it comes to homeschooling. And the more reading these comments the more I am convinced that homeschooling is not for me (I had my doubts earlier this week). There might be good homeschoolers out there… who knows. I am not generalizing.

    I am just said that this free range movement seems to be hijacked by parents that do exactly the opposite to what it is supposed to be. It makes me sad to see close mindedness and the unwillingness to change society and rather draw back and remove yourself from it and ignore the diversity that is life. Sigh.

    Why is the answer to one extreme always another extreme?

  126. @ MFA Grad – I’m not a teacher but I am an avid reader who has a 9yo who does not like reading. Graphic novels are the only books that have interested him. He likes the “Redwall” series, the “Bones” series, and “The Adventures of Baby Mouse.” Actually, my son doesn’t read the last one. My niece does, it’s definitely a girlie series. Hope that helps.

  127. @ Mae Mae – thanks! I’ll definitely check them out. I’m thinking about getting my nieces a few books for Christmas (Mouse & the Motorcycle, Phantom Tollbooth & The Secret Garden) and was stumped over what to get to encourage the not-so-enthusiastic niece. If she’s really not that much of a reader, that’s ok, but I think it’s worth giving the GNs a try.

  128. OK, I know what I said earlier but I have to respond to Ines. This is just for informational purposes not an argument. Most homeschooling parents don’t presume to be able to teach it all. We use internet classes and coops. My children have been learning Latin from a brilliant man who is fluent in it. They have exposure to lots of different teachers. Their piano teacher, Gabby’s violin teacher, the instructor on-line with whom they do their math. They learn from my mom when they go to work with her, they learn from my FIL when he babysits on Thursdays and they spend the day doing home improvement projects, they learn from so many people. They spend time in a classroom setting with a teacher that is not myself. They are by themselves and have been taught the expected behavior. I just don’t feel like they need the classroom setting for so many hours a day, 5 days a week. If you are really interested in homeschooling, you could find a local support group and check it out. There are many different types of homeschoolers just as there are many different types of families that attend public/private schools. You might be surprised with what you find or you may be even more turned off. Please just try to find a more broad spectrum of us before you decide not to join us. It could be a great opportunity. My sister tried it, and after 3 years she decided it wasn’t for her family and her kids are back in school. They fit in perfectly, no adjustment needed. They are not behind in any subject and love being in school. You can always go back if it doesn’t work.

  129. Ina,

    I’ll second what Mae Mae says, and also, just for informational purposes. One of the most-often heard and least true arguments against homeschooling is that kids don’t get exposed to other teachers, and parents can’t possibly know enough to teach different subjects, as if we had to make everything up out of our own heads.

    There are literally hundreds of curricula out there written specifically for homeschoolers of all different learning styles. There are co-ops; there are tutors; there are distance classes. There are homechooling moms who are scientists and mathematicians; who are native speakers of Mandarin Chinese or German; who are professional musicians and who are willing to co-teach others’ children.

    And then, take a look at the percentage of jr. high and high school teachers who are teaching a subject for which they don’t even have a college minor. It’s shockingly high, hovering around 50%. Do you really want your child trying to learn physics from someone who didn’t even have it at the college level? Wouldn’t it be better to have a distance learning course or have him take it at a co-op being taught by an actual working physicist?

    Finally, ask yourself about why it is that products of the government education system don’t feel able to teach subjects they supposedly mastered to a child they know extremely well, as opposed to scores of kids whom they don’t know and whose abilities are all over the board. Is it that people aren’t able, or they don’t *feel* able? If the system works, they should *be* able. So then we need to ask, what is it about the system that has convinced us we can’t teach what we supposedly know?

  130. And homeschooling parents *are* changing society. Our kids do not need to say what the teacher excepts to hear in order to get a good grade–they are not being taught groupthink. In those homeschooling families that are doing it for academic and developmental reasons, intellectual inquiry is encouraged and not required to conform to the latest politically correct thinking.

  131. It would not work for me just because I honestly like to work fulltime. I would go crazy giving up the opportunity and possibility to work and advance. And in my job it is impossible to work and homeschool if I want to have some kind of me-time, too. I am fully satisfied with teaching my kids a second language for now.

    As I said before there might be parents that use the homeschooling approach to the best, others might not.

    I am just highly critical towards parents that claim to be able to teach their children without having the proper knowledge and experience. And those that are too religiously centered for my taste.
    But… I doubt that the American school system is that great. I do not like the teaching towards standardized tests approach and the hours filled with unbenefitial busy work.

    We’ll see what happens.

  132. Tracey, I respectfully disagree. Changing society does not include to withdraw yourself.

    What is your profession btw? I am just curious.

    In school you do not need to say what the teacher wants to hear either. This is in some cases just a misperception of kids and parents that feel criticism and being challenged is out of place. Sometimes, parents tend to feel that a bad grade is more reclecting bad education than the kid’s performance. That is another aspect of homeschooling I personally do not like. I know others value absence of grades, I do not. That is just different teaching aspects and preferences.

    In my state I would not homeschool, because the tutoring network and offered classes are just insufficient. And the network basically non existent. And in some states homeschooling reflects more an online schooling system than “home school”, so yeah, not bad, necessarily. And in nearly all cases it seems like an accumulation of very alike thinking and living people. How does that provide enough diversity and challenges for people to critically think?

    Who is your kid’s best friend? And how often does she or he sees him?

    Don’t you think that going to one school and experiencing school loyalty and daily bonding with classmates can be a benefitial experience?

  133. Ines, I’ve heard the “I don’t know enough about…” argument before, and I gotta say it makes little sense to me.

    If 12+ years of schooling left you so uneducated that you can’t teach your kid reading and math (much less physics and chemistry, although many people seem to choose to homeschool only for a set period of time and not the kid’s entire educational career), how can you possibly manage to do *worse* than that?

    Besides, other people covered what I’ve already been told by other homeschoolers – many of them have help and don’t, in fact, try to do it all themselves.

  134. Tracey, I respectfully disagree. Changing society does not include to withdraw yourself.

    Why do you say that homeschooling families are withdrawn from society? I am everlastingly meeting homeschoolers in my own neighborhood – they go out to museums (often in groups in order to get the educational discount), they go to concerts (same deal), they take various classes with other children, they go to the playground, they go out and about at least as often as other kids.

    And of course they chat online😛

    I gotta say, meeting these kids, I’ve never felt any of them was especially awkward, sheltered, or (with the exception of kids I *know* to be on the spectrum) inept. On the contrary, most of them strike me as confident, articulate, reasonably mature individuals.

    But you know, you’ve met five families and three kids. (That is, five families and three kids *that you know of*.) Your anecdata trumps any studies anybody cites, and anyboy else’s anecdata.

  135. Just throwing in my 2 cents re: homeschooling:

    It’s a sad fact that there are many school systems in which the teaching/administrative philosophy has turned toward “teach the test/memorize facts” and that teaching kids “what to think” as opposed “how to think” has taken precedence. This is a dangerous and highly detrimental plan because in the long run, those systems are either going to turn kids off of learning and/or churn out adults who have little ability to think for themselves or process information without strict guidelines (there’s been a disturbing rise in stories of college students complaining about exam questions because they use material that wasn’t expressly mentioned in the class syllabus).

    There are a lot of factors tangled together causing this situation: strict guidelines for teachers that leave them little room to maneuver, teachers being thrown into schools w/o having adequate training, administrations more interested in CYA than taking risks for their students, over-involved parents, under-involved parents, socio-economic differences between districts, too-large class sizes, etc. I think we can agree that the system, as it currently stands, is in desperate need of fixing in many areas of this country.

    I commend the parents who have obviously put a lot of time and effort into creating homeschooling programs for their kids. It sounds to me as if many of you put a lot of thought into what you are doing and made what you think was the best decision for you kids. I personally don’t have much exposure to or as much enthusiasm for homeschooling, but I’m perfectly willing to admit that it’s a product of my own experiences in school, which were mostly positive, so I find it difficult to relate and am somewhat put off by the hostility I’ve sometimes seen exhibited towards schools and teachers. I went to the same school K-8 – many of the teachers there were lifers (I’m in my 30s and a good 1/2 doz of my original teachers are still there!) – that place was my 2nd home and I would not have a fraction of the work ethic, love of learning, creativity and confidence I have as an adult if it hadn’t been for those experiences and teachers (yes, I do credit my parents for a lot, but as my mother was too sick to take as much of a role as she would have liked, my father worked hard & often, and both of them passed away before I hit 14, those teachers & even some administrators really stepped up to the plate for me). Again, however, those are just my opinions and experiences, they can’t speak or apply to everyone, nor would I expect them to, and from much of what I’ve read here, I can’t blame anyone for seeing homeschooling as the best viable alternative to give their kids the best education possible – which really, I think, is what parents want for their kids.

    I would just hope that as enthusiastic as many of you are about homeschooling and committed to spreading awareness/correcting misconceptions about homeschooling, please remember that although you made the choice for homeschooling because you found something lacking or unacceptable or cost-prohibitive about the “conventional” school options available to you, that there ARE “conventional” schools and teachers out there who are doing tremendously wonderful jobs and offering inspiring education programs that encourage kids to learn HOW to think for themselves, be creative and love learning, often under less than ideal conditions. Making blanket statements & assumptions about how “conventional” schools and teachers just teach kids group think and squelch creativity is just as bad as blanket statements about how homeschoolers just want to control what their kids are learning and keep them isolated.

  136. I’d just like to add that I’ve found the stories and descriptions of what the homeschoolers here do and how you came into it to have been very enlightening. I have a relative who’s thinking of homeschooling his kids and has been looking into it, so I’ll pass along some of what I’ve learned here, as neither of us knew much about the online/seminar components, educational exchanges between homeschooling families, and so forth. It’ll help a lot in his decision.

  137. Wow, I was going to say something about excess homework being one (of many) reasons we are happy to be homeschooling–then I peeked at all the comments and kind of got scared!😉 Children who have 2-4 hours of homework at night ARE schooling at home–it is a shame they had to sit still and quiet in classes for 7-8 hours beforehand. We love that our preschool and kindergarten classes are done in about 45 minutes a day–though the children are learning constantly–they see things outside and have more questions than I can count, so we answer what we can, and grab a book to read more. As the kids get older, their lessons will take longer, but I do not anticipate any one day taking longer than 4 hours for lessons–until maybe high school. The rest of the day, they roam, they play, they work, they “read” stories–or make them up, they get to be kids. We like this–instead of hours of my squiggly boy being told to be still, or my daughter getting bored to tears. It makes all of us pretty happy.

  138. @Pentamom

    Sorry to have confused things further, I was referring to comments that came in this thread long before any criticism of homeschooling. Ones like: “I say tell them forget about SCHOOL! You can stay home with me, play with the other homeschoolers, and get your work done in a couple of hours from start to finish.”

    As to “I’m sorry if you find that correcting misconceptions frequently held by intelligent people in the hope that they will be better informed constitutes “smugness and advocacy” and “patting ourselves on the back.” I thought that correcting misconceptions about parenting was one of the main thrusts of this blog, even if homeschooling is rather tangential to it.”

    I thought this blog was about letting parents relax a little about parenting and about their kids being kids – not about suggesting that if you let your children go to public school “you’re not doing enough”. Which is how many of the comments by home schoolers about home schooling here come across to me.

    Like I say, I’m considering homeschooling for my kids because I agree with a lot of what people here have been saying about the problems with public schools. But I do see it as the ultimate in helicopter parenting – not as free-range.

  139. Stuart,

    If you’re still reading, I’m not saying I was offended, I was saying you have to try to see how people could be offended. Perhaps I should have chosen a religious example instead of a sexual one to illustrate the personal nature of homeschooling and why baseless questions can be offensive. And certainly, no thinking person would suggest that no homeschooling parent could abuse their powers.

    Bottom line is, you suggested that it’s not misguided to have a prejudice towards homeschool. But since there’s no evidence that homeschool is worse than public school, it very obviously is misguided.

  140. Uly, you made me laugh again. I do not know if your reaction is the right role model behavior we should reinforce. No matter where and how we school. I do not like defensive people whether at work or in my personal life. I always try to be open minded and let my experience and education do the rest. Usually that approach works well.

    Thank you Helen, your thoughts expressed better what I was trying to say. You hit the nail on the head !

  141. Ina

    For what it’s worth, before I decided to have kids I intended to become a professor. My field was Medieval and Renaissance Inter-Arts.

    Reading this thread, you’ll see that the homeschoolers here do not see themselves as having removed themselves from society. I didn’t answer earlier because we were at a homeschooling Renaissance Faire, with reenactors who’d traveled from a couple of states away. Towards the end of the meeting we talked about the food drive we’re partnering with a restaurant to put on next week. We also raise money for charity by putting on a Christmas show for donations, as well as plan field trips and have some days where kids just play games and hang out together.

    My son has three friends he considers “best” friends, and many more he considers good friends. He sees one of his best friends daily, unless schedules don’t mesh; he sees one of them weekly; and another 3-4 times a month (lives an hour away now because they moved). He sees two of his good friends nearly daily. My daughter sees her best friend daily and a couple of good friends daily as well. And I don’t mean they wave “hi” as our cars pass: I’m talking at least 1-3 hours with them, every day. And those hours are not hours where they’re being told to “stop talking and sit still, because school time is not social time.” It’s their own time. Matter of fact, she’s at her best friend’s house right now, getting ready for a Halloween party they’re headed to tonight.

    I sent her to Manhattan to an international ballet competition for a week last spring without me (with another mom in her ballet school). She’d just turned 10. I really wanted to go with her to share the experience, but she called me when they first drove onto the island and told me everything she was seeing. Then she was so busy she only called a couple of times the rest of the week. She earned almost all of the money for the trip herself, between wrapping gifts for donations last Christmas at an upscale mall as part of a group fundraiser, and selling flower bulbs door-to-door.

    Are we unusual as far as homeschoolers go? No (except maybe the international competition part, although half the girls in her level are homeschooled). I’m on one the biggest local e-lists in the country, and one of the main reasons for its existence is to help homeschoolers organize for group events, tours, and friendships.

    The grading thing is a whole other topic. Some people use distance learning that assign grades, or have to report grades by state law. In my case, I want nothing less than 100% mastery. I see no point in assigning a child a number and then moving on without having him finish learning what he didn’t know. Grades are useful to measure the progress of large numbers of children whom the teacher really doesn’t know that well and only spends a minute or so, if that, of individual time with each one. And of course, you have to get your child used to the idea before college.

    I should also tell you that my kids are considered “cool” just about everywhere they go. Even when they were young elementary age playing in public park playgrounds, I’d overhear other kids saying “Let’s go play with him, he’s cool!” And now the typical reaction we get, if they’re becoming friends with someone, have gotten together a few times, and it comes up in conversation that they’re homeschooled is “You’re kidding. YOU? No way. You’re so normal!”

    Honestly, we’ve met a few homeschoolers that aren’t “normal”, but in almost every case, there is something going on like Aspergers, bipolar, etc. and is the very reason the child was brought home in the first place.

    In my state, there is a large and active homeschooling population, even in rural areas. Our state’s e-list is huge (and I’m on the board). I’m also my county’s homeschooling contact–a volunteer position in an all-volunteer network. So I’ve met and worked with literally hundreds of new and experienced homeschoolers, and they’re anything but homogeneous, except perhaps in their gutsiness to be able to think past societal conventions to do what’s best for their own kids.

    For some kids, government school might be just fine. But there is always the crowd mentality that is fostered by it, and conformity for conformity’s sake. My kids are bonding with others just fine; they’re both proud of the ballet school with very good reasons that the school has fully earned by virtue of competition results, and they’re proud of themselves for helping earn that result.

    There’s also the excellent essay “It Might Be a Cheetah”: http://www.stephanietolan.com/is_it_a_cheetah.htm This does a good job explaining why some have felt the need to seek different educational options for their kids. Some kids just don’t fit into the one-size-fits-all mold.

    Sorry if I’ve seemed condescending. I don’t mean to be. But there are books, articles, entire magazines with enough reading material on this subject to keep a person occupied for years.

  142. I am sorry Tracey. As I said before I am not necessarily against homeschooling, I just do not want it enforced as “the only valid option for kids when avoiding one size fits all”. Parents overall need to relax. You do nothing wrong by sending a kid to public, private or home school. You are doing something wrong if you sell your choice as the only choice. And it needs to be understood that there is no positive correlation between homeschooling and free ranging kids (meaning these are separate issues).

    What do you do now to earn money?
    I have a good friend who is following the same path, currently getting his PhD. Very interesting.

  143. Ines (sorry on getting your name wrong):

    For about 10 years I’ve sold educational books for kids (working with a publishing company, not the author). More recently, I’ve starting writing and have set up a menu service for families with special dietary needs. Not what I was educated to do (long story as to why not) but I’m pretty happy with it, even if I do have less prestige having dropped out from the tenure track.

  144. Ines,

    One last thing. You have some very good points. You’re right: parents have to do what’s best for their family, and not someone else’s. In answering various questions about homeschooling, both here and elsewhere, one of the things I try to do is to bring good information about what homeschooling is like. There are so many myths about it out there. Just the other night we were watching an old episode in which a little girl is killed, and her mother, in fear, pulls her brother out of school to homeschool him (even though the school had nothing to do with her death). And he says “I hate it!” My son just rolled his eyes. On another show recently joked about someone giving a wrong answer “Must have been homeschooled.” When he was younger he sometimes got mad about it, but now he’s philosophical about it.

    But I wouldn’t want someone to make a decision not to homeschool his child based on a misconception. Most homeschoolers blend in so well you probably don’t realize they’re homeschooled.

  145. To the couple people who mentioned that they don’t agree with/like homeschooling because the people they’ve seen that homeschool/are homeschooled are “weird” or “socially awkward”, etc. I’m curious about something — Barring an actual disorder (such as the aforementioned Asperger’s), did you ever consider that it was because of the parents that the homeschooled kids were awkward, and not the fact that they were homeschooled?

  146. @Heather – You are right and wrong. Sometimes a parent sending a note about the homework is very heliocoptery and way out of line. Other times is is completely appropriate. If the parent really feels the homework is out of line, they should check the district policy and then talk to the teacher. If the homework is in line with policy – they should try to change the policy.

  147. Ines, I’m not defensive. I don’t even homeschool, so how could I be “defensive”? I just don’t like people who start out making nasty rude comments about other people that aren’t even correct.

  148. Uly, how can you discredit my experience or thoughts as being a lie or false? Aren’t you doing the same thing then? And you are not the role model in being polite, modest and rational yourself. I am unfortunately from a different country where being direct and straightforward is valued. Cultural differences in arguing might therefore occur. To just call me rude and a liar is not a proactive approach to mediate tensions.

    As I said, we should all relax. We are here for the same or at least similar reasons. To find a common understanding of not following trends and think for ourselves. Occasional criticism or questioning should be fine. But in the long run, we all should better support each other than just find another enemy among us. I do not see you as one, but I find it extremely weird that you fight that hard for a cause that is not even yours. I am not against homeschooling as I said before: I was playing with the idea myself, my experience just made me a little bit more skeptical than you might think necessary.

  149. Just say No!

    I was such a bad public school mom. After 6 years (kindergarten through 5th grade) of struggling with multiple hours of homework for my oldest I went on strike. I made it clear to teachers and kids alike that I was no longer in the homework business. It was the most foolish waste of educational time I could possible conceive of.

    Thank goodness they’re all in a school with no homework now because I was rapidly using up my allotment of bad mommy points on that one issue alone.

  150. We need to take education as seriously as the immigrants who come here from third world countries with nothing. They value their education and it’s the reason they end up with the better paying jobs. Asians for example have a higher household income than all other ethnic groups in this country. Homework is ver important.

  151. I know this thread has long since died, but did anyone else ever have the “10 minutes per year of school” standard my elementary school’s district did? (I was in ES from 92-97)

    By district policy, unless remedial work was needed on a case-by-case basis, the teachers were not to assign more than, say, 10 minutes of work to a first grade class, 20 to second grade, etc.

    Additionally, homeschooling is fantastic, if you can afford a Montessori or Independant school, that is all well and good. However, both my parents worked more than full-time jobs and it would have been fiscally impossible. I was one of those kids who railed against homework from day one of first grade right up to high school graduation, but there was simply nothing my family could reasonably do about it other than encourage me to complete it as quickly and accurately as possible.

  152. Drinking a cup of coffee as the sun rises while reading this. Just wanted to tell you that I really enjoyed your blog post here. Thanks!

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  156. Уроженец Таллина Дмитрий Савин, обвиняющийся в захвате сухогруза “Арктик Си”, заявил, что заказчик преступления эстонский бизнесмен Эрик Кросс десять лет возглавлял эстонскую разведку и до сих пор поддерживает активные контакты со спецслужбами. Савин, выступая с последним словом в Мосгорсуде при вынесении ему приговора, упрекнул российскую прокуратуру в том, что она раскрыла его показания о заказчике, сообщает РАПСИ.
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  159. Начну с того, что когда-то, уже давно купить кухню задумал мой глубоко “уважаемый” сосед, с которым мы живём рядом. Чуть позже, мне перепала возможность абсолютно случайно попасть к нему в гости. То, что я увидел, меня восхитило – такой кухни в москве я никогда не видел. Она была не громоздкая , просторная , стильная , очень удобная – в общем, обладала всеми теми особенностями, которые я никак не мог найти в сочетании ни в одной другой кухне. Ну я начинаю выпытывать – где купил, какова цена и т.д.. Кстати, хоть Артурчик (мой сосед) и был порядочным мужиком, но его ЭГОистическое чувство жадности и зависти знали все, кто хотя бы раз с ним общался. О том, где он взял такую прелесть, само собой, сообщать он мне и не думал. Я ему говорю: вот не пойму я твои выходки, сосед. Что произойдёт, если ты мне поведаешь – где ты это нашёл? Мне же просто интересно А он тупо слушает и молчит, козёл. Я так понял, что этому коню его кухня дороже матери родной, когда он сказал, что желает иметь хоть что-то, чего не будет у остальных.

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  163. У меня скорее необычная история связи с магом Александром Цынь. Мою сестру бросил муж и она стала обращаться ко всем магам подряд. Денег на ветер выкинула много, я бы даже сказал очень много. Я естественно ее попрекал – говорил дура, если судьба такая так живи и радуйся что в принципе разошлись вы нормально… Она уехала в другой город учиться, а потом по окончании учебы приехала к нам в Саратов со своим новым мужем – ну это она так мне говорила, а когда они приехали на мне лица не было – это он, тот человек, зовут Вадим. Мне сказала что вот так как то сошлись… И через год я расстался со своей любовью – мы жили 10 лет совместно и это была любовь со школьной скамьи. Начал пить, гулять, очень переживал свой развод. И тут моя сестра призналась что все же ей маг помог Александр Цынь. И стала меня подталкивать к этому… Я не соглашался но все же мое желание быть с моей любимой победило и я обратился к нему. И вот к чему все это пишу – то во что я не верил никогда, отталкивал от себя МНЕ ПОМОГЛО! Теперь просто не то чтобы верю в магию а как то еще хочу чтобы какой нибудь мой знакомый захотел пообщаться с Александром… )) а вы говорите – магияяя….
    Константин Смирнов, Саратов

  164. У меня скорее необычная история связи с магом Александром Цынь. Мою сестру бросил муж и она стала обращаться ко всем магам подряд. Денег на ветер выкинула много, я бы даже сказал очень много. Я естественно ее попрекал – говорил дура, если судьба такая так живи и радуйся что в принципе разошлись вы нормально… Она уехала в другой город учиться, а потом по окончании учебы приехала к нам в Саратов со своим новым мужем – ну это она так мне говорила, а когда они приехали на мне лица не было – это он, тот человек, зовут Вадим. Мне сказала что вот так как то сошлись… И через год я расстался со своей любовью – мы жили 10 лет совместно и это была любовь со школьной скамьи. Начал пить, гулять, очень переживал свой развод. И тут моя сестра призналась что все же ей маг помог Александр Цынь. И стала меня подталкивать к этому… Я не соглашался но все же мое желание быть с моей любимой победило и я обратился к нему. И вот к чему все это пишу – то во что я не верил никогда, отталкивал от себя МНЕ ПОМОГЛО! Теперь просто не то чтобы верю в магию а как то еще хочу чтобы какой нибудь мой знакомый захотел пообщаться с Александром… )) а вы говорите – магияяя….
    Константин Смирнов, Саратов

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