Moms (and Dads) on a Mission–Chicago, Illinois

Here’s a letter Caroline Moellering of Chicago, Illinois sent to her first-grade son’s co-teachers at his private Catholic school when she learned that the teachers would be assigning weekend homework. When her older daughter was in the same school, there was no weekend homework.

Please Don’t Assign Weekend Homework to First Graders
by Caroline Moellering

Dear first grade co-teachers in a downtown Chicago Catholic school,

Thanks for your quick response to my email. I feel compelled to further question the decision to mandate weekend homework so please bear with me.

My concern is that you indicated in your announcement that there would be homework “most Fridays”. The qualifier ‘most’ to me indicates a pretty great percentage of the time, ~90% in my view. I am hoping you will consider reversing this new mandate to ‘rarely, if ever’ or ‘never’. Currently there is much discussion by educators about the value of homework for children, particularly in the younger grades. There is also concern that children are suffering because one of the most valuable conponents of early childhood development, play, is not occuring as children’s time is being eaten up by the over-prescription of homework. Also sacrificed are opportunities to spend quality time with parents and siblings in activities the family unit finds engaging. This could be travel or outings but can also be as simple as cooking a meal together or going for a walk. Finally, children are increasingly suffering from stress and stress-related issues as educators expect more and more of children at younger ages.

Interestingly, I understand that at the 4th-grade curriculum night, teachers announced that there would NOT be weekend homework because children need downtime and quality time with their families and friends. I would certainly appreciate the same concern for my first-grade son and his peers.

Please understand that I am not questioning this just for my family. Fintan is very self-sufficient and disciplined and doesn’t require all of the coaching, hemming and hawing that I understand many parents of children in younger grades suffer through. My concerns reflect a greater compassion for all children and parents. For all parents, working parents in particular, the mere act of getting everyone home, fed and bathed, is exhausting. Friday nights, and weekends in general, often offer a respite in which bedtimes can be pushed back a little and lack of additional tasks (I.e. Homework) allow for peace, calm, relaxation and valuable time for sharing and togetherness.

I hope you will continue to discuss this as a first-grade team but perhaps even at a higher level for the entire school community. I would be happy to supply you with further sources about play, childhood development, the importance of quality family time, etc. Additionally, I believe a number of initiatives could be taken to help parents find simple yet engaging ways to foster intellectual curiousity and creativity at home which could yield great results and make our school a leader in the development of educational efforts targeted at parents and families. This could encompass a number of simple outreach efforts that I would be happy to share with interested parties.

Thanks for your time and further consideration of this matter.

4 Comments on “Moms (and Dads) on a Mission–Chicago, Illinois”

  1. HomeworkBlues says:

    My concern is that you indicated in your announcement that there would be homework “most Fridays”.

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

    It’s that use of “Friday” homework that gets me. 6th grade was a killer year for my daughter, so inundated was she with homework and project overload. The teacher boasted at Back to School Night that she would not be assigning weekend homework. Everyone applauded but I felt diminished as if I should kiss her feet for this little reprieve.

    Well, let me not look a gift horse in the mouth. There was plenty homework all weekend long, don’t be fooled. I was admant that my 11 year old still have one weekend day completely free of school but Sunday was an all day affair beginning in third grade. I should add that one of the 2nd grade teachers did in fact assign weekend homework. I remember geing very puzzled over that.

    Starting in third grade, daughter was shut in all day Sunday for arts and crafts, er, projects. But at least in 6th grade, she didn’t get the daily littany of assignments in each subject, on top of the engrossing projects.

    Come 7th grade, that went out the window. Now, not only were our weekends consumed with long projects, daughter had to slog through the busy work of each subject as well. And that is how it has been every year hence. It just gets worse each year.

    The “Friday” homework reference is sneaky. Official weekend homework began in earnest in 7th grade. As stated, unofficial weekend homework began in third grade. In 7th grade, I was still peeking in at Blackboard and I’d see the “Friday” homework. It is made to look as if it is not weekend homework but FRIDAY homework, thus presenting the illusion that there is no actual weekend homework.

    C’mon. Like many parents of teens on this blog, my daughter is utterly fried by Friday. There is no way she could tackle hours and hours of “Friday” homework….on Friday! The Friday homework typically takes all weekend long. Clear your schedule, don’t plan a thing, you are stuck in the house on a sparkling fall afternoon.

    What if you need to go out of town? A friend took her daughter skiing last winter and wrote to tell me the girl would have to miss Monday just to be able to get all the weekend homework done. And then she had to make up the missed Monday classes! Our children might be able to knock some of it out on the drive to the mountains. But it’s a little hard typing an essay while zooming down a ski slope.

    At Back to School Night last month, I raised my hand and said, good news and bad news on the physics. It’s taking my daughter a very long time to complete the problem sets but she is getting it. To which the teacher replied, it’s supposed to take on average two hours a day. That’s just one subject!

    The AP Calculus BC teacher said the same thing, about two hours a day. Now we’re up to four hours and that’s only two subjects. That is why I forbade my daughter from taking any further APs. She’s in a very demanding school where the honors courses are equivalent to APs elsewhere. When parents raise the issue of homework overload, we are told, it’s JUNIOR year!

    One parent quipped that at two hours a night per subject, seven subjects brings daily homework to fourteen hours a day! To which I replied, pretty soon our kids will be so overloaded with homework, they will no longer have time to actually come to school!

    October 29th, 2008 at 11:02 am
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  2. Kate says:

    One parent quipped that at two hours a night per subject, seven subjects brings daily homework to fourteen hours a day! To which I replied, pretty soon our kids will be so overloaded with homework, they will no longer have time to actually come to school!
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

    I am a junior in high school and unfortunately this statement is almost true for me this week. On Monday I did 7 hours of homework. I started working on it at 5 and didn’t finish till midnight. Yesterday, I was doing homework from 4 till 2 a.m. minus the 30 minute “break” I took for dinner. Now it wouldn’t have been as bad if the homework I did last night was an essay or a project, but it wasn’t. None of the homework I did last night were the so called “meaningful” assignments that my school believes they assign, it was all busy work!
    So I spend 7 hours in school each day, and in two days I have had 17 hours of homework. Add these together, and that brings me to a total of 31 hours of schoolwork in two days!! Not even the teachers work that much in two days, this is insane!

    October 29th, 2008 at 5:23 pm
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  3. Erin says:

    and of course teh weekend is, to our teachers, just two more days that we have to do their homework!

    October 29th, 2008 at 5:37 pm
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  4. HomeworkBlues says:

    Erin, I wish I could say, say it isn’t so, but I’m afraid it is. It does seem to my that many teachers view weekends as just another two full days to do school. We used to hear that homework reinforced what was learned at school, that it was practice, that it taught responsibility blah blah blah. Now it’s merely become an extension of the school day, no pretense about it. They call it “Friday” homework on Blackboard. It’s Friday, Saturday and Sunday School. School at home.

    At least that is what it looks like. If a child needs to go out of town all weekend, she must get special permission for an extension.

    I’m sure many teachers are under pressure too, they have the curriculum to meet and all that. But do teachers spend their entire weekend working on their lesson plans? I don’t think so. At least the teachers I know with children still living at home are sympathetic. Because they don’t want to spend their free time teaching their own children!

    In our personal experience, it is often the oldest and youngest teachers who are the least understanding about the toll all this weekend homework takes, not only on the harried child but her exhausted parents as well. Precisely the educators who either raised children in a different time or who don’t yet have any progeny of their own. If we give children weekend homework, then perhaps we need to do the same for teachers?

    October 31st, 2008 at 4:25 pm
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