Anti-Homework Movement Growing!

At least it is in Canada, where one family’s actual contract with their school — “We the undersigned shall do no homework, nor shall it be assigned” (or words to that effect) is roiling the country. Editorials are jumping in on the anti-homework, pro-play, pro-down-time, pro-music, sports and outdoors side! Right on! Here’s an overview , from the great blog, stophomework.com.

126 Responses

  1. How can schools eliminate homework without also reducing instruction time?

    I’m no fan of each teacher assigning a half-hour’s worth of homework every night, making for several hours for each kid, but I don’t see any reason to eliminate it entirely, either. What about long-term projects, or a research assignment? What about creative tasks like dioramas and such?

    And what about practicing music? People learning an instrument need to practice every day, and for kids that means at home, because at school they’re rehearsing in a small group or a band, not solo.

  2. Ah, shall I start? Nah, I’m taking a rest. But I will say this. Lenore, when you posted your last homework blog, some accused us of over- managing our children. And that is contradicted the “free range” mindset.

    I want to set that straight. On the contrary, we feel that homework overload does the opposite. By not allowing our children to play, to dream, to explore, to roam, but to spend hours and hours doing what adults tell them to do, that they grow into insecure unsure and unresilient kids. Homework overload puts kids in survival mode so that they become disengaged and disaffected from their learning. An essay done at midnight turns the child into robo-student.

    We want them in the woods! We want them roaming. Those who are in the forefront of this anti-homework movement like to quote Richard Louv, author of “Last Child in the Woods,” who coined the term Nature Deficit Disorder.

    I gave my daughter permission to ride the Metro at age 11, as long as she could find one friend to do it with. We couldn’t find any. Tried again at fourteen, same problem. Now she’s allowed to ride alone. I’d rather have her ride with a friend and learn to navigate the world, than to be stuck in the house on yet another gorgeous Sunday afternoon, toiling away, that look of grim resolve on her face.

    It is time for homework reform. It is time to demand that our schools stop wasting our children’s day (NCLB test prep is a big culprit), and get more done in school, so our children have a balanced life.

  3. Powers, there is little to no correlation between elementary homework and achievement. Better the child should read, write, play, go to museums, practice an instrument (yes, they should practice!) and group projects that simply cannot be done at school. My high school daughter often meets with a team on a project on the weekends and that kind of weekend work I’m okay with, most of the time. They are in flow, they create, they work together.

    I can support two hours of homework in high school. Three in far more advanced programs but that gets treacherous, it can easily escalate from there. More than that and you have diminishing returns. Five hours of sleep is the tipping point. Research shows that when a student gets five or less, they may as well flush what they learned that day because the brain, robbed of critical REM sleep, does not retain it.

  4. Practicing an instrument is homework too. When someone says “no more homework” that’s what I immediately think of.

    But what about reading assignments? In school, we would be assigned to read a chapter, which was then covered in more depth in class the next day. Isn’t that about how it’s supposed to work? If no one’s read the chapter, the teacher has to cover the whole thing in class and can’t get into details or answer questions without taking twice as much time.

  5. But there is a huge difference between ‘homework overload’ and just ordinary amounts of homework. The family linked to didn’t want less homework, they wanted NO homework.

    I can understand wanting the children not to have to spend hours every night doing elementary school level work, but I can’t go for the idea that all homework is bad.

    There is a middle way.

  6. I have no problem at all with homework – in the upper grades, that is. And even then, I have to wonder about the value when I hear that teens are up all hours of the night to finish mountains of assignments.

    And when a kindergartener’s being assigned homework every night, I have to wonder, to what end? To make sure they know the sight words so they don’t embarrass their school district when bubble-test time rolls around in second grade is the only end I can come up with.

  7. My kindergarten son has homework 3 times a week. I think the purpose of it mostly is to get the parents involved in the child’s work.

    A typical example example might be to draw what clothes people wear in the winter and label them. My son drew a jacket and a hat and I helped him spell and write the words.

    It took about 5 minutes, he practiced his writing and fine motor skills, and I spent time helping him. I think this was completely appropriate homework.

  8. Since my daughter is a ravenous reader, if her teacher said, read a book a day, she’d read an entire book every day! It was the mindless boring rote stuff in elementary that really tripped her up. Fifty math problems when she got it after the first seven. And with scant evidence of what happened at school. What did happen?

    When my daughter attended private school, I really felt time was used wisely. It was public school that really got me thinking. My daughter would bound through the door on Friday and I could hardly wait to see what her bulging Friday Folder delivered. I opened it and pulled out a stack of sheets. Examined one. Oh, yea, I recognize that. She did that on Monday night. Next sheet. Yea, that one, done on Tuesday night. Fifteen more pages looked real familiar too. Yep, all done at home. Most weeks I did not see one single sheet of material done at school.

    The lightbulb went on. Wait a minute. She’s going to school all day and then is homeschooling herself at night? When she’s already tired after a full day at school. Why don’t we just homeschool, I asked myself, and make it official.

    I put this question to a veteran homeschooler two years later. I’m curious, I ventured. What are they doing in school all day? Nothing, she replied, it’s day care.

  9. J. – rest assured not all schools are like that.

  10. As a former teacher, I don’t buy the no-homework argument.

  11. I don’t think even 5 minutes of homework in kindergarten is ok. After 7 hours of school, it’s time to be free at that age. Shoot, even 1st grade too. My first grader should be able to come home and just be. Instead, he has homework 4 nights a week and a project every quarter.

    I don’t see why the reason for homework that young is to promote parent involvement in school work. It sounds like institution rhetoric to me. I’m already involved in their life education in so many ways. Weekly worksheets aren’t going to improve upon that.

    Do you know what I think these quarterly projects in early ed years do? Teach our children that mommy and daddy will do most of the work for you. What 6 (or even 7) year old can get on the internet and research famous African Americans? There’s a time and a place for those type projects but it isn’t in 1st and 2nd grade.

  12. Our 9 yr.old son gets a load of hw of the busy-work variety. We sign off on a portion of his weekly hw, but do not require him to do it. Our only rule is that if he begins to stop acing his weekly spelling tests, he has to start doing the spelling hw. So far so good.🙂 I fully agree that children should not do hw. Maybe if more schools adopted that policy, or rather, more parents adopted such policies, then teachers would skimp down on the amount of “knowledge” they are trying to cram into a day’s worth of school, and stick to the non-negotiables. Then the kids could relax, and possibly enjoy those subjects they have an interest in. The reality is that with uncle “google” there are lots of other things are kids need to be taught, to keep up technologically rather than perfecting their spelling.

  13. I have several spelling errors. Sorry guys. “Are” should be “our,” etc.

  14. I’m fine with arguing that spelling should not need to be the subject of homework, but arguing that it’s not necessary to learn how to spell correctly is just ridiculous.

  15. I think we are talking about 2 different levels. At the elementary level – homework tends to be busy work and not worth the paper it is printed on.

    We are not allowed to grade work sent home because the parents were doing the projects. (As in I got a group on video explaining they couldn’t explain their project because Johnny’s father built it while they played GTA. For the record they were supposed to make the project at school even that year.)

  16. I tend to agree with J on many levels, but my experience raising girls (now 20 and 16) is that homework is good as a way to develop good working habits. As a lawyer, there are lots of issues that I absolutely love, and will work on until wee hours, but there are also “projects/clients” that I don’t want to do/deal with. The study habits I learned in HS and college make me organized enough to understand that there are some things I just don’t want to do, but do them.

    Sophie

  17. But what about reading assignments? In school, we would be assigned to read a chapter, which was then covered in more depth in class the next day. Isn’t that about how it’s supposed to work? If no one’s read the chapter, the teacher has to cover the whole thing in class and can’t get into details or answer questions without taking twice as much time.

    Sure! And dioramas, big projects – great! Within reason, and for older students.

    A first grader can’t read ahead at home anyway, because a first grader is just now learning to read. The only “homework” for kids that age should be “have mom and dad read with you for 20 minutes”, and that should be the rule for the next few years.

    I’m fine with arguing that spelling should not need to be the subject of homework, but arguing that it’s not necessary to learn how to spell correctly is just ridiculous.

    Well, you just put words in her mouth, didn’t you? She never said he shouldn’t learn to spell. She *said* he didn’t have to do his homework so long as he kept on getting perfect grades – which is how it should work! Homework is supposed to be a way to review the work you learned. But if you already know it, and don’t need the review, why should you do the busywork?

    And that’s what most homework is, you know. Your idealistic talk of research and creative tasks and long-term assignments is nonsense when most children (especially those in the younger grades, where homework has never been shown to have any benefits at all, particularly busywork) have homework on the lines of “write this 5 times and do so-and-so many math problems and color in the answers according to a specific plan and cut out and glue the letters of your sight word onto a paper”. BUSYWORK. It’s not meaningful, it’s not really connected to anything else, and it’s not necessary.

    How can schools eliminate homework without also reducing instruction time?

    I can think of plenty of ways. To start, they can send the kids out to recess more often – 20 minutes of recess = 30 minutes of on-task learning and higher test scores.

    And what about practicing music? People learning an instrument need to practice every day, and for kids that means at home, because at school they’re rehearsing in a small group or a band, not solo.

    Practicing music is something the child and parents, together, have decided is a priority. It doesn’t count any more than washing the dishes counts as labor.

  18. In other words, there are lots of things we all hate to do, but the homework instilled work habits that make you routinely do those things…and that is NOT a bad thing. As a lawyers, I fondly recall the dumb homework in HS that I now believe makes me vigilant about returning phone calls, dictating memos when I’d rather go home, etc. and I believe that this adult “homework” allows me to do the professional things I love to do (keeps me in the same employment position for sure).

    Sophie

  19. Uly,

    When it comes to music, I just gave my daughters the lessons I believed allowed them to learn how to read music. In our case, guitar. They hated the lessons, but I made them take enough of them to learn how to at least read music….so that one day, they’d be able to pick up a guitar (be it their 20’s, 30’s 40’s) and at least enjoy it.

    Same with sports — give them enough lessons and/or opportunities to play so that later in life, they know enough about the game to be interested in pick-up soccer games etc.

    Sophie

  20. Uly – Ashley said “… there are lots of other things are kids need to be taught, … rather than perfecting their spelling.” To me, that says he/she doesn’t think perfect spelling is an ideal to work toward. I strongly disagree.

    “Your idealistic talk of research and creative tasks and long-term assignments is nonsense”

    Ah, well perhaps a lot has changed since I was in school, but I didn’t think I was that old already.

    “Practicing music is something the child and parents, together, have decided is a priority.”

    The music to be practiced is assigned by a teacher, and it is to be done at home. How is that not homework?

  21. In other words, a parent’s goal should be to ensure success. It should be only to give them the OPPORTUNITIES to create their own success. My only goal with my daughters is to ensure that I maximize their opportunities in life. And, of course, not even a “goal” but my makeup is that I just love and enjoy them so much.

    Sophie

  22. Homework has a good purpose – reinforcing learning habits, allowing completion of projects not finished in class, extra studying. But these are all benefits of homework *for older students*. It’s not that there should be no homework ever, but a question of appropriate amount and time. In the first few grades, there is no good reason to have any sort of homework at all – the kids should be playing. Perhaps teachers could send home a list of ‘things that parents can do to support their child’s learning’ like reading with them and such. This wouldn’t be checked, and there would be no expectations, but it would be a suggestion list for parents who just aren’t sure what to do.

    By late elementary, kids should have to complete at home things they did not finish in class, but there is still no reason to assign things to do at home just for the sake of it. In jr high and high school, then homework has a reasonable place, but only when it has a clear aim. Even at this age, ‘busywork’, such as ‘answer these thirty questions’ does not help, and in fact teaches kids to disengage from the schooling process. When they are asked to complete as many questions in a block as necessary to get a good understanding of the topic, it allows students to work at their own needs. Requesting regular practice of an instrument is appropriate. Reading a book to a certain point to discuss the next day is reasonable.

    It’s a question of volume and time. In this specific case, regardless of the age of the kids, if they are making perfect grades without doing any of the homework, then they have nothing to gain from forcing themselves to do it.

  23. OK, less homework good. That’s it. Reading, long term projects etc. are ok. Worksheets as homework are silly.
    And anyone who has a child in a school that still as a music program that then assigns homework=unheard of where we are, unless you join band.

    Anyway, to sum up. Homework reform good. Worksheets silly.

  24. I can’t jump on the “no homework” bandwagon, but I do think that homework assignments should allow for reasonable participation in other after school activities and a reasonable bedtime hour.

    The thing I don’t get is how teachers don’t seem to communicate with each other. My son had one day last week that featured 3 tests and 2 quizzes. When I asked about this, the teachers had no idea that their colleagues all had scheduled tests on the same day. It never occurred to them to communicate with each other, to coordinate the teaching as a whole unit.

  25. J said: “Five hours of sleep is the tipping point. Research shows that when a student gets five or less, they may as well flush what they learned that day because the brain, robbed of critical REM sleep.”

    FIVE HOURS? That can’t be right. That should be at least 8.5 hrs at a bare minimum.

    As I said on this topic before, sleep deprivation is a real problem for children these days (and homework contributes to it) I recommend Chapter Two of NURTURESHOCK.

  26. Alision, you got it. That’s my whole point. Even eight and a half hours for a teen is not enough, they need nine and a quarter on average. Helene Emsellem, national expert on adolescent sleep, writes about the five hour tipping point. Many high schoolers today get five or less. The point is to show how ludicrous this is, how high achieving schools do not take sleep deprivation seriously and how once you’ve gotten to five, you are in the danger zone, vulnerable to all sorts of ills.

    Yes, five sounds crazy. It should go without saying. Five is dangerous. Eight is better. Nine and a quarter is best.

    I’m not sure many folks commenting realize how much over the line schools go. What’s to prevent a school from assigning seven, telling you it’s only one and a half, and then blaming the child’s time management skills? Unless schools send out regular anonymous surveys and really talk to families, they have absolutely no idea how it works in the field. In the five years my daughter was in private school, I got two such surveys. In the seven years my child has been in public, I’ve not been asked once.

  27. I don’t have time to read all the posts here. Let me just say that I’m 100% against homework until age 9 or 10.

    Homework is a escalating problem over the years. It’s a misguided attempt to counter the depraving influence of Nickelodeon, with its 24/7 programming, in addition to computer and video games and the rest. It punishes the rest of us.

  28. The whole subject matter is really too aggravating for me, I have my mental health to think about… Lenore, you’re killing me here…

  29. Heather, Queen of Shake Shake – You said everything I was going to! Completely agree!

    Powers – The family linked to agreed to practice musical instruments at home.

    Ashley – Sorry but I cringed when I read your whole Google thing. Spelling, IMO, is a much needed skill and one that is rapidly disappearing. I do agree that a child that gets it shouldn’t be forced to do extra homework on it, though. My children are homeschooled and I refuse to use those stupid spelling workbooks. My children read enough to get the spelling and don’t need the extra worksheets. Teaching them to read using phonics helped a lot too, again IMO. They learned all the rules and that aided them in spelling.

    Sophie – I agree that homework can be used to instill good work habits but do kindergartners need that? No! Can’t they learn diligence from doing chores at home, being responsible for lunch money or bringing home their luinchbox each day? I agree that teens could benefit from this lesson in highschool but elementary school – no way.

    OK, getting off my soapbox and going to bed. Night all.

  30. I teach second grade. This month’s homework was to read using the RAZ kids website. For the kids that didn’t have computers, I gave them books to take home. The first week, everyone went on. The last three weeks, maybe 5 out of 24 have been on there daily.

    In our school, we have parents complaining that there isn’t homework in kindergarten. Unbelievable!! Sit and read to your kid!!! Do a puzzle! Play a game!!!!

  31. @ J – I have a pile of papers to hand out to the kids and a lot of it is homework and spelling. The math and handwriting stays in the workbooks. Handing out papers is a big time waster and in my class, it’s hazardous to split my attention for even a second. I’m trying to talk my husband into homeschooling our son because of all the time that gets wasted in a school day.

  32. The only homework I was ever any good at was projects.

    Pick a topic, research it online, type out the info in my words, stick it to a piece of bristle board with appropriate photos and hand it in. That’s the stuff.

  33. LM, I’m the last person to ever suggest a teacher spend her time handing out papers. In fact, on stophomework, parents argue that reading logs are not only a waste of time for the kid, but the teacher as well! We want to reduce your paperwork, not add to it! I’m not asking for papers! I’m asking for real learning to take place during the day so that the child doesn’t have to generate all those papers at home.

    My point is that I had no real grasp of what happened in the classroom. My daughter was hard pressed to fill me in as well and when I queried other parents, it seemed no one really knew. The assignments done at home were not marked up. It was an A if turned in on time, a B with the letters ONE DAY LATE scrawled in red. Reminded me of The Scarlet Letter. No comments, just a grade. I was left wondering, my child could have stayed home and done that!

    I realize a classroom is not home. But when we homeschooled for that one year, we were able to do twice as much in half the time. My larger point was, why am I sending her to school?

    Look, I would have been happy if school had done school and we could have homeschooled on the side. But homework was not only eating up our entire afternoon and evening but spilling into weekends too. It’s only gotten worse as the years have worn on.

    I applaud you for convincing your hubby to let you homeschool your son. Too much time is wasted in school. I’ve heard all the excuses. Some are valid, some are nonsense. I feel for teachers who have their hands tied. But at the end of the day, our children need an education, not an excuse.

    We have a giant monolith. It is called public school. It takes vast resources to operate. Is it delivering? You be the judge.

  34. Ah, well perhaps a lot has changed since I was in school, but I didn’t think I was that old already.

    Well, you must be quite old, then, or you must have gone to a really great school, because it was already this way when I was in elementary school and I’m 26.

    As far as I know, it’s *always* been this way, because that’s my entire experience, and still that of most kids I know today.

    As far as music, let’s try repeating this: Music is something the parents and child have decided is important. Is it homework? Sure, in the literal sense that it is “work” done at “home”, but it’s not homework in the sense that it is assigned willy-nilly by teachers in an effort to make some sort of arbitrary, useless, and possibly detrimental quota. It’s not homework in the sense that your child can be penalized in the place they’re required to be for not doing it.

  35. We keep talking about practicing music. My daughter was forced to give up an instrument (two in fact) because of homework. I wish we’d written our own opt-out policy. It certainly would have included time for music!

    There’s something else missing in this discussion. Good that it’s generating talk about the value of homework or lack thereof. But do remember one thing. If I successfully negotiate an opt out policy for MY CHILD, it does not mean YOU can’t still get homework.

    If you want homework, do it to your heart’s delight. The Milleys aren’t saying YOU can’t get homework. Don’t worry, if you want it, it’s there for you. Ask for more if you’d like. They just find they have better ways to spend an afternoon, an evening, weekends, holidays and summer. Like actually learning?

  36. To me it is fairly simple. It is a communication issue. If teacher would communicate among each other, they would not all assign homework with the same due date and conflicting test schedules. Engaged parents need to communicate timing and schedules with all teachers for lower grade kids. I expect older kids to do the communication themselves. In my school we did, we made sure tests were not on the same day and argued against accumulated homework loads.

    Some teachers take their subject to seriously. Thus, they feel they have all the right to assign homework as extensively as possible.
    I used to have a French teacher who never assigned homework each day for less than two hours. A lot of busy work, a lot of reading, vocabulary test preparation, etc. As a student I was so annoyed. However, this was the only class that taught me how to study. I had that teacher the last 4 years in HS and it was the best college preparation.

    Homework for younger grades can be questionable. However, I am against ALL extremes. And the “no homework” movement is as much an extreme, as the brights movement, the homeschooling front, the intelligent design school of thought, and the abstinence only preachers. Extremes rarely help society positively.

    My preschooler gets homework. Some things are fun to do. Others not so much. She enjoys these things mostly. And it is never more than 30 to 45min a month. I can live with that and do not see a need to interfer. I trust her teachers to use their own teaching styles.

    Teachers need to be able to define appropriate levels of teaching. For some it might be with homework, for others it might be without.
    It is illusionary to think that only projects are valid and useful homework. That is not so. Foreign languages require vocabulary training, math requires skills… If I look at the levels of students here in the US that lack basic math knowledge. There is so much more that needs to be done.

    Reading your post I am questionning why so many just think that projects, research, music, art, or reading are valid homeworks? I assume that none of you is a scientist? Or mathematician? Or a business analyst?
    People always value what they like and need in their daily routine.They do not branch out a lot. Thus, a lot of intelligent, clever and engaged mothers ignore sciences and math as they are not familiar with these terms and overvalue reading and literature. This is a dangerous path as there are so many kids out there that have underutilized skills.
    Sciences and math need creative kids, but these kids need to be able to express their creativity through math. And not paint brushes or musical instruments. It is a forgotten knowledge that math is nothing less than a creative tool and language to explain the world. And not just adding and subtracting. But I digress.

    We need to trust the teachers to find their own appropriate teaching styles. Homework reduction? I am all for it. However, we need to be careful to swing from one extreme to the other.
    Too far East is West.

  37. Amy writes: “My kindergarten son has homework 3 times a week. I think the purpose of it mostly is to get the parents involved in the child’s work.”

    Amy, please stop and consider how insulting this is. I realize you didn’t say it, you’re just quoting it. The purpose of kindergarten homework is to involve me in my child’s work. Think of how condescending that sounds. It posits that as a parent, I am such an idiot, so disconnected from my child’s learning, that the school has to force me to be a better parent. And you mention work. As Alfie Kohn says, children are learners, not workers.

    My daughter attended a private full day kindergarten. This is before full day K was popular in the public schools. It was a good program. We had social issues (teased and bullied) but she did great on the academic front. Actually, no, she was not challenged, we had to fight for more advanced work but that’s another story.

    The school’s day was seven hours. The administration felt that after a full day, a five year old is tired. That she’s been sitting a long time (this was in the halcyon days when we still believed kindergarteners were, well, kindergarteners, so they got two recess periods and nap time) and now it’s time to play. The school sent no homework home. They did occasionally but it was optional. We opted right out of it. She was five. Homework could wait.

    Well, yes, there was show and tell and bringing in something to match the letter of the day and all that but we didn’t think of that as homework. Homework, as you describe it, Amy, are worksheets. Your child sits down and must fill out certain pages, designated as homework, to be turned in. Nope, not at this school. The administration got this one right!

    I juggled my work schedule so I was able to pick her up from school. Here’s what My five year old and I did in lieu of homework. Let me add that I also did not believe she should be overloaded with extra-curriculars. She had many interests. We cut the after school organized programs down to two:

    1. Piano
    2. Swimming lessons

    Now for the unscheduled stuff: Let’s start with books. Books books books. Reading time dominated.

    Now let’s do the museum list:

    1. Air and Space Museum (her favorite. She wanted to be an astronaut)

    2. Art museum (she loved to draw). We talked about the paintings, the history, the style.

    3. Okay, I’ll spare you the museum list. Suffice it to say, over the year, we covered all of them. Multiple times.

    4. Walks through the city to study the grid, the pattern, how the streets were laid out. She learned geometry.

    5. Nature centers to learn about bugs, flora and fauna.

    6. Long hikes after school in the woods.

    7. Drawing, modeling, sketching, coloring.

    8. Grocery shopping where she just had to weigh everything. Math skills.

    9. Science in a kit where we made all sorts of things

    10. Helping Dad cook. Math skills.

    11. Cleaning her room, putting her toys away. Teaches responsibility.

    12. Helping parents around the house. Teaches responsibility.

    14. Now get this. She had workbooks. She did them all the time. Some would say, what’s the difference? Plenty. It’s a concept borrowed from unschooling, that says kids are hard wired to learn and when you are not hitting them over the head, their curious minds take over.

    15. Hours and hours spent building leggos and k’nex. There’s your future engineer. Which is in fact what she wants to be.

    16. Long discussions with her parents on everything.

    I could go on and on. Where in this list do you have time for mandatory worksheets? I don’t care if they only take your kid an hour, a half hour, ten minutes, five minutes. The point is, we don’t want them. I don’t want my afternoon prescribed. The school’s had her all day, I get a little sliver, now it’s my turn. Kids this age need to touch, smell, feel, walk, experience. As Maria Montessori says, play is a child’s work. There is not a single homework or early childhood expert worth his or her salt that would ever advocate homework in kindergarten. This is a construct cooked up by politicians to raise test scores.

    Notice you don’t see television or video games on mylist. Okay, a little Arthur on PBS won’t hurt. We just always had so many better and more interesting things to do than while away all afternoon on electronics.

    Please trust that intelligent educated parents have thought this through carefully. We are not looking to raise selfish ungrateful unmotivated children. Have faith in us. Give us some credit. It’s not easy swimming against the tide. We do because in the end, it all comes down to the children. What is best for THEM?

  38. J.

    Please stop being so defensive. And stop telling us what a wonderful parent you are. It is getting annoying.

  39. Lara writes; ” And the “no homework” movement is as much an extreme, as the brights movement, the homeschooling front”

    Whoa, there , Lara. I homeschooled for a year. I’m not an extremist. Get with the program. Yes, homeschooling does have that stereotype, that it’s either done by Christian fundamentalists or hippie isolationists.

    Times have changed. A lot of families you would consider highly normal and hardly extremist are homeschooling. These are people who never imagined themselves taking their kids out of school. Many of these parents are extremely intelligent and thoughtful. When you talk to them, some quick reasons given for this new path are:

    1. My child’s school was spending the day test prepping. He wasn’t learning anything and he was starting to hate school.

    2. Mediocre instruction: Yes, teachers must deal the hand they are served. But with 32 kids in a class of every imaginable ability, parents simply felt their kids were not getting a quality education. Many were schooling after school to make up for the deficincies.

    3. Homework overload.

    4. Not meeting the needs of the gifted.

    These are but a few but some of the most common reasons parents give today. Harris Cooper of Duke University, known as the nation’s homework expert, advocates for no homework in elementary and no more than two hours in high school. I’m glad we have studies to back up what I already could have told you anecdotally and intuitively. Experience counts!

  40. As a teacher, I say enough with the homework (well most of it). I can’t really mark it anyway…I don’t know who really did it!

  41. Lara, in conclusion, I did homeschool. I advocate for less homework and none in elementary. Math and science in our household have never gotten short shrift. She wants to be an engineer! She is two years ahead in math. We must have done something right!

  42. J. Stop. You are getting on my nerves. I do not want you to represent me or any parent ! You do not even understand basic vocabulary. I think you are too defensive. Too extreme. Too annoying. And plainly too stupid to have a decent argument with. Anecdotal experience is not a fact ! What is true for you, is not necessarily true for all. Learn from Plato. And if anyone EVER is talking about “gifted” children and their needs ever again… I am going to vomit. Get off your high horses and accept that your kid and your needs are not the baseline for everyone else.

  43. Ok, I’m guilty. I was on the school board in the mid-nineties and actually proposed a homework policy. But hear me out! When I moved my then 10 year old daughter into this district from a much better one in the Princeton, NJ area, she went from doing a lot of very challenging homework every night to doing NOTHING. Our prior school district had the best test scores in the state, proof of the dedication that so many asian parents had towards fostering their kids’ education. Our new district loved trends. One of those trends was a math program from the university of Chicago. We came to the school district mid semester and were completely lost. There was no homework. My kid went from being very proficient in math to close to failing in a couple of months. But despite all my efforts to get extra help for her, her teacher blithely refused to give her any additional worksheets or content so she could catch up.
    In fact, MOST of her classes were like that. Not only was the curriculum in our new suburban community about a year behind the Princeton suburb, there just wasn’t any emphasis on doing much of anything. So, I ran for the school board and won. One of the first orders of business was to get a homework policy.
    Now, that is not to say that I was in favor of hours and hours of homework. No, I did my research. I was really hoping for something more along the line of the Japanese model. For math in Japan, the homework assignments consist of only a couple of problems at night. The idea is to reinforce what is learned in class for that day. It’s not supposed to keep you up all night. Teachers had a lot of input into this policy. They said they didn’t like assigning busy work, that gratuitous homework consisting of worksheets of stuff your kid already knows so that they could get a check in the gradebook. So, we specifically prohibited busy work. Instead, for the elementary grades, we suggested that children be encouraged to finish work that they had already started in class. The amount of time spent on homework shouldn’t amount to much each evening. The goal was lite practice and finishing what you started. Middle and high schoolers were expected to do more as the level of difficulty increased but even there, we didn’t want anyone to be spending hours doing their work. If an elementary school kid can’t get it all done in less than an hour, it’s too much.
    Well, I left the school board in 1997. Since that time, bad things have happened, George Bush was elected president and a new, more authoritarian mindset has taken over the local school district. My youngest daughter is an exceptionally gifted middle schooler who has never been on the honor roll. Getting on the honor roll appears to be directly correlated to turning in every piece of tedious homework assigned. In seventh grade, she was still expected to do shoebox dioramas for school. Reading projects must be accompanied by detailed summaries of every chapter. The kid might as well be rewriting the book. Her most recent project for English will be to pick a book, like Twelfth Night or Dracula, and create either a board game, TV commercial or interview of the major character. Please accompaby with detailed summary of each chapter and a character web and overview sheet with narrator voice, plot summary, blah, blah, blah. The last time she had to do this exercise at the beginning of 8th grade, she ditched it for her Halloween costume project, a recreation of the house from the movie Up. She constructed the whole thing ouf of FedEx boxes and balsa wood and sculpted little character figurines. Her teachers were amazed but the English project was late and she ended up with a C for the first quarter. She claims she isn’t learning anything new and these stupid time sucking projects are not adding anything except drudgery and tedium.
    Her geometry class? Different story. The teacher gives her light homework, a couple of proofs a night, just to reinforce and push the envelope. She got an A.
    So, there is a role for homework. But it has to be relevant to the subject at hand, meaningful to the student and the goal is to reinforce what is learned. Lightly. So your kid can go outside and play. Or practice the piano. Or construct a Halloween costume.

  44. Uh oh. I think someone ran out of their Xanax prescription.

    For some infantile reason, i feel like talking about my gifted child and his needs. Grab a puke bowl, quick!

  45. Lara, I don’t care if I get on your nerves. You made a point, I answered it.

    As for being too stupid, whatever. You’re entitled to your opinion. You made a point that many mothers don’t value science and math as highly as language arts. I merely shed some light on the subject.

    I am sure you are going to vomit when parents talk about “gifted’ children. Go ahead. Vomit. We’re used to it. We aren’t saying gifted kids are the baseline. I referenced it with regard to homeschooling, that it’s one way for parents to meet those needs.

    You missed my point about anecdotal evidence. And I backed it up with solid research. The point being, school is one thing. We all understand teachers have many other students. But we parents can tailor our afternoons, weekends and holidays. We are simply asking for that right.

  46. Hey, Heather, I think I recognize you. I remember that name on oops, I better not say which blog. Lara is about to vomit.

    Thanks for backing me up. I love being called stupid, defensive and annoying. And I don’t understand basic vocabulary!

    Lara, honey, go lie down. You’ve got yourself too worked up. Have fun puking. If there’s anything we can do for you, just holler. You know where we are!

  47. Lara, I understand parents of gifted kids. If you don’t have a gifted kid, you wouldn’t know how hard it is to raise them and what a struggle it is to convince them on a daily basis that school is worth the trouble and that if they only hold out to middle school/high school/College, it will get better and more interesting. Eventually, you just come off as a big frickin’ liar.
    Teachers aren’t interested in you.
    School boards are constantly looking to cut your programs.
    Other parents have no sympathy for your plight or that of your parents. They tell you to STFU all of the time. This is particularly sad when you see your kid who really is two years ahead of everyone else lean her head against the car door as you drop her off at school and says with tears in her eyes, “I don’t think I can do this anymore”, “This” referring to spending hours each day in a heterogenous classroom, waiting for the herd to catch up with you and without the encouragement of any adults who simply feel that you will turn out ok in the end even if you are ignored for the entirety of your school days.
    Please don’t tell us to shut up. We pay taxes too so that your average learning kids get the benefit of the district’s attention and resources.

  48. No, this is the first forum I ever responded, so you do not recognize me. Maybe there are more people out there that think like me and are just fed up?

    I used to be a gifted child myself. So I know how a child feels when it is ahead of everyone else. However, I know how I developed, what helped me and what did not…Most parents do not have that knowledge, yet, nor will they ever know what it feels like… They can only guess.

    Maybe this is why I am overreacting in this forum. Because the discussion is beyond the point.

    Does homework hurt? No.

    Is homework sensible and helpful at times? Yes.

    I am neither advocating homework overkill nor am I advocating cutting cost for gifted kids programs. All I want is that people stop being so defensive. It is the most annoying thing in the world if people always react that way… it does not advance a discussion nor does it enhance a conversation. Granted my reaction did neither, but I was just fed up with the constant “but my kid, but my kid, but my kid…”

    Defensiveness is bad in any situation – in my opinion. Homework not necessarily under sensible circumstances.

  49. Riverdaughter, I agree with everything you said except one thing. I don’t believe that the average learners get the best resources in school. It certainly isn’t the gifted kids either. Everything is so dumbed down that most of the kids aren’t having their needs met. Will they be fine and succeed in life? Yes. But what if…

    As for homeschooling being an extreme, I don’t see it. I am a homeschooling mom that takes math and science very seriously. History also. I think people often forget how important it is for our kids to know where we came from and how we got here to be able to lead us in the future. My 4th grader is about to finish 6th grade math. We are doing a year of forensic science. (Pull up your toilet bowl here) it was written by a teacher for gifted students. It is very challenging, very hands-on, and incorporates many different sciences and a ton of critical thinking and observation skills. Most homeschoolers take all school subjects seriously we just do it differently than the schools do.

  50. At the risk of dominating here which is not my intent, riverdaughter, thank you for your validation. It was a long time coming. Parents who don’t have gifted kids think that helping them, doing anything for them, is privilege heaped upon privilege. They don’t see the damage, the pain. They think because these kids are ahead, they will turn out alright no matter what. Never mind that when they are not challenged, they become underachievers.

    On your previous comment, with regard to your school board experience, I actually agree with you a great deal. Believe it or not!

    I will say this. If homework had been reasonable, I might not have come to this place. My daughter started out actually loving homework. Until she got to public school.

    Riverdaughter, I see your motivation, why you instituted that homework policy in the first place. You really had noble intentions. Your teachers appeared to care about the children and knew that ultimately, it was about the students, the children and the best way to educate them. I don’t have a problem with well intentioned people, well intentioned policies, who put the students’ needs above their own.

    As you wrote, then came George Bush. And NCLB. And it changed everything. We like to call it No Principal Left Behind. Once your kid aces the test, they forget about her. At the risk of increasing Lara’s puking, my daughter is EG/PG too. I hear you. I hear you. Our experiences mirrored yours.

    I could have lived with less homework. Homework that is appropriate. I could have lived with a reasonable amount in high school. But as a prominent psychologist in our area recently said, when confronted with all the detritus, the fallout of useless but nevertheless time consuming homework, “homework in our area has reached the level of absurdity.”

    When it comes to homework overload in high school, when it grows and grows, exceeding seven hours; on that at least, I hope we can all agree that change is urgent. A young mind is a terrible thing to waste.

  51. Lara, read my comment on my years on the school board. Even teachers agree that worksheets are busy work and don’t think they add any value to your kid’s learning experience. Chapter summaries are a complete waste of time and the epitome of busy work. Give them a damn quiz if you want to be sure they read the chapter. There are times when homework is appropriate and necessary, especially in the subject of math because knowledge builds upon previously mastered skills. But it is just a nuisance otherwise. For elementary school kids, do the 2-3 math problems, finish the science lab report, read the book with your kid before they go to sleep and call it a night. They don’t really need full on studying until 7th grade and even then, they need to be eased into it.
    It’s parents who demand the crazy levels of homework. And why not? When your kid’s grade is tied to mind-numbing but not terribly difficult busy work, well, that’s a good thing, right? Everyone gets an A except for those snooty gifted kids who can’t be bothered.
    I was a gifted kid too though my talents pale in comparison to my daughter’s. For gifted kids, the danger is that the work will not be challenging enough to meet their needs and they will coast until their study skills are shot. But even the most gifted only need a little bit of work. They just need it at their level, not the level of the rest of the class. The problem with gifted kids is that teachers do not differentiate instruction for them to meet their needs. So, the busy work for them is even more annoying and they have a legitimate complaint about not doing it.
    Take a chill pill.

  52. Lara writes: “No, this is the first forum I ever responded, so you do not recognize me. ”

    I wasn’t referring to you, Lara, I was addressing Heather.

  53. Race to Nowhere: The Dark Side of America’s Achievement Culture:

    http://www.racetonowhere.com/trailer

  54. Mae Mae: Here in NJ, it certainly depends on the district you are in as to whether your kid will get the benefit of the resources. In my district, the Gaussian curve wins. The bulk of the resources go to average learners. NJ is one of the few states where G&T programs are left to the discretion of the district and in my district, G&T students are significantly underserved. This has been a deliberate choice of the district dating back about 5 years with our last superintendent (she was replaced. She went too far for most parents here). In our district, there are no classes for gifted math students. Advanced math classes are left to the teacher recommendation, not test scores. That can be a problem and demonstrates why sometimes, standardized tests can be a benefit. Last year’s single advanced math course in 7th grade had 21 students in it. 14 were boys, 7 were girls. This despite new research that shows that at the highest levels of math ability, the genders are equal. My daughter was not in this class. She wasn’t recommended even though her test scores from several nationally normed tests put her in the top 2%. She ended up repeating pre-algebra. I had a tantrum and bugged the school about it for an entire year. The poor kid thought she was stupid. Normally, I NEVER push my kid to do anything. But the blow to her self-image was so severe that I signed her up for a crash course in Algebra at a local prep school over the summer. The school district was forced to put her in geometry for this school year. The final insult was when they told me that if she fails, it won’t be their fault. As it turns out, she’s getting an A and she really loves it. Her teacher is very enlightened and doesn’t burden them with too much work. It is the perfect combination of challenge and work.
    And because I threatened them with a lawsuit over discrimination, they have added more girls to the advanced class. But here’s the thing: Her 8th grade class has 550 students in it. There is only one class of advanced math. One class. 25 students now. That’s it. And we live in an area that has a lot of asian immigrants who really do push their kids. Those children are used to hours of supplementary homework at night. It came as no surprise to me that the one class of advanced math was overwhelmingly asian boys. And more power to them! But where does that leave girls like my daughter except jumping through hoops to get recognition and an opportunity to excel?
    The G&T program in my district is in the area of Social Studies. Some of the G&T teachers are not certified to teach G&T students. They took the top level of English instruction out this year so my daughter is now in an advanced literacy class. I can’t imagine what regular literacy is like, the students must be bored silly. Advanced literacy is not terribly difficult. There’s a lot of writing to do. But she already got perfect scores on her state administered writing samples. It was the highest score in her school and one of the highest in the state. Now, she’s got to practice more writing at a level that she has already exceeded.
    I’m not bragging, really, I’m just trying to describe how it is with gifted education in this country. Maybe these kids need to be skipped a grade. But frequently, we see educational philosophy stand in the way of taking action to help them.
    In some other districts in NJ, the formula is reversed. One of my colleagues lives in a district where everyone is expected to perform at a gifted level and average learners are left behind in the dust. What there isn’t is standards.

  55. Why did this turn into a discussion about gifted kids?

    We all agree on reducing busy work in favor of more appropriate skill level learning, don’t we?

    Why this hatred? Parents should support each other and value different points of view not criticize other opinions and cast out those that think differently?Where is tolerance and acceptance?

  56. Lara writes: “Please stop being so defensive. And stop telling us what a wonderful parent you are. It is getting annoying.”

    One thing I’ve learned about being a parent. You are either an idiot who deserves homework sent home because your child will only veg out in front of the television without it. When you make a case that she won’t, you are arrogant and defensive.

    You can’t win either way. If a parent complains that the child’s homework dominates family time, she is told she is overbearing and over-managing. If she says, we’re opting out, we’re no longer doing reading logs and copying definitions, she is told she is shirking her parental responsibilities.

    The hidden agenda of much homework, you see, has nothing to do with good parenting or learning. It’s about compliance.

  57. J., really this is what you experience? That sounds awful. Luckily, I am dealing with nicer teachers and circumstances and people here in our school district.

  58. J.: I so totally agree with you on the compliance thing. It’s about doing the work, no matter how tedious and turning it in on time. That’s it. No actual learning has to take place. Some of my daughter’s teachers admit that they whole point of doing it is because all of the other kids are doing it and she can’t be an exception.
    And grades too. To me, a grade is pretty fricking meaningless if no learning has occured to earn it. In my kid’s case, she hasn’t had any new material yet this year.
    Actually, I am really turned off by the way school is run these days. Assigned seats, even at lunch. You can’t sit next to your friends. Endless busy work. Lots of group activities where the kids are forced to hang out with students they absolutely can’t stand because, “in real life, we can’t always choose who we’re going to work with”. Well, that’s true. But it’s unlikely that the future Disney Imagineer is going to have much interaction with the accountant anyway. They’re not all going to end up as teachers, mechanics and MBAs. There *will* be a few that are always going to march to their own drummer. Why can’t THOSE kids sit with each other?
    In my kid’s school, there are cameras in all of the hallways, video monitors in the offices. The guidance counselors say the kids can’t breath except on command. There is zero tolerance for EVERYTHING. You can’t say you’re bored without getting a detention. No one colors outside the lines. The pendulum has swung so far to the fascistic right since I was on the board of ed that my older daughter would find her old school unrecognizable. There is something dark, sinister and sick about treating middle schoolers like juvenile delinquents when their only crime is attending the local public school.

  59. Sarah asks: “J., really this is what you experience? That sounds awful. Luckily, I am dealing with nicer teachers and circumstances and people here in our school district.”

    Sarah, not so much now, not in this high school. Specifically I was referring to reaction on this blog, to this post and the homework one previous.

    I did encounter this attitude in the public elementary school we switched to. Not in private. I really felt they heard my concerns. They didn’t do enough but at least they did listen and they were respectful. My tone to them was respectful in kind. Remember, the way we comment here is not how we talk to teachers. Furthermore, many of us started out respectful and patient. But years in the system just wears you down.

    One final note. I didn’t really start the gifted discussion. I merely referenced it in the homeschool response as one reason among many why people choose it. Lara called homeschooling extreme, and I wanted to set the record straight.

    Having homeschooled, I feel it’s important to dispel myths. Then, sadly, Lara went off the handle, calling me names and attacking my parenting style. Even if to say, disapargingly, how good I am at it🙂.

  60. riverdaughter, it has been said lately that many middle schools now resemble prisons. Your story is not unusual. Fear is the constant. Fear of a bad grade. Fear of breaking the rules. Fear of turning homework in late. Fear of peer rejection. How can anyone have any positive energy to learn when fear always simmers beneath the suface?

    I will say this. My daughter’s high school is not anything like this. It’s a gifted one, and the kids have a lot more freedom. There is a school wide lunch, they all eat together, anywhere, outside, on the floor, in the hall. As long as they don’t leave campus. The school has a lot of energy, wit, creativity and smarts. It may be less cutthroat than your standard issue uber-achieving IB high school but it is very competitive. And that’s not my child. But she likes the intellectual vigor.

    The tradeoff is, she has a crushing workload. I pondered this long and hard and decided the unmanageable load and resulting sleep deprivation were not worth it. She did not want to leave. She wants to be in this environment but the homework load has taken a huge toll.

    It’s also put a tremendous strain on my marriage. My husband is wonderful and laid back (at the risk of having Lara bite me) but he supported our daughter’s decision. For no other reason, that she lobbied hard to stay. I felt that we are the parents and we should call the shots and take her out. At least no one can accuse me of pushing her!

    But where do you put a child who is perfectionist and deliberate so homework takes even longer than it should, but who craves this approach? The answers are not easy.

    For anyone in this predicament, I suggest early college. It was proposed to me and I politely dismissed it as insane. This person told me to skip high school and go straight to college, that this high school had way too much homework. I didn’t listen then.

    It doesn’t mean send your fourteen year old off to college. Of course not! Riverdaughter, you know the whole asynchrony thing, right? Rather, part time college so she remains at home with her family, on line courses, all part of a high school homeschool package. The peer socialization comes from Odyssey of the Mind, Girl Scouts, and the like, and homeschool groups. Just a shout out to anyone facing these choices. Your high school decisions do not need to be, crushed by homework or bored to death. There is another way.

    And go away, Lara. Nothing here is meant to be elitist or defensive. I’m giving some advice to a parent in a similar situation. And this is all about homework so I’m quite “on task.” Hoagies recommends it too, as does GDC, Davidson, Stephanie Tolan, CTY, etc. Early college in lieu of high school. Especially for 2e kids.

  61. To add to my previous post, by way of advice. And again, this is all about homework. Yes, I am on task!

    I recently proposed the above plan to a friend with a younger child, an 8th grader. She is PG/ADD. They are very worried that high school homework will crush her. But the girl is well, never mind…can’t say it here. Isn’t this ridiculous? That we can’t be open and honest without being vilified?

    I suggested local college. By that I mean, you take it slow. For gifted ADD kids, they can handle the challenge. It’s not a cognitive deficit, it’s the sheer aggragate of the workload that’s crushing. You start college so you have the intensity and challenge but you take it slow. You don’t do a full high school load. After four years, your child is still academically ahead.

    This idea is really taking on steam now. Another parent I know put her ADHD/EG kid in regular high school classes. They are way too easy, she is bored silly and the repetitive dull tedious assignments are anathema. As if any child should be subjected to such a soul crushing experience that sucks the joy out of learning.

    She is really being cheated out of FAPE and no one is paying any attention. She is quiet and well behaved and her entire education is a waste. The history teacher took pity on her and let her spend most of his periods in the library last year. Lara, for kids like this, life is a struggle. We don’t care if you don’t get it. We’re not going to go away and shut up. There is such little support for taglets as it is.

  62. My problem with homework for elementary school kids is that I can do far more with my kids at this age than almost any homework a teacher can set for them. And I resent having my family’s schedule set by something that doesn’t really benefit anyone. In particular I am not prepared to drop plans I have in order to undertake a task that I wasn’t warned about in plenty of time or to marshal my kids through something unpleasant for no benefit.

    At elementary school age reading books they love, following their curiosity and imagination, helping out with adult tasks, learning an instrument, and playing sport is almost always better than anything a teacher sets.

    I say make homework at this age optional. Not a requirement and not an afterthought. Make things flexible so parents with different views, different resources and differently abled children can all appreciate the same school.

    (And on the subject of developing maths skills in children, the right kind of sports are excellent – spatial awareness is one of those things that develops best in younger kids. It’s a big deal for good maths ability and there are a lot of sports that really help develop it. So ditch those worksheets and get your kids out there playing football, frisbee, baseball, etc.).

  63. I’ve heard that an entire school in Ontario has also banned homework! I’m all for the movement when it comes to elementary school. I think studying for tests and practicing instruments is fine, but I definately remember my mom having some late nights colouring my projects for me in elementary school.

    There is also a difference between long term projects that are in need of extra time at home and the type of homework that is routinely assigned. There is no reason for a teacher to wrap up his/her class 10 minutes before the end of the day and say…”oh, by the way, do this and that… by tomorrow”.

    It’s good to teach children about time management, but more important to teach them to enjoy their youth. It really does come only once and though adults continually say to enjoy it, we still all rush it because we want to be grown ups.

    In previous posts there has been mention of having more time at home to cook and create and I believe this to be so important. I really do know my fractions because I cooked with my mom, and not from what I learned in school! It’s time for parents to be involved with their kids at home, and not busy completing assignments for them!

  64. J., I get your frustration with Lara, but do not constantly write for her or address her. If she hurt your feelings and offended you that is one thing, but we are all grown up and need to move on.

    Mmh, it seems the homework load has hit your daughter very hard. Is college not an option anymore? Why not find a different school, is it out of question? Or homeschool again? Maybe your daughter would benefit from a learning coach? I know there are some out there, specialized for gifted children…? Just suggestions, do not take offense.

  65. Helen, I loved your comment. Every word of it. It’s what I’ve been trying to say. Whether your kid is gifted or not. ALL children deserve a childhood of wonder, imagination and discovery. So many of us can do it so much better on our own. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again. You teach, I parent. Deal?

    Bottom line: we don’t want our afternoons, evenings, weekends, holidays and summers dictated anymore. So many of us are more than capable of finding marvelous things for our kids to do (and giving them the freedom of finding it themselves). We simply don’t need the schools micro-managing every spare second of our children’s lives. Let’s put parent back into parenting.

  66. “If she hurt your feelings and offended you that is one thing, but we are all grown up and need to move on.”

    She didn’t hurt my feelings at all! I’m a big girl, I can take it. But I’m going to respond!

    Up and out. I’m done. On to other things.

  67. Oh, one more, since I see you asked some questions. Not taking offense at all. I’ve already covered the, why is she at this school, question. And yes, college in lieu of high school is no longer an option for us but I do recommend it as a plan for others. She’ll go to college after high school, at this point.

    All your suggestions have been considered, mulled over, discussed at home. They’re not news to me!

  68. To me, a grade is pretty fricking meaningless if no learning has occured to earn it.

    My mother told me that as a kid. Consequently, I never did my homework (and my parents didn’t make me).

    As it happens, my not-doing-homework masked actual problems with executive planning that I had, but I would have had those problems regardless. Doing busywork would not have made it better, it would have just made me more frustrated.

  69. I have heard these horror stories of homework. I have yet to WITNESS them occurring to any child who has managed his time well. That does not mean they do not exist; I just have yet to witness them personally. Maybe I will see it happening to my own children in a few years, and I will become a believer, a convert to the horrors of homework. Right now, however, I think a “no homework” position is extreme. You certainly will not solve the deeply-rooted problems of mass public education merely by eliminating the homework. If kids really are teaching themselves at home instead of learning in school, they will not suddenly begin to learn at school when you eliminate homework; they will simply cease to learn. The elimination of homework is being taken as some kind of panacea for problems of which increased homework is merely a symptom. Nor is NCLB the sole culprit of modern educational ills. The “progressive” educators have wreaked their share of havoc, which is what left the vacuum that made it possible for a monstrosity of federal intervention such as NCLB to enter in the first place.

  70. Regarding the struggles of raising a gifted child…I was a gifted child. I learned to entertain myself in school. One way I did this was to do all my homework from other classes during the “fluff” and review times in school, so that very often (until about 10th grade, in fact), I had little or no homework to take home. I cannot help but wonder about gifted kids who have hours of homework at night and yet supposedly cover very little material in school; what are they doing in school all day? Why aren’t they working on their homework whenever they are bored waiting for slower kids to catch up, or whenever there is fluff? That’s what virtually every gifted kid I knew did when I was in school.

    Sometimes my homework was boring, and sometimes I thought it was a waste. Sometimes it was, however, helpful review. If I had 25 math problems, maybe I only NEEDED to do seven to show that I had mastered the skill, but those other 18 didn’t hurt me any; they didn’t hurt me anymore than doing 25 push-ups instead of 7, and maybe even helped. Because I HAD mastered the skill, it took me mere minutes to do the 25 problems. And I did it while the teacher was talking about something else I already knew, or when we were watching a video, or during the lunch break, or when I got to class a couple minutes early.

    Although I’d like to have seen the busy work (and many although not all of the projects) abolished, I had no difficulty churning out that homework, and generally had hours of free time to myself during the week. I also spent hours studying for tests or reading books or writing papers once I was in 10th grade, but let’s not forget there is no school on Saturday or Sunday. My parents did not suffer greatly for my giftedness; they expected me to be respectful in school and to learn to amuse myself by daydreaming, doing homework, or writing if I was bored. They did not have to convince me school was “worth it”; they only had to convince me that it was an expectation that I should go, do well, and be basically respectful. I understood high school was something that you did to get a piece of paper so you could get into college, and college was something that you did so you could get a piece of paper to get a job. Learning and creating, however, were things you did whenever you could, wherever you were, your whole life. Would were it otherwise, but it is not and for the most part never has been in our system of mass, compulsory education. Nor is it so in other nation’s systems, despite constant moaning of America’s comparative failure. I work with plenty of ESL writers who have been through the cogworks of many other nation’s education systems.

    As for gifted kids having programs cut, etc. – that may be true in some parts of the country, but here where I live there is a great deal of money and attention given to gifted programs. There are entire center schools for gifted kids, GT classes in regular schools, and so forth. The average kids actually get the worse resources in the schools system, in my opinion. A huge chunk of money goes to those with learning disabilities, including those who are “mainstreamed” in regular classrooms and therefore shadowed by one-on-one aids all day long. The second biggest chunk though appears to go to the gifted kids, because they often have parents that squeak an awful lot, and the squeaky wheel gets at least more grease than the non-squeaky one. There is very little time or attention left over for the “average” kid.

    One problem, however, that I am aware of–and as a gifted teacher my mom saw it increasingly in the last ten years of her career (not so much in the first twenty years)–is that many parents insist on putting their non-gifted children into gifted programs. They even hire private psychiatrists to do the IQ testing when they don’t qualify. Because things in mass education always tend toward the lowest common denominator, this means that the gifted programs sometimes slow down too, leaving some gifted kids bored. That said, I still think that if gifted children cannot learn to amuse themselves when they are not being constantly intellectually stimulated by someone else, they will have a hard life, because the day to day duties of life often provide little intellectual challenge. You have to learn to make the best use of your time, even your dull, public school day, and gifted children should be able to do this. I didn’t hate school. Not at all. I was sometimes challenged, sometimes not. But either way, I never hated it per say. I found ways to amuse my mind. The entire school system cannot cater itself to the needs of the gifted child. This is reality. A single family can do that in a homeschooling environment, but there is a limit to what can be done in any system of compulsory, mass education.

    When not challenged, I did not become an underachiever. I simply achieved more easily than others. (And in our school system, I sometimes was challenged in the AP and GT classes). And I learned to amuse myself. I know there are gifted children who do not seem to be able to do this, who become underachievers out of boredom, but I have honestly never understood them. It is like a rich man who will not stoop to scrub his toilet not because he is incapable, but because the act is beneath him.

    Personally, I think this should be about the only homework given:

    * Study for the tests and quizzes, at your own pace, in your own way, to achieve the best score you can (practice worksheets may be given to be used as desired)
    * Read books
    * Write papers / reports
    * Prepare for oral / project presentations

  71. Sky: You said:”I have heard these horror stories of homework. I have yet to WITNESS them occurring to any child who has managed his time well.”
    Maybe we’re talking at cross purposes here I (and from my reading, a lot of other parents here) would like to see homework be optional mainly because I resent my family’s schedule being dictated for no significant benefit. My kids getting homework means we have to find somewhere and sometime to do it. This can interrupt the plans we have, for something that research has shown is not beneficial for most children.

    And then “If kids really are teaching themselves at home instead of learning in school, they will not suddenly begin to learn at school when you eliminate homework; they will simply cease to learn.” I agree it won’t start making them learn at school. But at elementary school age they aren’t learning from their homework either, at least not significantly. They learn most by playing and being mentored. If they don’t have to do homework they have more time at home to really learn (by playing!).

    As I mentioned in a previous comment I’m not against homework being available, in fact I support well thought out homework for those who want or need it. But I’d rather have the time free for my children to learn – through play. So why not some flexibility?

  72. Helen,

    because flexibility does not work. Homework cannot be optional or nobody would do it. How would you define “need” and “want”?

    No homework is a little extreme for me, too. Reducing homework to a well thought out level as appropriate.

    How much can homework interfere with family life and play time if it is only 1h a week? An hour a day?

    I feel like the homework issue has a different root cause other than plainly being too much. It seems to be an overchallenged and exhausted schooling system combined with ambitious parents that both pushed the envelope too far.

    We are all paying the price for misjudged limits on how many cost cuts and reductions schools can handle and how eager everybody is to get kids into ivy league schools…

    Sigh.

  73. I don’t really see why optional couldn’t work. I’m mainly talking about the parents having the option, not the kids.

    “How would you define “need” and “want”?”

    What I meant by “need” was along the lines of agreed by parents and teacher that the child is behind and will only get up to an acceptable level by doing extra work outside of school time (as I recall from the research, this was the only group that appeared to gain significantly from homework at elementary school).

    By “want” I was thinking parents (or children) ask for assignments for home, or parents use homework suggestions as a jumping off point for being involved with their kids education.

    On the how can it interfere with family life if it’s just 1 hr a week? It depends on what it is really. For example: If it’s reading a particular book that my kid hated it might well get in the way of instilling a love of reading. If it’s go to the park and pick leaves for class tomorrow – when our plan was to go straight to grandma’s and leave them overnight – then it could be a hassle and annoying and possibly result in us being unable to meet a commitment. Also, there’s the additional disruption to serendipity – if we’re doing something that’s become particularly fascinating/enjoyable or whatever and we have to stop to do some worksheet that has no benefit…

    “We are all paying the price for misjudged limits on how many cost cuts and reductions schools can handle and how eager everybody is to get kids into ivy league schools” Well, yes. But, given the research, this could be an ideal place to cut teachers’ workloads in a way that is educationally sound.

  74. I do not really understand why picking leaves would not work from the grandmother’s house. .. But I guess, that was just one example.

    Maybe it is time to reduce afterschool commitments, my neighbor just told me, his son has football practice EVERY NIGHT… that sounds to me more like football interfering with school than anything else…

  75. “This can interrupt the plans we have, for something that research has shown is not beneficial for most children. ”

    Actually, the research has not shown this. People writing the anti-homework books have spun the research this way, but the research actually shows a positive correlation between homework and test scores as well as homework and grades. Even if you read anti-homework books like The Case Against Homework or The Homework Myth, this is admitted between the lines, but it is seriously downplayed. In The Homework Myth, he says, basically, yeah, okay, there IS, statistically speaking, a positive correlation between homework and grades and homework and test scores, but, well, grades and test scores don’t have anything to do with “real learning.” In the Case Against Homework, they just downplay the correlation by emphasizing that it doesn’t show a big correlation (note that not big does not mean NONE).

    What the research actually shows is that there is a small (not NONE, but a small) positive correlation in elementary school and a moderate positive correlation in middle and high school between homework and test scores and grades. How the anti-homework movement spins a “small” and a “moderate” positive correlation into “no help for most students” I don’t know, but they have. It’s no help for most students if you don’t care about raising test scores and grades, which Kohn (The Homework Myth) doesn’t, because he also thinks test scores and grades should be abolished, of course.

    The anti-homework argument is, as far as I can tell: Homework only helps kids a little, and it occasionally inconveniences me and/or my child, therefore we should abolish it. I simply do not find this a compelling argument for the abolition of ALL homework.

  76. “But at elementary school age they aren’t learning from their homework either, at least not significantly. They learn most by playing and being mentored.”

    There are many sixth graders in elementary schools in my area who are doing algebra. Trust me, they don’t learn that primarily from “play.” They don’t learn how to read a novel and write a one or two page paper from “play.” I’m not sure what you mean by being mentored. Is that anything like being taught? Elementary school age kids mostly learn from being taught.

    Frankly, not even when she was 3-4 years old did my daughter learn MOST of her academic fundamentals from “play.” I think she initially learned some shapes, colors, and letters by playing with puzzles, but she learned a great deal more by doing preschool workbooks (i.e. what are basically homework sheets) that I bought from dollar stores not to force “homework” on her, but because she LIKED doing them. In church, beginning around age four, she would often ask, “can you draw me an activitiy?” meaning, basically, make a homework sheet for her to complete on the pew notepad, so she’d have something to do. And that was how she practiced what she was learning and mastered it. That’s what homework is – practicing and mastering what you have just begun to learn. It isn’t really learning something new, it’s mastering the material the teacher has presented. That’s the old-fashioned model: the teacher presents the NEW material, and the student takes it home and masters it through practice.

    Now, I agree with you that this really shouldn’t be necessary during elementary school, because there should be plenty of time for that practice IN SCHOOL. It is my opinion that in K-6, they should be doing those practice/mastery type worksheets in school itself after the material is presented. Only if they are slow and don’t finish the worksheets or exercises (and the amount given should be such that at least 80% of the kids can finish in school) should they bring the work home.

    I do think they need to have homework in middle and high school, particularly reports and pre-reading. The present new material in school and then practice it on your own at home model has worked for a pretty long time. The problem is that the school day has gotten LONGER (one hour longer than when I was in 9th grade – the hour was added while I was in 10th), technological/electronic distractions are far greater than they were in our childhoods (no texting, no internet), and children have grown, it seems to me, generally less efficient in the use of time. I’m in favor of a shorter school day with more homework – a 4-5 hour school day with 3-4 hours of homework. Some European countries follow this model – you go home at lunch time, eat, run around, play, then buckle down and do your homework.

  77. I honestly don’t understand why this is big news. No one at my (Canadian) school batted a lash when I said my daughter would not be doing homework. She’s dyslexic and the anxiety it created was making school and home life miserable (she can take 4 times longer than her peers to complete an assignment). We sat down and discussed options and the first thing out the window was homework. Now we’ve arranged to homeschool part time. She goes to school for the social learning activities in science and social studies and music and we cover math and language arts at home.

  78. I think part of the reason this isn’t as big a deal in Canada might be that we don’t have the kind of testing you do in the US. Your testing is frankly…bullshit, it isn’t pulling youir overall scores up internationally. We have testing in 3rd grade (3 mornings 2 times during the year) 6th grade and then in high school. THAT’S IT FOR STANDARDIZED TESTS

  79. Helen – it seems to me that you’re saying the whims & plans of the family should always come first. I disagree. I think it shows a lack of respect for education and academics. For my children, schooling and academics is priority number one. You see this to a larger extreme with the Asian classmates of my son. The parents assign ADDITIONAL homework to their own children for their out of school time. Where we live, there is an intense college-prep drive and I think the competition is healthy.

    Additionally, as another poster said, and as I have seen in my own family, a “gifted” child really will just breeze right through the busy work and then do their own leisure reading/research. They know that turning in homework is the name of the game. You want to go Ivy? You need the grades. You want the grades? You need to turn in the homework.

    Even for younger children, a healthy respect for the authority of their teachers is important. It’s part and parcel of life that sometimes you just have to suck it up, deal with the ridiculous policy, and carry on.

  80. through i do believe in homework, i do believe there should not be not excessive in which the child has no time for anything else, such as eating dinner. also, depending on age and restrictions on the days a child will have homework. for example, no homework Fridays.

  81. My take, for what it’s worth: students do need to practice math and reading and whatnot, but there should be plenty of time IN SCHOOL for the average student to get enough practice. That is, they should be doing their homework in school. If they can’t, then maybe the school is trying to cover too much material too quickly.

    For the students who need extra practice, or for the parents who want to work with their child at home on a subject (hey, maybe math is a priority to those parents the way music is to others), then there should be optional workbooks or homework provided: not part of the official grade (though maybe the teacher can give feedback), but available for those who want it.

    Kids are vastly different, remember: while homework may teach one student discipline, it may teach another student despair.

  82. @J

    Thanks for the racetonowhere posting. Love it!

  83. Sarah – When we’re talking about younger kids, certainly for me the whims and plans of the family are more important than the *whims* of the school. It’s more about good communication and a little flexibility though. It applies just as much to being asked to come in for a non-emergency conference with little notice as it does to homework being given.

    But this isn’t about not respecting education or academia as you assume. In fact I would like after school time to be unencumbered in large part because I think I can do a better job of instilling a love of learning and a grasp of more advanced concepts than homework can. As they get older they need to take a more academic approach to learning, but at a young age I’d like directed academic instruction to be limited.

    Academic education is not *my* number one priority for my kids when they’re under 13 – finding out what they love and developing well rounded people are my priorities. As they get older I expect academic education to become more important. But if they show more talent for something that can earn them a living and is not covered by the traditional academic curriculum, I will probably encourage them to follow that passion while maintaining a solid educational grounding.

    “Additionally, as another poster said, and as I have seen in my own family, a “gifted” child really will just breeze right through the busy work and then do their own leisure reading/research. They know that turning in homework is the name of the game. You want to go Ivy? You need the grades. You want the grades? You need to turn in the homework.”

    Is this supposed to be an argument for homework being compulsory for all kids? You are talking about a small subset of children, a very narrow goal and an unproven belief that homework is the only way to get there. Also, I have a hard time seeing this approach as free-range even for gifted kids. I’m all for homework being available so that parents who think their kids will benefit from it can have it. I’d just like flexibility for other approaches and goals as well.

    Sky – “What the research actually shows is that there is a small (not NONE, but a small) positive correlation in elementary school and a moderate positive correlation in middle and high school between homework and test scores and grades.” From what I’ve seen the research is really very mixed and much of it is fairly flawed in design. At a young age, some studies show a correlation and some don’t. Some studies show correlations for some subjects and not others. Some studies show correlations for some types of homework but not others. etc. Positive benefits generally increase as the child gets older. Dr. Susan Hallam from London University’s Institute for Education wrote a pretty good overview that’s fairly accessible to most laypeople – “Homework: the evidence”.

    I want to make it very clear that I don’t want to have homework be optional because I’m lazy – I want it optional because I believe there are better ways to educate in the home environment at that age. Mainly free play (which could involve doing worksheets if that’s what they love) and having my kids help out with real tasks under appropriate supervision (what I meant by mentoring).

    I’m aware that not everyone wants their kids to have this sort of childhood so what I really object to is a one size fits all approach by schools. I advocate for flexibility so you can have your way and I can have mine.

  84. I’m sorry, I need to make a comment here–really, now we expect high school teachers to “communicate” with each other to make sure kids don’t have tests the same week? Even assuming that all the 9th graders in a a high school had the same schedule, same teachers, same classes, etc.–that would still be 6 teachers making a schedule around each other. Can you imagine how difficult that would be?

    I teach Geometry and Physical Science to high schoolers. In each class, there is a test every 2.5-3 weeks. If I had to “get in line” behind other teachers, how would I ever be able to give a test? Then add in science project deadlines… no one would ever get anything done.

  85. Catherine. That is such a funny answer…

    I schedule meetings around people the entire day and have to organize conflicting tasks and assignments on a daily basis.

    If you feel that is too much… how can you expect kids to handle the work load of studying for all that. Scheduling all that should not be an issue among 6 people. If it is you do something wrong. Sorry. No sympathy from my side.

  86. Catherine, you amaze me. You can’t find the time or inclination to coordinate your schedule with other teachers. Yet you expect high schoolers to juggle multiple courses, schedules, test dates, due dates, projects, daily assignments, extra curriculars, college applications, and if they can’t get to bed on time, it’s their fault, they didn’t manage their time well!

    It’s your job to juggle. As Jasmin says, every professional does it. Reminds me of the teachers who weren’t posting homework on Blackboard. When the parents asked why at a meeting, teachers said they had no time, couldn’t be bothered. Great role modeling there.

  87. “@J
    Thanks for the racetonowhere posting. Love it!”

    You’re welcome, Michele🙂.

  88. I think you two may be missing the point Catherine is making. She has a test every three weeks or so (this is normal in high school). She has 25 students. These callses have six other classes each, and there are say 5 different teachers for English, 5 for history, 5 for science, etc… leaving 25 different teachers who give tests about once every three weeks. If teacher A gives a test Monday, teacher B Tuesday, teacher C Wed, teacher D Thursday, teacher E Friday, teacher F the next Monday….and so on and so on…and she isn’t supposed to give a test on the SAME day as any other teacher (or even during the same week?), when on earth is she supposed to give a test?

    Most students have *at least* one or two weeks *advanced notice* that a test is coming. They don’t have to study for it the DAY BEFORE. If they have three tests on Friday, they can study for one on Monday, one on Tuesday, and one on Wednesday. I myself almost never studied for a test the night before the test.

    In college, midterms and final exams are generally held all the same week, and sometimes students will have two on the same day. If students cannot learn in high school to pace their own studying and organize it ahead of time, they will have a terrible time on college finals and midterms.

  89. “I advocate for flexibility so you can have your way and I can have mine.”

    Well, I tend to think schools should just have regularly scheduled tests, and students can study for them however they choose. There is “flexibility” in how they choose to study. They can do the practice worksheets sent home by the teachers, or they can do “creative play” with mentoring, or whatever works for them, and then evidence their mastery (or lack thereof) of the subject material on the test. So I don’t really disagree with you. When we did practice problems in high school, very often the ANSWERS were in the book. We did them to practice, and we checked ourselves. It wasn’t as if the teacher checked the homework, though she did check if we had done it; but a lazy could could have just copied the answers. So i’d be okay with making that optional – whether it is helpful or not will be revealed on the test when the kid doesn’t do the work.

  90. If teacher A gives a test Monday, teacher B Tuesday, teacher C Wed, teacher D Thursday, teacher E Friday, teacher F the next Monday….and so on and so on…and she isn’t supposed to give a test on the SAME day as any other teacher (or even during the same week?), when on earth is she supposed to give a test?

    When I was in school, the major subjects (foreign language, math, science, history) were given a set day on which they were supposed to give tests – so all the English teachers had Monday as their test day, all the Science teachers had Tuesday and so on. You still ended up with two tests on the same day because not every subject was in this system, but at least you were less likely to end up with three or four! (And even teachers that mostly eschewed this tended to follow the system for BIG tests like midterms, plus finals were given on a separate system that included no classes, just the tests.)

  91. Sky, we’re not missing the point at all. The point being, a little understanding of what our kids face goes a long way. And yes, the teachers should coordinate. As hard as it is. It’s part of the job.

  92. Whoops, forgot to add “English” to that list of major subjects.

  93. Thing is, J, it’s not that hard. It seems hard if you think “OMG CONFLICTING SCHEDULES!”, but in most high schools every student takes the same variety of courses, don’t they? If you have to take so many years of math, so many years of history, so many years of this and that, you don’t take them all in one lump, you take one of each required course every term. Dividing them up by subject (and following the system my high schools used there’s one major subject for every day of the workweek, very convenient) is pretty efficient. It doesn’t matter what English class you teach, you test on Monday. It doesn’t matter what math class you teach, you test on Tuesday. And since kids are unlikely to have more than one English or Math class at a time, it mostly works.

  94. Sky, I’m continuing to read. I’m not saying my daughter should only be allowed one test a day. I know that’s not possible and she’s used to the juggling. But there were a few days there last year when she had a long test in every single one of her blocks. She tested from 8:30 am to 4pm. These were not midterms, finals or AP exams. It was just a regular old school day, business as usual. She was so wiped out when she arrived home, she was practically comatose. A little planning here is in order. On many other days, it’s not unusual for her to have three tests, a major paper and a research project, all administered and due on the same day.

    In fact, the students wrote an editorial on just this very issue in the school newspaper. These are very hard working earnest high achieving kids. They tend not to complain about homework publicly. For several reasons. Competition, a fear of being perceived as weak. But even they wrote that sometimes teachers assign so much at once, it’s unbearable.

    Seven projects and five major exams in one week. When that happened, we encouraged our daughter to speak to one or two teachers. Self advocacy is hard for her, she’s very quiet. But she did. Sometimes it works a little, many times it does not.

    Fortunately for us, another parent spoke up. The principal pledged that he would talk to teachers so they could coordinate projects and not assign them all at once. It’s never been addressed in a PTSA meeting but we shall see.

  95. “We have testing in 3rd grade 6th grade and then in high school. THAT’S IT FOR STANDARDIZED TESTS.”

    Ummm, mudmama, hate to burst your superior Canadian bubble there, but that’s when most schools have standardized tests in the U.S. too – 3rd grade, 6th grade, and high school. Not K, 1, 2, 4th, 5th, 7th, etc. Of course, it varies state to state, because localities set the education agenda to some extent (the federal government has been increasingly interfering with state’s rights in this arena over the past twenty years, but there is still some local deviation. NCLB was the largest federal intervention in education to date.)

  96. J– I thought you were saying your daughter should never have more than one test on a given day or perhaps even more than one a week. I misunderstood you. No, 7 projects and 5 tests in a week is way too much. How is this even possible, with only 7 subjects? She had both a project and a test the same week in the same class?

  97. “She had both a project and a test the same week in the same class?”

    Yup!

  98. Re: optional homework.

    My bio teacher in highschool was obligated to assign homework, most of which was busy work, several times a week. She’d go round the class for answers, but you were allowed to say “pass” if you didn’t know or didn’t do it, and she wouldn’t make a fuss. If your test/long term assignment grades were good, you could pass on the busywork all you wanted. If they were poor or getting worse, she’d pull you aside during worktime one class and perhaps ask you to do some more homework that she would go over more thorougly in her office time, or something to that effect. Everyone got the amount of homework they needed to learn the material, basically, without making it a big deal that some students had more to do than others — since it wasn’t graded nobody felt it was unfair, etc. This was the same teacher that caught me reading a book instead of doing the worksheets we were assigned. She let it slide when she realized that the book I was reading was basically a giant evolutionary history of our species (the ancestor’s tale, if anyone’s wondering). The general policy was “no-reading-until-you’re-done-your-work”, but she used her JUDGEMENT and realized that I was learning more *about her subject* reading that book than I would have been doing the enzyme wordsearch.

    A good teacher should be able to tailor their homework approach to their subject (ie. reading a chapter of a book before a class for english, doing a few math problems for each subject) and keep an eye on their individual pupils, who are, after all, all different. This would probably be harder the larger the school is, but I think it’s worth the effort.

  99. J, please consider volunteering for a school improvement committee in your school/district or talking with the teachers/administrators in the gifted and talented program (if you haven’t already). Schools are very happy to have parents and community members working together. You sound like you have many ideas to offer.

    After everything I have read I wish that we would all keep in mind that there are so many good teachers out there. I know schools have room for improvement, but maybe we need to keep in mind some of the good things school and teachers do. I have seen so many wonderful teachers burn out and leave the profession. Some of them are teachers that our country should not be losing.

  100. So much of what has come up in this discussion (inlcuding public school teacher burnout!) reminds me of why I am in favor of replacing cumpulsory public education with an expanded private market. The private market can provide better, more cost-efficient, individually tailored education for everyone, including the poor. We spend about $8,000 per pupil per year in this state, for instance, on public education. If every parent were simply given up to $8,000 per child per year by the government to use towards tuition, and were then left free to choose WHERE to send their children, a vast and diverse private market would spring up, allowing parents to choose the schools that best suited their individual children. The government could continue to run a few public schools (and charge tuition) as an option for those who prefer the public schools to the private options available, and the excess unusued government school buildings (as many would choose private schools instead) could be rented out or sold to private schools.

    I read an interesting book about how even the poor in the third world are educating themselves in private schools, called The Beautiful Tree.

    I have long leaned in favor of a market alternative to public education, but I have become increasingly supportive of the idea, and wish we would pursue it in the U.S. If all are given the amount the government spends per pupil for tuition, government expenditure does not change, everyone can still receive a free education (or, if they so choose, supplement a more expensive one), and education becomes better and more efficient and more tailored and less conformist/uniform. Yes, many public school teachers will lose their jobs — but al but the most ineffective ones could find jobs in the private schools (or the remaining public schools); the others woukld have to find jobs elsewhere. They probably would not be paid as much in the private schools, but they would likely suffer less burnout and have better job quality.

  101. Sky, I didn’t have time to read your entire comment, just began. You remind me of one of my closest and dearest friends in this regard. She and I are on opposite ends of the political aisle but have great respect for each other. On education, we tend to see eye to eye. I’m mainly proud I was able to change much of her outlook on NCLB🙂.

    She’s always talking about school choice. I happen to love Susan Ohanian, one of the nation’s foremost critics of NCLB. I support their causes but they are very against privatization of public school.

    I’m starting to see it differently. I’m starting to think school choice, as you outline it, is the way to go. I’d have to study it carefully, though. Educational policy has become a passion of mine.

    I’m sorry. I don’t have time to read all your points because my gentle husband is becoming increasingly irate that I’m still on the computer at the moment! I’ll take a closer look and respond after Thanksgiving.

    Have a wonderful Thanksgiving here, everyone, no matter where you stand on the issue. We all have much to be grateful for in our great land of democracy.

    As a parting shot, though, I still completely support a homework opt-out clause. It allows families to tailor their free time to the educational needs of their children. As parents, we are asking that we be allowed to do so. We know that a teacher, faced with a classroom full of children with varying needs, cannot really differentiate. But we can. Okay, math homework to practice but that’s it. Please trust that so many of us will use our free time wisely and well.

    To all those parents who are not in a position to homeschool, please allow us to after school our children in a way that meets our families’ needs. Please trust that we know our children better than anyone. An opt out clause allows you the homework if that’s what works best for you. It does not tell you not to do the homework. It merely requests that we have the freedom to spend our time otherwise.

  102. I fail to see how eliminating unpleasant things (such as homework) fits in with the idea of creating well-rounded, self-reliant children. Seems to me this is just creating a whole new bunch of cripples.

    Don’t get me wrong, every society needs its ditch diggers and fast food employees, but if this continues it may spread and infect my children just as the “safety” screams and the enforced childhood do.

  103. Oh, dar, get off of it. I don’t usually insult strangers I interact with on blogs, but your inferences just strike me as shallow, ill informed and narrow minded.

    To begin with, you identify homework as unpleasant. You take that as a given and your raisen d’etre, it appears, is to then make your kids do this onerous task in order to, what? Build character, morals, etc.

    I’m all for raising self reliant responsible ethical children. But your approach strikes me as a redemption through suffering model. That has its roots in religion, the denial of pleasure, which then brings you closer to God. I’m not attacking your religious tenets, but that construct has no place in a public school classroom. Yet unconsciously, so many teachers employ it.

    The best teachers my daughter ever had, the ones she not only remembers fondly, but actually remembers what they taught her, are teachers who inspired, led by example, who ignited a spark. The worst ones were the joyless grim ones, who assigned endless useless tedium under the guise of building responsibility and character.

    Dar, do understand that an opt out policy does not take away homework from YOUR kids. You can still get homework. This policy allows families to craft and shape their afternoons and evenings as they see fit. I’m not knocking your desire to get homework overload. I respect that you feel it works for your family. Go for it! Just don’t tell me or my family how to spend *our* free time. And don’t worry so much how my own child will turn out. Just worry about yours.

  104. Your weakness influences others. We are not islands despite how modern society attempts to isolate us.

    Btw, they aren’t inferences, they are statements. You are crippling your child, which is fine, my children will need to compete against yours and with your coddling, it should be a simple task.

    There will always be unpleasant things to do, from cleaning the toilet to pretending that a client isn’t a buffoon. The quicker and more easily one resolves oneself to getting the task done as efficiently as possible, the better.

    Since I am not a Christian, Jew, Muslim, Buddhist nor Humanist, you aren’t even close to my “religious tenets.”

    Further, a child is ignorant. They will choose the person who makes them happy in the short term because they cannot recognize when something will make them happier in the long term. Sadly, too many parents were raised by parents who failed to instill this trait so that we now have a bunch of self-indulgent adult children raising kids.

    If your child is not being penalized for being a lazy twit, my child will then ask “Why should I try.” It’s an insidious poisonous rot infecting our society, & you are the plague-bearer.

    I can’t believe you resurrected this thread for this garbage. If you don’t mind I am going to take some cold medicine now & try to ignore people like you for a while more.

  105. Dar, I’m using you as a springboard but this message is directed to the wider audience, not you. I’m terribly busy today so don’t have time flesh it out, but here are some nuggets with regard to homework stress.

    1. To quote Russell Barkley, “never sacrifice your entire family on the alter of homework.” Never. It ain’t worth it. Tell yourself you are a responsible parent and never let any educator bully you into believing you are a slacker because you dare to question homework policy. When your child has done what you deem to be a reasonable amount of homework, it is okay to stop. Harris Cooper of Duke University, the nation’s homework expert, will back you up vigorously on this. I’ll send his comments on that at a later time.

    2. You know your kid. If you have a unique child, one that would be so much more enriched by self directed pursuits, go for it. And don’t let people like Dar tell you you are a slacker and your kid will wind up digging ditches.

    If your child is writing a novel all afternoon, reading books, building leggos (that’s your future engineer), go for it. There are parents who have been pioneers and created safe havens for their children after school and that child grew up to be successful and famous. You know your child. If your child has unbridled talent, is an outside the box thinker, go with your gut. Public school often tries to make everyone average. Don’t kill your child’s creative spirit. They are in school all day. Hold the school’s feet to the fire and make sure those hours in school are productive and that time there is used well.

    3. Don’t spend your afternoons and evenings battling over homework. When it reaches that point of negativity, when it’s taken over your life, STOP.

    4. Even Harris Cooper, the one who created the ten minutes per grade rule, now concedes homework is NOT necessary in elementary. Particularly, if you have a child who is an avid reader and writer, they will benefit so much more from that than all the useless worksheets combined. Don’t fall for the status quo. You know your child, trust your instincts.

    Dar, I did some of this but I regret not fully. We’re almost done with K-12, we’ve got one foot out the door. Dar, cut the smugness. We’re not in a race with you. For what it’s worth, my child is two years ahead in math and is applying to selective colleges. Stop with the dire predictions about what a loser she’ll be. I don’t think so.

    But I will say this. We sacrificed plenty for homework. Even if I could look back and say she became a better person because of it, I’m still not sure it was worth what she gave up. And I cannot even say that much. At least in private school, her homework was meaningful. Not so much in public.

    I will tell you, as I survey the long landscape of the homework territory, that just about all the homework in 5th and 7th was a huge of waste of time. I can’t get those years back. They’re gone. My parting message to someone out there who can take something from my experience is this: DON’T make the same mistake we did. Go with your convictions. Your child will be more than fine. I know kids who were unschooled and are now in top universities. Their freedom did not hamper them. Quite the contrary. They come to college enthused, energetic and self reliant. Don’t burn your kid out in high school. Once again, it just ain’t worth it.

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

  107. I have my own work to do, but let me jot a response:

    1) Heaven forbid we take into consideration the opinion of someone who has gone to school and trained on the topic. I don’t get bullied, I agree with them, only stupid lazy children are created through overindulgence such as you advocate.

    2) Since you like quotes so much, “Skill without imagination is craftsmanship and gives us many useful objects such as wickerwork picnic baskets. Imagination without skill gives us modern art.” – Tom Stoppard. Without training, without learning how to write — and do to the efforts of people such as yourself, they are not learning these things — your child’s “novel” is, bluntly, crap. Your paragon of all things excellent only looks so to your eyes & when you aren’t able to support them, they will find the harsh reality waiting. Soup kitchens around the world are filled with “special” people. Hopefully you are capable of extrapolating.

    3) What battle? You are the parent, they are the child. They do it or they lose privileges. I suppose it depends on who is in charge at your house, the parent or the child.

    4) Do a Google search for “logical fallacy.” Why should I care what some guy says now when I didn’t care what he said before? I’ve never heard about nor cared about “10 min” rule since each child will take a different amount of time to master the material.

    I know plenty of unschooled children who shoot heroin on the streets (well, I did, I moved on & they are dead now). Which end of the spectrum is more likely? I fully expect your child to blow up in college — unless you continue to hover and succeed in blocking their instructors from forcing them to do something.

    I also love how you’ve turned self-indulgence and laziness into some blow for personal freedom. Things sure have gotten a lot easier since the summer of love.

  108. The reason I refuse to debate you is that I am putting my foot down. I don’t know who you are. I will not allow anyone to call me or my child lazy or overindulged. I have nothing to prove to you.

    You should be as lazy as my child. This kid works all the time. Trust me, I don’t lie awake at three o’clock in the morning, worrying my daughter does not get enough homework. But I do lie awake at 3am, worrying my daughter lost her childhood and that it does not come back to haunt her.

    As said, I don’t know who you are. Are you an educator, a parent? All I can say is this: I am sure glad you are not my daughter’s teacher and that I don’t have to deal with you.

    But I will not stand by and allow such disrespect. Not after the work we’ve done as parents or the work my child does. She is many things. She won’t toot her horn so I will. What she is not is lazy, overindulged or at risk of blowing up in college. Remember, you’re the one who did heroin. Not us.

  109. Really? When did I do heroin? You seem desperate to discount what I say even to the point of semi-histrionics, grandstanding & ad hominem. That is all fine and dandy, but one does have to wonder, if the shoe does not fit, why are you putting it on?

    Btw, your own description makes your child out to be overly delicate and easily damaged. Are you sure that you are right to cater to this?

  110. dar, my comment was not addressed to you. See the comment before mine and the heroin reference. It was not about you.

    Nice to chat with you. I made it clear I was not addressing you.

  111. Sorry, but I am also Nexist418. My apologies for the confusion. I use Nexist for most of my social networks & the browser must have become confused. So, I repeat, where is it mentioned that I did heroin?

  112. Just to help you two out with your debate;-), J thought you did heroin because of your comment in parenthesis…”(well, I did, but I moved on…). It can be read either way…either that you did do heroin, but later moved on though your friends died…or that you knew those that did heroin but moved on and they died.

    I just haven’t unsubscribed to the comments for this one, so they keep popping up in my emails. Hope you are both well!

  113. The second interpretation is correct — i.e., I used to know people who shot up heroin.

    Normally you don’t have to unsubscribe, they are active for a bit and then stop.

  114. […] Anti-Homework Movement Growing! « FreeRangeKids (tags: homework) […]

  115. As a former teacher, I don’t buy the no-homework argument.

  116. Wow! Just read through all of the comments and felt prompted to respond to Dar’s comment: “you own description makes your (gifted) child out to be overly delicate and easily damaged. Are you sure that you are right to cater to this?”

    Gifted children are special needs students. Their development is asynchronous, they are often bored, they fall behind their age peers academically if they are not appropriately challenged and most of all, they are more intense and sensitive than other children. A well-informed parent will, in fact, “cater” to this tendency. It is not something that can be disciplined out of them.

    I do feel that the needs of gifted students is important to address within the no-homework discussion. Handing out remedial busy work and endless worksheets to gifted students crowds out the time they have available for their own learning and pursuits. Many gifted children and adults are autodidacts; the free time that some view as indulgence is necessary in order for these individuals to thrive, and to truly learn. Einstein’s parents allowed him a lot of free time and practiced what we would term “unschooling.”

    I feel it crucial to allow leniency for a child who loves learning by not overloading them with busy work, gifted or not. Exceptionally gifted and profoundly gifted children are truly rare, perhaps this is why most people do not personally understand the issues surrounding their unique needs. Having to complete repetitive homework assignments is torturous to them and often leaves them cynical about the purpose of school.

  117. Gifted students are indeed special needs students, however to cater to them is to prepare them for failure. If Einstein had dicked around as much as today’s kids, then he would have been flipping burgers somewhere.

    Genius with out the ability to work hard is failure. Coffee shops around the world are filled with people who “aren’t recognized for their innate genius.”

    Why should the world cater to the needs of a student who isn’t willing to do what is expected of them?

  118. I suppose there may be a difference of opinion in what the “cater” means. I definitely do not mean “dicking” around or encouraging (or not addressing) disorginization. The problem is what types of things are expected of gifted students when there is no differentiation in class or at home. By nature, gifted children are obsessed with learning and tend to choose educational activities for entertainment. Assigning excessive homework to this type of student is completely unecessary. As for all children, I think they also need to have free time to enjoy their childhood; homework seems to be overprescribed.

    I think an example will clarify the problem. We have struggled with our child who is 2 to 6 “grade” levels ahead or so, In kindergarten, he had one hour of homework every night, filling out worksheets to determine beginning sounds of words, even though his teacher was aware that his reading and spelling level were at a sixth or seveth grade level. She insisted that the handwriting practice would be beneficial and that he should complete the worksheets anyway. One hour of work took twice as much time for him since the work was agonizingly boring for him. If left to his own devices, he would have practiced his handwriting anyway by researching stars or geography and writing mini-reports, as loves to do.

    He attended a public charter after we pulled him out of the traditional elementary. The charter did not assign homework and we were relieved to have our family time together again, and also for our child to pursue his own interests in the evening. He had the time to study Latin and win first place in a science fair.

    He is now in second grade and is enrolled in a hybrid homeschool program where there is a fair bit of homework, depending on classes that we choose. However, most of the homework is for projects, for literature classes or for preparing for class events, like a Socratic seminar. I want to reevaluate his schedule and give him more time for free play also. Homework, so far, seems to limited for a productive purpose, but I am totally against mindless repetitive work, at least for my child. If he or I refuse homework assignments, it will not be a matter of him ” not doing what is expected of him.” He does work hard, as many children do, and I hope that all children have a chance to have their childhood and their free time respected.

  119. Oh, and I will be proud of my child if he ends up flipping burgers or working at a coffee shop. I just hope that my children grow into happy, well-adjusted adults. Career path is not the only marker of sucess in life. I also do not want to assume that people who work those types of jobs are failures or are lazy.

    I believe that the absence of homework will not hinder children’s ability to organize or learn. I am a firm believer in play, as it helps adults and children reinforce concepts such as organization and problem solving.

  120. Believe it or not, boring repetitive work is necessary at times. Handwriting would be one of those. People do the minimum required, unless your child really enjoyed writing, he would not practice writing.

    Not doing what is expected of you is, 9 times out of 10, normally referred to as criminal behavior.

    Burger Flippers are not “happy, well-adjusted adults” on the whole, and how could they be if they had the potential to be Einstein but chose instead to work as a janitor in a porn store.

  121. “Believe it or not, boring repetitive work is necessary at times. Handwriting would be one of those. People do the minimum required, unless your child really enjoyed writing, he would not practice writing.”

    I don’t believe anyone in life is exempt or can truly isolate themselves from boring, repetitive work. At one time or another (and hopefully when we are older and have the developmental maturity to handle it), we will learn how to deal with monotony. Writing is a tool, and I what I described was a inter-disciplinary substitute activity to practice writing and penmanship. I did not suggest doing away with its practice. This is a way to engage children in the learning process, while they learn about how a star is a nuclear furnace, they can also practice their writing.

    “Not doing what is expected of you is, 9 times out of 10, normally referred to as criminal behavior.”

    I hope most people do not believe wanting or having free time will result in criminal activity. I feel that children deserve a chance to be trusted and to have someone believe in them. It may turn out to be self-fulfilling to assume that children will misbehave, even do something criminal if they are not doing homework.

    “Burger Flippers are not “happy, well-adjusted adults” on the whole, and how could they be if they had the potential to be Einstein but chose instead to work as a janitor in a porn store.”

    Janitor in a porn store? Let’s get real. The world does not always work in opposites. I do not feel that my personal goals for my child’s future career should compete strongly with his own. After all, he will be an adult someday and I will have to respect his own choices for his future and how he chooses to spend his career life. He may want to be a astrophysicist, a writer, an artist, or maybe his life goal will be to travel and not be so career focused. I feel my job as a parent is to shape his future, not define it or possess it entirely.

    Many profoundly gifted and exceptionally gifted children don’t want to be recognized for their innate genius as their top goal. I think that it is more important for them to feel that they have a place in society where they are understood and valued, the achievement comes later.

    I think there is a factor not being addressed in this dialogue. There is a large segment of our country who like to learn for the sake of learning. Other people feel that learning (and study) needs to be coerced. If you are one of the latter, perhaps you may push for compulsory homework. On the other hand, if you like learning, you may turn off your television (or not have one at all) and read a book, make a LEGO machine, create an animated movie or disassemble a telephone in your spare time. If that is the case, homework seems superfluous or maybe burdensome.

  122. You do a lot of “believing” and “hoping” et al.

    When you know things, then it will be significant.

    Knowledge is like diet. We need more than just the foods we love to eat.

    I don’t have a TV. My children are avid readers and they still have to get their homework done.

    Why do you have to respect poor choices? Accept that they have screwed up, yes, but only because it has happened. Respect it, no. Respect only that which is worthy of respect.

  123. Well, I do “know” enough to point out that you do not understand the correct usage for “et al.”

    What do poor choices and criminal behavior have to do with compulsory homework? Trusting your child (if they indeed deserve trust) does not mean that you respect their poor choices.

    I would like to see more schools offering optional homework. As I stated above, of course homework has its place! At the rate that it is issued, it is robbing our children of their childhood. As a teacher, I have seen many children who have a very poor grasp of expressive English, but yet, they spend hours doing homework.

    I am looking forward to seeing “Race to Nowhere” and I am glad we are looking at the unintended consequences of “kill and drill,” excessive homework and lack of critical thinking curriculum in our public schools.

  124. Seriously, I hear people complaining about elementary school giving too much homework, but we teens need a chance to live too! I used to looove learning but now I hate it. I used to love astronomy but I never have time to learn. 7 hours of school is like 7 hours of homework. You adults talk about how much work you have, but we will become adults soon! SO FREAKING LET US HAVE A CHILDHOOD! I want to have a homework-stress free birthday! I argue daily with my mom about homework. I wish that weeks will end when I should be savoring my life! I feel like adults are dictators. They don’t know what’s best for us because they are not us. I have a passion for writing but, damn it, I never have time!!!! I get in trouble for not practicing piano because I don’t have time!!!! I want my life back!!!!!! It may be too late for me but if reincarnation is true (please let it be) I hope to be reincarnated into a better world. It’s not just the homework, It is the pure stress of forgetting an assignment. I WANT TO READ IN THE SUN AND HANG OUT WITH MY FRIENDS AND LEARN ABOUT SCIENCE AND WRITE NOVELS AND SKYDIVE! I want to be a kid, but They are making me into an adult. Squashing out the creativity our world needs. five years ago i would be making pop up reports and diaramas, now I staple double spaced papers, nothing creative or I will get an F. I hate my life, but I love life itself. Help me, please.

  125. Yes, I know I’m late, but since none of the people above have said this…

    To all those people who feel that “no homework is an extreme and all kids need some homework”, let me put this into perspective for you:

    It is commonly accepted as a stereotype that a lot of adults work 9-5 white-collar desk jobs. This is similar to a school enviroment- a set amount of hours during the day in an ongoing effort to accomplish a long-term job (whether it be learning or managing people’s bank accounts).

    There are also those little federal laws requiring that people working more than 8 hours a day get paid overtime (or are compensated with vacations), and (as far as I know) there is a maximum amount of overtime a person is allowed to work.

    Now lets compare to children:

    First off, the only compensation they get is an “education”: aka a non-tangible benefit that is often laughable at many of the institutions.

    Then (for high-schoolers, since I have no clue about what goes on at middle school level or below anymore), you add on hours of homework with absolutely no tangible benefit, no real vacations (since having to do homework on long-term projects on the weekends and even having things assigned over the summer is very common), and then wonder why they don’t do anything independently (I’ll give you a hint- it’s because they’re enjoying the little free time they have).

    Then add on a job (which kids need since a lot of kids don’t come from rich families that can buy everything the kid’s heart desires and pay for college), assuming the kid can get one, and what you get is zero sleep and not very much reason to care about anything at all.

    Would you accept having to choose between free time or sleep every single day of your life at your job? No? THEN WHY THE HELL DO YOU EXPECT IT OF US KIDS?!!

  126. *clap* *clap* how quaint. Wrong, but quaint. You act like what you say is true.

    You forget a couple of things, school is short. I realize that Western Society is afflicted with ADHD, but even if you are correct and this “horrible” scenario (westerners also have no sense of real suffering) is true, it is only for a few years. Even if we pretend that it starts in first grade, that is only 12 years.

    Anti-homework is more of the bogus keep our children in arrested development bs that we criticize in other areas. Being a kid doesn’t mean being free of responsibility or incapable of accomplishment.

    Whether school is worth the time is another issue, but rectification would require effort which you indicate, via your anti-work screed, is more than you can handle.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: