From My Mailbox: “I want to reclaim our life”

Here’s a recent email I received from a mother in Atlanta, Georgia:

Dear Sara,

I just found out about you, your work, and your website via an internet search spawned by my mounting frustration with the homework load. I hope that you can help me channel my own heated feelings on the issue into a message that might be listened to by teacher and school administrators.

I have felt this growing sense of desperation since the beginning of the school term related to the amount of homework imposed upon my 6-year-old, first-grade daughter. At first, I assumed that the amount of homework was a beginning-of-school push to compensate for the summer break. But the volume continued.

On alternating Fridays, she has to submit and present a book report or recite an assigned poem in front of the class.

She and her fellow first graders have to read a minimum of 20 minutes each night including over the weekend and fill out a book log, which must be signed by student and parent.

Then, Monday through Fridays, she is given a packet of 7-10 worksheets — all 2-sided –to complete. I don’t care how it’s stapled, this amounts to 14-20 pages of homework!

And finally, the first grade teachers have developed 50 or more “creative” activities to do with the 16 or so weekly spelling words; so she’s supposed to complete 2 of those creative exercises each night. They thought they were doing a good thing here, I know, but they effectively turned memorizing spelling words into 2 nightly projects each school night.

I walk in from work at 6 p.m. and have to spend the next 3 hours drilling my daughter through her homework. We have no quality time. We have no play time. Forget exercise and running around the back yard.

I’ve been forced to cook quicker meals, speed through dinner time, and give my children fewer baths. I find myself grateful that my 3rd grade son, in the same school, only has an hour and a half of homework per night. I also find it interesting that 2 years ago, when he was in 1st grade, he would get a single packet of worksheets on Monday and have the whole week to complete them. Here alone, my daughter’s homework is 4x more than my son’s was 2 years ago.

I want to reclaim our life.

4 Comments on “From My Mailbox: “I want to reclaim our life””

  1. Nini Engel says:

    You are absolutely correct. You need to reclaim your family’s life, quickly. Check in with other parents and meet with teachers and administrators. The steps outlined in Sara’s book help with the “how-tos.” Depending on your child’s temperament, I would recommend unilaterally cutting her homework requirement to no more than fifteen minutes per night, not including the reading. Reading together is one of the few homework activities shown to benefit elementary age students. Interestingly, children showed growth even if READ TO by their parents. I’d explain to her that at home, you’re responsible for taking care of her and making decisions about what is healthiest for her. You are her mom. If your child is really anxious about not completing everything, then you really have to go at the school, full tilt. Good luck.

    January 29th, 2008 at 10:16 am
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  2. Rachel says:

    While my 1st grader doesn’t have that much homework (20 minutes of reading/day plus word sort and two math worksheets usually) I still consider it excessive. I usually let her skip the word sort because I’m sure she’ll learn to spell all those words in a couple of years whether or not she knows them now.

    FWIW, my 3rd grader also had significantly less hw when she was in 1st grade. Must be something in the water…

    January 29th, 2008 at 11:56 am
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  3. DianeAdel says:

    WOW! That’s horrible! That’s likely to turn your daughter off learning very, very quickly! Isn’t it amazing how eager young children are to learn, then they get to school …

    The first thing I would do is have a talk with the teacher, then, if not successful, with the principal. That’s the stage I am at … I am making very minor progress, but have been told to “use my discretion” with my (first grade) son’s homework. I have also written an article about the futility of homework for lower grades and sent it to the local newspaper … I am hoping like-minded parents will contact me and we can show some strength in numbers.

    Perhaps the root of all this madness is the “No Child Left Behind Act” – the insane education act that puts unreasonable pressure on schools and threatens them with no funding if they don’t meet some almost unachievable goals. Maybe we need to attack this madness at the source – the federal legislation. I will pen a letter to my congressman today!

    For your family’s sake, please try to stop this madness!!! I wish I could help you!

    Good luck.

    January 29th, 2008 at 11:36 pm
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  4. karen says:

    There is most certainly nothing wrong with wanting to reclaim your life. It’s yours. As I’ve stated many times before, the “homework” discussion needs to go beyond how much, how little, etc.. Bottom line, this is your time and your right to determine how it is spent.

    January 31st, 2008 at 9:35 am
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