Stop Homework a resource created by Sara Bennett, co-author of The Case Against Homework: How Homework Is Hurting Our Children and What We Can Do About It.

Archive for Guest Bloggers

Day 4 with FedUp Mom

(I’ve given FedUpMom, who has written several guest entries in the past, free rein to speak her mind for the past three days here on stophomework. Today is her fourth post. If you’d like that opportunity, too, please email me.)

Guest Post #4
by FedUp Mom

How the Homework Got Done

“The schoolmaster who imagines he is loved and trusted by his boys is in fact mimicked and laughed at behind his back.”

— George Orwell, “Such, Such Were the Joys”

“Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares” is a TV show wherein Gordon Ramsay, a famous chef, travels around to failing restaurants and attempts to whip them into shape. A recurring theme is the absolute cluelessness of the failing chef. “But the customers love this!” he’ll say, as he’s ladling up some revolting slop. “I’ve never had any complaints!” Gordon Ramsay points out, correctly, that most people don’t bother to complain; they vote with their feet, and simply never return.

I wish the bad chef could hear what his customers really say about his food. Similarly, I wish every teacher could hear what her students, and the students’ parents, say behind her back. I wish they could see how the homework actually gets done.

For instance, my older daughter recently came home with an assignment from the school librarian. It consisted of 20 random factual questions (e.g., “what year was the first World Series game?”), of which my daughter was supposed to answer 15. She was only allowed to get help for 10 of the questions, and each person who helped was only allowed to help with 1 question. She was supposed to find the answers in almanacs or dictionaries, not the internet. If she answered all 20 questions correctly, she could win some contest (dd: “I don’t care about the contest!”) My daughter was very tense and worried about how she could manage all this.

Naturally, I told her that what the librarian doesn’t know won’t hurt her. We then spent a few minutes answering the questions by looking them up on the internet. I personally haven’t opened an almanac in many years, and it isn’t because I don’t look things up.

When my daughter turns in her answers, the librarian will think her assignment worked. That is, unless she reads the stophomework blog.

Now, I could have gone in and complained, and I still might. But like the dissatisfied diners, sometimes I’m just looking for a quick exit.

Day 3 with FedUpMom

(I’ve given FedUpMom, who has written several guest entries in the past, free rein to speak her mind for the next week here on stophomework. Today is her third post. If you’d like that opportunity, too, please email me.)

Guest Post #3
by FedUp Mom

FedUpMom’s IEP

I wonder how teachers see mothers. To the extent they think about us at all, I think they see a faceless mass of willing volunteers, always at the ready to organize and supervise our children’s homework, track down and buy obscure supplies, and explain difficult concepts that the teacher neglected to address. With a miraculously open schedule and wallets to match, we are an army of Everymoms at their beck and call. This describes the “good” Moms, of course.

While most schools at least give lip service to the idea that different kids have different needs, there is no such leeway for Mom. No matter how busy, tired, stressed-out or opposed she may be, she is never allowed to shirk her duties as homework cop.

A child might get an IEP for her special needs, but where’s Mom’s IEP? If we ever return to the public schools, I want an IEP of my own. It might go like this:

“FedUpMom suffers from Battle Fatigue and Overloaded Irascibility Disorder. If she shows up in your classroom sounding off about homework, the best strategy is to back away slowly. Keep your hands at your sides and avoid sudden movements. Accede to all of her demands. Do not antagonize. Any false move on your part could result in FedUpMom pulling a nice package of test scores (her daughter) out of the district.”

Day 2 with FedUpMom

(I’ve given FedUpMom, who has written several guest entries in the past, free rein to speak her mind for the next week here on stophomework. Today is her second post. If you’d like that opportunity, too, please email me.)

Guest Post #2
by FedUp Mom

“I suppose there is no place in the world where snobbery is quite so ever-present or where it is cultivated in such refined and subtle forms as in an English public school. Here at least one cannot say that English ‘education’ fails to do its job. You forget your Latin and Greek within a few months of leaving school — I studied Greek for eight or ten years, and now, at thirty-three, I cannot even repeat the Greek alphabet — but your snobbishness, unless you persistently root it out like the bindweed it is, sticks by you till your grave.”

— George Orwell, “The Road to Wigan Pier”

I was in a meeting early this school year to discuss the search for a new Head of School at my kids’ Quaker school. There was one moment that will stay with me for a long time. For some mysterious reason, everyone around the table took turns stating their connections to public schools. “I went to the public schools!” “My mother taught in the public schools!” Finally, one of the PTA-type Moms summed up the discussion by saying: “See, we’re not elitist!” Everyone except me nodded solemnly in agreement.

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Introducing… Guest Host for the Week, FedupMom

I’ve given FedUpMom, who has written several guest entries in the past, free rein to speak her mind for the next week here on stophomework. If you’d like that opportunity, too, please email me.

FedUpMom attained her FedUp status through the experiences of her older daughter at the local nominally high-performing public school. Currently, both of FedUpMom’s daughters attend a small Quaker school, in kindergarten and 6th grade.

Guest Post #1
by FedUpMom

“Such, such were the joys
When we all, girls and boys,
In our youth time were seen
On the Echoing Green.”

(from “the Echoing Green”, by William Blake)

“Such, Such Were the Joys” is an essay by George Orwell, about his experiences at St. Cyprian’s school. It is bloody brilliant, and only becomes more relevant with every passing year.

I know my recommendation isn’t enough to motivate you to read the essay, so I’ve decided to make it compulsory. You can find a book of Orwell’s essays at your local library, or buy it from Amazon. Buy it used; you know your family can’t afford to buy it new.

Or, you can read it online.

Answer the questions below and turn in your answers by the end of the week. All submissions must be signed by a parent or guardian, your local police chief, the superintendent of the school board, and the Pope.

(Or, use those finely honed school skills and answer the questions without reading the essay! I will never know the difference.)

All quotes are from the essay.

1.) “Over a period of two or three years the scholarship boys were crammed with learning as cynically as a goose is crammed for Christmas… At St. Cyprian’s the whole process was frankly a preparation for a sort of confidence trick. Your job was to learn exactly those things that would give an examiner the impression that you knew more than you did know, and as far as possible to avoid burdening your brain with anything else.”

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Moms (and Dads) on a Mission–San Anselmo, California

Torri Chappell, a teacher and mother from San Anselmo, California, has written here before about her experiences advocating for homework reform. When something strikes Torri as being wrong, she doesn’t hesitate to speak up, either in letter or in person.

Recently, when her School District had a meeting to talk about the school facility, Torri was on hand to talk about the importance of not only where children learn, but also what they learn.

What and How our Children Learn is More Important than Where They Learn
by Torri Chappell

We have two facility issues in Ross Valley resulting from abundance…an abundance of children and an abundance of assessments.

The first facility issue is regarding the facilities WHERE our children will learn. We have an abundance of students.

The second facility issue is regarding the district’s facility in making uninformed decisions about WHAT and HOW our children learn.
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Even More from Fed-Up Mom

This is the sixth post by FedUp Mom, the mother of a fifth grader. FedUp Mom’s daughter used to attend a public school in suburban Philadelphia, but this year FedUp Mom moved her to a private Quaker school, hoping for a more relaxed environment. You can read her other posts here, here, here, here and here.

(If you want to write about your experiences for Stop Homework, please drop me a line.)

Gifted, schmifted
by FedUp Mom

Looking back at my daughter’s experience in the public school, I think her problems began when she got high scores on the standardized tests and was labelled “gifted”. I have become increasingly skeptical of the following oft-repeated slogans:

1.) “Gifted kids are bored because the work is too easy.” Not necessarily. Sometimes gifted kids are bored because the work is just too boring.

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Guest Blogger – School Without Grades in Jefferson County, Colorado

Today’s guest blogger, Rick Posner, was the assistant principal at the Open School in Jefferson County, Colorado, from 1999-2001, where he taught for 30 years. His new book, Lives of Passion, School of Hope: How One Public School Ignites a Lifelong Love of Learning, describes the school, which unlike most others, has no set curriculum or course of study and allows students to set their own goals and be self-directed learners. Posner looks at what happened to Open School alumni and shows how the graduates of this 39-year-old school went on to lead productive, interesting lives. The book is well worth reading; those of us who don’t live in Jefferson County, Colorado, are left to wonder why this type of school doesn’t exist in every community in the country. Be sure to visit Posner’s website.

Free At Last: Living Without Grades
By Rick Posner Ph.D.

Believe it or not, there is a public pre K-12 school in a very conservative school district in Colorado that has thrived without grades or credits for almost 40 years. Yes, it’s true. There are hundreds of alumni from the Jefferson County Open School (a public school that is open to anyone who lives in Colorado’s largest school district) who have become happy, well-rounded, productive adults without one single A, F or 12.5 unit designation on their school records. It may serve as a further surprise to learn that most of them have gone to college and done quite well in conventional, graded systems, and that, more startling, their college completion level is twice that of the national average.

Here’s what they say about the inhibiting aspects of grades and credits:

Grades and credits kill the inherent love and joy of learning that we are born with by making the process of learning competitive and impersonal. With grades there are always winners and losers, and the standards are

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Guest Blogger – Experiences in Homeschooling

Today’s guest blogger, Tracy Stevens, is a former high school Spanish teacher who infrequently gave project-based homework to her students. She wrote here last year about her son’s difficult experience in first grade in a public school and her decision to have him repeat the year at a Waldorf school. This year, she decided to homeschool her two boys, and today she writes about that experience. You can also follow her on her blog, abettereducation, which is full of interesting interviews (including one with Daniel Pink) as well as reports on her experiences with homeschooling.

Experiences in Homeschooling
by Tracy Stevens

I got laid off in July of this year and after not finding any jobs that could keep our two kids in private school, I decided to homeschool. My older son is 8 and he did first grade at a public school two years ago. It was a very difficult year as he, one of the youngest boys in the class, struggled to learn to read at the pace they set for him. To “help” him learn to read, they kept him from recess to do more worksheets. This was in addition to the tutoring and the ridiculous load of homework.

So we decided to repeat fist grade, but this time in a private Waldorf school. The year went much better. There was no homework, plenty of art and nature, and the expectations of reading come much later in a Waldorf school.

I knew when I lost the ability to pay for a Waldorf education that he would be even worse off in a public school than the previous year, because now we were on the Waldorf reading schedule, making him even further behind the public school reading demands. This lead to my decision to homeschool my four and eight year old sons this year and surprisingly it has been an outstanding experience so far.

I take an eclectic approach, with influences from Waldorf and Democratic schools. We work on reading through art, stories, and manipulatives like magnet letters, in addition to old fashioned paper and pencil. We do math

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Guest Blogger – Homework Is an Elaborate Charade–Lots of Quantity and No Quality

Today’s guest blogger, is FedUp Mom, the mother of a sixth grader who used to attend a public school in suburban Philadelphia and now attends a private Quaker school. FedUp Mom’s sixth post, I Hate Reading Logs has received more comments than any other on this blog. You can read her other five posts here, here, here, here and here.

Homework Is an Elaborate Charade–Lots of Quantity and No Quality
by FedUp Mom

People generally talk about homework in terms of quantity, and it is shocking to see how much time kids are spending on it. But I would like to step back and consider the question of quality.

First of all, if we plan to assign a certain amount of homework every night, we’re already in trouble. This is practically the definition of busywork. “We don’t know what schoolwork would be useful for kids to do every night, but we’ll make sure and assign 10 minutes per grade level of this stuff, whatever it might be.” The theory is that 10 minutes per grade level per night will create “good study habits”, but it’s crazy to expect kids to learn good study habits in the absence of anything worth studying.

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Guest Blogger – A College Teacher’s Response to President Obama’s Idea of Lengthening the School Day

A few days ago, President Obama talked about increasing the length of the school day and school year. Before I even had a chance to fashion a response in my head, I received this piece from K, who has been teaching science at a small independent college for over a decade and has written for this blog before here. She spends her leisure time learning from her three young boys. You can read more of her random thoughts at her blog, raisingthewreckingcrew

A College Teacher’s Response to President Obama’s Idea of Lengthening the School Day
by K, A College Teacher

President Obama advocates increasing the length of the school day and the length of the school year. More School: Obama Would Curtail Summer Vacation.

There are many problems with this.

President Obama seems to be arguing: if something isn’t working, what we really need is more of it. It just plain doesn’t make sense. While some countries provide more learning in more time, there are other nations that make better use of less time and have better student outcomes.

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