Letter to the Editor of a Local Newspaper

Today’s post is a letter that appeared in the Sackville Tribune Post on May 8, 2007. I’ve been corresponding with the author, Amanda Cockshutt, since the publication of The Case Against Homework and Amanda and I were on a Canadian radio program together in the Fall. Amanda, who lives in Sackville, New Brunswick, Canada, is the CEO of Environmental Proteomics, a small biotech company, and part time lecturer at Mount Allison University. She has 3 children, ages 12, 8 and 6. In the winter, Amanda persuaded the principal of her children’s elementary school to have two separate one-week trial periods without homework. When it was over, the school did not abolish homework, but it did institute some homework policy changes, including no homework the nights of major events and two weeks per year where there would be no homework other than reading.

Letter to the Editor
by Amanda Cockshutt

Children are assigned daily homework from the time they start kindergarten at the ripe old age of five. Is it really necessary? Does homework promote better learning or even higher test scores?

I have been bothered by homework for the past 7 years. At times it has been a nuisance, at other times it has elicited outright mutiny (complete with kicking and screaming) in my household. I started to seriously question the value of homework when our family spent a year in Sweden. My oldest child, then 7/8 attended a Swedish school that assigned one math sheet on Monday to be returned Friday as the only homework. School ran from 8:10 am until 1 pm. My child went from an English reading level of Curious George to beyond Harry Potter, went from only a few words of spoken Swedish to being a fluent speaker and reader of Swedish chapter books and she covered the entire Canadian math curriculum that year. The last spike in the homework coffin for me, was the discomfort I felt telling my kids to put down the book they were reading or come inside from playing and do their homework. It was time to do my own homework.

Reading a handful of books (“The End of Homework”, “The Case Against Homework” and “The Homework Myth”) and a number of research articles (including the review article “The Effectiveness of Homework”), I learned that there is no evidence that homework improves academic achievement for elementary school students. No published research has shown that time spent on homework causes an improvement in academic performance or achievement. Should schools have the right to infringe on home life in the absence of solid research to justify the practice?

All three of Sackville’s public schools assign nightly homework that students are required to do. Failure to complete homework is reflected on student report cards and often results in detentions at the discretion of the teacher. Most schools follow the “ten minute rule”, meaning that an average child would spend 10 minutes per grade level per night on homework. This ten minute rule was invented by educational researcher, Harris Cooper, who demonstrated that homework has no effect on academic achievement for young students, which is curious indeed. The ten minute rule is based on no research whatsoever.
Furthermore, administering and assessing homework consumes valuable teacher time. It also introduces the complexity of teaching a class where some of the students have completed the homework and some have not. This often translates into class time being wasted for the diligent students whose homework is completed.

Another serious consequence of homework is the physical strain of lugging it home every night. Physicians recommend that children carry no more than 10% of their body weight on their backs. A running tally of my oldest child’s backpack (including a modest lunch, and not including extra gym clothes and shoes) has her backpack weighing between 15 and 22 pounds, far in excess of 10% of her weight!

Given the lack of research demonstrating the effectiveness of homework, particularly at the elementary school level, combined with the urgent demands for increased physical fitness to battle childhood obesity, it is time that we demand accountability from our schools. Years of research show that time spent on homework is not leading to greater academic gains. Children should spend their precious spare time pursuing their own interests like practicing the piano, playing outside, reading for pleasure, or simply relaxing. Schools should refrain from meddling with family life for no valid reason and leave the choice of how to spend time at home up to the family.

Please tell educators and school administrators that it’s time to stop this foolishness.

Amanda M Cockshutt, PhD
Environmental Proteomics N.B. Inc.

55 Comments on “Letter to the Editor of a Local Newspaper”

  1. Harold Jarche » Stop homework in Sackville says:

    […] read Amanda Cockshutt’s letter to our local newspaper last week, and now Sara Bennett at Stop Homework has posted it in its entirety. The pressure that Amanda, and others, have put on school autorities […]

    May 16th, 2007 at 6:31 am
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  2. Mike Gloss says:

    One of the things that has stressed me has been the amount of homework given to children during vacation time.
    My family couldn’t go on the trip we planned because my daughter had to do a serious book report and as well watch something that was going to be on TV durring the vacation.
    There was no possible way my daughter could read this book which was about 300 pages as well as go to florida, and then do a report on the TV show that was on tuesday.
    Homework has harmed our family life. The stress just gets worse and worse. I’m thinking about hiring an older student to do the homework from now on. I recomend this to everyone.

    May 17th, 2007 at 10:51 am
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  3. Sara Bennett says:

    I think vacation homework is a very good place to start a conversation with the school/teachers about homework. Did you talk to the teacher who assigned that homework? Did you let her/him know that you had to cancel your plans because of homework? I think every adult can understand the need for a break and, once you remind the teachers/school that your kids need a break, too, they’ll rethink their assignments.

    In The Case Against Homework, you’ll find a lot of arguments for why vacation homework is particularly detrimental and samples of letters and conversations you can have with your child’s teacher.

    I hope your daughter doesn’t get summer homework.

    May 17th, 2007 at 4:42 pm
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  4. amy says:

    im not from america im from london. i think homework is hard in year 6 because the teacher doesn’t tell us what to do.

    November 25th, 2007 at 4:37 pm
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  5. DION/jeremiah says:

    can u help us stop homework PLEAZE HELP US!!!!!!!

    February 21st, 2008 at 5:12 pm
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  6. lee says:

    there should be a big stop to homwork

    June 7th, 2008 at 7:37 pm
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  7. kt says:

    i hate school because of homework. i think that if i had no homework then i would quite enjoy school.i can never relax or have anytime to revise on what i have done that day at school or read a book.ican’t really go out much to get exercise or help with things like cooking and it also gets in the way of my guitar practice. please stop hmwk :'(

    October 8th, 2008 at 11:58 am
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  8. Suzy Luv says:

    I am doing a persuasive Essay on banning homework and how homework is bad for children. I have learned many things and ALL of my research leads back to Sara Bennet, Nancy Kalish, or Alfie Kohn. I had no idea that there had been this much research. I am deffinately a victim of late night homework and tears over loads of homework. I can relate so well to all the research i have done. I have a.d.d. and when i take medicine to pay more attention in class i tend to be even more stressed in the afternoon when the medicine has worn off and its time for homework.

    November 6th, 2008 at 11:39 am
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  9. Annonoymous says:

    Homework takes away from what being a child is all about, enough said. I went outside today, but all I could think about is that I needed to go inside because I had to do homework. PLEASE SARA BENNET HELP US STOP HOMEWORK.

    April 29th, 2009 at 10:29 pm
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  10. Anonymous says:

    you are coool

    May 11th, 2009 at 3:09 pm
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  11. Denise says:

    With all the capitalization and punctuation errors, looks like we may need more homework!

    September 8th, 2009 at 6:17 pm
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  12. HomeworkBlues says:

    Denise, rather I might venture to add that all those errors prove more education is needed in the classroom. Get as much done there as possible. While you have the kids. While they are fresh. That’s what they are there for. Busy homework has no place in the home.

    My daughter doesn’t make those errors. May we be excused, please? I’ve said this a thousand times but it bears repeating. At the risk of running in circles. What she wanted to do every afternoon in elementary was read a novel, write a novel. She wanted to read and write! Is there a better way to reinforce good writing, nurture reading? Why is this such an issue? To me, it’s a no brainer.

    She also wanted to build, take appliances apart to see how they work, draw, and play outside, creating an imaginary school and building fortes. Why is easy but tedious and onerous homework more valuable than self-described pursuits?

    September 8th, 2009 at 8:48 pm
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  13. HomeworkBlues says:

    Meant to say self-PRESCRIBED. But described works too!

    September 9th, 2009 at 12:41 am
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  14. Anonymous says:

    At the risk of your wrath, I must say I disagree. Homework is a good way for teachers to evaluate how each student is understanding the material being taught. In class a student may believe they understand the work, or may be afraid to ask for more help in front of their peers. Once the student goes home and must work through some math problems or figure out a recurring theme in a book on their own it may become obvious where they need more help, what they have grasped and what they have not. With out this check in place a student may come to test time and end up failing it because they never got the concept.

    October 5th, 2009 at 11:40 am
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  15. PsychMom says:

    I just have to ask….what does it mean, to you, if the child doesn’t do the homework? What do you do in this case?

    Do you give grades related to homwork?

    October 5th, 2009 at 12:43 pm
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  16. Matthew says:

    Anonymous said: “Homework is a good way for teachers to evaluate how each student is understanding the material being taught.”

    Is it? A few days ago, I spent about 30 minutes teaching my 4th grader exponents because he either didn’t get it in class or the teacher didn’t cover them thoroughly before assigning the homework. My wife spent 1 to 2 hours leading him through a book report this weekend, typing at the keyboard while prompting through almost every sentence of the report (this is the first time for a full book report). The end result in no way shows what the student learned or was capable of from what he was taught in school.

    Why were we so involved? Because in both cases our son was in tears when he didn’t know how to proceed. Other than being left wondering whether my son is in too high of a math class or homework is being assigned that hasn’t been covered in class (against county policy), I at least felt good that my son did learn from the math. But the book report left me very uncomfortable with the level of our involvement. Writing and analysis skills a definitely good, but I just don’t think 9 year olds are capable of the organization skills needed to independently write a full book report. And the teacher will never learn that if every other parent did what we did (and I’d guess most do; the students whose parents don’t will end up getting downtracked).

    My favorite teacher this year? One of my 8th grader’s teachers who said that any assignment (including tests) is eligible for extra credit if the student goes back and corrects mistakes after they are graded and that he’s available any time to help with questions, including email on the weekends.

    To him, the most important thing is that his students come out of class having learned the material (or at least had the opportunity to do so).

    October 5th, 2009 at 1:47 pm
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  17. PsychMom says:

    Matthew: And isn’t so hard to resist teaching it to them? I was confronted with that this weekend with math as well. Find the perimeter and the area…I know how, but the child apparently does not. Am I supposed to teach it? Apparently not because the child is supposed to have covered this, but she doesn’t have a clue.

    We left it undone. My daughter was mad at me for not helping………great.
    And my question is…what if the parent doesn’t know how to do the task? What then?

    October 5th, 2009 at 2:56 pm
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  18. FedUpMom says:

    You know, one reason for a homework moratorium is that it would force schools to confront how much teaching they actually do. Schools in “good” districts routinely outsource the actual teaching to parents, as PsychMom and Matthew describe, and as I experienced myself.

    It’s not reasonable to expect an elementary school student to teach herself math out of a textbook at home. This is where Mom and Dad step in and do the teaching that should have been done at school, during the day, when the child was still reasonably fresh.

    October 5th, 2009 at 6:25 pm
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  19. Anonymous says:

    “Should homework be banned at all local schools?”I think that teachers and students have both had enough with all of the homework being given to students.Teachers have lives out of school to and barely have enough time to grade schoolwork let alone homework,students have lives also and balancing school and sports to the best of their ability is hard even if they try their hardest sometimes they just can’t cope with all of the work being given.Most people don’t have to do sports to not be able to keep up with homework but people also play instruments and need to practice for shows and recidals.”I play piano,play basketball,softball,and soccer to get in shape and sometimes i show up to school with no homework because i had a game or practice or even lessons that night.”As you can tell people just like me all over the world are suffering for this but in a sports is a plus because you can actually go to college for any sport.”I wish every night to be able to go to college for basketball because i love the sport so much.”I hope though that us students and teachers can change the schools into making us have so much homework or better yet any homework at all.I hope you can post this for and informational term towards schools and children all over the country.
    -Ali Nickley

    November 23rd, 2009 at 9:12 am
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  20. sarah werring says:

    A percent of people said that “homework should be banned”.Another said that “Home is for family not homework”

    November 23rd, 2009 at 9:28 am
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  21. mckinzie says:

    i think that homework makes it hard for kids to do outside of school activitys!
    for example my girl takes ballet and is really intoo it. but she had so much homework one day that she couldnt go and she was up late. the next day at school she could hardly stay awake!

    this is ridiculous!

    January 6th, 2010 at 5:38 pm
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  22. Anonymous says:

    homework is stressful and doesnt even have a point!

    February 23rd, 2010 at 6:14 pm
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  23. Anonymous says:

    school is bad enough but not that bad. but….. school + homework equalsAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! SCHOOL AND HOMEWORK STINK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    February 23rd, 2010 at 6:17 pm
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  24. Anonymous says:

    Where can i find the review arti­cle “The Effec­tive­ness of Home­work”?

    February 25th, 2010 at 11:54 am
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  25. sam says:

    I HATE HOMEWORK IT HARD & WE & WE GET LOT OF IT. One of the things that has stressed me has been the amount of home­work given to chil­dren dur­ing vaca­tion time.

    February 28th, 2010 at 9:04 am
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  26. SAMMY says:

    homework is hard & no one likes hw, all the people are right about wath they said about hw & if we forget to do our hw we would get in to a huge trouble. our parent would ground if they heard that we didn’t do our hw & got into a huge trouble.PLEASE STOP HW.
    IAM FROM IRELAND.

    February 28th, 2010 at 9:15 am
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  27. Asfand khattak says:

    please stop home work is a mess to do; no one likes to do home work.there is no time to play if we sit to do home work.

    May 13th, 2010 at 8:09 am
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  28. Asfand khattak says:

    please stop giving home work.make a bann on homework . One of the things that has stressed me has been the amount of home­work given to chil­dren dur­ing vaca­tion time.n on homework.

    May 13th, 2010 at 8:19 am
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  29. Asfand khattak says:

    there is a contry name pakistan which need love and friendship of all the countries.there is a bad president of this country name Asif Ali Zardari.he is very bad he tooked all the money and didnt gave any money to poors.so we all need a good president for our contry pakistan.so please do some thing for our country.

    May 13th, 2010 at 8:31 am
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  30. HEHe says:

    I am very disappointed with the amount of homework given to students.
    Being a student myself, I know what it is like to work all day (roughly 7 hours) then come home to do more work. I want to take up writing, I started three years ago and haven’t even got onto the second chapter yet. I have been caught up with homework too much.

    I want to play and learn how to be a kid, but homework is ruling my life.

    I also don’t have time on the weekend for my family etc because I am at my desk all of the time doing homework.

    I am supposed to have a day to myself, but when I have one I am stressing out and thinking “but that french assignment is due on Monday, and that english one is due first period!”

    May 19th, 2010 at 8:05 pm
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  31. Anonymous says:

    I feel that Substitue teachers should not be allowed to give homework. Thanks to homework I have not been allowed to get a full nights sleep in 1 whole week. I am exaused.

    May 19th, 2010 at 8:41 pm
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  32. Homework and Childern says:

    Im pretty sure all of you have went to school to get educted to get a job or any other reason. Now tell me, did you enjoy it? Did’nt you feel like quiting school and wished that school didnt even exsits?
    Well believe it or not, Childern all over the world have asked these questions and experienced these thoughts. Why dont we change their thoughts? How about… More fun activties, easy tests and more excursions.

    May 21st, 2010 at 6:10 am
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  33. -_-" says:

    I actually can’t believe some people let their children be in charge… and think that everybody “hates” school.

    In fact, lots of children and teenagers etc love school.

    Being a student myself, I know for sure that I love school. My parents pay good money to send me there and work very hard to get that money so I can have a good education, and I have more opportunities when I am older for jobs etc.

    Sure, homework sucks, but you get over it! It is just revision. Sometimes it makes me feel sick inside my stomach, but what is it supposed to be: a walk in the park?

    If your child doesn’t understand the work, maybe you should communicate with the teacher, have a meeting with them and try to cut down the homework. The homework should not take hours on end if your child is paying attention in class and is organized.

    May 23rd, 2010 at 12:00 am
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  34. meme says:

    i agrea with this letter

    May 25th, 2010 at 11:00 am
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  35. Anonymous says:

    As an actual student, I have 2 opinions about homework. First of all, I don’t blame the teachers who assign us it. That’s their job and that’s one of the ways they prepare us for tests, quizzes, exams, and other stuff like that. For example, if I forget to do my homework on this difficult lesson in math, I end up not doing as well on the quiz or test. It shows that practice & repetition do have effects on learning. However, sometimes I get homework & projects worth test grades in multiple subjects on multiple nights. As I have continued through school, the homework is increasing in amount & difficulty. If teachers have to cover a certain amount of work in the school year, they have to race through the lessons. Sometimes I have no idea what I am doing. I’m not exactly saying I wish school were longer or that we have to go to school on the weekends & crap, but maybe we shouldn’t have to cover so much stuff…I mean most of it is really just busy work. Not to mention how much my bag weighs. I have like three thick workbooks, five composition notebooks, three spirals, plus my lunch and pleasure reading. One day for a check-up, the doctor informed me that I had scoliosis. She said I needed to either carry less stuff or get a rolling backpack. Are you serious? So whoever is up in their haughty governmental throne, making up this garbage so that we can “maintain an international standing in the education realm” really needs to get a life. When am I supposed to have fun as a kid like with my friends & family? Seriously…

    May 29th, 2010 at 8:10 pm
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  36. Name says:

    I do all my homework. I’ve gotton over 100 homework’s in about 7 months, but i dont care. I want good grades and A levels in my GCSE’s. I am determined to be a doctor, I want my life to be successful. I do all my homework the day it’s given. It’s hard for me because the school academic year has changed and my GCSE’s start next year (I’m 11 years old, soon to be 12) so 3 years of learning (at secondary school) has been crammed into 2 years. In addition, homework lets us practice and it helps us to remember more. I disagree with what you have said. Most people would agree seeing as they see homework as being a stressful thing for a child, which it is, but It helps kids who actually care about school. Like me.

    July 13th, 2010 at 3:54 pm
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  37. Name says:

    I’m a student myself and i know what it’s like. The homework shouldn’t be hard if you’ve focused in class, and you have saturday and sunday to rest. If you’ve got no idea what the homework is about ask the teacher. It’s so simple. I’m in top set for everything and I have some of the best grades in the school. Want to know why? It’s because I do my homework and actually concentrate in class. I don’t care what others say, i want a successful and great life.

    July 13th, 2010 at 4:03 pm
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  38. Anonymous says:

    I think the whole thing is ridiculous. We go to school to learn;not to continue it when we come home from a long day at school. They say it will help us remember as well as studying. All the adults around me say if you don’t know by the time you get in the day , let it go and try again tomorrow.People say that half of the reason most people are obese is cos they have so much school work that the don;t seem to get enough sleep or exercise. They need to settle down with the homework or who knows what is going to happen.

    July 19th, 2010 at 3:53 am
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  39. Anonymous says:

    every day my teacher just throws homework at us and expects us to finish it by tomorrow but the teachers dont know what we have to go through every day and every week and sometimes i want to go up to him and see him complete the work we have to do and when we dont get it done we have to go to detention which is pointless because your not learning enything you do at home your only learning in class the stress is driving me crazzy

    February 3rd, 2011 at 10:00 pm
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  40. Anonymous says:

    i completely agree with you!

    i am in yr 8 at a catholic school in Victoria, Australia and just about every day we are given homework, my bag is well above 10% of my body weight, well, well above!!

    We are given homework every holiday, especially Easter (now) i have homework that was supposed to be completed at school but was never given to us by the teacher so she gave it to us to be completed over the holidays!

    My friend and I were talking about it and think that teachers do not understand the true meaning of the word ‘holiday’.
    A holiday is a period of rest from ordinary business/work!

    WHY are we getting ‘homework’ while the teachers (and i know because my dad is a teacher) get free time to actually have a holiday.

    I’ve had to skip sport and music commitments because of the homework i’ve had. I’ve just recently gotten a puppy and have been unable to play with him because of my homework :(. I’ve also had to miss seeing my friends because i have too much homework. I’m a very social person and love to be with other people.

    Isnt the whole point of school is to be taught and to learn and be educated, and home a warm, welcoming, NON-stressful place?? I dont mind reading a book and doing a report on it or doing revision for a test but to get a ton of work is just annoying.

    I hope we can stop homework soon, please help us.

    Thankyou xx

    April 17th, 2011 at 12:21 am
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  41. Cheyenne Gordon says:

    I hate homework! It’s hard and when some teachers try to explain something they make it difficult to understand! The wierd thing is I always get good grades especially in Discovery!

    November 3rd, 2011 at 5:22 pm
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  42. chris 8th graade says:

    ok i think homwork is a very bad thing and im writing an essay on why we should not have homwork. i have sports and extra caricular things after school parents think of this i get home have to go directly to sports practice after sports end it like 9:00 at night. hmm then i have to go eat dinner then its 10:00 at night then i must do my chors hm noww its 10:45. im so tired now i am gonna go to bed i reallise 10 minutes later that i have 2 to 3 hours of homework after i already went to class for 8 hours. wow lets then wake up at 6 am and go to schoool and repeat again haha. and if i dont do my homework brings down my grade and then if my grade goes down to much my parents take away everthing howework needs to be banned forever !!! it stressed me out and makes my bacpack heavy wich hurts my back . sometimes i get so streesed out that its just horrable homrwork needs to stop please help kids like me.!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    November 9th, 2011 at 1:34 pm
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  43. jill says:

    this is very true children have too many homework and especially during vacation homework sucks

    January 4th, 2012 at 8:32 am
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  44. sara says:

    i am a student of seventh and i know how hard it is .
    every subject teacher thinks about thier subject they dont look about the other home work we have got specialy for holidays they give so much of homework that we can not even relax our mind. last holiday i got a french home work saying that i have to do 2 chapters and the holiday was only for 1 week and plus other subjects project works exercises. home work should be completly stopped spcialy in holidays.pls stop home work

    January 28th, 2012 at 5:40 am
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  45. crazychica says:

    homework is a way to show the teachers that there learning has come full way .but is it really helping? teachers explain us our requirements but they don’t realize that most of the students do not understand..so how is homework going to help our acquirement?

    February 6th, 2012 at 10:10 pm
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  46. sara says:

    so true i understandhow kids suffer with homework i want home work to be stopped

    February 7th, 2012 at 10:46 pm
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  47. someone says:

    like ur letter it will help with my assignment and also it is rite we kids get to much during the weekend and holiday and expects us to finish the next day…..

    March 12th, 2012 at 2:09 am
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  48. Aniket Kumar says:

    I study in KV No. 1 Bhubaneswar. The holiday homeworks given here are plenty. Every teacher think about their subject no one thinks about the burden given on the child. I am not completely against by homework. I know that it is necessary for child. But it should be given in a manner. Hope you all understand.
    Thanks

    December 24th, 2012 at 9:45 am
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  49. kaitlyn says:

    homework is stress on kids and is ruining their social lives we do enough work at school it takes off time we could of spent with friends and family home is a place where kids should be able to come home from school and relax its a break basically and some teenagers stay up late to finish homework if you ban homework well then they wouldn’t be at school fighting to stay awake they would be focused. I have been stressed myself because I have so much homework that I cant go out to hang with my friends its stresses me out a lot

    September 18th, 2013 at 12:28 am
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  50. tanisha sirohi says:

    the homework burdan is very high

    September 19th, 2014 at 10:36 am
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  51. Homework lover says:

    Okay guys wow this is very wow I can’t even. Sono ichi, homework is compulsory d will never be banned so just give up. Sono ni, of you’re a student (a smart student) then you would love homework. Homework is there to help us understand what the teacher was talking about in class and to put it into practice. Sono San, Eduaction is, well should be every child’s first priority and everyone wants to do well in school. You can’t do well in school if you don’t like homework. What’s more important than education? A family vaca? Yeah exactly. Geez don’t know why you keep complaining when I know homework is not going to be banned and you know homework is not going to be banned and the whole world knows homework is not going to be banned!

    November 11th, 2014 at 3:51 am
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  52. -A says:

    Banning homework is absolutely foolish and idiotic. How else is everyone going to learn and further their education? Homework is a useful way of testing people’s knowledge of what they have just learnt without the help of teachers. It’s a great way of finding more information by yourself and to reflect on what you know and don’t know so that you can ask for assistance. This is a crucial learning technique that helps bore the information into someone’s mind so that it can be remembered. It’s practise. It’s effective. It’s neccesary.
    Homework stays.
    Peace out y’all.

    November 11th, 2014 at 4:09 am
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  53. Homework lover says:

    Really A?

    November 11th, 2014 at 4:28 am
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  54. Anonymous says:

    happy too much

    August 25th, 2015 at 3:02 am
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  55. anonymous says:

    teacher gives homework we don’t know about

    March 15th, 2016 at 8:29 am
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