Read it and Seethe: The Homework Files

Hi Readers! I’m writing this at 10 p.m., when my younger son is finally going to bed after (not quite) finishing his 6th grade homework. I am so sickened by the fact the school day extends ad infinitum — and basically ate up all of yesterday, too, a beautiful fall Sunday. Grrrr.

Anyway, here’s a girl who put the whole issue into a letter that proves: 1 – Too much homework deadens the soul.  And, 2 – She is already so articulate she could drop out of school and still run for Congress. (Or from Congress, she’s that smart.) Here’s here piece, as posted stophomework.com, the fabulous blog run by Sara Bennet, author of The Case Against Homework.  Yes, I realize the letter was written by a private school kid and her experiences and expectations may not be quite the norm. (Who am I kidding? They are way OFF the norm!) But I still love her main point, as you’ll see.  — Lenore

158 Responses

  1. This seems to be a problem everywhere. My niece spends at least four hours every night working on homework – and she’s only in the second grade! Unbelievable.

  2. One of my friends volunteers in her daughter’s second-grade class and helps with grading. Apparently one of the regular items that the kids are graded on is “timed reading.” Which, when she described it, sounds like the most ridiculous thing ever. The kids have to read a certain amount within a specific 2-minute period and then answer questions.

    She agreed that it isn’t useful, and said that there are some parents who don’t have their kids do the timed reading homework. But she doesn’t seem to have made the leap to having her daughter skip that as well.

  3. I don’t read it and seethe. I seethed over my own similar schooling for too long to continue anymore. It’s great that this girl is able to recognise where it is leading her, and get out before it is too late. Most others just lose interest and stop paying attention to any of it far sooner.

    Most especially, she should thank her parents. I am thrilled that she is in a position with parents who also recognise the problem, and are willing to take the steps to fix it. Very few kids are in that lucky situation.

  4. A limit should be placed on how much homework each class can assign per night so that the total from all classes leaves time to be a kid.

    I read recently that a good way to learn something is to practice it within 15 minutes of being taught it. It has to do with how much we retain over time. Waiting too long reduces how much we remember, resulting in us starting from scratch. That’s why cramming for tests is not a good plan.
    When I was in school, the amount of homework from each class was manageable in that most could be taken care of in study hall. (Occasionally skipping study hall to enjoy a nice fall day may be be O.K. but not to act like juvenile delinquents like some of my acquaintances did.)

  5. Actually, I can see the point in timed reading, though not in the grading.

    The case of legasthenics aside, the eading skill is defined by how fast the reader can extact (and retain) information from a text. If someone doesn’t manage 200 wpm, something is really, really wrong and will hinder the kid in the long run, because it will take twice as long for their studies.

  6. This does sounds ridiculous. When I was growing up in the 80s we didn’t even get homework in primary school (this was in the Netherlands). It was a bit of a shock for me when I went to high school, but I am still thankful for those years untill I was 12/13 that I would go outside and play after school and came home when the street lights went on.

  7. I’m a teacher (secondary – where homework has always been a feature) and I’m constantly surprised by the amount of homework set by colleagues in junior and primary classes. I think that kids that age should be allowed time to be… kids! Maybe a quick 30min homework to reinforce a topic from the day’s teaching, but not the crazy amount often set.

    However, when I question other teachers about the amount of homework, they tell me that the pressure to do so comes not only from school management, but from parents too. Parents see lots of homework as evidence that the school is pushing their child to achieve (rather than the reality which is that is actually demotivates them)

    So… if your kids have too much homework, I would highly recommend that you get vocal about the issue and pressure the school to reduce it to a level that you find acceptable

    SC

  8. I find it absurd that my 5 yo has actual homework in Kindergarten. (Plain old public K.)

    I would be more understanding if it had been initiated with an explanation of why they have homework, but it suddenly appeared as “Voila! Your children will now have homework each night.”

    My son HATES it, and I feel silly enforcing the idea of settling in with worksheets that he’s frankly far beyond. He’s not learning anything from them except that “homework sucks.” I don’t blame him for being bored & annoyed. And he’s fortunate that we’re able to play outside most days for an hour or two before opening The Homework Folder.

  9. Teacher here with suggestions
    1. Look up your school/districts homework policy
    a. if the teacher isn’t following it complain with policy in hand
    b. if the teacher is following it go before the correct body and work to get it changed load yourself up evidence that drill and kill homework DOES NOT WORK.

    The timed test sounds like the reading tests that are required by law. It establishes reading level and fluency. Reading level tests have to be standardized. For those of use that love reading they are unnessasary because we will read so our reading comprehension will increase. Those with LD’s or boarderline LD’s the test can provide earlier proof and allow us (parents and teachers, and admin) to force politicians/test advocates to allow accommodations for those students. The equivalent of allowing the kid to wear his/her glasses during the test.

    I get into debates with my colleagues about fluency tests. I say they are stupid because being able to read aloud has nothing to do with reading comprehension. Of course I have horrible reading fluency. Due my dyslexia I read in chucks instead of word by word. So when I read aloud my mouth can’t keep up with my mind and I sound illiterate.

  10. Nothing will change on the homework front until parents stand up to schools and say it needs to change. I have frequently sent my kids back to school with unfinished homework and either handwritten notes or emails to teachers explaining why.
    My kids have not been penalized. (they range in age from 10-16)

  11. Homework is one of the many, many reasons my husband and I decided to homeschool. I didn’t feel like my children needed to be sitting for hours after a full day of school doing yet more school work. Reinforcement or practice is fine, especially if a child is struggling with a certain area, but paperwork just for the sake of paperwork is never a good idea.

  12. I think some kids, particularly my older son, needs a certain amount of homework. Not 6 hours, but I find that he needs things reinforced. He needs to puzzle things out himself for 10-15 minutes in a quiet place without 18 classmates distracting him. He (rightly, in my mind) hates mindless drills, but a page or two of problems for a new concept really helps.

  13. Like Heather, the obscene amount of homework given to my (then) 2nd grader and kindergarteners was a big reason we pulled them from public school. Now that we homeschool, my kids not only don’t have to deal with homework, but we are able to finish their academics by lunchtime or early afternoon. They have the rest of the day to just be kids and have fun learning on their own.

  14. This is a big reason why we’ve chosen to homeschool for the time being. I was fortunate that I rarely had homework as a highschooler, but I attended a private school that allowed me to work at my own pace. Usually the only time I had homework was if I chose to because I wanted to work ahead. Watching my young child learn by doing things is great motivation for me. He’s excited and joyful and curious. I’d like to keep it that way for as long as possible.

    I truly admire parents who stand up to the unreasonable demands of schools and support their children when they stand up for themselves as well. I’m not against homework in general, but hours and hours of it is just too much.

    When adults bring home hours and hours of work from their jobs, they’re considered work-a-holics or over-worked. But when children are expected to do the same, it’s educational!?! Ridiculous!

  15. OY. That’s awful. Makes me sad. Kudos to the parents of that girl.

  16. Lenore writes: “Yes, I realize the letter was written by a private school kid and her experiences and expectations may not be quite the norm. (Who am I kidding? They are way OFF the norm!)”

    Lenore, it’s not as unusual as you think. My daughter is in a public magnet high school and we are singing the same song. I had to take her out of school to homeschool for one year because I was so afraid she’d lose her love of learning. It was a magical year.

    Not unusual at all. Gifted programs often assign five times more homework than regular ones. A reader may conclude, then just don’t do the gifted programs. That’s not the solution. Our children deserve an education that meets their needs. We should not punish them for it by working them to death.

  17. I hate homework.

    Study after study shows that large amounts of homework turn kids off.

    ESPECIALLY gifted kids.

    It’s ridiculous that my gifted program son in AP history is required to take hand written notes and turn them in for busywork grades.

    He can read the material and remember 98% of it. I know there are kids who can’t, but shouldn’t they find this out on their own?

    How are those kids going to fly in college, when professors aren’t pulling them by the nose hairs. When are they going to learn responsibility for their own personal learning styles, something that will serve them well for the rest of their lives?

    No one coddled me. And now, I can learn anything by picking up a book.

    Which is the smarter idea?

  18. I only graduated from high school less than a decade ago. Homework was a joke. For several of my classes, teachers did very little during class, then assigned homework to make up for it.

    I was gifted and had excellent attendance, so I generally learned everything the day it was taught. The homework did not help me at all, because it was just easy, boring busywork. I got in the habit of just not doing homework, which meant I got mostly Bs instead of As. In college, homework was a completely different story, and it was quite an adjustment to get back into doing it.

  19. I have to disagree. Generally speaking, Homework teaches principles of discipline and provides the ability to do something even though you don’t want to do it. These are skills that children need to learn, otherwise they will not be able to build the future.

    If something needs to be done, it needs to be done whether it is fun or not. Most of life is filled with non-fun things (taxes, work, dental work, dealing with in-laws, etc).

  20. Something that is not fun, but beneficial is one thing. I agree – some things just need to be muscled through. But something that is not fun with no benefit? I agree that that is unnecessary.

    I like how my son’s teacher assigns projects that allow them to take initiative and be creative. Right now they are doing a town history project where they have to take photos of places in town they think are important. They then have to explain why and present them in an interesting way. Of course, I heard one of the parents complaining about how irritating this project is, because it is ‘a lot of work’ and ‘doesn’t teach them anything’. She would rather them be practicing for the standardized testing. Thank God she is in the minority.

  21. Why do you think something is not necessary? How can you know something is not necessary? Americans are especially myopic in this regard (as per your example) however being able to take a standardized test is important as well. Our usefulness, our suitability to a task will be determined by our ability to meet an external set of standards. Admittedly, we seem to be dropping standards at an alarming rate — mainly because we are failing to teach our children how to accomplish things that aren’t fun.

  22. I don’t think all homework is a bad thing, but 6 hours is certainly too much. I think 30mins a day in elementary school is fine for teaching discipline and independent work skills. Up until this year homework hasn’t been too much of a problem for us (my daughter is in 4th grade). Last year my daughter would do all of her homework in her afterschool program, and still have plenty of time for playground/crafts, and she never had homework over the weekend. This year it’s a bit harder, but in a sense it’s voluntary – my daughter wanted to do a harder math program, which means she gets fairly involved math homework 3X a week, including over the weekend. However, she really didn’t want to stay in the regular math (where according to her you just do the same thing over and over every year, and it’s really boring!) At her age I only had homework about 2X a week, once for math, once for writing. We did do a lot more independent work in class though.

    My younger daughter, in private kindergarten, does worksheets and some reading every night for homework. She loves it though, she couldn’t wait to start! And she finishes it all in afterschool as well, and again still has time for playground or games. So I’m not against homework, so long as it’s not too much, and still leaves time for play and sleep.

    I think if homework gets to the stage of interfering with sleep, parents and kids should go on strike. Maybe the teacher doesn’t realize how much homework the kid actually gets, when all assignments from different teachers are combined? Or doesn’t realize how long it takes to do?

  23. That may not actually be a private school. I know in the UK they use the opposite words from us – our “public school” is (rather irrationally) their “private school”, and vice-versa. I still do not have it straight in my head how that could possibly make sense, but it does to them. It may also be the case in Australia. Form the tone, I suspect it is.

  24. By High School, having several hours of Homework a night is not unreasonable. I am not going to give figures because it depends on how smart the child is (how readily they grasp the concepts). My oldest child is learning how homework is necessary. He thought he could skip his Algebra homework & now he is lost in Geometry. We are spending more time going over the basics because he skipped “unnecessary” homework.

  25. dar writes:

    I have to disagree. Generally speaking, Homework teaches principles of discipline and provides the ability to do something even though you don’t want to do it.

    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    That should NOT be the goal of homework. The goal of school is to teach. As a parent, I am more than capable of doing the rest, teaching responsibility and instiling values. Doing one’s own laundry, raking the leaves, mowing the lawn and washing dishes are all excellent examples of “teaching principles of discipline.” My daughter would rather play than sweep the basement. I can give her all kinds of chores, while not necessarily fun, get the job done and teach her how to be a full participant in our household. I don’t need pointless homework assignments doing that.

    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    These are skills that children need to learn, otherwise they will not be able to build the future.

    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

    This is not the reason homework is sent home. As I’ve observed over the years, oodles of time are wasted in the classroom. Homework, under the guise of teaching responsibility and morals, is actually an extension of the school day, with parents serving as unpaid involuntary teacher’s aides.

    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    If something needs to be done, it needs to be done whether it is fun or not. Most of life is filled with non-fun things (taxes, work, dental work, dealing with in-laws, etc).

    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

    I can see why your son resists homework. You have such a draconian joyless approach to it.

  26. dar, I think you misunderstood me.

    I understand the need for drill, even for boring work at times. But there is a big difference between 12 math problems teaching a concept sent home for 1 or 2 nights and 30 math problems of the same kind sent home for 2 weeks. I would say that if that much repetition is needed, either the kid has a problem or the teacher is not conveying the concept.

    Kids do need to learn to take the standardized tests. But I don’t think other forms of homework should be devalued because they do not directly relate to the standardized tests. How many standardized tests do you see at work? Probably pretty few. But I know that I have a lot of work problems that boil down to: Here’s what needs to be done. Figure out a way to do it given these constraints. Open ended projects help kids develop that skill, which ultimately helps them more than being able to solve x math problems in y minutes.

  27. The thing I despise most about Modern American Culture is the antagonism it displays to learning, knowledge & intelligence.

    Everyone assumes that because they don’t like something or that it is not fun, it must be “pointless.” This is why our children are becoming more and more stupid when compared to other countries. We don’t value intelligence or knowledge.

    Anything that only serves one purpose is under utilized. If you think homework is only to teach the subject then you are missing out on many opportunities to enrich yourself & your child’s life. The question is do you really want your children to surpass you or do you want to persist in the delusion that you have accomplished all that is worthwhile in life.

    You may think I am draconian & that my approach is joyless, but as my son has found out, I am right. He is now trying to do the homework I’ve been encouraging him to do because it is a necessary precondition for doing the things he wants to do.

    People who cannot see how things are interconnected are boring. It is to be expected of children for they have little experience with life. To see it in supposed adults is saddening.

  28. I am a college professor and I have to disagree with dar205.

    Educational work (homework/classwork/etc.) should reinforce the principles taught and provide opportunities for free exploration in students mature enough to gain from that exploration. Very little of what passes for modern homework does this. Most of the homework that my children brings home (and that my college freshmen relay to me) is mindless drivel. Work assigned for work’s sake.

    Homework is ruining my family life. When I have to tell my gifted kid he can’t read about DNA until he rewrites his spelling words or decorates a scarecrow there is something wrong. When my first grader has to be forced to finish counting his beans and filling in the sheet before I can teach him how to write his name in cursive – there is something wrong.

    I routinely lose “teachable moments” with my kids because we are bowing to the almighty god of meaningly worksheets.

    It is not the school’s role to “find meaningful ways for my kids to learn out of school”.

    And, my kids are lucky.

    How do kids with uneducated and overly busy and stressed parents finish all the crap that requires adult supervision? Aren’t we continuing to discriminate against disadvantaged kids by counting the amount of time they have to do this crap at home toward their grades?

  29. dar, chill.

    FWIW, I do make my kids do all their assignments. Questioning the value of an assignment privately does not mean rejecting it completely. But I do question. I ask the teacher “what is the goal of this assignment” if it seems to be overly boring, repetitive, or frustrating for my kid. Sometimes, I get a good answer that I can turn around and repeat to the kid: “You got this wrong on your last exam, so your teacher thinks you need more practice.” Sometimes I get a “Oh, I didn’t realize he got that sheet. He’s actually fine on that concept, he must have gotten it by mistake.” Sometimes I get an idea for an accommodation that helps my son get around his particular learning issues and still get the material. All this happens because I do not blindly accept everything that comes home from school. I don’t do this for every assignment – but if the assignment does not seem to be serving a purpose, I need to get to the bottom of it. Sometimes it is my kid being a pain in the neck and he needs a bit of discipline. But sometimes the homework is what is not working. As you said yourself, anything that serves only one purpose is under utilized. So if my kids can learn math and something else at the same time (writing skills, creativity, etc.), then why not push for the assignments that do that more effectively?

  30. @bms:

    My Japanese instructor has stated that we need to do something 70 some odd times before we can remember it completely — she was referring to the various alphabets that Japanese uses. However, repetition is necessary to ensure that it moves from short term (study for 2 days) and long term memory (Stretched over weeks).

    Some people require more than others, I was highly bored in class throughout elementary & junior high (& some of high school) because I do pick things up quickly. However, this is a problem of non-segregated (based upon ability) classes which is the result of an outdated schooling model, a lack of emphasis on learning (instead of results based memorization) & a idealogical dislike for hierarchy (we dislike saying that Johnny is better than Rex).

    As far as work, you take the equivalent of a standardized test with every resume & job interview — and yes, I do agree that there is more to learning than standardized tests. No child left behind is a superficial band-aid which prioritizes memorization (how to) than learning (why does) — however, without a serious commitment to revitalizing our decrepit school system, standardized testing is the best we can accomplish.

  31. Interestingly, I was doing all my homework by myself. Starting first grade. My parents at first looked at what I had done for the first half a year I was at school, then they never ever did again.

    I did my homework most of the time. Sometimes I did not. If I knew the subject, I sometimes faked my way through the homework review (which always worked)…

    I am just so surprised by the amount of parents that do the homework with their kids far beyond 1st grade. Is this normal?

  32. BMS, good comments. But you insist: “Kids do need to learn to take the standardized tests. ”

    Why? My daughter’s school gets a 100 percent pass rate on those tests every year. The entire school, teachers included, know those tests are a colossal waste of time. At least they don’t really teach to them at this place.

    Why do they have to take them? Because the state says so. Bragging rights for the county. Good reason, no? And let’s not get into an argument that if this school didn’t have to, everyone would cry, elitist! Please let’s not call for equal opportunity mediocrity.

    I will say this. My daughter does not get standardized test homework. But her school is a stress of a different color. State test prep is scrapped for AP test prep. And why the nine hours of nightly homework, weekends and holidays too? Here too I fear, no one knows. I guess it’s just another one of those “Because I said so.” Can’t help thinking we deserve better.

  33. @K:

    I find it difficult to believe that a gifted child can’t kick out the spelling list in few minutes & then read about DNA to their hearts content.

    I use the worksheets to kick off “teachable moments.” Just last night, my oldest (the 9th grader) had a worksheet where he was supposed to fill in important events for Western Culture (it seemed focussed on the Abrahamic Religions). Under the guise of verifying data we established the timeline for Europe from the Orthodox/Catholic Split, the Crusades, the Reformation, the Anglican Schism & the creation of Calvinism. We then went over the Islamic Holidays: noting that they were all “Night of…” which led to a discussion on what cultural factors would lead to that, then into the Jewish Holidays, their scripture (Torah & Tanakh) which led to a comparison of the Tanakh to the Old Testament & finally into that classic of Biblical pornography, the Song of Solomon. This barely covers what tangents we explored by filling out one worksheet. Missing “teaching moments” is your fault, not the worksheets.

    @BMS: The problem is not the homework, but the necessary depersonalization of the educational experience. The system requires classrooms of 25-50 students. Further we segregate based upon age rather than ability. Many schools are also forced to only offer one track that needs to be generic enough to meet most of the students. Also, slower students take more of the teacher’s time & parent’s also interfere as they blame the failure of the student to learn a topic on the teacher rather than accept that their child is too stupid/lazy/unmotivated/whatever.

  34. dar writes:

    The thing I despise most about Modern American Culture is the antagonism it displays to learning, knowledge & intelligence.

    I’m in your corner! But what makes you think homework overload promotes knowledge, learning and intelligence. My daughter was punished in 4th grade because she read Wuthering Heights instead of copying definitions out of a dictionary.

    Homework limits learning. It prevents my child from reading, exploring, and asking questions.

  35. My kid is only in Kindergarten, so I haven’t met with the homework issue yet. However, I heard there was OH SO MUCH homework in Kindergarten, and I braced myself for it…it turned out to be about 20 minutes A WEEK. That’s less time than it takes her to watch a couple of Looney Tune episodes. This has made me skeptical of the anti-homework lobby.

    Maybe I’ll be joining the anti-homework lobby when she’s in 3rd grade, but sometimes I wonder about these claims both kids and parents make that kids have “HOURS AND HOURS” of homework “A NIGHT.” Are they really sitting down and concentrating on that homework, or is there some video game playing, texting, and battling/whining in between problems?

    I think this issue must vary so much from state to state in the U.S., and within state from county to county, and within country from school to school, and within school from teacher to teacher, that simply raging against homework in general is far too absolute. Some kids may have too little homework, and some may have too much. Some may be whinning about homework out of a sense of entitlement and laziness or because they have poor time management skills, and some may be earnestly snowed-under by too much.

    Certainly, less time could be wasted during the school day itself. But when I was in school, here’s what I did with the time that was wasted during class: my homework. Thus, I rarely took homework home before about 10th grade. I finished what I was assigned in 1st period during the downtime in 2nd period, what I was assigned in 2nd during the wasted time in 3rd, what I was assigned in 3rd when I finished eating lunch…and so forth. Perhaps the real problem is not that homework has increased on average, but that the length of the school day has increased on average. I know they added one hour to the day while I was in high school in our state.

  36. @Katja: When asked, I help. As much as possible, the help is pointing to the relevant book, but I expect my children to do their homework with as little input from me as possible. As incentive, I’ve tied their allowance to their GPA (Which, btw, is another pet peeve, who is the moron who eliminated the A-F scale for elementary school, now I have to convert the slashes and dashes into letter grades).

  37. @J: If the assignment is to copy definitions out of a dictionary, take the 10-20 minutes to do so & then do the fun things. I am also concerned with the inability of popular culture to delay gratification. Would she have been unable to read Wuthering Heights if she had copied the definitions first?

  38. K writes: “Homework is ruining my family life. When I have to tell my gifted kid he can’t read about DNA until he rewrites his spelling words or decorates a scarecrow there is something wrong.”

    dar, K said it even better. Bingo! Don’t you get it? My daughter is taking an AP Government class. She is getting news quizzes almost daily. We don’t have a television (we’re intellectual snobs, you see) and she’s always loved reading the paper. But her idea of reading it was to study the articles in depth and to peruse the op ed page. Now she can’t stop, ask us questions or engage us in dialogue on current events. Why? It’s all about volume, not quantity. There’s no time to explore. Every family discussion means bedtime will be even later.

    I love the DNA example because it really hit home. My daughter wanted to be a geneticist until two years ago. They were doing a unit on DNA in biology in 9th grade. She became fascinated, found a book on it on our bookshelf and began reading. We had to take it away from her. Mindless homework was waiting.

    The novel she was working on did not get finished, the books she wants to read she can only glance at sadly, and she is denied play and sunshine.

    You seem very good at cracking the whip. Yet your son studiously resisted that homework last year, didn’t he? If you want to grow an intellectual, encourage reading, analysis and discussion. You seem to be more about compliance.

  39. “There are so many things I truly love and will miss about the school, includ¬ing my yoga and sculp¬ture classes, some of my teach¬ers, Film Club, trips”

    No wonder they had to assign so much homework. Apparently the school day was filled with trips, yoga, film discussions, and sculpture classes. Maybe if they used some more of that time to teach math, science, and English?

    “I really appre¬ci¬ated you allow¬ing me to drop Chem¬istry. This helped because it elim¬i¬nated an hour of home¬work each night and also, frankly, Chem¬istry is not a sub¬ject I am inter¬ested in”

    Ah – I’m not personally interested, so I’m entitled not to have to study the subject. Specific curriculum is for the underprivileged, not for me.

    This kid is lucky – she’s clearly smart and has well-to-do parents and will probably get by just fine in whatever subject she does settle on pursuing. But graft that “if I’m not interested I shouldn’t have to do it” mentality onto a kid of average or below average intelligence, and it’s a recipe for failure.

  40. @sky: Our math teacher realized that we all wanted to play D&D at school, so she let us after our homework was done. My gaming group of 6 people put out tables together and completed the assignment & we helped each other.

    I also did my homework on the hour plus bus ride to school & I would spend part of my lunch break in the library doing research for various papers (or if none were do just for fun).

    I really couldn’t do all of my homework at home because in the winter I had to clear snow from the driveway, feed the livestock, etc etc.

    Everyone wants to believe their children are gifted, but even if they are, without the ability to accomplish assigned tasks, no matter how asinine they may seem, the ability will never become actual.

  41. Isn’t the point SLEEP DEPRIVATION due to excessive homework?

    Children neurologically cannot learn or recall without adequate sleep. The brain stores information while asleep. Also, without it, neurons lose their plasticity and cannot form new synaptic connections.

    I refer everyone to Chapter Two, The Lost Hour, in the new book Nurtureshock. Children around the world get one hour less sleep than they did 30 years ago. Despite what people want to believe, when sleep is lost, it’s lost permanently.

    Sleep deprivation contributes to lower IQ, lower emotional well-being, obesity and ADHD.

    I’m with the mom who sends notes along with incomplete homework, if that’s what it takes.

  42. “My daughter was punished in 4th grade because she read Wuthering Heights instead of copying definitions out of a dictionary.”

    Well she should have learned to hide it under her desk better. I never got caught. Smart kid like that should be able to pull off the old, time-tested, elementary school reading under the desk when you’re supposed to be working or listening to the teacher trick…Maybe teachers just don’t turn a blind eye to the smart kids anymore, like they used to, back in the day…

    Seriously, though, my friends and I managed to BOTH read AND copy definitions out of the dictionary. We copied faster than the other kids, and that left us more time for reading. It’s a good lesson to learn in life – do the crap you don’t want to do as quickly and efficiently as possible so you can get on with the stuff you actually do want to do. There’s always going to be crap in life you don’t want to do. Why go thourgh K-12 with the impression that you only have to do what you WANT to do, that everything in life must be pleasurable and amusing and challenging to you? Compulsory, traditional schooling is where you learn to put up with the crap you’ll have to put up with in some form, for some amount of time, for the rest of your life. And once you get out, you can read and study whatever you want, whatever you feel like, when you’re not doing the stupid stuff your boss thinks you should be doing.

  43. @J: I love your assumptions.

    Anyway, it sounds like your daughter is encountering reality. My novel too lies unfinished, there are many books I have bought that I cannot read at this moment. I have other things I must do so as to ensure that my family has a place to live and food to eat. Your daughter needs to learn how to do the things that need to be done so that when she is legally an adult she can do something other than sit in a coffee shop whining about how society is crushing her creative spirit. We live in one of the least “creativity crushing” times & yet most of the great & lasting accomplishments were done during those oppressive times.

    I would bet that my house contains more books — both fiction and non-fiction than yours. My TV exists to watch the occasional movie (I am looking forward to Mishima’s Yūkoku arriving soon). They all read a lot, the younger two were reading by kindergarten. Admittedly, as they get older they are spending more and more time chatting online with girls, but that is to be expected, I leave condoms around the house for them to grab if they need them.

  44. “Which, btw, is another pet peeve, who is the moron who eliminated the A-F scale for elementary school, now I have to convert the slashes and dashes into letter grades”.

    That’s not new. 20+ years ago we didn’t have letter grades. I believe we had minus, check minus, check, check plus, and plus. It’s the same thing, really, just different symbols. At some point it became U (unsatisfacotry), S (satisfactory) and O (outstanding) – and maybe some other random letters. Why that and not A-F I don’t know, but why is there no E anyway? It’s all arbitrary.

  45. Has homework actually increased? I mean, I remember having homework, but I did it in school, on the bus, as fast as I could… and I never spent a lot of time on it. I could read what I wanted and investigate what interested me.

    I am with “dar”, if you make excuses for your child not to do the homework and if you see in him the genius that is way beyond stupid assignments, then you are doing more harm than good…

    I am against mindless homework. Bu then again, homework teaches discipline, focus, and getting stuff done. Things that so many of you parents are not teaching your child, because you give them the tool of an excuse whenever he cannot get anything done.

    I am skeptical about the “too much homework complaint”. Do I think homework needs to be boring, repetitive or just busy work? No. Hours and Hours each night? If this is the case something is seriously wrong. Either the kid does not understand what he is supposed to do or the parent interfers too much and takes up too much time questionning what the kid is doing. Or the teacher is a moron that has no understanding of how much a child can handle. In all three cases this needs to be addressed on a case by case bases to get to the root cause. Maybe the real problem is that the mother-child team goes into details that are not requested and necessary?

  46. @Sky: When I was in elementary school, they had A-F and I didn’t have to look at them again until about 9 years ago.

    I believe the reason for the lack of an E was that it was used (at least in my elementary school) for the “effort” rating which was either an E (Exceeds), S (Satisfactory) or U (Unsatisfactory). I think those were eliminated because of the implication that you had when they got an E for effort but only a C (or lower) for a grade. No one likes to find out that their child is the lower part of the bell curve.

  47. And I thing getting ridd of grades is an odd approach.

  48. “I am just so surprised by the amount of parents that do the homework with their kids far beyond 1st grade. Is this normal?”

    I was wondering the same thing. When I read about “homework battles” in the Case Against Homework, I wondered, why are these parents battling at all? Why don’t they just leave it up to the kid to do – or not do – his homework, and suffer whatever academic consquences come along with that? (And whatever home consquences are associated with bad grades – i.e., you get below a C and you don’t get to go to the party – whatever your family’s standard is.) My parents would help me with my homework if I ASKED (and if they were able, because eventually the math was beyond them), but they never asked me if I had homework, how much it was, or when it was due. That was my responsibility.

    Even in Kindergarten, I expect my daughter to remember to do her homework (even though we have to do it together because the instructions are written and she is not yet reading). She’s the one who says, after dinner, or when she gets home, or in the morning–whenever she feels like doing the homework that day–“Let’s do something on my sheet.” If she forgot, I guess I would nudge her, but I don’t know if that’s a good idea past 2nd grade.

  49. @ Katja: I am still unsure about homework increasing. I am under the impression that there is less homework now than when I was in school, however I only just had a child enter High School, & my recollection of pre-High School homework is vague.

    I think “getting rid of grades” was part of the removing standards approach so in vogue for the past few decades. Sadly, it just makes things more complicated. Changing the A to a ‘/’ really hasn’t changed anything except obfuscate the parents ability to determine quickly whether a child has a problem area.

  50. Personally I think any homework which requires parental involvement is wrong, because it disadvantages those kids whose parents are too busy or don’t have the education necessary to help. My only involvement with my older daughter’s (4th grade) homework is to ask if she’s done it. If she says yes, I don’t check, I’ve never yet been given any reason to not believe her, and her grades will be the evidence. If she says no, I suggest she get on with it. For my younger daughter (kindergarten) I’m required to sign off on her homework, and listen to her read. She does it on her own and I sign the book afterward. But once I’m no longer required to, I won’t bother. I’d rather hear her read something more exciting than the school reading books. Homework should be for the kids to do on their own. When my older daughter has to research something on the internet she does that on her own too, within the guidelines I’ve set as to what sites she can use (and I’m in the room so I can see if need be). I certainly don’t think a 9th grader needs their parent to do their homework with them. How can a child learn to organize their own research if their parent is always doing it with them?

  51. @Sky: I simply told my children that their “job” is to attend school. They get paid based upon their grades. Their baseline is $5 (it goes up in High School). If they get a 3.5 they get it all. A 3.0+ reduces it to $4, a 2.0+ get $3 and a 1.0 gets $2. anything below a 1.0 results in nothing. The push to get their grades up before summer break is refreshing, as they are stuck with the pay rates throughout the entire summer.

  52. Homework seems to vary a lot around the country, but in 4th grade I (35 years ago) had homework 2X a week, and my 4th grade daughter has homework everyday including weekends, although at a manageable level. Even in highschool I never lost sleep over homework, and played 3 instruments as well as running track and cross-country while getting good grades. So judging from what my friends’ kids in highschool tell me, homework has definitely increased.

  53. Sky in quoting me, responds: ““My daughter was punished in 4th grade because she read Wuthering Heights instead of copying definitions out of a dictionary.”

    Well she should have learned to hide it under her desk better.

    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

    Great comback! No, she read it at home. When asked why she hadn’t finished her homework, she replied honestly, I was reading Wuthering Heights.

    dar, what you think takes a kid 20 minutes can take her three hours. It was harder for my child to copy definitions than it was to read high school/college level literature at age 10. Why? i don’t have time to go into it now but I’ll send you some articles.

  54. Sky, you’re a beautiful person. You’ll make a great middle manager or…really good factory worker. Your justification for mindless crap that if it needs to be done at all should be done at school is no more than, life is full of crap, get used to it now, kid.

    I hear you. Life is full of crap. But I’m not sure they need to learn that in 3rd grade. I believe elementary should be a place of unfettered creativity and for the kids who thrive on this style, full of wonder. You can introduce the crap you value so highly later.

    I know some kids who were unschooled through middle. They entered high school full of wonder, without the baggage of homework. They are doing remarkably well.

    “It is a miracle creativity has survived formal education”

    Albert Einstein

  55. This really hit home with me because I went to a private school after being home schooled and I had a similar problem. I was bored in the regular classes but the honors classes had twice the amount of homework so I refused to take them. Plus we had 8 classes everyday instead of a block schedule (where there’s 4 classes one day and a different 4 the next) so there were 8 classes worth of homework, usually all due the next day.

    When I went to public school though I hardly ever had homework, but I still hated school because the honors courses there weren’t even to par with the regular classes at the private school, so I slept through most of my classes. I tested into college when I was 15 but my mom wouldn’t let me go so I dropped out of high school when I was 16. Absolutely refused to go back until I was allowed to take some classes online and graduated.

    I’m determined my kid is going to have opportunities I didn’t and I won’t let anyone squelch her love of learning with a teaching method that doesn’t work for her.

  56. The misconception is not that your kid was punished for reading whatever kind of book, she was punished for not doing what she was asked to do. Amusingly, the story changes drastically if you make your child less of a victim.

    I am surprised by the amount of parents to make exception for the children whenever things get uncomfortable. Gifted or not, certain rules apply. And I honestly think that if the homework is increasing to levels that become unmaintainable or depriving your kids from sleep, things need to change. But the root cause needs to be addressed, it is not a very helpful idea to just send your child off with a note.

  57. I teach a gifted and talented class in Australia and I’ve struggled with the homework question all year. I’ve tried mini projects, weekly essays and nothing – none of it worked. The parents all complained one way or another (too much/not enough)

    Then, this term I found it! (for my class anyway). The students are required to read 20-30 minutes a day which can be done in the afternoon, night or morning. They would probably want to write because we’re doing NaNoWriMo and I made a maths bingo sheet with lots of different activities for the students to do including cooking, demonstrating something to their family and playing games. It’s been a big hit because everyone’s been able to adapt it to their life, and although their are little prizes for getting a row/block, no one gets in trouble for not doing it.

  58. “Sky, you’re a beautiful person. You’ll make a great middle manager or…really good factory worker.”

    Alas, I haven’t made a very good middle manager OR a really good factory worker. I’m a sole proprietor, a small press editor, and a published novelist. But even if I were a middle manager or a…gasp…really good factory worker, I hope I would not think myself worthless because of it.

    Some kids probably have far too much homework. But I suspect most (not all, but most) kids exaggerate their workload. What concerns me about the anti-homework movement is the sense that seems to accompany it that one is entitled not to have to do anything one does not want to do. I thought a lot of the homework I did was useless in school, and I don’t think the projects, especially, were necessary. I would assign less homework were I a teacher, or at least more effective homework. But I survived it, and I still found time to write, to play, to read, and to hang out with friends. I just don’t think that, in the U.S., homework is a crisis of leviathan proportions. I don’t think it’s half the crisis our sense of entitlement is.

    “I know some kids who were unschooled through middle. They entered high school full of wonder, without the baggage of homework. They are doing remarkably well”

    Kids who are homeschooled do remarkably well because they generally have less than a 1:4 teacher/student ratio, far less administrative bureaucratic nonsense to wade through, and no intractable fellow students to distract them— not because they don’t have homework or because they have dispensed with traditional modes of education. They also generally have smart parents, and their genetics aren’t exactly hurting them.

  59. Sky wrote:

    “They also generally have smart parents, and their genetics aren’t exactly hurting them.”

    Thank you! Appreciate the compliment.🙂.

    “Kids who are homeschooled do remarkably well because they generally have less than a 1:4 teacher/student ratio, far less administrative bureaucratic nonsense to wade through, and no intractable fellow students to distract them— not because they don’t have homework ”

    Actually yes, because they have less homework. We never called it homework. I homeschooled for one year and I banished that word. Too loaded. I was weary of the whole guilt cycle homework engendered, the fear, the punishment, the grade grubbing. There was time for late later. She was a child. And I wanted her to revel in all the glory of it.

    Didn’t mean she didn’t work. Didn’t mean she didn’t learn. Oh, boy, did she. We didn’t have class all day and then homework all night. We learned constantly, at the desk, at the dining room table, on walks in the park, at a museum, on our travels.

    We didn’t call assignments homework, we called them, well, assignments. We did thirty novels that year. An on line math course. An on line college level writing course. My husband, Harvard educated, taught history. We did this on a shoestring budget. What we lacked in resources, we made up for in resourcefulness. Our travels meant visiting grandma in New York. And yes, all this was successful, actually, because there was no homework.

    We didn’t crack the whip and she blossomed. And oh, she still had to rake the leaves and load the dishwasher. And be a generally nice well behaved child. And do community service. And raise money. And volunteer.

    You may argue, school could never do that. All we asked of school is that they do school. And do it as well as they can. And leave most of our free time to us. So that we can homeschool on the side. When they took away all of our free time so that we were constantly shackled by homework, that’s when we voted with our feet.

  60. katja, what makes you think my daughter doesn’t and didn’t do her homework? She did it every day. But after four hours, I the parent am allowed to say to a ten year old, you’ve done enough, you may go to bed, you may read for pleasure now. It’s 11 o’clock, for chrissake! She’s a child, not a slave.

    I will never ever forget this scene. 6th grade, 11pm. I catch my daughter’s light on, she is sneaking a history assignment. I tell her she must go to sleep now, she has worked enough. She begins to cry. Tears roll down her cheeks. She is tired, oh, so tired. She has been up every night with homework. She is starting to have sleep problems, can’t fall asleep.

    She is crying. She begs to be allowed to finish. She sobs, if I don’t do it, the teacher will call on me and all the kids will laugh. The teacher writes the names of all the children who don’t finish on the blackboard. This child was terrified.

    Is that what you advocate, katja? For our children to be humiliated when they don’t do every drop of homework, no matter how much it cuts into sleep? We know many of those GT kids were up till midnight every night.

    You’ll say they’re not gifted if it takes so long. You don’t get it. They learn differently. Many are perfectionist. What a teacher, not gifted herself and not properly trained, thinks will take 20 minutes can take two hours. Also, the work was often all wrong, not matched to this group’s needs.

    Think it’s elitist? If you are going to teach gifted children, teach to their levels and skills. It’s not elitist. These students are a special needs population, and the higher the level, the more different the learning styles are. It’s not elitist. I’ve heard that enough. It’s what these kids need.

  61. J, why so offensive?

    You dissappointed me in goinig over to yelling and accusation so easily instead of arguing.

    I am a little dissapointed by you being so defensive. I clearly said that “too much homework” needs to be addressed in particular if it causes sleep deprivation. I am just skeptical about parents telling the truth, because in fact most often they do not necessarily provide an unbiased insight in their home life. And you apparantly are no exception either.

  62. My kids are in 3rd and 4th grade. My younger has the same teacher that the older one had last year, so we are seeing some of the same assignments. The odd thing is that the older one blasted through his homework and spent the rest of the evening pestering me to let him play video games (is it a school night? yes? well then no.)

    The younger kid is much more concerned about her home work, she’ll get all stressed if she doesn’t finish by bedtime. My point is that both kid had the same exact homework. One kid blasted through in less than an hour, the other will take sometimes 2 hours for the same thing.

  63. I don’t get why so called “gifted” programs give more homework than “normal” ones. They should just be doing more advanced material, moving faster in class, not piling on extra work. Just because a kid learns faster doesn’t mean they aren’t still a kid and don’t still need time to play. We had a ridiculous gifted program at our previous school in which the specialist (not gifted herself) sent parents long lists of contests our kids should be entering in their free time – like I’d want to punish my kid for being smart by making her do extra homework!

  64. Btw I AM or WAS a gifted kid that always tried to be perfect, when in fact she could not please all based on the gap between her mental advanced state and the emotional and physical average being. I remember the dissapointment in my parents because I failed an “advanced” math exam, even though I was gifted and math was my “special skill”. I cried for days because I had failed and my parents never understood why. I basically never talked to them again about any assignments, because they told me “it is not a big deal” when in fact for me it was the biggest deal in the world. And I wished they had been angry, but they were trying to be soooo understanding…that in fact they did prove one thing, that they did not.

  65. @J: So because your child has difficulties in copying definitions from a dictionary, that means that all children have too much homework & that everyone must have less homework assigned — or it is all pointless busywork. I am categorically opposed to lowering the bar because a few can’t make it.

    Also, your response to Sky belies a great desire to pretend the world is how you want it to be rather than how it is. By all means, let your child share your delusions, then when you cannot shelter her anymore, she’ll be overwhelmed. I love naked class warfare. As a middle class agent, anyone who disagrees with you must be a nasty prole.

    Who was it that pointed out that genius is a little inspiration with a whole lot of perspiration?

    When you homeschool, all work done is homework & they are often engaged in learning activities & homework for the entire day (at least if you are doing it right). Homework exists because there are only 6 hours for them to cover material.

    “She is crying. She begs to be allowed to finish. She sobs, if I don’t do it, the teacher will call on me and all the kids will laugh. The teacher writes the names of all the children who don’t finish on the blackboard. This child was terrified.

    Is that what you advocate, katja? For our children to be humiliated when they don’t do every drop of homework, no matter how much it cuts into sleep? We know many of those GT kids were up till midnight every night.”

    That is what I advocate. My second son is delicate like that as well. If she is the only person not getting her homework done, then frankly she should be embarrassed. The whole self-esteem movement has been nothing but a colossal failure. Esteem can only be built on real accomplishment, not empty words of praise.

    If your child is a perfectionist, then they need to learn to get over it. Otherwise they will never accomplish anything as nothing is ever perfect. They need to learn the proper amount of effort to get the maximum result. The law of diminishing returns cannot be taught early enough.

    As for teaching their strengths, why is it the teachers job to cater to every students special needs? Their job is to impart as much information to as many kids as possible. It is you & your child’s job to learn how to adapt that information into a format she learns best. You don’t get it, while it is true that Great People made the world conform to their will, the asylums are full of people who failed at this task. The true leader knows how to follow orders as well.

  66. If she is the only person not getting her homework done, then frankly she should be embarrassed.

    This presumes that all kids have the same abilities at the same time in their lives, which is simply not the case. It also presumes that the homework in question is worth doing, which is simply unlikely.

    The true leader knows how to follow orders as well.

    Actually, a true leader knows the difference between useful orders and useless ones. Robots follow orders regardless of the quality of those orders.

  67. dar asks: “@J: So because your child has difficulties in copying definitions from a dictionary, that means that all children have too much homework & that everyone must have less homework assigned — or it is all pointless busywork. I am categorically opposed to lowering the bar because a few can’t make it.”

    Lowering the bar? Oh, puh-leeze. You think if we complain about this mindless drivel, we are lowering the bar? Mind you, we are not opposed to dictionaries and looking up words here. My daughter is a voracious reader with a very advanced vocabulary. And in our homeschool year, she looked up words all the time! But I think the distinction would be lost on you.

    You call that lowering the bar? I call that a waste of time. And if it’s so important, why didn’t it get done in school that day? In fact, I didn’t sign a note, saying my daughter wouldn’t do it, which I should have. I asked for after school study hall so she could do it at school. A lot of children simply do schoolwork better at school. They wouldn’t let her into afternoon study hall. They told me that was only for the kids failing the state standardized test. I’d rather she spent her afternoons reading to abandon and writing a novel.

    I just told you I homeschooled and we did thirty novels that year. Thirty. Her gifted public school did four. Now just who is lowering the bar here? That same year my daughter took a college level writing class. At age 13. And excelled in geometry that year. And you still think we are lowering the bar. Oh, my…

  68. katja writes: “I am just skeptical about parents telling the truth, because in fact most often they do not necessarily provide an unbiased insight in their home life. And you apparantly are no exception either.”

    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

    Any teacher would have been welcome in my home for a month and they could have seen for themselves. What sort of proof are you asking for? The parents’ description is not enough? So come and do a home visit, my door is open.

  69. As for teaching their strengths, why is it the teachers job to cater to every students special needs?

    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

    I’m going to try this one more time. I was making the case that the entire class was special needs, a gifted class. Obviously within that class there are still ranges. But it wa a gifted program. And not really taught as one.

  70. @LJM: No, it doesn’t presume that at all. Homework is geared toward the median level of the class, perhaps even lower. If you are incapable of performing at a higher level (i.e. you are below average) then the lesson to be learned is how to be satisfied with giving your best, assuming they actually did.

    As for the robots comment, I am also amused by how people try so very hard to turn their vices into virtues. The overriding assumption by so many that they know everything so are able to adequately determine how worthless something is or is not actually boggles the mind.

    @J: No, because you seem to be advocating not requiring it be done. If she looks up words all the time, it is a bit difficult for me to understand why she couldn’t look up words and write out the definitions — is there a defect that inhibits the proper functioning of her hands? It sounds more to me you are defensive and frankly trying to shelter your child from the repercussions of their actions.

    We already know that Public Schools have low standards. That is why I fail to see why your child should be allowed to shirk on doing the work that (apparently) all the other children are doing.

    If schools suck so bad and your daughter was doing so much better being homeschooled then why aren’t you still homeschooling her?

  71. @J: It gets down to a simple dynamic. Are the other children also suffering as your child suffers? If not — if the program is meeting the needs of the other students, then it is incumbent on *you* to assist your daughter in learning how to adapt. If the majority of students are having problems, then *you* need to address your Talented & Gifted program. The problem isn’t homework, or too much, it is either your daughter needing extra help in grasping how the material is presented or it is a problem with the structure &/or funding of the class.

  72. dar writes: “If you are incapable of performing at a higher level (i.e. you are below average) then the lesson to be learned is how to be satisfied with giving your best, assuming they actually did.”

    Dar, If you are going to argue, at least stick to the subject. You are flying off in a thousand directions.

    Work with me here. I am talking about a gifted class. I don’t like the “G” word sometimes anymore than you do. But what on earth are you talking about when you say “below average?”

    I don’t mind arguing with you. But I can’t have a conversation with you if you aren’t sticking to the facts, reading my words. “Below level” is not the issue here and does not factor into the equation. For what it’s worth, my daughter was and is well above level, that’s not what I am talking about here.

  73. If schools suck so bad and your daughter was doing so much better being homeschooled then why aren’t you still homeschooling her?”

    Because she got into a selective magnet public school program. The trade off is, the work load is crushing. But the alternative, regular school with more mindless busy work, didn’t look so good.

    As for homeschooling in high school, in hindsight, I can do that, I could have done that. But once my daughter began at her current school, she made a very strong case for staying. She does not like the work load and it’s caused a great deal of stress and sleep deprivation. My husband and I revisit the decision all the time. I just wish her choices didn’t come down to either being bored to death or worked to death. There simply has to be a better way.

    Sounds to me, dar, that you have not experienced an overwhelming work load with your kids. If you did, you might be singing a different tune.

  74. “@J: It gets down to a simple dynamic. Are the other children also suffering as your child suffers?”

    Many in fact are. I can tell you a great many are very seriously sleep deprived. And don’t give me how it’s their fault. These kids were handpicked from five counties. If they can’t manage it, who can? And if time management is such an issue, how come the school doesn’t address it?

  75. My child’s public school gifted ed program doesn’t give homework. And my kids get an appropriate amount of homework, and none on weekends. Apparently I am living in a time warp.

  76. @J: Since you selectively respond I can only assume that you are more concerned with making this “not your problem” even though your child is involved.

    I have not moved from the topic in the slightest. Every class has an average. Every bell curve has a high end and a low end.

    As for your assumptions, I work full time, I go to school full time and I am a single parent of four children & I have been raising them by myself for the past 7 years. Your cries of “it is too hard” are laughable & frankly pathetic.

    By the way it is a rather transparent topic to respond to the rhetorical questions but avoid the actual questions — since they pointed out your responsibilities and what you could do to fix things.

  77. I think so much of this is overblown. I have 4 kids in school and none of them has an excessive amount of homework, and what there is generally is meaningful.

    My son attends the school that Newsweek ranks #1 in the entire country. And he very rarely has more than 90 minutes of homework.

    It’s largely exagerated.

  78. There is an apparent trade off between either being busy or being intelligent. Some kids have excellent “busy skills” and perfectly work hours after hours in completing every detail of an homework assignments. It usually takes them hours, but eventually they finish.

    Then there are other kids that do not need to study this hard. They just know, write it down, get on with their life and play. For these kids homework is usually not that bad.

    For the kids in the first group as they get often mistaken for being gifted when in fact they are just dedicating time. Having a kid like this in a gifted program can mean a huge burden on the kid and the class as this kid now becomes a low performer in the class. And has to work harder than the others to stay current.

    That is why I personally think that most gifted programs do not cater to the needs of kids but to their overenthusiastic and protective parents. “Having a gifted kid” has become the new status symbol. Unfortunately.

    I still do not believe in “too much homework”. I believe that parents take their kids too seriously and are too worried of damaging their little creativity. Which in most cases is not more than average anyways.

    Do I want to spend Sundays doing homework with my kids? No. Do I believe that some teachers overexcessively distribute homework? Yes. However, I would rather not have people constantly whine about the load of homework when they are in fact not addressing the problems where they are. Root cause analysis might help. And – in fact – sometimes it is your own child that cannot keep up…

  79. I’ve gotta say, the homeschooling argument is starting to bug me a bit. I admire people who can homeschool, and think that there is nothing wrong with it. However, many people cannot do it for a variety of reasons. We cannot solve legitimate problems with our schools if the only solution is for everyone to take their balls and go home.

    It would be like me saying: We could completely solve the problem of busybodies telling people when they can and can’t leave kids in cars by just getting rid of all cars. Everyone walks or bikes. If you need to carry something heavy or a child, get a trailer. I live in the suburbs and I can do it, so I don’t accept any excuses. If you are using a car, you’re just not trying hard enough.

  80. Amy, what makes you think it’s exaggerated? Maybe your school is better BECAUSE they don’t give excessive homework — but that doesn’t mean other schools do not.

    BMS, has anyone here yet said that everyone should homeschool and we should get rid of other schools? What I’ve been seeing is a lot of people saying, “This is why I chose to homeschool.” For a lot of people, the desire to homeschool WOULD go away if some things about the schools available to them changed. That doesn’t mean they want the schools to disappear.

    And please remember that the decision to homeschool is lot more serious and a lot more considered in nearly all cases, than “taking one’s ball and going home.” Sometimes, working to change a school that might be a bit better in ten years with a lot of hard work is a worthy goal, but not worth losing ten years of a kid’s education in the meantime. Remember, no matter how much good you do, your kid is never getting those ten years back. The best solution is probably for everyone, parents and non-parents, to show an interest in how schools work and try to improve them, while doing what’s best for our own kids’ limited school years in the meantime. The underlying assumption that only parents with kids in schools can do anything to improve schools is probably the assumption that should go first. We’re all PAYING for them, after all.

  81. I am tired of all those overprotective parents here… Wasn’t I trying to get away from all this supermommy stuff when I came here? I am out.

  82. If Free-Range means that having an opinion on the value of homework and being involved in how your young children’s education is conducted makes you “overprotective,” then Free-Range is garbage. Fortunately, it doesn’t mean that. Free-Range isn’t laissez-faire –we’re humans, not alligators who lay their eggs and then leave the young to fend for themselves as soon as they’re out of the egg.

  83. Wow.

  84. I’m thinking the great divide probably isn’t so much about “how much homework” as it is about “what kind of homework”? Say all you want about busywork teaching discipline, etc, but I’ve seen it turn a lot of people off of the subjects at hand, myself included. We used to get assignments all the time that would take several hours that were just repetitions of “plug these numbers into your calculator” — 50 of these, including writing down the whole question (why???) doesn’t help anybody understand the subject, and gifted kids (of which I was one) can’t get through it any faster than average kids. We’d then get “search through the textbook and copy down this precise sentance, word for word” even though formal recitation has been proven to be an ineffective learning strategy.

    In contrast, I took advanced level english and social studies in high school. We had to do research projects and essays that in the end probably took more time and more self-discipline than the busywork, but it was infinitely more interesting. Guess what I remember more about?

    It’s not a one-size-fits-all issue by any means. Some kids will just “get it”, and some won’t. Some will enjoy independant learning projects and some won’t. But since repeating something three-hundred times is less effective than answering one deep question about it (or, say, proving a mathematical formula, or figuring out a way it applies to something you already know), I think placing such an emphasis this kind of busywork is just plain detrimental to learning.

    **facts on learning come from my psych textbook “Psychology: The Adaptive Mind” and from university lectures. Just so you know I’m not making up random facts.🙂

  85. I just finished attempting to help my godson’s third and fourth graders. He is unable to help them much because his English was self-learned as an adult and is less than perfect.
    Despite a lifetime as a newspaper writer and editor, I cannot decipher some of the educationese that comes home, even with the help of a dictionary.
    Tonight the third grader’s arithmatic included a problem: Write one or two sentences explainng why 7 times 7 equals 49. Another was to explain why 3×4 is the same as 4×3.
    The fourth grader had work in math and reading. For math, she was asked to “estimate” the answers to a number of simple problems. One of her answers was 6×7 equals an estimated 400; this answer had been “right” the last time. She reads very well, probably above her level, and had a chapter in each of two books to read aloud. One centered on a classroom in which the children were learning words in Spanish. This child’s first language is Spanish, and she had no idea what those words might be, because they were words used in Spain. She quickly understood when I “translated” the Castillano to the standard Mexican tongue with which she converses with her mother. I wonder how the non-bilingual pupils will fare on this assignment.
    Pardon me while I go and “estimate” that I have enough money in the bank to pay all my bills…I guess the bank will find that I am “right”.

  86. Sooooooo agreed!

    I remember being a junior-high student (years ago, but not that many) and having 10 periods in the school day.

    At the beginning of the year, the school told students and parents in a letter that we should expect about an hour’s work each night, which was to be completed per the teacher’s directions. Trouble was that EACH of them gave about an hour’s worth… even to the point that my rather laid-back parents complained to the school and got laughed at.

    Had this fit in the 80s, then in the 90s, and this is STILL a problem?

    Hey schools — news flash.The kids have clocked out at three; you had them all day. How would most of us react if the boss at the office sent home four hours of busy work to do over dinner instead of playing with our kids or feeding our families?

    A science project now and then is one thing… but GEEZ, it’s getting ridiculous.

  87. @Dino: I don’t really understand the idea of estimating a math problem. It reminds me of a math instructor who would ask “Does everyone agree?” It’s math, not a democracy. 4 times 6 is 24 whether someone disagrees or not. It drove me nuts. I realize she was really asking “Does everyone understand how we got this result?” The inability of people to say “I don’t understand” or “I don’t know” without shame is another peeve.

    I assume the explanations were along the lines of explaining set theory (I’d be interested to know if I am correct on that).

  88. @Tracy: Salaried positions often have work that extends beyond the 40 hour week. I remember a job where I worked 60-85 hours a week (Microsoft). I played with the children on the 60 hour work weeks. My children seldom have more than an hour of homework (sans the half-hour mandatory reading, since that often extends into pleasure reading)

  89. Very informative stuff. Thanks very much.

    Keep it up!

    Regards
    Tom

  90. The following link brings you to an article in the Globe and Mail – Canada’s national newspaper. 2 lwyer parents have signed a contract with their children and the school board regarding a no homework policy – at least for their family. It’s about time parents stand up for themselves and their children.

    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/family-and-relationships/how-one-family-won-the-battle-to-ban-homework/article1367357/

  91. Regarding estimation: being able to estimate quantities is actually an important part of quantitative literacy, but the way it’s often taught can appear pointless (and sometimes actually is). There are at least two important uses for estimation: first, if you’re doing complicated calculations, estimation lets you tell if the answers you’re getting are even reasonable; it provides you with a sanity check. Second, in many if not most cases where you use math in the real world, you don’t have access to exact information, but you still need to have a “ballpark” idea of where the results will be.

    Learning this necessarily involves practicing problems where there will be a Correct Answer, and seeing how close your estimate gets. It’s one of those things that seems like busywork, but really isn’t.

    Similarly with verbalization of math concepts: As John Allen Paulos pointed out in his wonderful book innumeracy, most Americans come out of school knowing how to add, subtract, multiply and divide, but having little idea when to do each. Again in real life, most applications of math don’t involve providing you with a set formula to solve; they involve coming up with the right formula.

    A complicating factor here is that the kinds of math instruction that work best for typically-developing kids tend to work worst for autism-spectrum kids and vice versa. This should be dealt with by proper use of IEPs, but that tends to be honored more in the breach than the observance.

  92. @Bernard Poulin: “They were fed up with rushing home from soccer practice or speed skating only to stand over their kids tossing out answers so they could finish and get to bed.”

    1) Maybe they should have scaled back the soccer practice & speed skating so that it was dependent on the children completing the homework.

    2) Perhaps if they weren’t doing the children’s homework for them, the children would be able to do their own homework & thus they wouldn’t have to “stand over their kids tossing out answers.”

    This is classic helicopter parenting behavior. Aree they going to sue the college to make sure their children don’t have any taxing homework schedules as well. Taxing being any assignments since the children have not learned how to prioritize, budget time and get things done.

    @ebohlman
    Ah, I can see that, but the estimate of 400 rather than 40 for the example you gave confused me. Americans don’t value knowledge. Instead they value work, being able to follow a set of steps to accomplish a specific practical goal. Knowledge of why & how are only tolerated in as much as it allows proper accomplishment of the practical (i.e., wage-earning) goal.

  93. Christina, I was reacting to Sandra. If a discussion of homework and/or some parents deciding to express concerns over the quantity or quality of their kids homework rather than just throwing the kids at the school and going their merry way is “overprotective,” then, well, what I said above. If Free Range is really about non-involvement during our kids’ formative years, then I want no part of it. But I really don’t think it is, nor do I think many people view it that way.

  94. The role of the parent is to assist them in realizing that they need to limit their indulgence (the pleasure principle) to what is effective for them to succeed in life (the reality principle).

    To many parents abdicate their role & try to be their child’s friend catering to their whims. The parent teaches the child how to stay out of jail, the friend is in the cell with them.

    The homework issue seems to be a way for the parent to overindulge themselves with their child’s life & thus preventing them from learning how to actually live it.

  95. dar, two comments, in responding to yours:

    “My children seldom have more than an hour of homework (sans the half-hour mandatory reading, since that often extends into pleasure reading)”

    So that’s why you don’t get it! Different parts of the country have different homework philosophies. Even Jay Mathews of the Washington Post who used to call himself Mr. Homework but has now reversed that position and has called for no homework in elementary (he promotes reading and writing at home instead, precisely what my daughter craved to do in her spare time)…run on sentence, I know. Even Jay Mathews concedes that the Washington region is one of the most homework heavy in the nation. Your region and your children’s programs dictate their homework load and from where I sit, it looks like a piece of cake compared to ours.

    Dar, no wonder you don’t see this as a problem. Your high schooler gets one hour of homework each day, on average! Have you ever heard of Harris Cooper? He’s known as the nation’s homework expert and he says that anything more than two hours of high school homework yields you nothing but diminishing returns. Yet you have to pay your son to do even that one hour. Which posits that he wouldn’t do it unless there was some financial incentive. Do as you see fit. It’s not my place to tell you how to run your show. I have that respect for you.

    Me, I’ve tried to raise a life longer learner. Trust me, it’s not easy bucking the trend but it has yielded my family amazing returns. I have friends who did what you are doing, rewarding for good GPAs. All power to them except we used to argue this. I learned to live and let live as long as someone else doesn’t shove their ideology down my throat.

    I happen not to like pop behaviorism, I’m an Alfie Kohn devotee. I know, especially with certain kids, bribing is the kiss of death. You bribe it, you taint it. I’ve seen this happen with my friends’ kids. Parents were always either brandishing the carrot or the stick. Now as high schoolers and beyond, while incredible kids, they appear disillusioned, disaffected from their learning, apathetic and depressed. The parents are baffled. But we always rewarded them, they exclaim. I used to read a lot of parenting philosophy so friends would ask for some advice. I would tell them, if you have only have time to read one parenting book in your entire life, make it “How to Talk so Kids will Listen and how to Listen so Kids will Talk.” It gets you away from that constant lure of bribing to something deeper and more substantive. You would think that nothing but the carrot and stick works in the classroom, and there too, you would be wrong.

    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

    @Tracy: Salaried positions often have work that extends beyond the 40 hour week. I remember a job where I worked 60-85 hours a week (Microsoft).

    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    I hear you, dar. I had jobs like that too. But children are not adults. Their capacity for executive function and organization is not that of an adult’s. They’re kids. It’s not the same. You think you are preparing them for a good workaholic life later by burning them out now. It simply ain’t so.

    As for your workaholic job, I’ve had those too. I was a director, I worked all the time, I ate, slept and breathed it and I loved it. I doubt I could have done it forever but for that time, it satisfied many needs. I can tell you I NEVER would have been able to produce that kind of singular devotion and commitment to that position had my childhood been compromised.

    Children have to play. Yes, even teens are children. They are not adults. They need downtime. They need time for incidental learning, the kind of serendipitous learning that comes from happenstance. The book they trip over in the hall that they pick up and read, unprompted by “you have to” and a bribe for doing it. The computer they want to take apart to see how it works. The hike they go on where they climb rocks and test their limits. The necessary judgment that comes from navigating the world. They can’t do any of this if they are always hunkered down with homework, only engaged in adult-directed pursuits. Self direction is more valuable than yet one more assignment.

    You make a grave mistake when you assume children are miniature adults. Lately I hear of so many high performing high achieving straight A students, the good girls and boys, the ones who aimed to please, the ones you like because they did everything adults told them to, coming home from college in a depression. I am hearing it so often from friends of friends that I have to question whether this is the tip of the iceberg.

    I’m a baby boomer. I remember with great fondness my education; the teachers who inspired me, who turned me to writing, the ones who encouraged adn guided. Are our children getting enough of these kinds of mentors today?

    I couldn’t wait to go to school. Most high schoolers I know today who take their education very seriously wake up sleep deprived, exhausted and many are depressed but hide it well. My generation has been wildly successful. I’m not nearly as optimistic for their children.

    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

    I played with the children on the 60 hour work weeks.

    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

    I commend you. So did I, so did my husband. But when you have a sixty hour work week and so do they, I can assure you, there won’t be a whole lot of playing going on.

  96. No pentamom, now I need to defend myself. I got highly concerned with the involvment that some parents show here in their kids’ homework and life. And how these mothers and fathers including you talk about how much better they are than others with their commitment since they homeschool, make sure the kdis do not get too much homework, the right homework… I am just tired of parents seeking a communication tool to talk about how well the raise their kids.

    I want none of that. I want exchange, tips or tricks on how to deal with certain challenges. I know I am not a perfect parent, but I am by no means laissez-faire. I like structure and routine and I like teaching kids how to handle conflicts by themselves. I have no time to do homework with my kids. If they ask questions I might point them in the right direction.

    My kids are fairly independent and never have a real issue with getting things solved. They know how to prioritize, schedule their homework time wisely and know when they can let things slide. I think that will benefit them in the long run.

    We use our together time to talk, eat or walk and play outside.

    All I wanted from this forum is an away from parents that feel like they need to be involved in every aspect of their child life. I do not want to hear how public schooling is not good enough, how all teachers are idiots, how their kids is more gifted than others or more creative and that others just do not get it… I have had enough of all that. If your kid is that gifted it should be able to deal with homework. Homework is part of life and people need to deal with it. Looking at the “estimation of numbers” issue in threads earlier just shows me, that most parents do not even understand what the concept is. Americans just do not value the art of math or sciences anymore.

    If there is too much homework, then address it to the teacher/school director. However, you will find if you handle homework as a manager (prioritize, schedule time needed, be careful about the detail work…), you will find that homework is NOT such a big deal.

    When I was in school, the kids that spent most time with their homework were those kids that constantly had their parents looking over their shoulder and managing their work. These were however not the top performers of the class, more in the middle with average grades.

    I just want out. I want to talk to parents just as an exchange and not because I want to hear about how well they have figured everything out, how much they no and do better than others. I want other parents that can laugh about how they misjudged a situation, how they got worried over nothing and how proud they were that there kids finished a science project without their help at all… I want parents that I can drink a glass of wine with and that I can talk about politics, economics and theatre without hearing a word about their kids. I want parents that know that sex is not bad and that give their kids the proper education to deal with puberty. I want parents that are not afraid of public schools and teachers and that let other people do their job without overinvolvement and reacting to every little attention their kid did or did not get.

    I want parents that are like me, that make their kids’ life not an agenda but have a family as something you can come home to and relax. A real home. And not a competition factory.

  97. Thank you Sandra. You said that perfectly.

  98. @J: Repeatedly claiming that I don’t get it will not make it so. You are like the Creationists who believe by repeating the same thing over and over it will magically come true. It’s annoying. I understand fully what you are saying, I just think you are wrong. I can separate between the general and the specific & I realize that a specific case does not necessarily invalidate the general rule.

    The only time my children have more than two hours at a time is if they have put off their homework. Just to clarify, I don’t pay them to do homework. I make them do homework. I pay them for good report cards. It’s a reward. They have learned to do their homework. They have also learned to budget their time. As they become more proficient, they get their homework done more quickly. These are 2 elementary, 1 jr high & one high school. It isn’t a problem because I refused to accept that it was a real problem. They used to tell me that it took to long & that they couldn’t get it done. So I took away the computer & the PS3. Amazing how quickly the homework & chores could get done.

    >>
    “But children are not adults. Their capacity for executive function and organization is not that of an adult’s. They’re kids. It’s not the same. You think you are preparing them for a good workaholic life later by burning them out now. It simply ain’t so.”

    This is, frankly BS. Let’s skip over the class snobbery bit. Earlier you mentioned High School, so I am assuming that you are still at the same age level (~15). This is past the age of adulthood in most cultures, even ours until recently. I find it amusing that the enforced childhood imposed on our children in an effort to keep them out of the workplace and thus reduce unemployment is now being used to claim that they are physiologically incapable of acting like an adult until… what age? What is the magic age when all of a sudden we can treat them like adults rather than as children? 16, 18, 25? It is all stupid. Teens want to play like adults play. Hell, my pre-teens want to play like adults play. Their “childishness” is purely the result of a lack of life experience, You see the same behavior in any sheltered adult.

    >>
    “They can’t do any of this if they are always hunkered down with homework, only engaged in adult-directed pursuits. Self direction is more valuable than yet one more assignment.”

    This is BS as well. You create a false dichotomy then attack the straw man. Despite a multitude of chores, a couple or three hours of homework (nightly) & a long school day (6 hours at school & an hour bus trip each way) I still managed plenty of self directed “play” (I called it exploring, reading & the like). If they have no time for self-directed play because of homework, you might take a look at the directed play that you are having them do (like those lawyers with the speed skating & soccer). Self-direction is only valuable when combined with that assignment. Self-direction is all to often nothing but directionlessness, indulging an ADHD on crack.

    >>
    “I commend you. So did I, so did my husband. But when you have a sixty hour work week and so do they, I can assure you, there won’t be a whole lot of playing going on.”

    & whose fault is that? Lack of play is not the school’s fault, even though I am all for school reforms.

    I do find it amusing that you say “I learned to live and let live as long as someone else doesn’t shove their ideology down my throat,” which is funny because that is precisely what you have been doing screeching that people disagree and trying to choke everyone to death with your theology of mediocrity.

  99. I haven’t read all the comments, I admit. I just want to practically scream and say, no 6th-grader should be doing homework until 10 o’clock at night! (Well, maybe if the kid had so many extra activities that he didn’t start until, oh, at the latest 8.) It’s not productive and I doubt he’s really learning anything, other than that school is awful. I don’t know when the whole “let’s give lots of homework” started; I just know I’ve lived through it. And then, sometimes your kids gets an offbeat assignment that lights his/her fire and they go after it like a dog with a bone. And guess what — they learn a lot more! Years ago, when Obama was sitll a senator, a teacher came off as critical about him. My youngest protested. He challenged her to find out his positions on whatever the topic was. She did. This is a kid who’s classic underachiever (and now finally diagnosed with ADD!) — so it was great to see her tackle something like that. For a look at what our public schools could be, take a look at “Lives of Passion, School of Hope,” by Rick Posner. One school, in Colorado, has shown how it can reignite the love of lifelong learning, with the way it approached education, the way it designs its curriculum — and this book follows alums who are, yes, successful and engaged in life. It’s a school where personal growth comes first (there’s a concept) — These alums take care of themselves, have meaningful relationships and they give some of the credit to their school experience. Can the grads of our schools say the same?

  100. @Sandra: I agree.

  101. @Liz: My love of learning was not killed in school, nor in church, nor even in “progressive” indoctrination seminars.

  102. “But children are not adults. Their capacity for executive function and organization is not that of an adult’s. They’re kids. It’s not the same.”

    This is primarily true because we infantilize “children” until the age of…21. Or is it 24 now?

    This was the attitude in The Case Against Homework that bothered me so much – this attitude that we just can’t expect too much of our precious cherubs. Here’s a direct quote from the Case Against Homework:

    “Parents and teachers might think children are lazy or stubborn when they forget to bring a book home or remember all their assignments. But even asking high schoolers to assume that adult level of planning and organizing is placing a very great demand on them. Most simply aren’t ready for it.”

    HUH? They aren’t ready to remember to bring a book home? That is placing “a very great demand on them?” High schoolers are supposed to be responsible enough to have sex and to drive cars, but not to bring home a book?

    I’m not gung-ho in favor of homework. I’d prefer our schools actually taught the material IN SCHOOL and didn’t waste so much time with nonsense. Reinforcement exercises could be done during a study hall period at the end of the day. But I can’t seem to jump on the anti-homework bandwagon because it always seems to be wrapped up with one or more of the following: entitlement, the infantilization of young men and women, knee-jerk opposition to tradition, or knee-jerk opposition to authority.

    If you just have teachers who are genuinely assigning too much homework, that’s one thing, and can be addressed on a personal level.

  103. “And how these mothers and fathers including you talk about how much better they are than others with their commitment since they homeschool, make sure the kdis do not get too much homework, the right homework… I am just tired of parents seeking a communication tool to talk about how well the raise their kids.”

    You completely made that up. I have not ever claimed that my kids are better or that I am better or more committed because I homeschool, and others may have, but it couldn’t have been often and I haven’t ever actually seen it.

    When I bring up homeschooling, it is because it is what I do, and it fits the context of what we’re talking about. Yes, homeschooling allows me to do certain things, which are among the reasons I do not. No, I have NEVER claimed that I am a better parent because I homeschool, or that homeschooling solve all problems or deals with all issues that are raised. It is simply the context in which I deal with those issues and attempt to solve those problems, so I reference it. If this is a “communication tool to talk about how well we raise our kids” then that’s unfortunate. However, I’ve never regarded it as that and I doubt the majority here have, either. Most of us, I think, are trying to share what has worked for us and why we think it’s worked. If you think that constitutes self-aggrandizement, then your problem is with the whole education and child-rearing oriented blog format, not with this site, or particular people here.

    I confess I’m not going to address the rest of your comment, because if that first paragraph accurately describe your thinking about what people here homeschooling and not, are trying to do, you’re proceeding on false premises anyway.

  104. Sorry — Yes, homeschooling allows me to do certain things, which are among the reasons I do not. Should be — Yes, homeschooling allows me to do certain things, which are among the reasons I do it.

  105. dar205: No, it doesn’t presume that at all. Homework is geared toward the median level of the class, perhaps even lower.

    Again, this presumes that all of the students fall into an easily identifiable range of skill levels. It takes the individual component out of the problem. Kids are individuals, and schools are notoriously bad at assessing their individual skills.

    The overriding assumption by so many that they know everything so are able to adequately determine how worthless something is or is not actually boggles the mind.

    This is disingenuous. You don’t have to “know everything” to be able to judge whether or not something is worth your time. You just have to know your goals and your preferred methods of arriving at them.

    The role of the parent is to assist them in realizing that they need to limit their indulgence (the pleasure principle) to what is effective for them to succeed in life (the reality principle).

    But are saying you know what success in life is? Isn’t “success” personally defined? “Success” in our family is being happy, kind, and independent. And there may be, in the future, some kind of homework which leads to independence, but we’ve not experienced that, yet.

    For some, homework is a means to an end which will make them happy. For some, homework is even fun. But there are many for whom homework serves no purpose, practically or aesthetically. For many it’s a complete waste of time.

    So, what’s wrong with people rejecting something they find to be a waste of their time?

  106. @LJM: We are talking about school, not private tutors. Schools are composed of classes. Classes are aggregates of people, not “individuals.” When possible, the teacher should, once the aggregate is done, spend time one on one, however most of that is sucked up by the stupid children — excuse me, the ones who learn differently and aren’t suited to a typical classroom environment.

    (re: goals) So your child has a goal? or have you selected one for them? Mine shift their goals all the time so it is hard to say which goal will be the final one. As they experience life, goals will modulate and evolve. Fortunately, my older two have decided on goals other than being an evil overlord with an army of Mutants/Robots (I did interfere & explain that they weren’t allowed to execute family & that all imprisonment must be in luxury). I was promised a cush job in the new world empire.

    Back on topic, it seems to me that your objection to homework is more in line with it interfering with your dreams & goals that you wish to enact through your child.

    (Re: Success) Success is personally defined. It seems odd that you equate self-discipline with group-think. That speaks more about you than undermine my position.

    Homework is only a waste of time for those who cannot control their need for self-indulgence & instant gratification.

    I have no problem with people rejecting things that they feel are a waste of time. However, you should expect mockery, derision and scorn when it turns out you were wrong & doubly so when you ignore the warnings of others that you are wrong.

  107. @pentamom. My “wow” was merely concerning the vehemence of all the postings prior to mine. It was meant in no way to reflect on any particular poster’s view. My apologies if it was taken as otherwise.

  108. “Homework is only a waste of time for those who cannot control their need for self-indulgence & instant gratification.”

    Dar, you say you’re single. I am thinking you would be a heck of a guy to date. If I wasn’t married, I’d ask you out. For nothing else, than to just sit back and hear you spew.

    I’m not even going to dignify that above comment with a response.

    And for the record, I know all about delayed gratification. Why, yesterday my child and I had a long discussion on just this very topic.

  109. @J: Just to clarify for the record, intellectually understanding and practicing are two totally different things.

  110. I have a Grade 2 student attending public school in Toronto, where the official school-district policy is to minimize homework in the younger grades; for the most part it’s been manageable so far — mostly either the occasional project or something that she was supposed to finish in class and for some reason didn’t. My seven-year-old and I are sometimes baffled and frustrated, admittedly, by arithmetic homework that seems perfectly straightforward until she gets to the bottom of the page and confronts a question like “How did knowing that 2+7=9 help you find the answer to 6+1?” Or, my current favourite (at the end of a series of problems of the form 6+3+7 = __), “What strategy did you use to find the sums?” (She looked up at me and said, “I used my fingers.”) Oh, and she’s supposed to read every night — but that turns out not to be a problem, since she’s no longer required to read out loud to an adult, which means that reading in bed for an hour before going to sleep “counts”.

    I’m told, however, that there’s an explosion of homework in Grade 4. Not looking forward to that. I’m also told by numerous acquaintances in various parts of the US that DD is very, very, very lucky to have so little homework. Of course, I also hear the parents of some of DD’s classmates complain about how little homework there is: How does the teacher expect their kids to take school seriously, they ask (with straight faces!), if the only homework they get most days is “spend at least 20 minutes reading or writing whatever you want”?

    And, you know, I don’t really get it. I started kindergarten in 1979, and apart from things like making a map of Canada out of plasticine in Grade 6 and, of course, conducting the necessary experiments for one’s Science Fair project, I don’t remember EVER having homework assigned until junior high (Grade 7). I can’t think that either kids or the neuroscience of learning have changed so much in the intervening years that it’s suddenly necessary for elementary-school students to spend four hours doing worksheets every night.

  111. dar205: Schools are composed of classes. Classes are aggregates of people, not “individuals.”

    This is where we seem to most fundamentally disagree. Having spent many years as a teacher, I found that the students who were treated as individuals responded much better than those who weren’t.

    Back on topic, it seems to me that your objection to homework is more in line with it interfering with your dreams & goals that you wish to enact through your child.

    Above, you were complaining about people who think they know everything. Then here, you pretend to know things you can’t possibly know. I’ve avoided making baseless assertions about your motivations for embracing homework for all of your children. It would be nice if you could return the courtesy, if you’re able.

    Success is personally defined. It seems odd that you equate self-discipline with group-think. That speaks more about you than undermine my position.

    You’re misrepresenting my argument (which says things about you) as I’ve never equated self-discipline with group-think. You’re defining “self-discipline” as “what dar205 believes is self-discipline.”

    Doing what you’re told for the sake of it doesn’t equal self-discipline. If you’re able to do the things necessary to meet your personal goals, while managing distractions, you have self-discipline. The fact that some people don’t see homework as a means to an end doesn’t mean they don’t have self-discipline. It only means they approach their goals differently than you seem to think they should.

    Homework is only a waste of time for those who cannot control their need for self-indulgence & instant gratification.

    This is so broad and subjective that it becomes, literally, nonsense. Replace the word “homework” with “running” or “praying” or “abstinence” or “philosophy” or “religion” or “fasting” or anything any number of people feel strongly about.

    You feel strongly about homework and its benefits. That’s great. Other people don’t care for it. It’s wrong for you to judge those people because they don’t share your passion for the road to success you’ve chosen. There are many roads and not all of them include homework.

    I have no problem with people rejecting things that they feel are a waste of time. However, you should expect mockery, derision and scorn when it turns out you were wrong & doubly so when you ignore the warnings of others that you are wrong.

    I have no problem with people expressing strong feelings about things they enjoy or feel are very useful. However, you should expect mockery, derision, and scorn when it turns out you reflexively judge people you don’t know in a negative light because they make personal choices in their lives that you wouldn’t make.

  112. @LJM: I don’t disagree that personalized tailored attention produces better results. The problem is that the teacher is not a tutor. Standard class sizes — say 25 or so students — means that for every student you give personalized individual attention, there are 24 getting no attention.

    For a teacher, you seem to have horrible reading comprehension. The word “seems” is a qualifier indicating that it is not “fact” but the impression I have been given based upon your actions and their similarity to others who engage in the same behaviors. That is the difference between an assertion and a clearly defined assessment made on currently available data. Feel free to do the same, you do anyway & it colors the conversation. It is much better to have them out of the way.

    Self-discipline (in the context of this debate) is the ability to do what needs to be done, the ability to organize your needs & time & the ability to put off something when something else needs to be done.

    Why is it wrong to judge others? You make an assertion like this & I am supposed to accept it as fact? On what grounds? Wrong in whose eyes? Why? Will god smite me for making a judgement? Will you? Try to keep your morals out of a logical argument.

  113. The actual average figures are less than 30 minutes a night in elementary and less than 60 minutes a day in high school. Now, those are averages, so some kids have more and some less, but these are National averages. I have never met any child with 3 or 4 or even 2 hours of homework @@every single night.@@ That indicates either a serious self-discipline problem, a learning disability, or a serious problem with an individual teacher that can be addressed with the administration

    I was a GT student. My mom taught GT classes for decades. And she never would have tolerated from me the excuse that I could not manage to copy out my vocab definitions because “I learn differently.” Never. Of course, she also gave pre-lesson quizzes in her classes, and, if you got above a certain score, you did not have to do the homework or listen to the lesson (you could read instead) because you had exhibited mastery of the content.

  114. dar205, Your formula for running a classroom is as simplistic as your assertion that people who don’t like homework lack self-discipline or that kids who can’t keep up in class are “stupid.”

    “Success” is a subjective term when applied to a variety of lives. You treat it like it’s an objective term for everyone.

    It’s wrong to judge others for simply making different personal choices than you would when striving for success.

    It’s nothing to do with “morals.” It’s logically wrong to treat the word “success” like it was an objective term.

    It’s strategically wrong to insult people you’re disagreeing with because it decreases the chances of them respecting your opinion or wanting to continue debating with you.

    You can say, “It seems to me that you’re raising your children wrong,” or, “It seems to me that you don’t have any self-control.” The word “seems” doesn’t make the statement less condescending or more constructive.

    If you want to talk about “logic,” it’s logically impossible to demonstrate your assertion that people who don’t like homework have no self-control or are less likely to achieve success. It’s as subjective and faith-based a position as one is likely to hear from a young-earth creationist.

    On the other hand, it’s very possible to objectively demonstrate that there are many, many successful people in the world who hated homework, didn’t do well in class, and who were labeled by some people (who considered themselves experts) as “stupid.”

  115. @LJM: 1+1 is simple also, complexity does not make something more correct. If you want to posit the ditch digger paid minimum wage as being as successful as the renown sculptor, the Nobel prize winner or even the wage-slave at the tech support center, more power to you. I would consider you an idiot and dismiss anything further you have to say as irrelevant.

    Your use of the word wrong, in this context, implies a moral framework. The logical term is “unprovable” or “irrelevant” (there are some others that might work).

    You also betray your objectives in this whole conversion example. I already know that you won’t respect my opinion. To do so would require a re-evaluation of your morals & values, & frankly you are too invested in them to look at them dispassionately. Frankly, I don’t really enjoy responding to you. However, you keep saying things which, if anyone believed you, would be detrimental to my children and the world in which they will live. Thus I refute you. Our strategies are different, I don’t need to convert you, so while you are trying to convince me that you are right & that I should believe you, I just have to demonstrate that you are wrong. I’ve already posted what I think is wrong & what needs to be fixed in regards to our school system.

    The standard if A then B is not useful in demonstrating that those who avoid homework are lacking in self-control, self-discipline & motivation. However, that is why we have science. It is empirically demonstrable that barring other factors (such as the introduction of character building activities like scouting or even stealth homework) children who avoid completing homework show a strong correlation with such traits as a lack of self-discipline, etc.

    Btw, most people hate homework. It is strength of character that enables one to do something even when they don’t want to because it needs to be done (in this case it needs to be done to get a good grade, if you want bad grades…). Sure there are exceptions, but they are notable because they are exceptions. Not every slacker turns into Einstein. To encourage a child to poor scholastic performance in the hopes that they will become an Einstein is the height of idiocy.

  116. “The actual average figures are less than 30 minutes a night in elementary and less than 60 minutes a day in high school. Now, those are averages, so some kids have more and some less, but these are National averages. I have never met any child with 3 or 4 or even 2 hours of homework @@every single night.”

    Sky, I don’t know what part of the country you live in. If you mentioned it, forgive me, I’m usually very thorough but only have a second here.

    Where I live, in the Washington, DC area, long homework marathons are the rule, not the exception. The only time I hear that the load is reasonable is when they are in non honors classes.

  117. “That indicates either a serious self-discipline problem, a learning disability, or a serious problem with an individual teacher that can be addressed with the administration”

    Sky, it’s amazing how quick you are to blame the student. That’s not to say that there aren’t indeed lazy and unmotivated kids. But I’m willing to bet you their parents are not the ones writing in here.

    My daughter gave up two activity periods today to work on a paper and came home and sat solidly for another three hours tonight. Her total homework time today has already amounted to five and a half hours tonight. That is hardly unusual for her school. And she’s not finished. It’s 8:41 pm, she hasn’t had dinner yet, and over our meal, she and her dad are going to review the news headlines for a quiz tomorrow. I’d hardly call this kid lazy and unmotivated. Or undisciplined.

    Yes, some students have learning disabilities. And don’t think that because they do, it’s so easy to get less homework. As for taking it up with the administration, good luck. You think we haven’t tried?

    And for the person who felt some derision towards us for homeschooling? To echo pentamom, please don’t think it’s an easy decision. For many families, it comes as a last resort. Yes, in most cases, it turns out to be an incredible blessing in disguise. But it’s not lost on us that we are paying taxes to educate other people’s children.

    Homeschooling is hard work. It was a magical year. But don’t think the decision wasn’t reached after months of agonizing, soul searching and well, initial terror. It’s like taking your child under your arms, jumping off a cliff, and discovering you have wings. I don’t regret a single second of it. I only regret not having started sooner.

  118. Sky wrote: “Of course, she also gave pre-lesson quizzes in her classes, and, if you got above a certain score, you did not have to do the homework or listen to the lesson (you could read in”

    Well, gee, Sky, I wish my daughter was in that class. Because she always got a near perfect score on that pre-test. I rest my case. She knew the words. She knew the meanings.

  119. dar205,

    Again, this has nothing to do with morals or values. It has to do with facts. You assert that thinking homework is a waste of time indicates a character flaw and that kids who do poorly in classrooms are stupid. I’m just pointing out how silly and baseless these assertions are and asking for evidence to demonstrate that they’re true.

    I’m not surprised you don’t enjoy responding to me. Maybe you’re not used to having people challenge you on your baseless assertions. But as long as you keep making them, I’ll keep challenging you to demonstrate their truthfulness.

    However, you keep saying things which, if anyone believed you, would be detrimental to my children and the world in which they will live.

    This is more nonsense. It’s a fact that many people believe that homework is a waste of time (many successful people, by the way) and that “success” means different things to different people. How does this fact harm your children?

    Our strategies are different, I don’t need to convert you, so while you are trying to convince me that you are right & that I should believe you, I just have to demonstrate that you are wrong.

    Well, that’s the point, isn’t it? You haven’t demonstrated that homework is necessary for everyone to be successful. You haven’t demonstrated that people who believe that homework is a waste of time “cannot control their need for self-indulgence & instant gratification,” or that kids who don’t do well in class are “stupid.”

    So, why not provide some evidence that clearly demonstrates these points?

    It is empirically demonstrable that barring other factors (such as the introduction of character building activities like scouting or even stealth homework) children who avoid completing homework show a strong correlation with such traits as a lack of self-discipline, etc.

    Please provide the research which demonstrates this and which has controls for family dysfunction.

    It is strength of character that enables one to do something even when they don’t want to because it needs to be done (in this case it needs to be done to get a good grade, if you want bad grades…).

    The non-parenthetical part of this is a truism. The parenthetical part is utterly subjective and baseless. It presumes that grades given by the state are an objective reflection of the quality of one’s character (or even one’s intelligence), which is so obviously wrong as to be laughable. Again, history is filled (along with the present world) with accomplished people who were poor students.

    I said before that it’s fine that you value homework and it works for you. What I object to is your condescending attitude that people who don’t see the usefulness of are of weak character. It’s a juvenile assertion.

  120. Here’s a long list of accomplished, successful people who had no need for homework.

    http://www.angelfire.com/stars4/lists/dropouts.html

  121. We are nearing the end of the school year in Australia and I am dreading my son getting a particular homework overload teacher for 2nd grade next year.

    My son is the type of kid who just can’t concentrate when he is tired. Earlier in the year, his supposed 10 minutes of homework was taking about 30 torturous minutes during which time he would cry in frustration and I would need to sit by his side keeping him company while he copied out spelling words, tried to write sentences using these words and did half a page of maths.

    We ended up having to give up music lessons as it was like pulling his fingernails out trying to get him to practise and he was just getting further and further behind the other kids in his music group and becoming even more despondent about everything. It also cut into other fun, relaxing evening activities and even at time, meant a later bedtime (a big help with a tired child).

    Fortunately he had reasonable teachers who were more than happy to reduce the load significantly when I told them what was happening. I got the impression that they were only setting so much homework because it was ‘expected’.

    Another parent with a child in the other 1st grade class was not given such a good reception but had the teacher tell her that her daughter’s problems with reading and writing were obviously due to the fact that she worked full time and therefore obviously wasn’t spending enough time helping her daughter at home with her homework.

    This teacher also teaches 2nd grade and I am dreading my son getting her next year as her ‘pile on the homework at all costs’ approach sounds like the complete opposite to what my son needs. Also if she makes any cracks to me about working mothers, I am afraid of what I might do to her!

  122. Catherine, my heart breaks for you. Your son is fast turning off to learning, you are having nightly homework battles and surely you feel robbed of the kind of evening you wish for you and your son.

    And that crack about mothers who work. Oh, boy. Didn’t you know your job as a mother is to extend the school day in your home? To make up for all that didn’t get done at school? We get all the disadvantages of 1950s schooling without any of the advantages.

    Catherine, hop on over to stophomework.com. You’ll find a neat group of parents who will support and offer advice and suggestions. It seems so hard sometimes, with intractable teachers. As if you have no say in the quality of your home life, for the precious few hours you get your son.

    It does not have to be this way. You should not have to grimace at the prospect of second grade.

    Do go over to that site. You’ll feel instantly better.

  123. “Well, gee, Sky, I wish my daughter was in that class. Because she always got a near perfect score on that pre-test. I rest my case. She knew the words. She knew the meanings.”

    I wish more teachers did this. Some kids know the material, and some don’t. The point of teaching is to get kids to learn and understand the material. If they come in knowing it, or if they grasp it quickly, they should be able to move on to something else as soon as they know it, or at least do free reading while the material is reviewed, so that the teachers can concentrate on getting the kids who don’t know the material to grasp it. (There are varying levels of skill even in GT classes.) So I agree that some homework (I might go so far as to say 50% of the homework I had) teachers give out is not necessary for some (I’d go so far as to say 40% of) kids. Not necessary–but I still don’t understand how, if they are beyond it, they can’t complete it, and complete it quickly. Being smart should be an advantage – it should mean you are able to complete menial academic tasks FASTER than others, not that you should not be able to complete them at all, or that you should take much longer to complete them than others. This is the part of the argument I don’t understand. If being gifted means it takes three times as long to complete a menial task (such as copying definitions out of a dictionary) as it takes a person of “regular” intelligence to do the same task, what happens when that gifted person must confront menial tasks such as doing taxes and filling out job applications? I can’t understand why it should take a long time to do this task. That it is boring and unnecessary for a student who knows the words, I can understand, but that it should be difficult or overly time-consuming?

  124. “Where I live, in the Washington, DC area, long homework marathons are the rule, not the exception. The only time I hear that the load is reasonable is when they are in non honors classes.”

    I live in the Washington, DC area and went to school in the Washington, DC area. I agree average homework times are longer here. I was talking about national averages from studies. But it’s natural that homework times are longer here – a much higher percentage of children go to four year universities than in most other parts of the country. They are being prepped for college; they are learning to write papers, etc. I was in AP classes here (granted years ago) and I generally spent a few hours a week on homework – but it wasn’t every night. I mostly studied and wrote and read on weekends, or, as I said before, in the down time in classes. Perhaps your daughter is taking too many honors or AP classes and should be taking more regular classes. Perhaps the load is too much? These are college level classes, meant to prepare you for tests that will give you college credit if you do well on them. When I went to school, it was very unusual for a child to take more than 2 or at most 3 AP classes a year. Now, kids are taking so many a year. That’s a choice on the part of the child, however.

  125. Sky, email Linda Silverman at Gifted Development Center in Denver. Ask her about visual spatial kids. I”m sure she’ll give you the answer you are looking for. Ask her about 2es as well.

  126. Sky, to add, just because a ten year old takes a very long time to complete a rote meaningless task at age ten does not mean she won’t be able to do her taxes at age 18.

  127. “Sky, email Linda Silverman at Gifted Development Center in Denver. Ask her about visual spatial kids. I’m sure she’ll give you the answer you are looking for. Ask her about 2es as well.”

    Do you mean kids with a visual spatial learning disability? I have that, but it wasn’t identified until I was in 10th grade (when we were given a standardized test containing a spatial section), and nothing was done about it, because I was doing fine in school academically. It did, however, prevent me from getting beyond Calculus II in college, at which point I just accepted my limitations and switched majors to something at which I could excel. It certainly affected my spelling and handwriting in elementary school, such that those were the only subjects in which I got C’s. And I do remember that homework bringing me to tears…but that was because I wanted to be better at it than I was. Eventually I just settled for C’s, and soon spelling and handwriting became less important as we moved to typing papers using dictionaries and spell checks. Grades don’t matter in elementary school, only in high school.

    I’m confused. I thought your daughter was in high school and taking AP classes? Is she in elementary school? If she is in high school, as for time spent on papers – if she is in AP classes, this is standard preparation for what college will be like. She will have to write papers of greater length and magnitude for many classes in college. Maybe she isn’t ready for it now and should not be taking so many college level classes in high school? I never took more than two AP classes a year in high school because I made a decision that I did not want to spend that much time on homework in high school. In college, I took 5 classes a semester, which left me with two more hours for study and papers than a 7 hour school day does. But if you are taking college level classes, that workload is the reality. Students should know their limitations, and not take more college level classes than they can handle. I still managed to earn 18 hours of credit for college by the time I graduated high school, with taking only 1-2 AP classes a year, and I still managed to graduate one semester early from college. Kids today take SO MANY of these AP classes in this area, while STILL doing tons of extracurricular activities. They are killing themselves, but it is their CHOICE to take on these activities and these workloads. So maybe if they don’t they won’t get into an ivy league. But maybe they don’t need to be in an ivy league. Maybe they’ll do just fine at GMU and get a great job when they get out. The solution isn’t to lower the workload in AP classes (this is realistic preparation for college), but to lower the number of AP classes being taken; to learn one’s limitations and how to make choices, trade-offs of time, sacrifices.

  128. @LJM: Ah, I see, you cannot differentiate between the general and the specific. If I say “Birds Fly” that does not mean that I don’t consider penguins to be birds, nor does it mean that the statement, in a general sense, is not true. You keep throwing out exceptions as if this disproves the rule. It is like how fat people (e.g. those who cannot reach all parts of their body) like to cite physiological problems of a select few to hide from the fact that they don’t have the willpower to stop shoving twinkies down their throat, or point to body builders when trying to dismiss the BMI.

    I had to laugh (I really did LOL) when you deluded yourself into thinking that my aversion to dialog with you was due to my being unused to people challenging me. Yeah, in the past two decades of online communications I have never had someone take umbrage to my statements and provide emotive diatribes against my position. You seem to have a high opinion of yourself.

    You are on the side of the argument which advocates the elimination of homework, not just for your child but in general. This will lead to a generation even more incompetent, unable to complete a task because it isn’t fun & who are generally too frail to handle challenges. We already see this in children attending colleges who have had helicopter parents.

    And again, you demonstrate a tendency for absolutism. I never stated that homework is necessary for everyone to be successful — I haven’t even said that the elimination of homework would be detrimental to 100% of children. You see, I understand the nature of generalities. Obviously you do not. Were you the one who claimed to have been a school teacher, hopefully that was in the past tense.

    Why should I waste my time providing you with the research data? It won’t satisfy you. You built a caveat into the requirement that (a) is unnecessary to prove a correlation; & (b) allows you, no matter what is done, to claim that it didn’t compensate enough. Anything to avoid changing your mind.

    If the definition is a truism, why did you force me to provide it? The second part is the way the system works. Homework is assigned & utilized in the grade. The assumptions are your own. The grade on the homework indicates the mastery of the topic as modulated by the students attention to detail. They may grasp it but not bother with doing it properly & a child with a looser grasp of the material might compensate by extra work. You are very adept at smashing down straw men.

    My attitude only becomes more condescending the more I interact with you.

    Btw, your list comprises less than a percent of a percentage point. Since I’ve already stated repeatedly that any rule will have exceptions, this is yet another blow to a straw man that you created.

  129. Dar, I need to help you make a distinction between helicoper parents and nurturing ones. The helicopter parents are not writing in. They are the ones clamoring for MORE homework, not less! They are the ones I encountered at a meeting last year, the one who told me her son is an “extreme high achiever.” Not just a high achiever, but an extreme one. Kind of like Evil Knievel. These are the parents who call for more homework under the misguided belief it’ll help their kids get into Harvard. These are the parents who think play is frivolous and that every moment of a child’s life must be prescribed by adults.

    Fortunately, for every Stepford Wife there are ten others, quietly seething at the homework load but too afraid to buck the trend and speak up.

    You see these moms at school. They treat parenting as a job. They are always at school, volunteering, photo copying. On the surface, they look like very involved parents. But they are obsessed with grades, transcripts, accolades. These are the hyper-competitive baby boomer parents, over-invested in their child’s achievements. They are the ones who commandeer the PTA.

    At the risk of over-generalizing, I’ve been brushing up against these parents for years in the “elite” GT programs my daughter has attended. I pick my friends very carefully. I resist parent peer pressure. These by and large, are not the parents sad because they can’t take their kids to a museum or a hike. When you talk to them, you come away with the distinct impression they care more about their kid’s resume than the child herself.

  130. dar205,

    Way up the thread you said, “The overriding assumption by so many that they know everything so are able to adequately determine how worthless something is or is not actually boggles the mind.”

    But here you and I are arguing about how worthless something is. I’m saying that homework is frequently worthless for many people. You’re saying it’s very rarely worthless. And neither of us, I hope, is claiming to “know everything.” (Though I wouldn’t bet against you making that claim.)

    You have said that “Homework is only a waste of time for those who cannot control their need for self-indulgence & instant gratification.”

    Now you say you were speaking “generally” and it’s my fault for not knowing it. Silly of me to hope you might take some responsibility for your unclear writing.

    You’ve said that kids who don’t keep up in class are “stupid/lazy/unmotivated/whatever.” I take it now you were speaking generally. (You might consider utilizing qualifiers like “most” and “usually.”)

    You, just now, falsely asserted that I am “…on the side of the argument which advocates the elimination of homework, not just for your child but in general.”

    In fact, I’m on the side of the argument which advocates that all children are different and learn in different ways and that while homework is helpful and enjoyable for some, it’s a waste of time for others. This is hardly a radical notion.

    Since you admit that you’re becoming more condescending the more you interact with me, I think I’m done here.

    You’re obviously very, very, very, very sure of your theories regarding how the vast majority of children learn. It’s a pity you can’t muster the self-control to communicate in such a way as to emphasize your obvious intelligence instead of your equally obvious boorishness and superiority complexes.

    What can one do in the face of such overconfidence and condescension besides smile and shrug one’s shoulders and say, “Good Luck with all of that.”

    I won’t be returning to this thread, so you should save the time spent responding on perfecting your already near perfect theories on the way that children you’ve never met perceive the world and how to better tell people who disagree with you how stupid they are.

    Adios Amoeba!

  131. @J: If I might summarize: “Helicopter Parenting is what other people do.” So long as you believe that you are incapable of doing something you will never be able to identify that behavior in yourself. I have to combat my desire to hover & do things for my children all the time. I want things done, not to wait for them to get done.

    @LJM: So the pot leans over to the kettle and says “Hey your black.”

  132. No, dar, I can make distinctions quite well, thank you very much. And life is nuanced, it’s not black and white.

    This much is incontrovertible. Children need sleep. I should no hope no one argues that point. One more essay at midnight is not going to turn that student into a better writer. Knowing that saying this will cause you to then lecture me on waiting until the last minute (she doesn’t wait till the lat minute), let me leave you with this.

    I’ll all for rigor. I’m all for high standards. Jay Mathews in the Washington Post today revisits the whole issue of longer research papers. I say bring it on! But do it at school. Get it done there. In fact, if I were running the show, I’d flip it. I’d have my students doing all the serious hard work during the day, while they are still fresh and alert. The essays, research papers, short stories, novels, lab experiments. Get it done there. Then show the videos, administer tests (just why so many quizzes and tests weekly anyway?), and conduct discussions in the evening.

    This is what I want: A school day where my child works very hard, is engaged, is learning, is inspired. I want schools to get rid of the time wasters and fluff. My child is at school for seven and a half hours a day and that should be enough to get most of this done. I know Sky is confused just where on the timeline my daughter is but my biggest beef is with her elementary school. What I saw was not much done at school and a lot of grunt work, work that could have been gotten done at school, coming home.

    Once we get serious, and schools talk to parents, and we find more time is needed, then lengthen the school day. But get it done there. Have study hall. Get as much done there as possible. Homework at school does not mean no learning at home. Not in my house anyway. We’ve always done homeschooling on the side, just now we have such little time left over in which to do it. I want homework done at school so home is books, literary discussions, museums, poetry in the woods. Just to highlight a snapshot of what we do at home.

    No child should not have to choose between a curriculum that meets their academic needs and strengths, and sleep. There is no reason he cannot get both.

    I would hope that an argument made in favor of adolescent sleep, nutrition and exercise would get no resistance. After two hours, homework time produces diminishing returns. I can see three for advanced courses. But one hour a day for each subject when the student has seven courses? Seven hours of homework with serious sleep deprivation does not a better student make.

    And yes,the home has a right to scrutinize homework. After all, it is sent to the home. Let’s make sure homework, especially in elementary, is not sent home to mask the teacher’s shortcomings. While there are some amazing teachers, there are some pretty mediocre ones out there as well.

    Let’s start by cutting down on elementary oral presentations that take four days, days in which the teacher sits at her computer, checking her email, not paying attention to the students’ reports. If the teacher has checked out, what kind of role modeling is that for the students? Let’s also make sure rigor is not code for “ooops, I forgot to get anything done today. I think I’ll just send it all home to the family.” Disguised as responsibility, following directions and my favorite, a “partnership” between school and home.

  133. Oops, a lot of mistakes on that last post😦. To correct one, double negative there. No child should, meant to write.

  134. I rose up out of the mire of public school wen I was 16, fed up with homework and the mind-numbing boredom that comes from waiting for the rest of the class to comprehend a topic before we were all allowed to move on and learn something new. I was protesting homework before educational experts said it was a useless exercise developed to keep families apart, and at odds with one-another. I acquired my diploma in a more expedient manner, promptly thereafter.

    Now that I have my own children, I homeschool. It prevents unnecessary cruel time-wasters like homework, and allows us to spend less time on school in general, because the kids learn at their own pace (usually MUCH faster than public school).

    *To Dar205,

    Homework is only necessary in the few cases where the teacher is unsure if the individual student has a good grasp on the topic, NOT as a regular daily thing.

    Even if homework is necessary due to the teacher not having enough time to know the capacity of each student individually (a common public school problem), a good way to gauge if a student is competent with homework is 10 questions, not an entire sheet of problems, for each and every class.

  135. Dar, I’m not helicopering. I don’t do my child’s homework. Let me try to make this easy for you. Let me boil it down. I love my kid. I actually like to spend time with her. Get as much done as school as possible. You teach, I parent. Deal?

  136. My middle schooler occasionally has homework at home. Sometimes it’s Algebra that she didn’t get to finish in class or homeroom (which is at the end of the day.)

    My two elementary students have homework packets for the week. They have all week to finish them. Primarily they are math and spelling.

    Our elementary school became a Title 1 school last year – this means their reading lessons are twice what they used to be. I know our 6th grader teachers had to LOBBY to get ONE HOUR a week to do social studies/science/art.

    I am a reader. I value reading. But it seems like we’re focusing SO MUCH school time TO reading that the rest of the things they need to learn are being sent home to do.

  137. “I want schools to get rid of the time wasters and fluff.”

    I’m all for that, but the problem is that some of the “time wasters” involve reviewing for the slower children, and you can’t really get rid of them. You can track better (divide up classes according to ability better), but you can’t ever entirely eliminate that waste of time when you have 25 kids in a class with one teacher. When the teacher is reviewing stuff you already know, however, that is a good time to do your homework from other classes (which is what I always did).

    But, yes, there’s a lot of useless “fluff” also in school. I’d like to see that eliminated, but I think I’d rather see a 5 hour day with research papers done at home than a 7.5 hour day with research papers done at school under the supervision of teachers. Doing it on their own time is more realistic preparation for college, and it leaves more responsibility in the hands of the kids (so they aren’t constantly being nudged/supervised and must learn to do it on their own). The problem is that so many parents have come to see school as a giant day care facility. Well, there are many problems preventing this possibility, many things hampering teachers and administration. This is why homeschooling is so appealing to many. There are real, and I think some of them are even inevitable, limitations to any system of mass education, especially one such as ours, where education is mandatory for every student until the age of 16-18, no matter how ill-behaved the child, no matter how unwilling to learn. (Education is more of a privilege in many other countries.)

    The problem with having study hall is that (from what I hear) students rarely actually study in study hall. Why lengthen the day and have study hall when you can just let them out an hour earlier and have them do it at home? That way kids who work quickly aren’t locked up in study hall when they finish, but can go out and play. We never had “study hall” when I went to school, though I have heard of people who have. But I still got most of my work (except for papers and book reading) done during school hours.

    I do think homework is necessary as a regular, daily thing in math classes for reinforcement of the concepts by practice (it’s easy to forget both math and languages without that), and for the teacher to see where students are having trouble, but the way it was always handled in my math classes was that we were given the last ten minutes of class to “start on our homework.” Most of the time, I finished it during that ten minutes, but students who did not took it home.

    I guess it is my experience of finishing homework in school by managing my time well and seeing so many other students not finish and bringing it home that makes me skeptical of the homework complaints. It was also my experience of never staying up past 10 in college to study, and yet seeing people constantly pulling “all-nighters” that involved a lot more socializing than studying that has made me skeptical as well. I wonder how much of the perceived homework load is really due to an inability to manage time well.

  138. @J: Why should the school be the place to practice? The school is where the material should be taught. Mastery should happen on the child’s own time. Every minute spent in practice is a minute that new material is not being presented. School is already dragged down by the slower students who need to have the material retaught to them. Now the smarter children could use that time to work on their homework (I did) just to avoid boredom.

    I agree that there is no reason that a child should have to choose between sleep and learning at their level. On the face of it, the great difficulty your child has would lead me to believe that they are not in the appropriate level.

    I also dislike the idea of getting rid of “time wasters and fluff” that is how the art, music and drama programs get cut. The exposure of children to culture is important for developing holistic thinking (what I believe the “Models of Learning” called “Musical Intelligence”). One person’s “fluff” is another person’s meat and potatoes.

    I don’t know if you are helicoptering or not. I do know that it seems like you value your playtime with your child than her scholastic instruction. Not saying it is, but that is the reoccurring theme, that it takes away from your time.

    @Whimspiration: You are wrong. Homework is necessary to assist in moving the material from the short-term memory to the long-term. Drills and repetition are standard (& functional) methods for doing this, hence homework.

    @LauraL: Sadly most people in the US are not readers. They sit in front of the TV and that is it. Many houses don’t even have the books laying around so that their child can read even if they wanted to. Sure there are libraries, but that requires the couch potato to get off their butts and go to the library with the child, get a library card and then make sure it gets returned on time. More trouble than many people are willing to do for something as trivial to their lives as reading.

  139. This topic gets my blood pressure boiling. We have a small window of opportunity when our children get off the bus at 4:15pm to bedtime, usually 8:30pm. And I’m fortunate enough to only have to work part-time. It is exponentially worse for the families who have 2 working parents that don’t walk in the door until 6:30pm or even later from picking little ones up from daycare.

    This homework nonsense is a travesty.

    Approx. 4 hours to decompress from their day and actually be a kid, eat dinner, chat with the family, bathe and to add homework to this equation is just not the answer when kids are still in elementary school, at least.

    Teachers either get complaints from parents, “where is the homework?!” or “its too much!” that they can’t win either.

    Calgon, take me away.

  140. Hey, Dar, single man, what are you doing home on a Saturday night? Shouldn’t you be out painting the town red? Oh, never mind, we won’t go there.

    This oughta get your goat. From Challenge Success:

    “Since when do we allow misguided notions about success to dictate how we raise our kids? Rates of depression, anxiety disorders, substance abuse, and psychosomatic disorders rise as our children become increasingly pressured, stressed-out, and unhappy. It’s time for us to return to our instincts: instincts that tell us that what children need most is emotional support, parental supervision, adequate sleep, healthy eating habits, physical and intellectual challenges, resilience, and time to reflect and plan.”

  141. Hey, Michele, who let a sane person in? Such justified outrage is just not allowed.

    Dar, the school psychologist (a mental health professional, no less!) told me three years ago that the students in our school are expected to work 92 percent (of did she say 95? I can’t quite remember) of their free time. I’m not making this up. I forgot to ask her if this included sleep hours.

    You do the math. Let’s take a typical day that year, a day in which she comes home right after school. By the time the bus brought her home it was just after five. Let’s say that equation roughly gives my child six free minutes every hour.

    Let’s assume she’s going to make it to bed on time. Teenagers need on average nine and quarter hours sleep. In a five hour span, my daughter gets around 30 minutes of free time. And that still puts her in bed at ten, too late if she’s going to take the bus. But of course she isn’t. According to this plan, I must drive her.

    30 minutes to have dinner, shower, go to the bathroom (god forbid she should need to go twice), and maybe just maybe have a conversation with her parents. I can just see it. She comes to me, upset over something that happened at school. I reach for the stopwatch. I tell her she has exactly two minutes. I snap my fingers, set the timer, and shout GO!

    Guess who gets blamed when the kids get into trouble? You guessed it. The parents. With cries of, where were you, why weren’t you paying attention? A very wise man said some words in a lecture many years ago. I have never forgotten them and live by them: “Never make the mistake of thinking your teens need you less, not more.”

  142. Dar asserts: ” I do know that it seems like you value your playtime with your child than her scholastic instruction.”

    Yea, you’re right. Who the hell am I to want a little time with my daughter? You know, like maybe one half of one weekend afternoon? You mean, we can’t have both, no matter how uneven the equation? Have parents become the least important relationship in the child’s life?

    I have to laugh at your assertion. I can’t imagine where I’ve indicated I don’t value academics, scholastics, working hard, learning? You can’t be completely helped, you don’t know us. Suffice it to say my daughter attends academic programs in the summer of her own volition, she goes to writing workshops in her spare time, and just imagine what educational outings we could plan if we only had some time.

    I can’t think of two more supportive parents. In our house, learning never ends. We have merely been fighting to reach some elusive state of balance, unreachable though it may seem.

    But then again we can’t win. We are either too involved or not involved enough. There’s that Mother’s Day every year where we are serenaded. I call it the Vilification and Glorification of American Mothers.

    “The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.” Alice Walker.

  143. dar, when I hear the word “fluff” in connection with school, I don’t think of band, orchestra, drama, art, and sports. I think of these sorts of things that occurred when I was in school, and I do not doubt still occur:

    – Group work: Break into groups and answer this question together. (A question that would normally take one minute to answer on your own becomes a ten minute exercise in socializing.)

    – Watching movies: We’re going to watch this Hollywood movie in English class for the next three days, because it happens to be based on a famous book; we’re going to watch this Hollywood movie in math class for the next three days, because it’s about some guy who used his math skills to win in Vegas; we’re going to watch this Hollywood movie in government class for the next two days, because it’s about some jurist and a court case

    – Putting on plays in non-drama classes, or doing art work in non-art classes: I’m all for offering drama and art, but not everyone is so gifted, and I don’t like seeing it required in English, history, math, and science classes. In English once, we were assigned to break into groups, cut a Shakespeare play down to 45 minutes, and perform it. So we spent a week doing this (as well as several hours after school) and then spent a week watching the other group’s performances. Fine for a drama class. In English, how about we READ the plays and WRITE papers on them? How about we learn some grammar while we’re at it (which I had to learn from my parents), so the college professors don’t keep asking—didn’t anyone teach you kids grammar in high school?

    – Playing computer games that are supposedly “educational”

    – Going to hour-long assemblies where some business gives the kids a motivational speech to get them to sell their pet rocks, wrapping papper, or cookies

    – Going to hour-long assemblies where some group indoctrinates the kids into their version of morality

    – Making artistic posters for non-art classes; making a newspapers for Ancient Egypt, complete with crossword puzzle and horoscope for Western Civilization class

    – Project presentations that involve pretending to be on TV shows, with a little history thrown in (watching various groups of kids perform these for a week) for U.S. History class

    – Making a “Tale of Two Cities” cookbook, cooking tarts, bringing them in to class for people to eat, having a party (in English class)

    – Sitting outside the classroom for the first ten minutes of first period, waiting for our always late teacher to show up and unlock the classroom door

    I could go on. There is PLENTY of fluff in public schools that could be eliminated. They are time fillers to kill a 7 hour babysitting day. Homework is the work that either wasn’t taught in school, or reinforcement. **The reinforcement type of homework I’m all for.** But the stuff that wasn’t taught in school? Cut out the crap and TEACH it, OR, cut out the crap and shorten the day by two hours and give the kids more free time to learn it at home. And the silly artistic projects for non-art classes? The dioramas? The posters? Cut that stuff out. They teach very little about the ACTUAL SUBJECT. Give the kids an option of oral or written reports to show they’ve mastered the ACTUAL subject.

  144. Sky,
    I disagree with the idea that projects are fluff. You are demanding that your learning style be accommodated but all other learning styles be ignored.

    My science classes just finished a unit on simple machines (4th grade). After the initial introduction they were given a choice of projects and had to complete 2. Children working on the same project sat together and helped each other – but they were graded individually. Once child successfully completed part of a project – s/he was listed as an expert on the board. Students were expected to consult the experts before coming to me with problems. I wasn’t sitting on my duff. I was moving around the room catching mistakes, Questioning kids to get a feel for what they understood.

    I was also conferencing with students who had finished a stage of their project. Giving them approval to move on or redirecting them to fix problems. We had a series of deadlines they were expected to meet.

    Projects included, model of machine, podcast, dictionary of terms, video, PowerPoint, detailed diagram, game, or rap/song.

    My 1st group walked in after lunch and got started each day without any direction from me. My 2nd group transitioned quickly from Math to science with a little more guidance.

    Now before you say this isn’t possible in a Public school – I teach in a Title I Public school. My morning group is 22 very active, very social G&T students. My afternoon group is 14 very active, hyper social, very low inclusion students who either are sped, including 1 mentally ill student, and 1 MR student or failed previous years.

    We have gone into lock down because of drug raids next door in the apartments. I’ve had a student stand on the playground and watch her apartment burn down – Her mother and little siblings came through the fence to our side. We had to get our social worker to get the Mom inside.

  145. @J: I am seldom concerned with other peoples ideas of what I should be doing — unless said people are paying me to be doing something specific.

    The quote from Challenging Success is fine, end and of itself. The problem is most people’s instincts are screwed up. I am also pretty sure that the context has the author putting some touchy feelie social engineering bs put forth as “instinct.”

    I don’t really care what the school psychologist said. One guy making up a statistic on the spot to answer a parent’s question should not be taken as authoritative. Why don’t you take the time to, over the course of a couple of weeks, plot out exactly what is being done. Even if my children had 4 hours of homework a night, even the elementary students would get to bed on time.

    (re: time) Who the hell are you indeed. What is your job? Why are you still around? You (& the others arguing against homework) are the ones who posited a dichotomy between homework and play time. Don’t blame me for it flaws, it belongs to you.

    Even so, I didn’t put forth that you did not value scholastics. I tire of this continuous stream of straw men. I put forth that you value your play time more. The biggest complaint seems to be that the parent doesn’t get to interact with the child in the way that they wish to interact. Instead there is the dreadful homework which must be drudged through. No wonder it takes so long, you are telling them that it is stupid, bothersome & dreary — and inside you are agreeing with their delaying tactics.

    @Sky: I don’t have a problem with the introduction of art or an artistic aesthetic into non-art subjects. It tends to render the subject more memorable & the different perspective can make it interesting again. Group work, when done properly allows people to reinforce concepts by “teaching” them to the other members of the group. I do agree that far to often it is used as a break, but that is the fault of the teacher not the technique. I also agree that an over-reliance on pop-culture is fluff (the movie adaption should be replaced with class readings, pretending to be on a tv show should be replaced with a standard class presentation). The late teacher is a separate issue altogether. That has to do with the power of unions and the nature of the school administration.

  146. kherbert — Why would I think it’s not possible for public school kids to put together a podcast or write a rap/song? This is the kind of thing kids like to do in their free time for fun. What I want to know, is – can they solve fifteen Trigonometry equations in a reasonable amount of time? Can they write a paper that makes grammatical sense and exhibits in-depth, critical analysis of a particular topic using a cohesive argument? Can they enumerate the rights contained in the U.S. Constitution? And so forth.

    Project/team work is necessary to learn how to cooperate with others and to meet deadlines; but kids can learn this better by working on the newspaper, the yearbook, the football team, the school play, etc. than by writing a rap for science class. I never saw a child learn how to solve genetic problems in Biology by putting together a podcast or master Calculus by writing a song.

    Powerpoint is a computer skill that can be learned and mastered in computer classes and used for oral presentations of reports in any class.

    I am not insisting people only teach to my “learning style” — what I am insisting on is that I not have to spend 3 hours working on a project so that I can learn three facts about history I could have learned in THREE MINUTES by reading a PARAGRAPH. The job of a history teacher is to teach history, not art. The job of a science teacher is to teach science, not rap. The job of an English teacher is to teach English, not drama.

    The job of a teacher is to disseminate information and present material, not to accommodated 100 different learning styles in an exercise of educational theory while serving as a team manager.

    If there really is not enough time in the school day to enable children to master the basics, one could very easily reduce the amount of time spent on these kinds of projects and focus more on teaching the actual material. Probably there is enough time in the school day to master basics and then some…and then some…and then some…and so the day and year is filled with movies and assemblies and projects and such – when instead the kids could be at football practice, or play rehearsal, or band practice, or playing with friends, or getting after-school tutoring from teachers if they are slow in a particular subject or subjects, or reading in their bedroom.

    I do not have the dedication (nor desire) to home school my kids. I release them to the public schools where they can experience the same time-wasting ennui I did, do 90% of the group work for their projects while the other kids who do little or nothing receive equal credit just as I did, doodle in their notebooks while they watch movies as I did, finish their homework from other classes while the teacher is reviewing for the slower kids as I did, and come out the other end knowing enough to do decently in the world, as I did. But part of me does envy the homeschooled kid. To think how much more I could have learned!

  147. dar–I don’t mind the introduction of art if you have choices about what kind of project/presentation you want to do; what bothers me was that virtually every project I can recall from elementary and even junior high and high school favored the artistic; you were judged on how good you could make something “look” as much as on whether you knew the actual material for the actual subject at hand. I was very greatful when, in 10th grade, I had a teacher who finally said – you can choose to write a report on this book OR do an art project on it. Imagine that! But my other problem with art projects is that they do not always evidence to the teacher that you have actually read and understand the material, the way a report (either oral or written) does. Making a diorama of The Tell Tale Heart does nothing whatsoever to evidence that I have actually read and understood The Tell Tale Heart, but it does consume a large chunk of my time, which I could instead have spent reading the complete poems of Edgar Allan Poe.

  148. dar—I have to disagree with your comment that four hours of homework a night would not cut into sleep. If my kid really did have 4 hours a night, it would definitely interfere with her sleep. She gets home at 4 PM and goes to bed at 8 PM. You have to have at least an hour in there for eating and bathing and changing. I think that would be quite horrible, if that were the case. So far, though, my daughter seems to have about one or two hours of homework per WEEK (and that includes required reading time). We will see what happens as the years progress.

    But if a child is really, with full concentration, taking more than fifteen hours a week to complete her homework (which could be managed at 1 hour a day on weeknights and five hours a day on weekends), I can’t see how the child could be working at the appropriate level. Either she is working at a level too advanced for her and should drop down into lower level classes or a lower grade, or there is something wrong with a particular teacher or perhaps even a particular school. J, have you ever considered that your child is taking classes that are too advanced for her, or that she should drop back a little? I too live in the D.C. metro area, and although I concede it is a driven, competitive area with a strong emphasis on academic work, I don’t personally know anyone whose kids spend anything like the amount of time on homework you are describing (three – four hours every night).

  149. @Sky: Yeah, Open ended projects are typically best, since they allow the child to choose their strengths for the presentation. I am also thinking more along the lines of “Science Fair” type projects.

    (re: sleep) I was referring to my children. They get home around 4. They go to bed around 9. Even if they had four hours of homework a night, they’d still get to bed on time. However, they don’t get 4 hours a night. It seems more like 4 hours a week (if that) for the elementary and an hour to two for the high schooler. I get a lot more homework than they do.

  150. J –“You do the math. Let’s take a typical day that year, a day in which she comes home right after school. By the time the bus brought her home it was just after five.”

    I’m confused. Why is she getting home from school so late? The high schools students in my neighbourhood are home by 2:30. Does she go to school late in the morning?

    “Teenagers need on average nine and quarter hours sleep”

    9.25 hours in high school? I regularly slept about 9 hours in high school, and I slept much longer than all of my friends. I was considered to be strange in that I needed a lot of sleep and went to bed early. This is considered the normal amount?

  151. Sky – the part about being a public school wasn’t directed at you. Every time I post anywhere about my class and the projects we do – I get Oh you must be a small elite private school.

    Still the sage on a stage method you prefer caters to a very narrow type of learning style. Yes it has been the dominate form of learning for a long time, since the industrial revolution.

    Also the CONTENT of the projects are what I give the most weight to, when grading. I do grade on presentation, but I grade that according to ability. Meaning – I know child A can turn out detailed drawings with perfect penmanship and I know child B struggles with handwriting. So they turn in posters (remember their choice). A’s is fantastic but missing content B’s is a bit of a mess but has all the content – B will be getting the higher grade. It is right there in the rubric. (Content has 2x the points presentation has). B can even earn full points if the presentation is up to what he is capable of producing

    The ONLY time I show full length video is when we can’t go outside for recess. Meaning it is actively raining, we have an ozone/pollution warning, or is cold and my kids don’t have jackets. (I don’t mean they forgot them I mean they don’t have them because it is rarely that cold in Texas and their parents don’t have the $ to buy a jacket they may wear 2X before outgrowing). If the playground is underwater (AKA lake Smith) we still go outside if the blacktop is above water.

    I do use video segments especially in science to show my kids things they haven’t experienced and we can’t do in the classroom. Sometimes that will be in a presentation, more often they are on the I-touches, CD-ROms I make, or Flashdrives.

    BTW = the total amount of homework I gave in the last science unit – 0. I did have kids bring in info they found. THe total amount of math homework 30 min. We reviewed math problems and they had some left in each section they could do at home to study. This was the night before the test. (Those were 2 week units)

  152. My son’s (and my daughter’s class, when she was in 6th grade) had a weekly ABC project. Every week, he has the next letter in the alphabet. There are research points – short biography on three people whose names start with A. Grammar and punctuation counts! Look up the area of each state: Alaska, Alabama, Arkansas. How many people live in each? What’s their primary Agriculture? Draw these states. How many fewer people does Alaska have than Alabama? Use colored pencils and make a graph showing the difference in population counts. Around the borders of your two-sheet weekly project, draw or write other words that start with A. Spelling counts. Unusual words are awesome.

    Art. Math. Science. Geography. History. Language. Spelling.

    I only listed a few of the things that come every week that he has to look up, write about, figure out, and get on paper. However, because of the emphasis on math and reading, other subjects ARE being pushed aside and this is a creative and inventive way to get more of it in. Teachers have to be creative and compromise. This is usually the majority of his homework and it takes him, depending on which section, 20-30 minutes a day. All these pages combine into a finished book. Often the topics cover other topics being covered that week in class, in the ONE HOUR a WEEK they get for science and/or history and/or social studies.

  153. “in the ONE HOUR a WEEK they get for science and/or history and/or social studies.”

    What caught my eye as I read your comment is amount of time wasted in school and how what’s left isn’t being put to the best use, far more than with lauding this very creative project. One hour a week for science and another for social studies in elementary is a travesty. As I see it, they are spending their day test prepping (to make themselves look good) and then sending home this very “creative” project. Gee, thanks.

    I’m not denying this project has merit. As projects go, I’ve seen some really bad ones, the worst being those that are deeply time consuming yet have no educational value. Yes, this one works. In our homeschool year, my daughter did tons of in depth projects that were multi-disciplinary, as you describe above.

    But I’m not going to applaud the school for wasting my kid’s time and then sending home something “crreative.”

    When it sent home to plug up holes my reaction is, thanks but no thanks. We are not at a loss to come up with meaningful things to do here in our home and I don’t need the school micro-managing our free time. The assumption that children will only pursue selfish self absorbed activities unless being made to do otherwise by an adult does not hold water in my house and I am sure in many others as well.

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I want school to do school so home can do home. Deal?

  154. I don’t disagree, but when teachers are put upon by the district/state such as they are in this case, this is at least a creative way to do it, AND it doesn’t take him but fifteen minutes a day.

    Our particular school is Title I. That means, more reading. Period. And my daughter is learning to HATE reading…

  155. Laura, I hear you, really, I do. And I commend you for putting a positive spin on this project.

    But on this and other school blogs, I keep hearing about the unfortunate teachers whose hands are tied. I’ve always been very sympathetic to their plight but I’m getting a little tired. NCLB has been around for several years and I am wondering what the teachers’ unions are doing about this. Why is it we haven’t seen better progress in dismantling it? Where the chorus of teacher voices? I see them in anonymous posts on blogs. We need them front and center, waging this battle publicly with us.

    We know what the teachers are up against but at the end of the day, our children need an education, not an excuse. It’s time for someone to stand up and cry, The Emperor Has no Clothes!

    Your son may knock his daily portion out in fifteen minutes. Not every kid can. My daughter is very artistic and perfectionist and what the teachers often think takes mere minutes can take hours.

    I’m not surprised your daughter now hates reading. It’s not the additional emphasis on reading, it’s how they go about it. My daughter is a ravenous reader and I shudder to think what would have happened to her, had she been in public school those early years. I’m an avowed bibliophile too and I cringe when I read how reading is taught today.

    Accelerated Reader, reading logs (not that DD didn’t have those), tedious reading responses…these all conspire, for various reasons to turn kids off to reading. My favorite is the “read for twenty minutes a day rule.” Many parents are advised to use a timer. Ick. I don’t want to impose some artificial time limit on reading. I don’t want to send the message that you read for twenty minutes and then you can go play, positing that reading is yucky.

    I want my kid to read to abandon, to get lost in the story. And I don’t want her to have to worry about constant questions, as she’s reading it. As Sara Bennett, author of “The Case Against Homework” writes, that’s like tapping someone on the shoulder in middle of a movie every ten minutes and asking them to comment on what they’re viewing. You want kids to get carried away to some magical place in their reading, not to hack up the novel and drearily dissect it.

  156. Mindless self-indulgence for no purpose other than gratification of the senses.

    One must ask, to what end?

  157. Nexist, huh? I can’t debate you because you are not making any sense, my dear.

  158. Debate? You consider your rather childish insistence that you must be right & that your actions have no affect on others to be debate?

    Are you really qualified to assess what is important to know, learn or how it should be done? To assist, their is an implied “It is” or perhaps “It sounds like”

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