For over a year now, Shelli and Tom Milley, the parents of three children, have been trying to get their children’s school in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, to institute a reasonable homework policy. They have also asked several times that their children be allowed to opt out of the homework policy.
At the end of last year, as a result of pressure from Shelli and other parents she had organized, her school agreed to form a homework committee. Shelli managed to get herself, and several of her allies, appointed to the committee. The school principal and several teachers were also appointed. Shelli got the committee to read several of the articles I suggested and she got the committee to listen to five different podcasts of leading researchers and authors in the area (including myself)–a tactic I thought was brilliant. In addition, Shelli enlisted the support of Vera Goodman, also of Calgary and the author of Simply too much Homework! What Can We Do?.
Shelli (and the principal) posted a series of articles on the school’s eboard, so that the entire community could become informed.
With all of this information, you’d think the school, like the one I wrote
about the other day, would have changed at least some of its practices.Instead, frustrated by the division in the committee and the lack of progressiveness, Shelli resigned with plans to address the issue at higher levels with the support of her allies.
Shelli and Tom’s children still have way too much homework every night.
Shelli and Tom, both attorneys, have written numerous letters to the principal and their children’s teachers throughout this entire process. Here’s the most recent:
Letter to the Principal
from Shelli and Tom Milley
We are extremely upset that you have advised us that we have no ability to choose what is in our children’s best interest outside of school hours. That our evenings and weekends are at the whim of what teachers and the school dictate. Accordingly, we want to make it perfectly clear what we had hoped we had the right to do with our kids during evenings and weekends in the face of the schools current homework policy.
We wanted the right to:
1. Give our children the opportunity to read leisurely by themselves and with us;
2. To have the chance to review and discuss with them their class notes, lectures and work in order to prepare for tests and quizzes without cramming due to the stresses of other homework;
3. Work with them on their weak area’s like spelling and math with out the stresses of other homework; and
4. Provide the opportunity for them to engage in gymnastics, girl guides, boys scouts, piano lessons or any other activity the may have wanted to try;
5. To go to the library with them and other opportunities that we determined would be beneficial;
6. To spend family time playing cards, board games or whatever we felt like doing.
Having to complete homework that takes a shot gun approach at all students, that is inequitable and unfair to students (because a teacher cannot know who is actually doing the work or know of an individual childs home circumstances) accomplishes nothing. It only takes away the ability of parents to do such things as we had hoped we could do like those listed above. Does a teacher really need assignments completed at home to know if a student “is ready to move on or if the concept needs to be re-taught.” Isn’t that what tests and quizzes are for?
By the time we get in the door after a long day of working and school there is approximately 3 hours until the kids have to go to bed. By the time my husband gets in the door there is approximately an hour and a half until the kids have to go to bed. During this time, we are expected to accomplish supper, baths, homework, household chores, getting to activities, getting a teenager to part time work, school activities and other places, dealing with teenager issues and whatever else life throws our way with THREE CHILDREN! Tell me where during this two or so hours are we to find the time to do homework that our kids will be graded on and punished if they fail to do? They have worked hard all day in school and have had about a 9 1/2 to 10 hour day before we are all even home together. Then we have to force them when they are tired to DO MORE WORK AND THREATEN THEM THAT IF THEY DON’T THEY CANT GO TO GIRL GUIDES OR AN ACTIVITY AND FURTHERMORE THAT THEY MAY BE PUNISHED AND NOT ALLOWED TO GO OUT AT RECESS THE NEXT DAY! No wonder they cry almost every night due to homework, hate school and learning. We are forced to make them comply when the teachers tell us to instead of having the right to help them learn when WE can provide the time, place and methods to do so.
When I see my grade 12 child doing 2-3 hours of homework a night, going to bed at 1 am and getting improper sleep, I seriously worry for his health and well being. We regret how his homework often keeps us up late into the night as we are asked to help him with editing, understanding concepts and working through ideas. We regret the way his homework affects our family outings, simply spending time together and how it often renders it impossible for our family to go to our cottage.
Like most parents, I have blindly accepted this for years as being, just the way it was, until I read the research. Then I decided to do what was right for my kids and take a stance. I have provided you in all fairness with ALL the research and with as you have said both sides . Many of those parents that have put their mind to the subject like we have, are afraid to rock the boat for fear of reprisal, for fear that their children will have the finger pointed at them and for fear of getting a bad reputation around the school, but feel the same way.
I understand the position you are in. You have to constantly put out fires. You have to deal with many varying points of view that are for the most part not educated on the subject. We see no harm to anyone but only the opportunity for you to please everyone if you were to implement a “opt out” clause in a school wide homework policy. We now ask you to seriously consider this and give us your thoughts. In addition, we now ask you, if you are you willing to implement an exception to allow our children to “opt out” of homework under the schools current homework policy, given that we are advising you now and have advised you already that we believe that homework is detrimental to their well being and causing them undue stress? We ask you to allow our children to “opt out” of homework without any remedial plans such as an ISP being put in place solely because we as their parents believe this to be in their best interest?
We beg you to seriously listen to what the research says and as the Principal of our school take what as Alfie Kohn says, “a principled approach”.
We beg you to give us as parents the right to choose what is in our children’s best interest and not be held hostage by the system that you are unfortunately made to administer.
Can you kindly advise on our questions above as soon as possible.
Shelli and Tom Milley