Send me your questions and your success stories

Are you frustrated with the nightly homework routine? Are you wondering whether a particular assignment is worth your child’s time? Are you thinking about saying something to your child’s teacher, but don’t know what? Do you want to get together with other parents and make some changes at your child’s school? These questions, and many others, are answered in The Case Against Homework.

Still, the book might not answer your particular question. That’s what I’ll do here. So send me your questions and concerns and I’ll do my best to address them.

Have you had success in communicating with a teacher, organizing other parents, changing school policy? Send me your success stories and I’ll post them here.

But, best of all, if you have a story you’d like to share and you want to have an ongoing discussion or get feedback from other parents, join the discussion under the heading “Success Stories” in the forum.

If you end up posting a comment here and I think other parents would like to respond, I’ll post your comment in the forum as well.

18 Comments on “Send me your questions and your success stories”

  1. Denise Davy says:

    Hi Sara,
    I write a weekly parenting column at The Hamilton Spectator and would be interested in talking to you about your book. The Case Against Homework. Could you send me an email so we can try to coordinate a time to talk. Thanks.
    Denise Davy
    Parenting columnist
    The Hamilton Spectator
    905-526-3317

    August 21st, 2006 at 11:16 am
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  2. Judy says:

    Homework in the early grades is used as a way to both help parents be involved in their child’s learning, and to help provide consistent practice with skills which otherwise cannot be accomplished in school due to lack of time. Homework should be ‘independent’ practice… however, many chidren need supervision because they come to school with little experience completing anything independently. You make the case for teaching responsibility through chores… but most children don’t have any. Homework should not be a headache.. but most parents are so busy with their own lives that w/o requiring homework, they would do little with their children to encourage learning – and instead allow them to watch hours of TV or play video games. Parent involvement utilizing constructive activities which reinforce learning at school has been shown to increase student academic success.

    August 31st, 2006 at 8:58 am
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  3. Suzanne says:

    Dear Sara and Nancy,

    I just received and read The Case Against Homework. I think the book was brought to my attention through amazon.com as a book I might like to read. I have taught fourth grade in northern New York State for 22 years. School begins next Tuesday for me, so this book couldn’t have come at a better time! I didn’t read amazon’s review carefully so I wasn’t aware that the intended audience would be parents of school-aged children. (I come home to a husband and two cats). I thought it would be geared for teachers.

    I hate homework for all of the reasons you described in your book! I hate assigning it, collecting it and correcting it! I mostly hate that not every child goes home to a house that is conducive to completing homework. It is for that reason that I purchased and read your book.

    I wanted to share just a few comments with you. (I’ve discovered sadly that most teachers do not read much for pleasure. I think it’s because of all the ridiculous reading we had to do for undergraduate and graduate work!).

    First of all, I loved how readable your book is. (I read it in an hour or two). You did not toss out a lot of educational jargon, you stated your opinions and followed them up with facts and examples. I appreciated that you did not do a lot of teacher-bashing. (The last thing I wanted to read a few days before a new school year is how bad teachers are! I’m very sensitive).

    There were a couple of times I found myself cringing with a tad of guilt as I read the book. Although I won’t do a cereal box or diorama book report, I usually do a few similar type book reports each year. I give the students quite a bit of time to complete the project at school (I help to supply the materials as well), but there are always some students that need some extra time. In that case, I have to let them work at home. I try to give the students a week to work on the project, along with many discussions about budgeting time. I feel these book reports allow some of my non-writers a chance to express themselves in a different style. It also allows the children an opportunity to learn about budgeting their time. I do think children need opportunities to learn, take risks, make mistakes and be successful. I feel very comfortable with these projects, but your points are well taken.

    On page 125 you discussed reading logs. Ironically I was going to use reading logs for the first time in a number of years. I do ask my fourth graders to read for at least 15 minutes each Monday through Thursday night, but I haven’t held them accountable. My rationale for the reading logs was that I know I have students that do not read anything when they leave school. They are the ones that need to read the most! I’ve never insisted that students read novels, entire books… they could read newspapers, magazines, even Nintendo guides! I just want them to read. After reading your book, I may just put the reading logs aside and continue to “hope� my students are reading. I do think that just like there are some teachers that need to be more accountable, there are some parents that need to be more accountable as well.

    I haven’t had many complaints about the amount of homework I give. I stick to the 10 minutes per grade level rule. In a perfect world, I’d like to extend our day 30 minutes, and eliminate homework. Traditionally I designate June “no homework month.� I tell the parents it’s because little league has started, spring fever… Oh my! What a glorious month! No excuses about homework, correcting, collecting…. The only reason I don’t have a “No Homework in Mrs. Schiavoni’s Class� policy is because I would be doing the children a disservice when they get to our homework-hungry fifth grade teachers. My children (and parents) would be unprepared and overwhelmed.

    I noticed that in the beginning of Part Two of your book you ended the first few “typical assignments� with alternatives, yet there were not alternatives for every typical assignment. Maybe because I am a teacher, I was more interested in the alternatives than the rationale.

    Because of your book I am going to rethink my shaky policy about “no homework, no recess.� Do you have suggestions as to alternatives? I want my students to be responsible, yet I completely understand that things come up at home. Our days at school are jam packed, and for that reason, recess really is important. Let’s say a student comes in without an assignment. If I simply tell the student to hand it in the following day, now the child has two night’s homework ahead of him/her.

    (I’m sorry I’m getting so long winded!). I read your book quickly (and happily there were no comprehension questions to answer as I read), but I don’t recall you mentioning what to do when parents insist on (more) homework? I know of some parents who use homework as a baby-sitter. I found myself scratching my head at a recent parent/teacher conference when Jessica’s mom said Jessica didn’t have enough homework, then five minutes later Dan’s mom said Dan had too much! (I can hear what you are saying now…. There’s a great reason not to give any homework!).

    Thank you for your book. It gave me quite a bit of “food for thought.� I’m going to make some subtle changes this year (no missed recess, no reading log, I won’t read comprehension questions prior to reading the pages…), and I’m going to be sure assignments are meaningful. How about a book with a similar message, but geared to teachers?

    Best wishes on all of your future endeavors!

    August 31st, 2006 at 4:29 pm
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  4. Stop Homework » Fourth Grade Teacher on The Case Against Homework says:

    […] Read the entire letter. […]

    August 31st, 2006 at 5:02 pm
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  5. HM says:

    Sara,

    After gaining insight from your book about how to approach homework overload, I drafted a letter to my daughter’s teacher and received a very positive response from her. She was unaware of the tremendous load she was placing on her students. She was very willing to help balance the work load for my daughter. The general text of my letter follows:

    Dear Teacher,

    My daughter is a student in your Honors class. She is very excited to be in your class for the camaraderie she has developed with other classmates, the challenges an Honors class provides as well as a liking to your personality and teaching style. Although her motivation for your class is very high she has become emotionally distressed in only the second week of the school year. This concerns me, as parent, and is the reason I have written this correspondence.

    We have high expectations for our daughter’s performance, but they pale in comparison to her own expectations. More than likely, she has been assigned to your class because of her straight “A� performance at school, being a consistent recipient of top academic awards, and for her internal drive and motivation to achieve more. Thus far, she has excelled and lived up to her academic potential including her commitments as an Honors student. Even so, we have never lost sight of the fact that she is only a thirteen year old girl. This coupled with trying to maintain a balance of quality family time has been a challenge that we endure daily with the demands of school.

    I have the luxury of working from a home based office. This allows me the flexibility to help her and my other two daughters with their homework assignments daily and on demand. I have always been able to assist with guidance and understanding but I cannot help with homework volume. I have personally witnessed my daughter’s diligence in completing her homework assignments, especially the past two days, and have requested that she keep a log of the time she is investing to fulfill her homework commitments. Please see her log below:

    >
    >
    >

    I am asking for your assistance in evaluating your homework requirements to preserve my daughter’s enthusiasm for learning and her emotional well being. This will also have a very positive impact on our family time and family commitments. I offer my commitment to do everything as a parent to support your classroom initiatives so that my daughter’s learning experience is rewarding.

    I know as an educator you have many demands and expectations placed on you. I hope you perceive this letter as a positive channel of communication from a parent that wants to work with you to help you achieve your classroom goals as a teacher and mentor. I look forward to meeting you at “Back to School Night� and gaining a better understanding of your vision and objectives for your class. Thank you in advance for your support and attention to this matter.

    Respectfully,
    HM

    Sara, thanks for putting in text what I, as a parent, have been struggling with now for a few years. Thank goodness my daughter had a teacher that truly cares for her students and was willing to listen.

    I wish you much succes with your efforts to help bring this topic to the forefront of our education system.

    September 14th, 2006 at 11:04 pm
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  6. char says:

    not 2 mention the toll it takes on their little backs, carrying those heavy backpacks which have now been proven to cause “homework” r backpack scoliosis…………………………………………….it is just another way for teachers 2 fork over their responsibility to parents……………………….if parents wanted 2 b teachers, they would have gone into that field.

    September 15th, 2006 at 12:45 pm
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  7. Amanda Cockshutt says:

    Hi Sara,

    I have ordered your book from my local bookstore and am eagerly awaiting its arrival so that I can get some more advanced tips on dealing with the schools on this issue.

    I have brought up my many homework concerns with my children’s teachers and the principals at the schools over the past year. To my dismay, the response has been to provide the usual array of prohomework dogma and to ignore my requests. I have even been “shamed” publicly by comments like “can’t you just spend 20 minutes a night with your child” or “but it is so valuable for their education”. I find that there is a large body of frustrated parents who are terrified to bring up the issue, but happy enough that someone else is taking up the challenge.

    I look forward to the insights that your book will provide, and I will hopefully get back to you with a success story some day!

    September 17th, 2006 at 10:06 am
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  8. Sarah says:

    I agree that homework is a huge problem. I am a sophomore in high school, and am taking all advanced classes this year. Besides the cases against homework already mentioned, I would like to add that many students with excessive homework do not get enough sleep at night because they have to stay up late completing it. If there were no homework, I think I would enjoy school. However, it prevents me and all of the other students from doing things we enjoy and spending time with our families after school. Please do not give up the fight, I am so grateful that there are parents like you.
    Thank You!
    Yours truly,
    Sarah

    September 17th, 2006 at 5:08 pm
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  9. James Haakinson says:

    Hi Sara,
    My son just got a 1st Otr. Progress Rep. FROM SCHOOL HE IS IN THE 6TH GRADE.
    The teacher said and I “Elijah has failed to complete assignments outside of class. He dose work hard in class and takes part in discussions and activities. I hope in the future his brain does not shut off when he walks out the door.” Im not sure what he means since Elijah is a A student. This teacher just gave him an F. I have not talked to him yet. CAN YOU HELP. single dad with 3 kids. THANKS JIM

    September 25th, 2006 at 4:52 pm
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  10. Nicole Ponikiewski says:

    Hi Sara,

    I am the mother of three elementary aged children: a son in 1st, a daughter in 3rd, and a son in 5th. All of my children have been labeled “special needs” since early childhood. My oldest son had a severe expressive language delay (at 3 yrs old his expressive language was that of an 18 mo old), which greatly impacted his academic abilities. He received school support in speach, OT, and resource room for language arts and math. In 3rd grade he was “labeled” learning disabled and transferred into an LD self-contained class. Since that time he has improved and is now in a general ed class, but still reads aloud at a 2nd grade level. Ironically, along with an above average receptive language score (90th percentile compared to 20th percentile for expressive), he also has an above average reading comprehension. My daughter was “diagnosed” with Aspergers Syndrome on the Autistic Spectrum. She also suffers from expressive and receptive language delays; is socially withdrawn; reads below grade level and has minimal comprehension. She receives services for speach, and resource room language arts and math. My youngest son is still in the evaluation stage. Some have suggested ADD, ODD, and Aspergers. He is energetic, destructive, and often angry and antagonistic with peers. He lacks the ability to express himself verbally; does not seem to absorb what people tell him; and seems to misinterpret social cues from adults and children. He has no friends and mentions it often. At other times, he is very affectionate, and enjoys company (does not want to play alone), and is often empathetic towards others. He runs hot and cold almost every day – no in between emotions. I wonder, is he just overloaded with “rules”, and lack of movement? Is he just “very boy”? Is his anger a result of the inability to express himself? Is his misbehavior just a way to get the excess attention he craves?
    I am sorry to be so long winded. I wanted to share my childrens difficulties thus far before asking my homework questions. Prior to reading your book, I believed that after school academic work would improve their abilities, especially since they are already behind. Their homework isn’t necessarily excessive, but it takes them longer than most children to complete and is often “busy work.” It takes away from the time I want to spend on foundation needs. I would like to forego the homework and spend time on reading, handwriting (which they struggle with — do they actually teach this in school?), and fun math/sight word games. I do have a special-ed teacher that tutors my children, but she spends most of her time with my 5th grader on his homework, not on building foundation skills. I would like them all to spend only about 20 to 30 minutes, four nights a week, on the skills they never mastered in school. I also know that if they don’t “have” to read for school, they read more often. They now all lack the time for extra-curricular and social activities and the older two have put on weight over the past couple of years. They are so mentally exhausted by the weekend I cannot get them moving on Saturday until late afternoon — they just want to “veg out.” I don’t need to tell you the stress that I am under, always wondering if I am doing the right thing for them, I think it is apparent. What is your opinion regarding afterschool academics/tutoring/homework for kids with special needs? I might add that although my children learn differently, they have above average intelligences (111 – 115).
    Thank you so much for your very informative and well written book! I agree with Suzanne, the fourth grade teacher in New York — a book written for teachers and administrators would be wonderful! You could mention that all children learn differently, they are not carbons of each other because they are in the same grade. A classroom that taught each child, not the class as a whole, would be a great improvement.

    September 29th, 2006 at 9:52 am
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  11. Chris Adoretti says:

    Hey Sara,

    I’m a senior at a vocational high school in Massachusetts, and I completely agree that homework is being handled incorrectly. I constantly try to argue this point with my teachers, but they just write it off as me being lazy, and I end up wasting hours every day completing mindless, repetitive tasks. I’m confident that I would absorb the knowledge just as well, if not better, if the homework was not required. I think the homework should be optional in almost all cases, because it serves no purpose other than helping you figure out what you don’t remember from that day’s classes. If you remember how do certain things, you simply waste time and finish them properly, if you don’t remember, you waste time trying to figure it out and failing anyways. Combining that with teachers randomly assigning large numbers of identical problems, the logic completely falls through. Then you move on to English class, where the workload just absorbs all of your free time, pushing aside time better spent writing college essays, filling out applications, and especially much needed time to just relax. Human’s arent meant to learn 8 hours a day than come home and spend another 4 hours on homework, with most of the spare time being lost to transportation and eating. We need time to rest and just enjoy our lives, which really doesn’t happen once you get into school. You’re forced to either do the work and have no fun or ignore the work and watch your potential colleges fall away.

    I’m out of ideas on how to change the system, as it’s just grown into a huge hulking disaster bent on wasting all the free time of my fellow students and I. It’s not like I don’t care about education either, I force myself to do all the drone work and am currently 1st in my class, but when I look back over the last 8 years of my life the most memorable things I can recall is stressing out over useless projects which haven’t helped me at all.

    If they made the homework optional and simply had a small quiz every other day that would solve the same problems that homework attempts to. You can easily identify what the students don’t know, and your not forcing people who understand the material after the initial lecture to bury themselves in meaningless crap day in and day out.

    What can we as students do, because if this is what it is like in college as well, I’ll probobly just give up and take my chances with a high school diploma. I’ve already been working in the real world for a year and a half every other week through Co-op, and I can’t describe how much more fun it is to work hard all day than come home and actually not have to worry about writing out 40 math problems, or an essay on how you relate to some charachter out of the latest drawn out novel’s life. You come home, relax, hang out with friends, go to sleep, and do it all again the next day. That is what school should be like. You shouldn’t have to sacrifice the entire point of being alive just to stay afloat in such a archaic system developed to teach the lowest common denominator.

    Thanks in advance

    October 1st, 2006 at 2:45 pm
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  12. Mike P says:

    I finished your book moments before a meeting with my 5th grader’s three teachers. I brought along the notes I had made in Chapters 8 and 9 and walked into the meeting with trepidation, but resolved to make it happen.

    I pointed out the length of time it took my daughter to do her homework, how she started every school year fresh but hated it by midway. I told them how I hated school by midway. I told them where things went wrong with the homework. And guess what? I got everything I asked for plus more.

    Not only did I get the “ten minutes per grade” they told me I could cut it off earlier if it was clear she had the concept. Plus, they gave us a second set of her text books so she didn’t have to remember to bring them home. Plus they spent an additional hour talking about ways to help her in class and at home. AND they asked for a meeting in two weeks to make sure that the changes were working for everyone concerned!

    Thanks!!!

    October 4th, 2006 at 9:21 am
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  13. Alisa Green says:

    I am a Language Arts middle school teacher interested in hearing about your own teaching experience. I teach six periods a day that are 50 minutes long; the average class size is around 26. I have students whose reading levels range from grade level down to second grade. Approximately 40% of my students are non-native English speakers. About 10% of my students have IEps, 504s, or in resource special education rooms in addition to their regular classrooms. My unit and lesson plans are planned using SIOP, Bloom”s Taxonomy, and differentiated instruction guidelines to assure the greatest access to student learning. We do a good deal of in class activities and students are provided with a great deal of classroom time to begin assignments but do have homework most days of the week. Without homework, it would be impossible to have any time in class to instruct students according to the standards set by my state. Please comment on your own teaching background and training, including the modifications you make for students with all learning abilities and education histories.

    October 7th, 2006 at 10:45 pm
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  14. Nancy Sebok says:

    Dear Sara,
    I am currently reading your book. It’s very readable and the stories are sadly too familiar. My husband is currently reading The Homework Myth by Alfie Kuhn. We will trade off afterwards.
    I have met with my son’s teachers, guidance counselors, and a member of the school district in the past and have come away very disappointed and sometimes in tears. I have been told that I’m the only parent complaining and that my son’s being overworked is because he’s meticulous and an overachiever. Other parents I have talked to want homework, and most don’t think it’s a problem worth pursuing. A few tell me to do it and let them know what happens. I really feel alone and despite your positive encouragement in your book, I feel I am guarateed to fail. I have offered to home school my son, but he enjoys the school atmosphere and most particularly the comraderie with other gifted kids like himself.
    Thank you for your efforts, Nancy Sebok

    October 9th, 2006 at 2:43 pm
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  15. Stickybeak says:

    Dear Ms. Bennett:

    I was referred to your website by another party. I was wondering if you know of any organizations in California that are trying to mobilize against schools issuing so much homework to our students, or trying to abolish it altogether. I would love to get involved.

    Thank you very much.

    October 13th, 2006 at 4:23 pm
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  16. Ian McKinney says:

    Hi Sara,

    I’m reading TCAH right now, and as I read all the comments from parents about how they feel terrible making their kids do homework but that they feel they must keep doing it, I keep wondering “Haven’t any of them read Stanley Milgram’s _Obedience to Authority_!?” This is the book that details the classic sociology experiment in which test subjects were introduced to another “test subject” who would be trying to learn something, and at whose mistakes the real subject would be required to “administer” an electric shock. The receiver of the false shocks would begin to complain of heart trouble and other ills as they increased in intensity, but the researcher would calmly instruct the subject to continue to administer the shocks, even when the “learner” began to scream and even after he fell silent. No physical coercion was ever used; rather, the researcher would say things like “The experiment requires that you continue.” Men from many different backgrounds would express concern about the learner, but far too many of them continued to press the button, believing that they were administering the shocks.

    There’s an excellent article describing the experiment at Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milgram_experiment – or watch a five-minute clip from the film at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T1oUbhv3DT4 .

    So when a teacher or a school system tells you – directly or indirectly – that you must continue to administer the homework, even as your children and your family suffer, do you keep going? I’m with you: I say no.

    October 24th, 2006 at 1:16 pm
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  17. Cynthia Klelin says:

    Dear Sara,
    We have “spoken” via e-mail and I wanted to share my story with other families. I am a mother of a college freshman daughter, a former elementary school teacher and a parent educator for 12 years. My daughter is quite independent and bright to the point where she questioned the value of homework in kindergarten, “Why to we have to do this? Why don’t we just stay at school longer to finish and not take any of it home?” When teachers in kindergarten were asked about the purpose of homework, the response was, “To prepare them for when they are older.” Perhaps, it is unknowingly preparing kids to be adults who will bring work home at night so they don’t have time for their famillies!

    My daughter always resisted homework. It had nothing to do with her ability, rather her belief that it was unnecessary and she was not interested in pleasing others nor accepting the argument that homework was important.

    I decided when she was in middle school that my relationship with her was more important than hassling with her about doing her homework. I wanted our time together to be more joyful where she would want to be with me and learn about life. In high school, the school focused on what grades she received and what college she wanted to attend . The students were never asked if they were enjoying learning and were they learning about themselves.

    In the middle of 10th grade, our whole family had enough and we found a progressive, small high school with a totally different philosophy. The school is Mid-Peninsula High School and it is located 45 minutes south of San Francisco. Their web site if http://www.mid-pen.com. Their philosophy is “We integrate all aspects of high school life and learning to help students find individual paths to their personal best.” The focus was not on homework which allowed my daughter to participate on sports teams and to have a job which has given her real life experiences. She is now attending a highly acclaimed and competitive public university in California, Cal Poly, as a math major. Her small amount of homework in high school, 1 to 2 hours at best a night, did not reduce her SAT or ACT test scores. Cal Poly was looking for well-rounded students with application questions such as, “Do you have a job? Are you a leader on an extra curriculum activity?” She was able to answer “yes” to both questions.

    I want to encourage parents to find alternative education and if there is not a school that meets your child’s needs, perhaps you could start one. This is how Mid-Peninsula started 25 years ago in a family’s home. I am sure they would be very willing to help any interested parent.

    Our children will learn best from us when they feel connected to us and loved. Best of luck to all the families. Thank you for writing this invaluable book, Sara and Nancy.
    Sincerely,
    Cynthia Klein

    December 6th, 2006 at 8:40 pm
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  18. Heidy Kellison says:

    I wish your website included a membership list of people who are agree this is a national problem. Then, by sheer numbers, we can demonstrate our concerns to decision makers. No Child Left Behind is up for reauthorization and Democrats would like to see changes. You are the first possible forum I have been made aware of that could meaningfully connect parents.

    January 8th, 2007 at 9:24 pm
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