Fourth Grade Teacher: “I Did Away With Reading Logs”

A few posts ago, I wrote about the blog of Angela Bunyi, a fourth grade teacher from Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Ms. Bunyi then write to me:

Thanks for sharing my article under Scholastic (Homework: Applying Research to Policy) and my note from the homework page on my class site. I wanted to add to your readers ongoing discussion about reading logs. I did away with them this year. I also did away with a specific reading time at home.

Why? First, I don’t want students reading to the clock. The thought of seeing “30 minutes” read for child after child in the daily reading log is really, really sad if you think about it. My goal is for students to get “lost” in their homework.

Second, I did away with reading logs because they were a pain for all involved. When I did use them, I found my best readers didn’t fill them out. Now I just meet with my kids during reading conference time to talk about their reading habits at home. When a student was on page 35 the day before and they are on page 75 the next morning, why push a log? I can do the math! The proof is with the pace of finishing books in your room each week.

226 Comments on “Fourth Grade Teacher: “I Did Away With Reading Logs””

  1. PsychMom says:

    Thank you for seeing the light on forced reading for young kids.. I can’t for the life of me understand why young children can’t pick out the books they want to read and read them. If someone were to drop a 500 page physics book on my desk and tell me to read 10 pages a night because they’ve decided I need to learn about physics, I wouldn’t care if it was one page a night…I wouldn’t absorb a thing. And I would probably learn to hate reading.

    I like the idea of discussions in class about reading habits at home…

    March 23rd, 2009 at 8:07 am
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  2. Lenore Skenazy says:

    Oh, can you come teach at my son’s school? He got a bad grade in reading after reading all seven Harry Potter books in one semester. BUT he didn’t fill out the darn log! In New York, where I live, middle schools pick their students the way colleges do. They will look at my son’s report card and see, “What a terrible reader!”
    Argh!
    No more reading logs!!
    Lenore “Free-Range Kids” Skenazy

    March 23rd, 2009 at 9:03 pm
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  3. Lenore Wilson says:

    I get ridiculed by my childrens teachers for them not doing thier homework. I just feel that after spending 7-8 hours in school they need some fun time. granted they do need to learn to read better but for my son that has a learning disability its not worth the fight to make him sit there and do his homework. My teenagers do thier homework on thier own, ileave them alone about it and they bring home good grades. A’s.b’s and a few C’s. I have a total of 14 kids, 11 boys and 3 girls. 1 son is married living in Alabama and has a son. The other older son is 21 and has been in the military since he was 17. He graduated a year early and joined. He never did any homework but made 100’s on all his tests. So i agree when they say stop homework. If you stop homework it stops alot of arguments. which makes for a happier home which in turns makes for a happier kid.

    March 23rd, 2009 at 9:26 pm
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  4. Barbara Radisavljevic says:

    I’m assuming you also talk about the books in these conferences so that the students can tell you about their responses to what they read and maybe suggest additional books they might like to read according to what they think of the books they are reading or have read. I think discussing one’s reading make it stick in the mind better and also makes it seem more important. It’s so much more fun than logs, book reports, and other written work, and it’s even better if it’s a two way conversation and the teacher or adult also talks about their own reading experiences.

    March 23rd, 2009 at 11:53 pm
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  5. HomeworkBlues says:

    Lenore writes:

    Oh, can you come teach at my son’s school? He got a bad grade in reading after reading all seven Harry Potter books in one semester. BUT he didn’t fill out the darn log!

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

    It’s 3:17 am and I’m up with my daughter as she bleary-eyingly (that’s not a word, but it is 3:17 so I’m allowed) attempts to finish up an eight page English research paper. How on earth did it come to this? I have to be out early tomorrow morning and I have no idea how I’m going to manage. That doesn’t even cover my anxieties over how my poor child will be able to cope in school. I stayed up with her in the hopes she’d tighten it up better but she got six hours sleep last night too and is barely functioning. I can’t believe it’s come to this. I never allow this, yet here we are…

    But back to Lenore. Oh, can I relate. But on a different angle. My daughter lived, ate and slept Harry Potter. She grew up with Harry, reading the first three books in second grade. She has read each book about twenty times.

    Just like the teacher wishes, my daughter would get lost in her reading. In 5th grade, when we switched to public school, she’d get punished the next day for reading at home and lose recess because the busy homework was left undone.

    Shouldn’t we all be shaking our heads? Teachers punish our children for what did and did not happen, not at school under their domain, but at home, under ours! Can we penalize teachers when they fail to do what we expected them to do during the day? After all, unlike us, they do get paid.

    March 24th, 2009 at 3:16 am
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  6. Angela says:

    Barbara,

    Yes, you are correct in what a reading conference addresses. I meet with each student one-on-one to talk about their reading and their writing each week. During our reading conference time the student discusses what they are reading with me and any strategies they have been trying while reading, we infer what may happen next, and then I listen to the child read out loud for about a page before I give some feedback on what they may need to focus on while reading out-loud (ex-be careful about replacing words…or review strategies to figure out unknown words). I have been doing this for 9 years, so I am getting pretty good at recommended the next possible book…although Scholastic has a link for a “BookAlike” search engine which gives you books that are like the one you are reading now (with an option to find a book that is harder or easier). After a while though, you “know” your readers, making it an easy task.

    I kind of feel like I am selling my blog, but if you are interested in learning more about how I conduct reading conferences, homework, and writing, you can visit:

    http://blogs.scholastic.com/3_5

    Under “Quick Links” you can find a post titled “A Blended Approach to Reading and Writing Conferences”. It is pretty detailed with a minute by minute account of a typical conference.

    Best,

    Angela Bunyi

    March 24th, 2009 at 10:43 am
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  7. ThinkAboutIt says:

    Homework Blues says penalize teachers for failing to do what’s expected during the day? Failing to do what? Keep kids safe? Teach them new concepts? Oversee the learning of MANY students on a day-to-day basis? Assess who needs review of previously covered skills and who is REALLY ready for the new lesson that must be covered in order to keep up with pacing guides. Read and respond to parent correspondence? Plan for ways to present lessons that integrate the latest technology and make students feel empowered about their own learning? Make sure that EVERY student has lunch money, gets bathroom and water breaks throughout the day, and has appropriate materials for class? Answer students’ questions even though classtime is ending and half of the lesson still hasn’t been covered? These are just a few examples of what teachers go through EVERY day. Shouldn’t teachers AND parents be working together to ensure the success of kids. Shouldn’t a parent be expected to monitor their ONE child’s practice at home if requested by the teacher in order to allow the teacher to consistently build on previously covered concepts in the classroom.

    Yes, teachers do get paid, but do they get RESPECTED for trying to meet all of the demands being placed on them, and with little parental support in many instances? When was the last time you let your child’s teachers know that they’re APPRECIATED?

    March 26th, 2009 at 6:10 pm
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  8. HomeworkBlues says:

    When was the last time you let your child’s teachers know that they’re APPRECIATED?

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

    All the time. I often don’t even get a response in kind. They’re busy, I understand.

    In private school, my daughter’s teachers often let me know how much they appreciated my kind remarks. And there at least, it was a partnership.

    March 26th, 2009 at 7:12 pm
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  9. Jeanie says:

    To ‘Think About It': Thank you, Thank you, Thank you if you are kind while you check to make sure that student has lunch money. Thank you if you give a smile to the student that asks that question when you are feeling the pressure of completing a lesson mandated to you from higher up. It seems ‘Homework Blues’ was just frustrated with an aspect that is a very valid aspect. You seem frustrated at being under appreciated. It strikes me as odd when people do what their job requirements are and then feel like they have went above and beyond and shouldn’t really have to do that. A teacher’s job is not just to recite a lesson plan; surely you knew this when you first decided you wanted to teach. It includes all the above that you mentioned. Now I am all for giving praise when someone does there job but I must say I heard a hint of resentment in your post from you that what you do is NOT really what you are suppose to do. That you do way more than what a teacher does. This confuses me.
    I believe are children are confined enough in the hours required to be in school. I strongly believe our children need to be able to sigh when the final school bell rings, not be all uptight about what they still are requested to do by their teacher before the next day begins.
    Be frustrated at the parent, be frustrated at the teacher, neither is at fault as it is the way the system is designed that is the fault

    April 2nd, 2009 at 12:00 pm
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  10. HomeworkBlues says:

    Think About It asks:

    Shouldn’t teachers AND parents be working together to ensure the success of kids.

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

    But that’s what we’re trying to do here! Many of us started out writing thoughtful, carefully crafted, respectful letters. I did that with a new teacher when we switched from private to public, I took into consideration the new terrain, the larger class size and still the teacher’s response was dismissive, disrespectful, defensive and angry.

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

    Shouldn’t a parent be expected to monitor their ONE child’s practice at home if requested by the teacher in order to allow the teacher to consistently build on previously covered concepts in the classroom.

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

    Here’s what you are really saying. Shouldn’t we monitor our ONE child’s progress, i.e, homeschool him at home after he’s just spent an entire day at school to make up for all the deficiencies of school?

    If requested by the teacher. Because we only have ONE child. Teacher has 32. She couldn’t cover it in school for whatever reason so if requested by you, we are to shut up and do what you tell us. We need to practice at home because your hands are full.

    Well, at least you’re honest. I was on to you long before, though. We are your unpaid teacher’s aides. You just admitted as such yourself. We only have ONE child and we should be expected to do anything you request because you are overwhelmed, You can’t do it yourself, we need to make up the slack.

    We are sorry you have overcrowded classrooms. Believe me, our children suffer far more for it than you do, it’s their life, their education on the line.

    Fine. I’ll do your job for you as long as you pay me and allow it to be my choice.

    April 2nd, 2009 at 1:41 pm
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  11. Short Essay About Reading Logs « Skuldbomb’s Weblog says:

    [...] http://stophomework.com/fourth-grade-teacher-i-did-away-with-reading-logs/1108   Comments (0) [...]

    April 27th, 2009 at 8:57 pm
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  12. Anonymous says:

    As I was reading this post, it has further convinced me to home school my daughter. She can learn at her pace, read all she wants, and play all she wants (after her assigned tasks are completed of course). She wouldn’t miss out on basic socialization because she would be enrolled in her chosen activities as well as attend various tutoring groups for special subjects such as languages.
    I went to college to study education, and after my first term and my first education class, I dropped that major and switched to Art. I aced the class and my professor/advisor was shocked that I didn’t want to teach after taking that class. My point is, Some people have it in them to be a teach and some do not. I dropped education because from what I saw in the class, the state expects the teacher to babysit the students, rather than teach them, the state determines what a child should learn, and the state has in turn taken responsibility from the parent. Being a teacher is like being a doctor, and working for the state is never an easy job. I want to say kudos to those teachers who do care and those parents who work with the teachers. And also to those parents who let their kids play after school.You rock! Homework really is just busy work…and I’m sorry to those teachers who didn’t get a chance to teach everything in their lesson plans for that day.

    April 28th, 2009 at 11:30 am
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  13. Amy says:

    I hate homework. My son is very smart. I know this by the decisions he makes, the way he talks to people, the way he can figure out how something works or fix something that is broken. However, I have strugged with him since 1st grade (he is in 9th) with turning in homework. He gets terrible grades and it is always because he doesn’t do homework. His test grades are good. His in class stuff is good…but missing homework drops the grade to below average. His teachers scowl at parent teacher conferences because of his “not turning in work!”. Here is the problem. At night when we get home, they each have a little chore they have to do, then play, then dinner, then family hang out and talk time, or church, then bed. They are in school for over 7 hours and I think after that it’s MY time with them. OUR family time. There is no proof homework helps. Isn’t there anything we can do?

    May 7th, 2009 at 4:35 pm
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  14. PsychMom says:

    To Amy:

    Read Sarah’s book …and this blog and there are loads of ideas of things you can do as a parent.

    May 8th, 2009 at 10:40 am
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  15. Canadianteen says:

    I am in grade 12 and one of my teachers has a checkmark system. If you do certain assignments you get points for the test but only seven are used on one test each time. He does not penalize us for not doing homework. I don’t know how well it would work in the younger grades though.

    May 11th, 2009 at 4:21 pm
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  16. megamama says:

    I have children (more than ONE by the way) and I work full time. I don’t expect a teacher to come into my office in the evening and finish up the work I wasn’t able to accomplish during the day, why do they expect me to do their jobs, unpaid during my evening family time? I have to come home from work, get dinner on, make sure the kids are doing/have done their homework, eat, dishes, bath, get them to bed at a decent time.

    I’d really like the hour or so a night I spend going over homework, assisting, TEACHING back. Then maybe, just maybe I’d have time to play, snuggle, talk to, read with, bond with, and spend time with my children. Instead of the constant rush of get this done, get that done that most working families go through every night.

    May 13th, 2009 at 1:15 pm
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  17. Kathleen says:

    It’s good to hear from others in the same place as we are! My son loves to read, he read on his own- Sherlock Holmes, Robinson Cursoe, Treasure Island and many other “classics”…he loves them! Last year in 6th grade he refused to read the books they handed out. They had 4 books- ALL FOUR were basically the same book…a 12-13 year old girls perspective on life during WW II.. really? What 12 year old boy wants to read that once- never mind 4 times! We met with his teaching “team” and were basically told that our son was a horrible child! This is a kid who gets a smile from EVERYONE – other parents always tell us how sweet and kind he is. He sits for hours doing his homework- it’s not unusual for him to take 4-5 hours to get it all done. It is absurd, and I, for one am fed up and refuse to get on his case about it any more! His sister- in all Honors level courses doesn’t have this much homework. He can ace his tests without doing the homework- and isn’t that what homework is about? Isn’t it supposed to “reinforce” what they learn in school? I would love to homeschool my kids, but we need 2 incomes so it isn’t possible.

    May 20th, 2009 at 2:38 pm
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  18. High School Sophomore says:

    About what ThinkAboutIt and HomeworkBlues were saying about teachers and parents, I agree that the parents shouldn’t have to do the teachers’ jobs for them. However, I also agree with what I thought ThinkAboutIt was saying about “in order to allow the teacher to consistently build on previously covered concepts in the classroom.” I agree that a teacher probably shouldn’t be teaching the same thing over and over again, shouldn’t have to (if doing job right) retread ‘previously covered concepts.’ Usually in my experience, with your average teacher your average kid understands whatever concept was taught in class at the end of the class, most of the time. If they don’t, it seems reasonable to me for them to take it upon themselves to go up to the teacher after class and ask for clarification, and/or at home that night do a few practice problems until they feel like they understand it (NOT lots and lots of drilling or gratuitous practice, only as much practice as you think you need to feel confident in whatever skill.) This kind of practice I think makes sense at home because you mostly don’t need to ask the teacher questions and all the kids would be practicing for different amounts of time–some might feel they understood it fine from the class and choose not to do any practice at all, some might need like 30 minutes to feel comfortable with something they really didn’t get before–so to do that in class would take up time the teacher to be actually teaching and the kids to be learning new things. That’s what we do in our math class right now (we just have a quiz or a test every week and everyone studies as much as they feel like they need to), and I think it really works.

    May 20th, 2009 at 7:04 pm
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  19. Elizabeth says:

    I am a little concerned by some of these posts.

    When I think back to calculus, there is NO WAY I could have learned calculus – or any math, perhaps – without homework.

    The point of homework is to PRACTICE.

    There is not enough time in a seven hour school day for all kids to PRACTICE what they are learning. That is not the teacher’s fault – that is the “fault” of children being both human and individuals.

    It takes SOME individuals more practice than others to learn certain things.

    May 22nd, 2009 at 11:01 am
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  20. FedUpMom says:

    Elizabeth — if you need to practice in order to learn math, go for it! No one here will stop you.

    Imagine a system where students practiced only when they needed to. What would that be like?

    May 22nd, 2009 at 1:54 pm
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  21. High School Sophomore says:

    That’s what I was trying to say with my post as well, Elizabeth, and why I personally think homework should exist but be totally optional. It DOES take some individuals more practice than others to learn the same things, like you said–For the kid who feels they understand what was taught in class without more practice, homework would be a waste of time, so they could do something else, practice their chemistry or play piano or draw. (if it turns out they didn’t actually know what they thought they did, they’d probably find out the next class or the next quiz and learn something important about themselves–like the toddler learning to walk who needs to fall down before they can totally get the hang of staying upright). For the kid who feels like they DO need more practice, the teacher would have some sheets available or some suggested problems in the textbook or whatever, and they could do as much as they needed to until they felt confident. There wouldn’t be a set required amount, because each kid might need more or less practice to get to where they felt comfortable. To me, this seems like a better system then completely mandatory homework. The emphasis would be more on understanding the material rather than doing a task to hand in the next day.

    May 25th, 2009 at 1:19 am
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  22. PsychMom says:

    To Elizabeth

    Calculus is a topic I took only after Grade 11 when I went to high school, possibly not even until Grade 12. Some homework is probably appropriate at that level. I don’t know when they start it now but it’s probably too early!

    Anyway the issue is that math is not the only subject children get homework in and if you are a full time high school student with 6 or 7 classes a day, each class likely amounts to half to an hour’s worth of homework each night…amounting to hours and hours of homework. SO in addition to the 7 hours at school there’s another 3 hours at home to do…that’s a gruelling life. Even if a child makes the decision that they want to do it, their health and wellbeing seriously come into question after a couple of months of that kind of schedule.

    It’s never an issue of practicing a few math problems after school. It’s about night after night of sitting with nose in books for 3 to 4 hours a night when you’re 15.

    May 25th, 2009 at 8:15 am
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  23. HomeworkBlues says:

    PsychMom, well said. But it’s not three to four hours of high school homework anymore, that’s pie in the sky now. It’s seven. And we aren’t just talking the kids with ADD. At Back to School Night, the physics teacher said two hours a night. And this wasn’t even an AP course! The calculus teacher said two hours a night. Okay, we’re up to four hours here and we’ve just covered two out of seven subjects. You do the math. At this rate, you have to seriously ask yourself, if she’s putting in eight hours of hoemwork after a long day at school, what are they doing at school? Why am I sending her? This isn’t homework, this is homeschooling.

    And then there’s weekend homework. Many students at my daughter’s school tell me they work all weekend long. By this stage of the game, no matter how hard she works, my daughter is slipping. Who can keep up this grueling schedule?

    Elizabeth, it’s not a few math problems a night to practice. It’s relentless grinding homework that keeps students up way past their bedtime and puts them at risk. Whatever benefit you could argue with math practice problems is completely obliterated by sleep deprivation and decreased focus the next day.

    In other words, as a teacher, I’d rather have my students completely rested and alert than practiced and so tired, they stare at me blankly for an entire class block.

    There is no credible sleep research to suggest that high achieving kids don’t need sleep. They are simply better at faking the effects. It comes out in other ways. Yes, they might still pull good grades, leaving their parents and educators to believe they can pull it off, they can do anything and everything. They can’t. It comes out in other ways. These kids will still dutifully do what is expected of them, get excellent grades and shoot for a top college.

    But it comes out in other ways. Depression, anxiety, sleep disorders, chronic fatigue syndrome, apathy, cutting, bulimia, anorexia, risk taking behavior, and yes, even suicide. Don’t be fooled.

    May 26th, 2009 at 12:25 pm
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  24. HomeworkBlues says:

    Elizabeth says, “The point of homework is to PRACTICE.”

    Elizabeth, that may have been the case once, that was clearly the original intent. School is seven hours long, you learn the concepts and skills during that time and then you go home to practice and reinforce that new information.

    Aside from the fact that “practice” doesn’t have to mean homework (doesn’t my daughter practice her reading when she reads all afternoon, practice her writing when she works on her novel at home, practice her spatial skills when she erects structures out of k’nex and leggos, practice her science when I take her to a nature center, practice art when she drags out all her markers and clay, practice speaking, listening and negotiating when she plays at the playground, practice math as a five year old when we walk a mile to the supermarket to weigh fruits and vegetables, practice counting when we play math word games, practice spelling when we play scrabble, practice geography when we play map board games, practice fine motor skills when she draws and sews, practice….you get the picture now, don’t you?), it simply is not PRACTICE anymore.

    My daughter does all her research papers, essays and projects at home. That’s not practice, that’s curriculum. Today’s homework is everything that didn’t get done at school. It’s shunted home as an extension of the school day, often not to reinforce what was learned that day in school but to learn it for the first time at home. And heaven help us if mom doesn’t know calculus or dad can’t remember all his physics.

    Homework, as it stands now, is simply extending the curriculum. Yes, school can’t do everything in those seven and a half hours. But they can do more, a lot more. As long as homework is forced home under the guise of responsibility, practice and my favorite buzz phrase, “school home partnership,” there will be no incentive to change. I repeat, they get paid, we do the work, who is greater fool?

    May 26th, 2009 at 2:38 pm
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  25. MaeMae says:

    Kathleen – It is possible to work and homeschool. I have been doing it for 5 years. It takes a little more work but the goal of homeschooling is to get your children to “self-learn.” That is what makes it possible. There are books at the library that could help you decide if this is something that could work for your family.

    June 18th, 2009 at 7:14 am
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  26. Anonymous says:

    I see that several on this blog have a misconception of the home/school connection. It saddens me to read parents spewing forth venom against their child’s teacher and declaring it is not their job to oversee their child’s education in the evening. Wow. I wonder if these same parents are equally outraged at their child’s pediatrician who does not personally administer antibiotics to the child three times a day once they determine a need for such. If the doctor recommended surgery or a specialist for a particular illness, would the parent stomp and fume and declare that the doctor is a quack because he does not possess knowledge about EVERY problem that might affect your child? Would the parent cross her arms defiantly and tell the nurse inquiring about health history and habits that she refuses to do the nurse’s job? Yes, what I am suggesting is an analogy, but one that possesses viable similarities. The energy you spent resisting your child’s teacher is affecting your child whether you see it or not. I, for one, cannot imagine watching my child flounder in his education and refusing to offer my own assistance and insight toward improvement. You can fight against the system if you so choose, but your child is the one who loses in the end….whether you have a good teacher or a bad teacher. Rethink your position while you can still be a positive influence in your child’s public education. If you can’t be partners with the school, then take your child out to home school or private education. If you can’t afford to do that, then realize YOUR financial limitations are similar to the budget restraints of the school system. It is absolutely ludicrous to expect such. The only ones who think a teacher’s job is “superman” are the parents. The employer, the state, the country, the colleges who certify teachers, and the community all recognize a teacher’s job has human limitations. Again, if you can’t be a partner, play a different game.

    June 20th, 2009 at 9:50 am
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  27. Anonymous says:

    I can’t believe what I read here! American children do not learn even half of what we did learn in Russia, in ten- not twelve!- years. I have to get my kids to special Russian math school AFTER school because they do not learn ANYTHING! Whole year for multiplication table??? No algebra till high school? No physics, chemistry, etc ?? And on top of learning NOTHING- no homework to make it even worse?

    July 3rd, 2009 at 10:30 pm
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  28. 1st Grade Teacher says:

    A few things that I would like to point out:

    I graduated from HS in ’03, so I am still fairly young (at least I like to think so) and I took AP classes as well as some that weren’t and I cannot recall every having 3 hours + of homework (let alone 7?!)

    As a first grade teacher, I assign homework as well as a reading log. My reading log only requires the book title and whether it was read by the student, the parent, or together. It isn’t timed or a certain number of pages aren’t required. The most I am asking for from my students to complete their homework and reading is 45 minutes, but most likely 30 minutes is all that’s needed.

    One reason we teachers assign homework (at least in the primary grades) is to teach responsibility. Children that consistently don’t turn in homework in my room are usually very unorganized and are much less responsible than their classmates. Homework helps both these areas.

    I also assign homework to get the parents involved in their child’s education. In first grade most students need help completing their homework because they can’t read fluently. I teach in an urban district and I know a lot of my student’s don’t get much one-on-one attention from the adult figure in their life. They also need someone reading to them to model how reading is done.

    Another point I would like to address is that we do not address homework “because we didn’t get to it at school”. If the general public knew how much time was invested (or better yet- lost) to assessing (as in state testing, district testing, school testing, etc) they would see that the 7 hours their child is in school is not completely devoted to instruction.

    Let’s see…30 minutes for lunch, 30 minutes for recess, 30 – 45 minutes for special class (art, gym, etc), 20 minutes for restroom breaks (trust me, little ones cannot wait nor are they quick!), that’s a lot of time not spent in the classroom.

    Just my side of the coin :)

    July 9th, 2009 at 1:47 am
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  29. PsychMom says:

    To #26 Anonymous

    A partnership implies a shared responsibility and communication. How is it a partnership when one side dictates to the other what is expected? Teachers seldom send a note saying, “This is what I propose for your child to do…let’s discuss it.”
    What comes home from school is…”Here’s what I want you to do, parents: This is how long you are to do it each night, these are the things you must buy to do it with, and I want to see it by Tuesday with your name on it”

    That doesn’t sound like a partnership to me.

    And I don’t understand the analogy to the medical profession at all. How is a 10 minutes consult with a physician the same as 10 months with a teacher? Physicians are dealing with “problems”…a teacher is supposed to be dealing with education. I would never expect a teacher to treat a child’s learning problem…..lord know he/she’s got enough to deal with.

    July 23rd, 2009 at 10:09 am
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  30. PeggyinMA says:

    With all due respect to 1st grade teacher (and some others who have posted here) please read Sarah’s book “The Case Against Homework” before commenting. All of your arguments are discussed in there. “Teaching responsibility” and “getting parents involved” are frequently raised as homework goals, but the effect of homework loads can be very, very different, especially at such a young age.
    For physicians and teachers alike, “first do no harm.”

    July 23rd, 2009 at 2:16 pm
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  31. Readingisfun says:

    How disappointing it is to read these comments that parents are making regarding their child’s teacher. I agree with the comments about working together as a partnership. No wonder the schools have so many behavioral problems with students, look at the parents attitude towards their schools. Also, many parents do not prepare their children for school, which means they start school behind other classmates. Some parents, unfortunately, do not have their children read at all and have little interaction with the child’s teacher. It is because of these parents that teachers and schools find it necessary to assign homework for students to practice the essential skills. For all those responsible parents out there, could you imagine not reading to your child or having them read to you or not making an effort to know what is going on with your child at school. These parents do exist, teachers want every child to succeed, but in order to do so, some students need additional practice and many times these students come from families that are less than helpful in providing this help. I think in an ideal classroom, where all the parents are involved with their children’s well being and have their students read at home then yes, homework should be optional, but for those schools where parent involved is silm to none, homework is necessary 100% of the time.

    September 2nd, 2009 at 7:33 pm
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  32. HomeworkBlues says:

    Readingisfun, I am confused by your comments. First you say you are disappointed in us parents who blog here often, suggest that kids have behavior problems because of parents like us and then you proceed to lament how such children don’t read.

    If anyone needs to read, it is you. Read our comments. I am beginning to feel that key commenters on this blog (myself included) should post position papers. We are not the parents you lambaste!

    My child reads. That’s the whole point! She reads incessantly. I want less homework so she has time to read!

    I’m tired now. I don’t have the energy to repeat everything I wrote. Please take the time to read it. How can you form an opinion half baked?

    We don’t idly blast anyone. I know I think my positions through very carefully, honed after years of frustration. We are an intellectual family. I cultivated a child who loves to learn, in a home where I have to hide books so she’ll do her homework.

    My husband and I spend time with our child. Lots of it. Not nearly enough. Homework eats the family. And it breaks my heart. This isn’t funny, this isn’t idle whining, this isn’t griping, this is serious. We are talking about the health and well being of a child. We are talking homework overload that reaches the point of utter absurdity. That cuts into sleep and play and causes anxiety and depression. This is serious stuff. Surely you must think I have better things to do than pick on teachers. It’s about family. It’s about our life. It’s about our sanity. It’s about our child.

    My position began simply. No homework in elementary, credible research bears that out. All my daughter ever wanted to do in elementary was read and write a novel. What’s wrong with that? High school homework should never be more than two hours. Beyond that yields nothing but diminishing returns. But we here feel no one is listening to us, giving us the impression the family comes last. The mother especially is the most vilified and disregarded stakeholder in the public school system. Unless we acknowledge those deep seated but closely guarded secrets, we cannot progress.

    My child is a respectful, well behaved, kind, considerate, ethical young person. We have a respect and passion for learning in my household. We are nowhere near rich, not even comfortable in some respects. What we have is the will and desire to educate and educate well. We try hard. We are there. We are committed. Why would you pick on that?

    September 2nd, 2009 at 9:47 pm
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  33. HomeworkBlues says:

    Readingisfun writes: “I think in an ideal classroom, where all the parents are involved with their children’s well being and have their students read at home then yes, homework should be optional, but for those schools where parent involved is silm to none, homework is necessary 100% of the time”

    I keep hearing this argument. Over and over. It’s a valid one but I’ve answered it every time. Here goes again.

    If homework is designed for those children who receive no enrichment at home, no books, no parents to read to them, then how do you explain the exponential increase of homework in gifted programs? My daughter has been in gifted and/or private programs her entire school life. Most of the parents are involved, some in ways I would take umbrage with. But the fact remains, they are involved. These kids are mostly reading.

    By your calculation, homework for self motivated children should be optional. A teacher could wink and whisper, okay, your daughter can just read and write that novel. Show it to me when it’s done. Good enough for me!

    But that’s not what happens. When I tried to talk to her public school teacher years ago, said teacher pursed her lips disapprovingly and clucked, “she still has to do her homework.” She was talking past me and chose not to hear a single word I said.

    I see the exact reverse of what you describe. Gifted programs fry the kids and the non-gifted ones leave them to their own devices.

    September 2nd, 2009 at 11:30 pm
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  34. PsychMom says:

    To Readingisfun

    I too am really tired of the people like you who comment who haven’t read all the postings. I’m the most involved parent on the planet in my child’s learning and in her schooling. But I worry about all children being pushed into WORK and pushed into growing up because adults fear they will somehow be less successful if there isn’t someone hounding them from behind. I want my child to be a child for as long as I can manage it. My concerns goes way beyond homework (as it does for many parents here) but this forum helps to get the word out there that there are better ways to treat children.
    Homework prepares young children for absolutely nothing but a life long hatred of books and school. And reading to one’s child and talking to them every evening over the dinner table is more than a reasonable substitute.

    September 3rd, 2009 at 8:23 am
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  35. FedUpMom says:

    HomeworkBlues, reading the recent comments gives me a new theory about G/T classes. I think the public schools have decided that “gifted/talented” means “parents want the kid to go to Harvard.” Then they fry the kids with tons of homework and pressure in the misguided belief that this is what the parents want because it will pave that golden path to the Ivy League.

    At this point they might as well just rename “G/T” and “AP” and “accelerated” classes “pressure-cooker classes” and be done with it. We’d have truth in advertising and parents like you and me (and, apparently, Matthew) would know to keep our kids away. And instead of entry to G/T being decided by IQ tests, which is not really the relevant point, entry could be decided by an interview with the parents. Just ask the parents, “Would you rather get your kid into Harvard than give them a happy childhood?” If the answer is yes, go ahead and enroll the kid in G/T.

    Of course, the question of how to educate a bright, curious, creative child would remain to be answered. But we could all save a great deal of time and heartache if we weren’t under the completely false impression that the public schools actually care about bright, curious, creative kids.

    September 3rd, 2009 at 10:48 am
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  36. FedUpMom says:

    To 1st Grade Teacher — homework in the first grade has nothing to do with teaching a child to be responsible. It’s all about Mom. The kids who turn in their homework are the ones whose mothers nagged, cajoled, bribed or threatened their kids into doing the homework, day after day. I have never met a first-grade child who could remember, and complete, homework every day without instruction from his parents (and if that child exists, I’m not sure I want to meet him!)

    A lot of Moms just do the homework for their child. It’s a lot easier than fighting with an exhausted child every day, and it makes no difference whatsoever to the child’s education. Take a closer look at the homework that gets handed in. Do you see some with unusually mature handwriting?

    Homework should never be given in first grade. Even Harris Cooper doesn’t think there should be more than 10 minutes. You routinely assign 45 minutes, which is way too much. (By the way, how do you assess how much time it will take?)

    As for “getting the parents involved”, do you hear how patronizing that is? If your students don’t get much attention from adults, believe me, the kind of attention they get while being frog-marched through homework is not going to improve their lives.

    Homework was the worst thing that ever happened to my relationship with my daughter. I’m determined to put my daughter’s needs first from now on.

    September 3rd, 2009 at 11:24 am
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  37. MomToFour says:

    Here I sit (blissfully uninterrupted) at the computer, enjoying the peace and quiet of the first day of school. I am the mother of four beautiful daughters (yes, more than ONE child . . . how rare), ranging in ages from 9 to 17. I have looked to this day with glee and dread all mixed into one. The glee refers to the peace and quiet of a childless home while the ‘dread’ refers to the yearly homework battles with the teachers . . . not my kids.
    I have scanned all 36 comments in this wonderfully, delicious debate about homework. Each year at the first parent-teacher interview in the fall, my husband and I make it known that homework is secondary to family. Many times I have written in agendas that it was too nice outside to do homework only to find out that my child was tethered to a desk the following recess to complete the required ‘busy work’ of the day.
    My husband and I are trying to take a stand for what we believe in, which is family time and ‘get your butt off the couch and be active’ time. In this day and age of technology, children will remain glued to a computer, video game or televison if left alone to their own devices. In our area, gym class is becoming a thing of the past or it has become such a joke that it’s laughable at times. (“Oh, poor little Jimmy can’t run? Just sit on the bench and take a break if you need to, dear”) For us, physical activity is just as important as mental activity.
    I shudder when my child brings home an I.R.P. (Independent Reading Program), which generally means lots of homework for Mom and Dad. Last year, grade 3 example:
    1. Read a book
    2. Write a summary of the book
    3. Write down 20 new vocabulary words, meanings and make new sentences for each
    4. Write an alternate ending to the book
    5. Pick 3 characters and describe them. Do you know anyone like them?
    6. Do a project about the book. (It cannot be the same as the previous I.R.P. project.)
    How to suck the enjoyment out of reading in two seconds flat? BUSY WORK!!! I am insulted when my parenting skills are questioned when I reject the benefits of time spent with my child doing homework. My husband and I both work full time, shift work for me, and any time I have with my kids is a treasure. The last thing I want to do is monitor useless busy work!

    September 8th, 2009 at 11:35 am
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  38. PsychMom says:

    Hi MomToFour:

    My child went back last Wednesday…to 3rd grade. It’s the year “they” all say is a killer for the start of serious homework. The note from the teacher said that Homework won’t start until this week. Notes in previous years have said I can expect 30 minutes of reading per night plus 20 minutes of “other” work, varying depending on the whim of the teacher basically. I’m taking the approach of not saying anything until a problem appears at home, but the independent reading projects of which you speak, are what I’m dreading. They did them last year too and it was an unmitigated failure for my voracious reader who couldn’t stand the books selected. And as for signing off on homework…it won’t be happening.

    The teacher and I are on good terms but definitely have different ideas about homework….if you see bright lights in the eastern horizon this fall, it’ll be fireworks over Halifax.

    September 8th, 2009 at 12:21 pm
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  39. FedUpMom says:

    To everyone — argh! The school year has barely begun and I’m already getting into homework debates at school. I was just talking to my younger daughter’s kindergarten teacher about the “sound of the week” homework and she remarked, “most of the kids chose to participate in that.” Whaddaya mean, the kids chose to participate? The *Moms* chose to participate! 5-year-old kids don’t spontaneously remember to bring in a “sound-of-the-week” object from home. And this is actually a teacher I like! I think my head just exploded.

    September 8th, 2009 at 12:43 pm
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  40. PsychMom says:

    Have I got a sound of the week for you………?!

    I laughed so hard when I read your post…do teachers not get how absolutely silly they sound?

    Give your kid an airhorn to take to school. Or a whooppee cushion…I’m still giggling..

    September 8th, 2009 at 12:51 pm
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  41. FedUpMom says:

    PsychMom — maybe I should explain — “sound of the week” is actually about learning the alphabet. You’re supposed to bring in an object whose name begins with the sound represented by the letter. I think it’s called “sound of the week” to emphasize phonics (so you don’t, for instance, send in a sugar cube to represent “s”.)

    I like your idea of the air horn and the whoopee cushion, though — I’ll keep it in mind!

    September 8th, 2009 at 1:36 pm
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  42. PsychMom says:

    Oohhhhh…

    I like my interpretation better. But I’m sure I could also come up with creative words for each sound of the alphabet too.

    I love having projects to work on.

    September 8th, 2009 at 1:49 pm
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  43. ryan says:

    i am in 7th grade and i have at least 4 hours of homework a night– i am in a magnet school so i expect it to be a lot but i am outraged at what the teachers say

    “homework is good and will improve your grades and studying is learning which is NOT review”

    they even agree with me that if it was review then i should not have to do it unless i need to.

    i have read some of the other comments saying we do not respect teachers and that is wrong we usually try to its that teachers do not respect us and i do not see why we should have to keep on respecting them when they dont and as someone mentioned earlier THEY get paid not us.

    also i believe that all homework is review and that only kids who need to review the subject should do the homework. i think it is ridiculous how there is now forced studying for subjects that we could be doing perfectly well on and learned in class. i do not think teachers need to review everyone to see if they have got the concept, they should use IN-SCHOOL work to review and test the kids in question.

    September 8th, 2009 at 10:00 pm
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  44. FedUpMom says:

    PsychMom — you gave me my best laugh of the day. I keep thinking of the air horn and whoopie cushion — eeeeeep FBLLATT! Excellent.

    September 8th, 2009 at 10:42 pm
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  45. HomeworkBlues says:

    To 7th grader above: This was my daughter too. This child illustrates how destructive homework overload is. I have yet to meet a bright 7th grader at a magnet school who is enthralled with homework overload and who benefits from it.

    Detractors will counter that we can’t always give kids what they want. That misses the entire point of this middle schooler’s plea. This child is miserable, becoming disillusioned and is losing faith in the very adults he/she should be looking up to. Why take the chance? I see no benefit here at all. Sometimes a little goes a long way. Less is more.

    My daughter was given an incredibly huge amount of language homework over the summer. She saw the sheer volume, gasped and shut down, completely overwhelmed and despairing. To her relief, some other students reported the same thing today. She told me, had it been ten pages instead of fifty, she would have tackled it.

    September 9th, 2009 at 12:47 am
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  46. FedUpMom says:

    To 7th grader — 4 hours a night is twice as much as the 2 hour maximum that Harris Cooper recommends for high school!

    I completely agree with you that homework should be only for kids who need the review. If you don’t need it, what’s the point?

    Have you talked to your parents about this? I know the school will tell you to “self-advocate”, but I think that’s school code for “we don’t want to deal with parents.”

    September 9th, 2009 at 9:39 am
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  47. HomeworkBlues says:

    You bet, FedUp. The sad thing is, that’s the norm for 7th grade these days. Especially in gifted programs. No wonder kids are tuned out and apathetic.

    As for “self advocating,” my daughter’s school repeated that mantra too. So my child screwed up the courage to ask for an extension on a large report, as she was going off to an important convention. We are talking about requesting a dispensation for *weekend* homework! She would miss no school but would not have much of the weekend to do her homework.

    Teacher shot her down and scolded her like this: You must work many many hours. You cannot just have fun all the time.” Does this kid look like she is having fun all the time?

    Reminder to self: Go back and ask teacher. What do you do on your weekends? Heaven forfend, might you be having a little fun yourself?

    The next question is, so what are parents going to do about homework overload that is so beyond any recommended guidelines? The most amazing thing here is this entire problem could go away quickly if parernts galvanized en masse. That’s all it takes. But what will it take to get there?

    September 10th, 2009 at 12:54 am
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  48. HomeworkBlues says:

    First grade teacher writes: “Another point I would like to address is that we do not address homework “because we didn’t get to it at school”. If the general public knew how much time was invested (or better yet- lost) to assessing (as in state testing, district testing, school testing, etc) they would see that the 7 hours their child is in school is not completely devoted to instruction.”

    You think we, the general public, is not aware of how much precious instructional time is wasted on testing? We are aware, we realize, we know and we are furious.

    We know it’s not all your fault. But shunting the work to the home because school had better things to do than actually teach is a dreadful solution. The school is punishing the very little person they are supposed to be helping.

    It’s an awful situation. But please don’t assume for a moment that many of us are clueless. We know how much time is wasted at school. There’s an adage in homeschooling I love to keep repeating: We do twice as much in half the time.

    September 10th, 2009 at 12:59 am
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  49. HomeworkBlues says:

    Correction: We ARE not aware. Not is. Typo. Ooops.

    September 10th, 2009 at 1:00 am
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  50. HomeworkBlues says:

    Anonymous writes: “And on top of learning NOTHING- no homework to make it even worse?”

    Anonymous, you never ever use homework to make up for bad instruction, ever. That is what so many of us are fighting for here. It’s not about not working hard. It’s not about not learning. It’s not about dumbing down the curriculum. It’s about using every precious minute in school wisely. Trust me. If schools eliminated the fluff and used the time to teach, homework could be minimal.

    It’s about nurturing and inspiring children. It’s about creating a home of learning and books and intellectual dinner discussions that are allowed to go on uninterrupted. Where the teachers call the shots from 9-4 and you take over the the rest of the time. Where your home is your castle. Or your library.

    I don’t know about you but a lot of learning happens in our household. We’ve done the school thing, the homework thing, and I am here to tell you my daughter would have learned far more without homework than with it. That’s because in order to “make” her do homework, we were always taking away The New York Times, The New Yorker, Wuthering Heights, Shakespeare, and a novel she was writing. Homework limited learning, not enhanced it, especially in elementary.

    Not all parents may want to spend all afternoon and evening with their kids. That’s okay, everyone’s different. But don’t pretend homework promotes learning. If you need it as a babysitting service or think your kids will never ever do a single responsible self directed educational pursuit without it, go ahead, clamor for more homework. But please make it optional. I judge you not. You live your home life the way you want and I want the freedom to do likewise.

    Written at 1:15 am. My high schooler is still up and doing homework for…I don’t even want to tell you how many hours. And it’s only Day Two.

    September 10th, 2009 at 1:10 am
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  51. Jen098 says:

    As a 4th grade teacher I have to say I find it amusing there are adults who think I “assign” homework to make parents teach their children.

    First, after teaching subject matter my students are given time to practice skills in class. If they do not finish the practice, then it is homework. Some students waste all sorts of time, even with prompts, rewards, punishments, recesses in, extra help etc. If the parents put students academics first, the students value their academics, and often those are the kids who appreciate their education, even if they are 9 years old.

    Parents who reward their kid with a sunny day, but who also support their child as a student are the parents of those students can spend an afternoon outside. But the parents who meet with me and say “Oh well, I didn’ t do well in math” or “I didn’t like school” or “We had soccerballetfootballdancelacrossehorsebackridingsunnydaybusyrunningerrandsranoutoftime” those students think of their education as secondary and it always shows. The kids don’t know the material, are frustrated, tired, and my favorite “are bored”. You actually have to have a grasp of the basics before you get to be “bored”. No one wants to say it but many of the “bored” kids aren’t gifted. They are lazy. That’s right. They want to be spoon fed information like a mindless video game. They can’t use a dictionary. They think everything should be covered under “spellcheck”. No wonder other countries are kicking our asses in education. Those kids aren’t sitting at home playing 2 hours of “Grand Theft Auto” and watching who knows what the rest of the night.

    I have had students involved in many different activities after school who NEVER turned in any assignments late and whose parents never complain. They understand that their child’s most important job is their education. No excuses. I love those parents.

    As for reviewing time tables at home or reading with your kids, fine, don’t. If your child isn’t keeping up with the pace which is set for the average child, then I don’t know if it matters who you blame when he or she is working at McDonald’s and still can’t count back change. I know I did my part to cover the material using various methods and in creative ways, and in between providing everything from basic manners to basic life skills to over 60% (that’s correct, 60%) of the class on top of reading, writing and math I know I put in a full day.

    If a parent doesn’t put their child’s education first, then the child won’t care either. If you choose to have one child or 6 children or 11, it is still your job to participate in their education. If your child has never seen a book and enters kingergarten, then yes, they are at a disadvantage. It isn’t my fault you had more children than you could handle. But I will try my best to educate them all, even if you are too tired to help with homework. Or to disorganized to run your life. I guess that is my fault, too?

    And finally, why are so many people writing 7 page papers in the middle of the night before they are due? I find it hard to believe those assignments were assigned that day. More than likely they were assigned much earlier in the week or even weeks before, and then they were put off until the last minute. I have received phone calls about those assignments. I have sent packets home with all the information and due dates and had parents sign them, only to have parents tell me “they didn’t know” or they “forgot”. If I show them where they signed off on the packet, they get pissed at me. I am sorry I tried to give you information to help you help your child get an education. Sorry I tried to keep you informed about the things we are covering. I thought you might be interested. But nevermind! Now I understand your child’s future only matters between 8 and 4!

    So, on top of their child not caring if they do any work in class, even with everything I can think of to get them to do the assignment, I always have those who have their arsenal of excuses. Then the parents come with their excuses. The apple never falls far from the tree.

    If I only had to teach to motivated students and interested parents…but I will try to teach the rest, too in the hopes that it will make the difference to at least one or two of the kids.

    Oh, and one other thing. My mom spent many hours with me, practicing counting change, reviewing multiplication tables, reading to me, and caring about me. She did the same with my brother. My parents came from nothing. They knew school came first. I still played with friends on the weekends. She never bitched. She wanted me to have a great education. Thanks, Mom I guess you really are one in a million.

    October 9th, 2009 at 1:12 am
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  52. FedUpMom says:

    Jen098 — I am getting so tired of reading these hostile messages from teachers. We keep hearing about “teacher-bashing”, but what about the constant drumbeat of kid-bashing and parent-bashing?

    “I have had students involved in many different activities after school who NEVER turned in any assignments late and whose parents never complain. They understand that their child’s most important job is their education. No excuses. I love those parents.”

    Guess what — some of those perfect assignments that get turned in on time from uncomplaining parents are FAKED. These parents don’t want to rock the boat, but they’ve only got 24 hours in the day like the rest of us. They want their kids to enjoy their sports or their sunny day, and they’re tired of harassing their kids about the homework, so they just do it for them. You think that doesn’t happen?

    Please, don’t send packets home with due dates. There’s no way a 9 year old child can organize all that herself, and it’s not fair to hold the child responsible for her parents’ compliance.

    “If your child isn’t keeping up with the pace which is set for the average child, then I don’t know if it matters who you blame when he or she is working at McDonald’s and still can’t count back change. I know I did my part to cover the material …”

    There’s a saying over at kitchen table math:

    “If the student didn’t learn, the teacher didn’t teach.”

    Take ownership of what you do. If there’s a child who isn’t keeping pace with the material, that’s the school’s responsibility to fix. Does the child have a learning disability? Or does the child actually know the material but she’s become noncompliant because of boredom and alienation? What’s going on? Don’t just blame the parents.

    October 9th, 2009 at 10:21 am
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  53. zzzzz78759 says:

    Jen098,

    I completely agree with FedUpMom but I’m going to add a bit of my own.

    I’m concerned that you don’t feel sports, exercise, family time, errands, relaxation, etc. are as important as homework. I have a job, one that puts food on our table, a roof over our heads, clothes on our backs and a few perks now and then. My job is important. Without it we would be living on the street.

    My daughter spends 35 hours a week in school, plus another about 5 in transit each way. That’s a 40 hour week for her. She’s in second grade.

    I did not “have more kids than I can handle” nor am I too “disorganized” to run my life. I will agree, though, that both my daughter and I are “too tired” to do homework and I’m “too tired” to do your job because I’ve been doing MY job all day. Silly me, keeping us from living in a box…I’m sure it has its advantages. Like leaving me more time to do your job for you.

    I know some fabulous teachers. Wonderful, caring, warm, engaging, people who love their jobs and love helping children grow and learn. Their classrooms are rainbows of color and sounds. The children are happy and eager. That’s not a pipe dream, it’s reality. I’ve seen it. It’s funny that those teachers are, invariably, the ones who don’t assign homework. There’s no need. Why assign math worksheets when there are so many better, real world, fun ways to learn math? Look, 5 yellow flowers plus 3 blue ones makes 8 flowers. Now, let’s throw in 4 of these purple ones. How many do we have now?

    The teachers who come here to post and complain that it’s not their “fault” or they’re not to “blame” are typically the ones who are, frankly, not cut out to be teachers. They don’t enjoy their jobs, they’re stuck in a rut, they have no respect for parents, and have a classroom full of bored children.

    And, again, I HAVE A JOB. I work hard at it every day. I don’t have time to do homework or help with homework. I would rather take that time and spend it with my daughter who shouldn’t be asked to do homework, either, since she’s already spent a full day in school. soccerballetfootballdancelacrossehorsebackridingsunnydaybusyrunningerrands are important part of life. Family time is an important part of life. Why do teachers and schools not see that?

    A couple of days ago, our family cat got sick and had to be taken to the animal hospital ER. We spent a good part of the night there with him. I wrote my daughter’s teacher a note explaining why her homework was not done. Apparently, it was not a good enough excuse because not only was she dinged for not having it done but the teacher actually told my daughter that it was MY “fault” (again, there’s that word) she didn’t get 100 on her spelling test since I didn’t feel it was important enough to practice her words with her.

    Kids don’t need rewards and/or punishments for them to complete their “work”, they need work that’s fun and engaging and holds their interest. And, if the teacher can’t do that in the time allotted, then perhaps the teacher needs to reassess their time management, goals, and career choice.

    And BTW, I have yet to have a teacher take me up on my offer to have them come do my job for a couple of hours a night when they’re finished with school.

    The usual response, “I have a job.” My thoughts exactly.

    October 9th, 2009 at 11:46 am
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  54. PsychMom says:

    The only thing I have to say to Jen098 is..you have lost your way and all your perspective. Your idea of education is just sad.

    October 9th, 2009 at 1:23 pm
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  55. zzzzz78759 says:

    PsychMom,

    I agree. Anyone who says, ‘The kids don’t know the material, are frustrated, tired, and my favorite “are bored”. You actually have to have a grasp of the basics before you get to be “bored”. No one wants to say it but many of the “bored” kids aren’t gifted. They are lazy. That’s right.’ but takes no responsibility for the fact that her students don’t know the material, are frustrated, tired and bored might want to reassess her career choice.

    October 9th, 2009 at 1:42 pm
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  56. Disillusioned says:

    PsychMom and zzzzz78759- both of you are very eloquent and your responses to Jen098 are well reasoned.

    In my experience, the “lens” through which many educators view the world is relatively narrow and myopic.
    I think they truly believe (the rather hysterical) dogma they adhere to. (All of the kids will be working at McDonald’s if they don’t pass their second grade spelling tests!)

    October 10th, 2009 at 2:21 pm
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  57. Joyce says:

    I have 2 boys-1 in 2nd grade and the other in 3rd. My 3rd grader had to read a school assigned book about how a kid his age went through life, and how he learned to like the whole world, that kind of thing. One night, he came up to me, and said, “Mom, I hate this book. It’s too boring. There are no fights, no adventures, no ANYTHING! I hate this. I’m not gonna read any longer.” I had a talk with his teacher about it, and she agreed with him. She said, “It’s probably the shallowest book I’ve read. But it’s the school board who decides which books the town schools read.” So I wrote to the town board. No reply. I called. Only an automated message. I attended a council meeting. When I was finished speaking my opinion, I was dismissed. The next day, I received a letter saying,
    “Dear Joyce X,
    We appreciate your opinion, and so we are truly sorry to say that though your son may not enjoy the book we have chosen and approved, it is the only book that meets our standards on violence, sexuality, and other issues we are afraid will influence and/or frighten the children in this town.

    Sincerely,
    Mr.whole town board.”

    My son got a D for reading .

    October 11th, 2009 at 7:36 pm
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  58. PsychMom says:

    Wow, Joyce. I can’t imagine what it must be like living in a place where people are so fearful. It’s like something out of a sci-fi movie. What does a D in reading mean when you’re in second or third grade? If your son reads a ton at home but doesn’t read another school/town endorsed book all year, will he still get a D?

    It all seems so bizarre to me. If the “town” feels this way about books that small children read, do they make similar judgements about the movies that come to town, the books that adults read?

    October 13th, 2009 at 9:37 am
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  59. lbs3169 says:

    To mom of four:

    Just wondering which it is. School is your favorite time of year because your children are no longer around as much and you don’t have to talk to them during the day anymore. How did you describe it? Oh yes, BLISS!
    Or is it the worst time of the year because you love to spend so much precious time with your children and teachers get in your way with all their busy work.
    I am a parent and a teacher, so I really can see both points. There have been some assignments that I have not agreed with and told the teachers about it. But to consider all work as busy work just doesn’t sound right to me.
    I though the questions you listed for thought after reading a book were interesting. Thinking of a different ending for a novel can be thought provoking. You need a serious understanding of the characters to know how they would react to that new ending. Mom of four, you just seem so bitter over something that you can’t see anything as worthwhile. That seems sad to me. Yes engaging your child physically is important, but isn’t engaging them mentally important also? Just like you expect teachers to engage their students by making things interesting (rightfully so). Shouldn’t you at least attempt to do the same for YOUR child. If you present ever assignment as dull, boring and meaningless busy work then you can’t be surprised when your children feel that way about all work.
    My son recently had that same assignment about contemplating a different ending to a book he was reading. He had a good time changing the story around to what he thought should have happened. He insisted that I also read the book so I could give my own alternative ending and to see how I felt about his. I really felt like it was a wonderful experience for both of us.
    Try to be positive. I tell my son that in my job I don’t always agree with what my boss wants me to do. I can voice my opinion about it, and sometimes that might change their opinion also. If not though I still need to do it, but try in some way to manipulate the assignment to better fit my own needs. School can be a learning experience for children beyond academics.

    October 13th, 2009 at 10:35 pm
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  60. FedUpMom says:

    lbs31609 says:

    *************
    Try to be positive. I tell my son that in my job I don’t always agree with what my boss wants me to do.
    **************

    I am so tired of this analogy. The teacher is not the child’s boss, and the student is not an employee. Education is supposed to benefit the child! If schoolwork doesn’t help the child learn, then what is the bloomin’ point?

    Of course kids need both physical and mental activity. But when they’ve just spent 7 hours sitting on a bus and then sitting in classrooms doing schoolwork, it’s the physical activity they need most.

    If the schools were doing their job, our kids would have their mental stimulation at school, and could come home and be active, or play a musical instrument, or knit, or hang out with their friends, or whatever they and their families feel is a good use of their time.

    October 14th, 2009 at 9:00 am
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  61. PsychMom says:

    You know, FedUp Mom..you are right. I guess I’ve gotten so used to hearing it that I don’t think it sounds weird anymore…but you’re right. We have to stop equating kid’s education with adult work. Not until kids are in their final years of high school do we have any justification to be talking about the world of work. I used to say that school was kid’s work, just like Montessori used to say that play was child’s work. But then I learned how today’s education system was originally developed to the specifications and requirements of corporate America and now I don’t think the word “work” should be assigned to education at all, except that it is the work of teachers.

    Kids don’t need a 40 hour work week…they need less structured time.
    Kids don’t need punch cards (that is…reading logs) to monitor their work.
    Kids should not have to seek permission to go to the bathroom only on their breaks.
    Kids should have adequate time to eat their lunch, play, dream, relax and do nothing everyday.
    Kids should be free from school obligations when the school day is over.

    Kids should be allowed to be kids…free from adult responsibility.

    October 14th, 2009 at 9:44 am
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  62. Disillusioned says:

    Fed Up and PsychMom- Like avid Democrats and Republicans, I sometimes wonder if there is any point “debating” the teachers who write in. I think our “life philosophies” are so different it is difficult to find common ground.

    For me, it comes down to choice. I really think education is to important to be in the hands of a government monopoly. More than no homework, I really wish school vouchers were a reality.

    October 14th, 2009 at 2:56 pm
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  63. Disillusioned says:

    Whoops- too important (Right?)

    October 14th, 2009 at 2:58 pm
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  64. lbs3169 says:

    I guess we will just agree that we will never agree.

    I certainly DO NOT think every moment of a students time outside of school should be spent doing homework. However, I just can not understand (as a parent not a teacher) how a parent could object to any kind of thought provoking activity outside of school? Is it just that someone else assigned it that is the problem, or is it doing any kind of academic work at home is the problem? I am honestly saying that most assignments my son gets are interesting and I believe will in some way enhance his knowledge.

    It seems like I am hearing, “Why can’t they get it all done in school.” There is ALWAYS more to learn. I do get all my basic lessons (the state’s curriculum) completed in class, but I want my students to be the best they can be. So I try to give home assignments that will help them achieve this and get them thinking and communicating with their family in some way.

    Why not homeschool your children if you have such strong different opinions about how you would like them raised and educated? There is no problem in wanting your children to have no obligations, daydream and be creative all day, not have to ask permission for things like the bathroom or eat and drink whenever they want. Just give me a clear picture of how I can keep some kind of order in my class (to make sure students are progressing and safe) without having expectations and rules to follow. Your description does sound ideal if I had 1-5 students in my class, but just not achievable with 25-30.

    Just teach your child yourself at home…really it’s that simple. I do my work as was stated but if your child refuses to do any work then it’s pointless. I am not saying that the work your child is doing needs to be miserable, I hope it is enjoyable just like I consider my work enjoyable. But it does take work to actively engage in conversations and process what your learning. PsychMom you think high school is the time to start teaching about adult work, I would agree with that. I guess what we disagree with is what adult work is. I just don’t see being taught responsibility and cooperation as adult work but a gradual process that takes a lifetime to learn. And, that waiting until high school to try and instill that seems too late.

    I don’t think I am my students boss and I don’t tell my students that. I said that to MY son as a way of showing him I understand disagreeing with something you need to do. That even though I am not in school that I can relate to his feelings. You’re your child’s parent and I’m mine. I feel it’s my job as his parents to help prepare him for life, and I think a huge life lesson is being able to work together with other and when needed how to compromise. Yes, if you extremely disagree with something then you need to stand up for what you believe. However not everything in life needs to be a fight. I know many on this board will disagree with that and think you should always fight about everything you think is unacceptable, but it just sounds like a difficult and aggravating life.

    This sure has been an interesting conversation. I wish all the parents that have different P.O.V then mine good luck. Obviously we are writing on this board because we really hope what values we teach our children (and students) are the best choices. I’m sure everyone has their child’s best interest at heart…. even if I disagree with it.

    October 14th, 2009 at 11:36 pm
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  65. FedUpMom says:

    lbs3169 says:

    ************************
    Yes, if you extremely disagree with something then you need to stand up for what you believe. However not everything in life needs to be a fight. I know many on this board will disagree with that and think you should always fight about everything you think is unacceptable, but it just sounds like a difficult and aggravating life.
    **************************

    I personally hate fighting. That’s why I took my daughter out of the public schools and am now sending her to Quaker schools. We’ve had a few problems, but they were resolved peacefully and to my satisfaction, and in general it’s been much smoother going. I agree that it is a difficult and aggravating life to have to fight all the time.

    *********************
    However, I just can not understand (as a parent not a teacher) how a parent could object to any kind of thought provoking activity outside of school? … I am honestly saying that most assignments my son gets are interesting and I believe will in some way enhance his knowledge.
    **********************

    All I can say is your experience of homework has been the exact opposite of mine. I would estimate that at least 90% of the homework my daughter received at the public school was tedious, pointless, and not suited to her abilities. Homework was not a “thought provoking activity” for my daughter. It was an irritating chore that she had to be nagged to do, until I transformed into FedUpMom (there was a phone booth involved.)

    I’m okay with teaching my child to compromise, but what I see in school is usually not a compromise. It’s usually forcing the child to do whatever they were told to by the teacher, no matter how inappropriate. Nobody really listens to the child’s point of view. That’s not teaching compromise — it’s teaching passivity.

    October 15th, 2009 at 9:59 am
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  66. PsychMom says:

    lbs3169 said
    —-Is it just that someone else assigned it that is the problem, or is it doing any kind of academic work at home is the problem?——————-

    It’s the latter. Why should a child who has been attentive and engaged for 6 hours have to do more work at home? Especially the very young ones….who are under 13. For the older children, why do they have to do two and three hours more? Why?

    ———-There is no problem in wanting your children to have no obligations, daydream and be creative all day, not have to ask permission for things like the bathroom or eat and drink whenever they want. ——– I never said that they shouldn’t have obligations, rules of conduct and responsibilities, but I claim the responsibility for teaching those things. I don’t know why you feel that it’s you and you alone who make the difference in these areas. As for asking permission to eat, drink and go to the bathroom..to me that’s a human dignity and respect issue. If we don’t treat children humanely, how can we expect them to behave as such? Do you like having to ask permission to go to the bathroom?

    ——-I just don’t see being taught responsibility and cooperation as adult work but a gradual process that takes a lifetime to learn. And, that waiting until high school to try and instill that seems too late.——-

    Biological maturation doesn’t happen because we teach children things. It happens with time and the opportunities for good food, rest, fresh air and a stimulating environment. I have no data to back this up but I’m almost willing to bet that you CAN”T teach somebody a sense of responsibility. They have to experience the inner sense of wanting to do the right thing..not just learn to avoid punishment by doing the right (demanded) thing. If a child gets a reprimand because they forgot their homework, what are they learning? I think they are learning: Please the teacher, do what she/he says so I don’t get in trouble. How is that responsible behaviour?

    My perspective is…when a child is old enough and has been involved in environments that model responsible behaviour by adults, that show respect for all members of the group, the child will behave according to these principles as well.

    My child at age 8, can barely figure out time and the days of the week. But she’s supposed to know that math homework goes home on Thursday and is due on Tuesday…Reading log is due on Tuesday, spelling is Friday. Wednesday is gym. ETC ETC….and that’s only half of it. Maybe some kids can think that far ahead, but I’ll bet dollars to donuts that other kids are no different from mine, but they have mothers and fathers who know the schedule and THEY make sure all the work gets done when it’s supposed to. It’s the parents’ organizational skills at work….this teaches nothing and drives this mother nuts. Why not wait until enough brain cells are firing together in my kid’s head that she has some concept of the school week having 5 days!!!!!

    And on the responsibility front: I’m teaching her how to be responsible in many ways….that are just as relevant if not more relevant than a responsibility for homework. Her success in life does not hinge on her pleasing her teachers…

    October 15th, 2009 at 11:44 am
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  67. Disillusioned says:

    Ibs3169- Again, PsychMom and FedUp Mom echoed my thoughts very well. When you state “”There is ALWAYS more to learn”…. of course there is. I think that’s the point. Becoming a life long learner (or seeker) or voracious reader doesn’t have to happen in grades 1-5. Moreover, outside of the school day, why do you feel the need to dictate “more learning.”

    I love to read but it wasn’t forced upon me in elementary school. My eight year old daughter enjoys reading but I realize that her enjoyment can be incremental. If she enjoys reading now but doesn’t become a voracious reader until middle school or high school; I”m okay with that.

    October 15th, 2009 at 7:52 pm
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  68. dena says:

    Have you ever tried talking to the teachers to come up with a compromise? I am a fourth grade teacher who does give homework, but not so much homework it should leave the child and parent frustrated. I do believe homework teaches responsibility and is another way for a teacher to assess if the students are understanding what was taught in school. If a parent told me that the homework I am giving was too time consuming I would work with that parent.
    You may be surprised at how many parents say to teachers that they are not giving enough homework. Really you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t!

    November 1st, 2009 at 9:16 am
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  69. FedUpMom says:

    Dena says:

    ***************
    Have you ever tried talking to the teachers to come up with a compromise?
    ***************

    Good heavens, of course we talk to the teachers. I talk to my daughter’s teachers all the time (and communicate by email, too.)

    *************
    You may be surprised at how many parents say to teachers that they are not giving enough homework. Really you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t!
    *************

    Dena, if you have parents asking for more homework, give them more homework. If you have parents saying they don’t want their kid doing the homework, you should respect that too. Let the parents decide what they want to do in their own home with their own child.

    One of the great mysteries of homework is why teachers seem to feel it’s vitally important for every child in the class to do the exact same work at home. Do you think every child in the class should do the exact same work at school? I hope not. If you’re teaching in a public school, your class probably contains all kinds of kids, from learning disabled to gifted. There’s no way they should all be doing the exact same task. This is how the above-average kids get cheated out of an education.

    ********************
    I do believe homework teaches responsibility and is another way for a teacher to assess if the students are understanding what was taught in school.
    *******************

    Dena, please read The Case Against Homework and The Homework Myth. Homework doesn’t teach responsibility, it teaches compliance and passivity. In 4th grade, you’re not even teaching the kids how to be compliant and passive — you’re teaching the mothers.

    And homework is a terrible way to assess what your students are understanding. You don’t know who did the homework the child turns in. It might have been done by a parent or older sibling, or the child might have copied it from another child on the school bus.

    November 1st, 2009 at 10:50 am
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  70. College Kid says:

    I am 20, in college and trying to be a nurse. I am a military child so I have been to multiple schools, sometimes in the middle of the year. Sadly, because of these changes I have flat out flunked several classes in high school, not a pretty record for an aspiring collegiate. The different styles of teaching as well as the shifts in the difficultly and homework load in the different schools was astounding, sometimes good and sometimes to the point where I was relearning a lot of the same things repeatedly over again and trying not to rip my hair out by the roots in pure frustration.

    I was bored, and saw no point in doing the homework for something I already knew better than the other students. Further infuriating my teachers was the fact that while I did not do the assigned homework I continued to pass every single test thrown at me with flying colors, both in class and state mandated.

    My nephew is now six, and in the first grade, but in kindergarten he was getting assigned homework everynight. On one disatrous evening the teacher sent home two word search puzzles, he couldn’t remained focused enough, or know how to spell enough of the words to get very far. The poor boy ended up getting in trouble and sent to bed. His mom went to talk to the teacher about it the next day only to find out that while the work was placed in the homework folder, it was only something for the children to do for fun and was not required. Wouldn’t a note have been appropriate, and according to the “rule of thumb” was it even appropriate for kindergarteners to get homework in the first grade?

    I also am an avid book worm, but I do not under any circumstances, like being dictated to what I should read. I love Romeo and Juliet, and A Prayer for Owen Meany, but I can’t stant Hamlet or MacBeth, so how is it fair to me for the school bored or the teacher to force me to read something I do not enjoy? Further more, why do I have to write a twenty page reading log, and an analytical paper when I was practically crying in frustration trying to drag myself through something I found so excruciating?

    And when was the last time the actual student got to write a paper over a topic they themselves picked? Yes, there are instances, but the topics are often monitered by the instructor, for instance, my English Composition class was given a chance to tell the teacher what we may be interested in writing about. We each had ideas, but we finally narrowed it down to the differences in the school systems and should there be more of a nation-wide policy, what the teacher gave us? “What is the ideal homework policy?” It is similar in the fact that it deals with school, but was nothing close to what we had expressed wanting to write about.

    And my last point is simply the sheer number of all-nighters I have pulled trying to complete assignments. When a math teacher assigns a section of problems and says it should only take thirty minutes, what are they basing that time frame on? I don’t know how many of my friends go to school, then a sport or job, come home and stay up until two in the morning doing all the homework assigned for the night only to wake up at six the next morning to be to school on time. How does sleep deprivation equate to a more productive student? If we appear bored or tired in class it is probably beacuse we were up till ungodly hours the night before doing some psychotic assignment that has mild relevance to what we learned in the first place!

    So if you ask me if I think homework is doing any good I will say that at the rate it is given now it is simply a form of mild torture. How many adults have to bring their work home with them? What did I just spend a large chunck of my waking day sitting in a classroom for if you are just going to make me have school at home to, and if that is the case, can I just skip and send you the assignments via fax or something?

    November 2nd, 2009 at 4:34 am
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  71. PsychMom says:

    My child is in grade 3… Every Monday, there are two Special Readers in class and they are to read a book to their classmates, having rehearsed at home, and then take questions (I think so anyway…, I haven’t read the handout from the teachers since mid Sept….fuzzy memory). The reading assignees are usually listed on the monthly calendars but today is the first Monday in November and the parents have not been given a new calendar yet. So it was a complete surprise to learn, last night at 8PM, that my darling daughter was to be a Special Reader today.

    My immediate reaction was…oh well, maybe you can be ready by Wednesday. But intrepid reader went to her room, found a book, read it out loud in her room. Once. Then she came out and announced her choice, told me I was going to be her audience and then make 3 (positive)comments, ask 2 questions and make one suggestion. She read her book…well below her reading capability level. It took about 5 minutes….she told me nobody would ask the kind of questions I asked (too hard). There. Done.

    Was that what the teacher intended? I don’t know.
    Did my daughter do what she was supposed to do? Dunno.
    Did my daughter learn anything from that? I don’t know.

    Did I learn anything from that? I learned that random thoughts pop into my daughter’s head as she “starts” to plan ahead in her life. I learned that she’ll be one of those kids finishing assignments in the car in the morning, because she’s already done that in Grade 3.

    I learned that it’s the right strategy to not fuss about homework. It’s not my job.

    November 2nd, 2009 at 9:37 am
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  72. FedUpMom says:

    PsychMom — hmm … you’ve got one of those kids I’m always hearing about from other people: organized, wants to do what the teacher said (even at home!), will do the homework on her own with no prompting from Mom.

    I wasn’t that kid as a child and now I have two kids who aren’t that kid either. I honestly find it difficult to understand this personality type.

    If you’ve worked out a strategy that you and your child are happy with, that’s great. I guess my question would be, how long will you be satisfied with your daughter doing work that’s below her actual ability? I have the same question re: my own daughter, by the way.

    The other problem for those “good student” types is that they can be so invested in making the teacher happy that they fail to develop their own point of view. Also, they’re the ones who can really suffer from overwork. It sounds like so far your school isn’t overloading the kids, which is fortunate.

    November 2nd, 2009 at 10:25 am
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  73. HomeworkBlues says:

    “What did I just spend a large chunck of my waking day sitting in a classroom for if you are just going to make me have school at home to, and if that is the case, can I just skip and send you the assignments via fax or something?”

    Last year I joked wryly that my daughter had so much homework, she no longer had time to actually attend school. Although as you all know, it was and still is no joke.

    There are Fridays where my daughter comes home with so much weekend homework, I look at my husband and say, should we keep her home on Monday so she can get this done? Like the above 20 year old nursing student, I too have wondered whether we should just keep her at home and do the assignments in tandem. Because then she’d actually have time to do them.

    Where on earth do these teachers think the homework time comes from? I know lengthening the school day is not a popular option here. And I agree. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again. In fact, I ought to fish out that essay I wrote here on the subject.

    I’ll reprise it in a nutshell. I want to see school sit down with us parents. I want school to tell us exactly what they feel they need to accomplish in a given year. Then they ask our opinion and input. After all, it’s our children. Why are we silenced by their education? Then we work together as a team because that is the only partnership tI will accept.

    I want schools to eliminate all the fluff and time wasters. As a team, we sit down together. No matter how hard you work children, it will never be possible to learn everything. Iive practically next door to a large regional library. Reading is my passion. If I pledged to give myself a year to read every single book in that library, as much as I love to read, it’s not possible in the short time frame given? The analogy can be applied to high school right now because our education is a mile long and an inch deep.

    Right now we have high achieving high schoolers getting on average, five hour sleep. This CANNOT go on any longer, this does not work. It’s a no-brainer, right? Obviously not to everyone, certainly not to school officials who create the untenable environment in the first place.

    Determine what you need to get done. And then if more time is needed, lengthen the school day and get it done AT SCHOOL. No homework sent home. The only high school homework that should ever be done at home is the occasional longer form in depth assignment and some group work that can’t be done at school. But what I see my daughter mostly bringing home are several sets of math problems, work sheets, essays, reports, papers. and tons of textual and article reading. All this can be done at school.

    I know a longer day is not popular here. Trust me, under current conditions, I don’t advocate for it either because what guarantee is there that if they’ve wasted seven and a half hours of my daughter’s day, that they wouldn’t waste two more? But let’s not fool ourselves. The day is already lengthened, with unpaid involuntary labor. Ask my daughter. She’s MUCH rather have a longer school day where it all gets done there so that she comes to a free evening.

    Yes, a longer school day is not the answer right now. The system is broken and the longer day won’t fix it. But in my perfect world, with fabulous dedicated teachers for whom the student is the first priority, this could work. Right now I see massive classroom time wasted and all the difficult stuff sent home.

    To its credit, my daughter’s school does engage the kids in conversation and discussion. I love that. Reverse it. Use the daytime when the children are still alert, to do the essays and reports. Have the teacher walk around and help the kids. As said many times, my daughter is in a gifted program. These kids are motivated and teachers have almost no classroom management issues. Where these kids really need help is in sequencing, planning, mapping, breaking down assignments into manageable chunks and constructing a well crafted elegant essay.

    So do that. Walk around, help the kids, brainstorm ideas. It can be engrossing, fun, captivating. You can weave in discussions and team work. But do the hard stuff at school. And then at the end of the day, do what you usually do at the beginning. The discussion, group analysis. Do the less taxing stuff at the end of the day. And eliminate what you don’t need. Every teacher should ask herself every day, will this extra essay cause my student to lose much needed sleep? If the answer is yes, toss it. It’s not worth it. An essay begun at midnight is not the student’s best work. It’s not worth the price. It’s not going to turn them into a better writer, only a worse one.

    I have a dream of starting a high school. I have a feeling it’s going to happen. I do not want my students staggering into school on five hours sleep. Detractors will mock me, say it can’t be done. I don’t want my students tired and depressed. That they did all the work to please me and arrive exhausted and disengaged through the day is not good enough for me. I don’t want that.

    I want to tell my parents. I want your kids to get ALL the sleep their bodies need and I will help you to make that happen. When they come to school, though, be prepared to work hard. Really hard. Not in a sweatshop grinding grim resolve kind of way, but in an engrossing, engaging magical “flow” state.

    Think it can’t be done? My daughter attends an academic program every summer (she’s “graduated” from it now) and this is how they run the day. The start with a group of highly motivated eager kids who want to be there. They do five hours of classroom, two hours of supervised study hall and it gets done!

    I’m a realist. I know school is not a summer program. But I can take many of these precepts, these tenets, and apply to a daily program. We still need gifted programs. But not like the ones we have now!

    November 2nd, 2009 at 10:38 am
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  74. PsychMom says:

    Hi FedUp Mom…
    Mmmmm….I don’t know about the organized part…but yes, she’ll do whatever the teacher tells her to do, if she remembers. She has even come home and told me what the teacher told her I was “supposed” to do, which, you can imagine went over…..oh sooooo well.

    The teachers are expecting the parent prompts…and that’s where I’m not figuring into the equation quite as well as I should. :)
    I don’t read the website, I don’t organize my kid’s homework assignments and due dates….but somehow it’s all getting done. I have asked her if she gets held in at recess…she says no, that only happens under certain circumstances which I can’t recall at the moment. And yes, it’s a reasonable school. But I would be happiest if they abandoned all homework for kids under Grade 7.

    I’m struggling with the obedience factor…it’ll be a topic of discussion this week in parent-teacher conference.
    I see obedience as spirit killing….and it gets replaced with anxiety and obsessions. I know..it happened to me. But getting those strokes and good girl labels are so reinforcing when you are 8…and addictive.

    November 2nd, 2009 at 10:44 am
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  75. HomeworkBlues says:

    My above post contained some typos. Oh, boy, how am I going to run a school if I can’t write? :). I can actually but my eyes are hurting this morning and when we type the message, the print is very light. I was in a rush and didn’t catch everything. I’m just going to resubmit the entire thing, corrected version! Please read this and not the one above, but if you are reading lineally, then obviously you’ve already read it. I’ve added here, this one’s better. Can’t guarantee you won’t catch some more mistakes ;).

    ————————————————————————————
    “What did I just spend a large chunck of my waking day sitting in a classroom for if you are just going to make me have school at home to, and if that is the case, can I just skip and send you the assignments via fax or something?”

    Last year I joked wryly that my daughter had so much homework, she no longer had time to actually attend school. Although as you all know, it was and still is no joke.

    There are Fridays where my daughter comes home with so much weekend homework, I look at my husband and ask, should we keep her home on Monday so she can get this done? Like the above 20 year old nursing student, I too have wondered whether we should just keep her at home and have her do the assignments in tandem. Because then she’d actually have time to do them! Stay home, check Blackboard for assignments, do them, and email them in or drop them off.

    Where on earth do these teachers think the homework time comes from? I know lengthening the school day is not a popular option here. And I agree. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again. In fact, I ought to fish out that essay I wrote here on the subject.

    I’ll reprise it in a nutshell. I want to see school sit down with us parents. I want school to tell us exactly what they feel they need to accomplish in a given year. Then they ask our opinion and input. After all, it’s our children. Why are we silenced by their education? Then we work together as a team because that is the only partnership I will accept.

    I want schools to eliminate all the fluff and time wasters. As a team, we sit down together. No matter how hard you work children, it will never be possible to learn everything. I Iive practically next door to a large gorgeous regional library. Reading is my passion and I could spend all day in that place, if I didn’t have a life with responsibilities. If I pledged to give myself a year to read every single book in that library, as much as I love to read, it is simply not possible in the short time frame given. The analogy can be applied to high schools right now because our education is a mile long and an inch deep.

    Right now we have high achieving high schoolers getting on average, five hour sleep. This CANNOT go on any longer, this does not work. It’s a no-brainer, right? Obviously not to everyone, certainly not to school officials and yes, teachers, who create the untenable environment in the first place.

    Determine what you need to get done. And then if more time is needed, lengthen the school day and get it done AT SCHOOL. No homework sent home. The only high school homework that should ever be done at home is the occasional longer form in depth assignment and some group work that can’t be done at school. But what I see my daughter mostly bringing home are several sets of math problems, work sheets, essays, reports, papers, the occasional poster,. and tons of textual and article reading. All this can be done at school. I like the group work and when bright kids are working together on some engaging problem solving assignment, I like that and understand why it would require time outside of school. But daily slog? That can be done at school. And while we’re at it, can we eliminate tedious slog as much as possible? How on earth does this benefit students?

    I know a longer day is not popular here. Trust me, under current conditions, I don’t advocate for it either because what guarantee is there that if they’ve wasted seven and a half hours of my daughter’s day, they wouldn’t waste two more? But let’s not fool ourselves. The day is already lengthened, with unpaid involuntary labor. Ask my daughter. She’d MUCH rather get a longer school day where it all gets done there so that she comes home to a free evening.

    Yes, a longer school day is not the answer right now. The system is broken and the longer day won’t fix it. But in my perfect world, with fabulous dedicated teachers for whom the student is the first priority, this could work. Understand that this dream school is a private one where I don’ t have to answer to the governor. Right now I see massive classroom time wasted and all the difficult stuff sent home.

    To its credit, my daughter’s school does engage the kids in conversation and discussion. I love that. Reverse it. Use the daytime when the children are still alert, to do the essays and reports. Have the teacher walk around and help the kids. As said many times, my daughter is in a gifted program. These kids are motivated and teachers have almost no classroom management issues. Where these kids really need help is in sequencing, planning, mapping, breaking down assignments into manageable chunks and constructing a well crafted elegant essay.

    And yes, they need an education, not just more and more work. It should be about quality, not merely quantity. A more rigorous program does not have to mean more homework. These kids need to connect with teachers. They need to be seen not merely by what they can produce but as who they are. As people, as human beings. With all the wants, strengths and insecurities that go along with it.

    So do that. Walk around, help the kids, brainstorm ideas. It can be engrossing, fun, captivating. You can weave in discussions and team work. But do the hard stuff at school. And then at the end of the day, do what you usually do at the beginning. The discussion, group analysis. Do the less taxing stuff at the end of the day.

    And eliminate what you don’t need. I’m still wondering why my daughter takes so many tests and quizzes every week. Yea, yea, I know, it’s for the gradebook. But let’s ask ourselves, does it promote learning? Does it have high educational value? Is the time expended worth the gain? I have thought this through long and hard and I’m firmly convinced the answer is no. On every count.

    Every teacher should ask herself every day, will this extra essay cause my student to lose much needed sleep? If the answer is yes, toss it. It’s not worth it. An essay begun at midnight is not the student’s best work. It’s not worth the price. It’s not going to turn the student into a better writer, only a resentful one.

    I have a dream of starting a high school. I have a feeling it’s going to happen. I do not want my students staggering into school on five hours sleep. Detractors will mock me, say it can’t be done. I don’t want my students tired and depressed. That they did all the work to please me and arrive exhausted and disengaged is not good enough for me. And it should not be good enough for any teacher or administrator who deals with high schoolers. It should not be good enough. If your students are up half the night, you should be worried. Not relieved.

    I want to tell my parents this. I want your children to get ALL the sleep their bodies need and I will help you to make that happen. When they come to school, though, be prepared to work hard. Really hard. Not in a sweatshop grinding grim resolve kind of way, but in an engrossing, engaging magical “flow” state.

    Think it can’t be done? My daughter attends an academic program every summer (she’s “graduated” from it now) and this is how they run the day. They start with a group of highly motivated eager kids who want to be there. They do five hours of classroom, breaks in the middle, dinner, activities, two hours of supervised study hall, social time, and lights out at 10:30 with a 9am start time. It gets done!

    I’m a realist. I know school is not a summer program. But I can take many of these precepts, these tenets, and apply them to a daily program. We still need gifted programs. But not like the ones we have now!

    For those parents who don’t want this, that’s what public school is for. I am looking for that rare student who loves to learn, inhales information and material, does not work for a grade, thinks outside the box, works better in depth than a little bit of a lot and works better in space than time. Children like this are really suffering and outside of homeschooling, there is no place for them. I’d like to create that place.

    November 2nd, 2009 at 11:07 am
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  76. PsychMom says:

    I re-read FeUpMom’s comment and she asked….
    “I guess my question would be, how long will you be satisfied with your daughter doing work that’s below her actual ability?”

    It’s dicey, because the school puts a big emphasis on public speaking and presentations by the kids, and this requires a lot of self confidence. I think, even as an adult, you want to speak about something you’re confortable with if you have to present to an audience, so I want her to choose for her comfort level. If I was going to read in public I wouldn’t want to be stumbling over words either.

    For the most part I rely on maturation to do its work. I really believe she will challenge herself naturally rather than have to be forced to do more challenging work. Boredom is a big factor in learning…..it drives us forward as long as the more challenging stuff is available, and certainly at our school, challenge is available if you seek it. I think back to milestones she’s mastered and passed…at every step she was ready to make the next leap. If I just wait…it’ll happen. If I blink, I’ll miss it sometimes.

    November 2nd, 2009 at 11:32 am
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  77. PsychMom says:

    To HomeworkBlues

    My child will need high school in about 6 or 7 years. depending on what you define highschool as. We will need to enrol in your school…I’ll get started on the immigration paperwork now.

    Seriously though, that’s the kind of high schooling that would nuture a life-long learner. It would demand presence by the children attending, full presence…not blearly eyed, malnourished presense. And it would be worth every cent invested by parents.

    Where do I sign up?

    November 2nd, 2009 at 12:37 pm
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  78. HomeworkBlues says:

    PsychMom, THANKS for the endorsement. So Sara Bennett, what do you think of my school? I have been dreaming about this for years. You know, there are some amazing innovative private schools out there that exist because someone had a vision. And it took a horrible experience to lead them down that epiphanous path..

    November 2nd, 2009 at 3:37 pm
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  79. Liz says:

    Reading this kind of stuff drives me crazy! To the person up at 3:17 am., with the daughter with the research paper, I hope that’s not me Friday morning, when my own daughter’s research paper is due. She’s already frustrated, because she’s gotten points marked off because her name was on the wrong line on her bibliography. I know another girl (different school) who got an F on her English paper and the majority of the points off were not on content, but on how the computer didn’t put the page numbers in the right spot and her name and class period were reversed. Now, I’m a former copy editor, so details DO matter to me. But mostly what these experiences serve to do is suck all the joy out of learning out of these kids. Then you take a look at a progressive public school, such as the one outlined in a great book called “Lives of Passion, School of Hope,” (by Rick Posner) and you see how a school can transform lives and not deaden them. If nothing else, the book shows parents what we should demand of our schools, and can show young educators what they can do, and how to discover (or rediscover) the joy of teaching. It angers me that these kids have so much, and my kids have gotten so little, in terms of passion and joy of learning.

    November 18th, 2009 at 1:31 pm
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  80. HomeworkBlues says:

    Liz, I read your insightful comments on free range kids. Thank you.

    I have to stop. I cannot argue with dar anymore. I’m drained. It’s scary because dar could be your child’s teacher.

    Thanks for your validation.

    November 18th, 2009 at 2:06 pm
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  81. Steven Y. says:

    After reading many comments I can not restrain myself any more I have to tell MY story. I am thirteen, I live in Canada, i’m gifted, I have two learning disorders (one social, one concentration,) I found this blog after searching on Google for “reading log help”, my teacher has assigned reading for 3 hours a week (easy for me, I love to read,) but has also assigned reading logs, which we have to write about the book and how we can connect with it. This is where it is difficult for me, my mind doesn’t work in words (I can’t format, I struggle to put my ideas on paper) my mind works in metaphors and symbols, when I first started the reading log I did great, It was like a spark went off in my head and I could write, but now the spark isn’t there and its like i’m a train thats been de-railed and can’t get back on track, The spark is going of right now in my head I know what i’m writing and i’m focusesed on it, but I can’t do it for the reading log. When I go to school tommorow I will ask my teacher if instead of writing about my book I could discuss my book with her (like what lots of the comments on this blog say with the reading confrences) I also have math homework, I am gifted, when I learn something I master it and if I don’t know enough about it I do independant learning (I learn something new off of Wikipedia each day, I have a need to independently learn) but with math we get tons of homework about stuff I already have mastered and I would work on it but the questions are tedious and repetitive something are just not appropriate (why would I care is Stacy lost seventeen marbles) and to better explain the inappropriateness of the questions, I had a problem solver that wanted me to put a number in a calculator and find out how the number was related to the beach, I turned the calculator upside down and it said SHELLS! SHELLS! i’m thirteen, i’m gifted, why am I wasting my time on this stupid question. The school and the government treat me like i’m something less of a person, they think there “helping” me with my social disorder, but I don’t need help with that, only recently has it been that the school recognized me as needing help but its to late I am teaching myself the appropriateness of what to say and what certain emotions mean. I really think homework is useless I get good grades and I never study for a test, and most of the time homework is stuff that we did not finish in class, I spend seven hours a day 5 days a week at school and they have work that they couldn’t get to, if it’s a problem cut art class out do I really need to learn how to finger paint, I know many kids like art and thats could but it doesn’t have to be a subject, if the kids like it they will want to learn more and now that information is at our fingertips (thank god for computers) we can learn more. Thank you for reading! Sorry about the formatting and confusion.

    November 22nd, 2009 at 1:02 pm
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  82. Steven Y. says:

    I have just read Liz’s comment and I wish schools were like that but my mom has fought for 17 years to get the schools to do the simplest of tasks and she can’t do it any more, she has a business, two kids with disabilities, schedules to organize, and a household to run. Being a parent must be very hard but why is it that simple tasks are so hard for schools to do, for governments to realize.

    November 22nd, 2009 at 1:07 pm
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  83. Steven Y. says:

    ‘We do not choose who we will become, are environment does, but we can choose are environment.”
    – Steven Y.

    November 22nd, 2009 at 1:13 pm
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  84. Fed Up Dad and Teacher says:

    Steve, read some of this guy’s stuff about homework Alfiekohn.com

    Keep educating yourself and take a stand.

    November 22nd, 2009 at 1:14 pm
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  85. Fed Up Dad and Teacher says:

    Alfiekohn.org

    Articles

    November 22nd, 2009 at 1:17 pm
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  86. Steven Y. says:

    HomeworkBlues if that school becomes real I want to go to it, hope it becomes real fast because I start high school in 2010. You seem to know exactly what I want from a school, A place where your encouraged to do what interests you, a place where you can actually learn something new, a place where you have as fun working with a student that is the same intellectual level as you. Please make this school real it could benefit all who wish to enjoy there childhood because you only get it once and it should be a productive but happy time!

    November 22nd, 2009 at 1:23 pm
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  87. Steven Y. says:

    Thank you Fed Up Dad And Teacher this Alfie Kohn guy seems very interesting, and I will take a stand. Education is key to a successful life.

    November 22nd, 2009 at 1:27 pm
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  88. Steven Y. says:

    If governments and schools want to turn out successful students that can make advancements in society then they need to change schools so that students are treated individually, if everybody is unique and individual then everybody needs a custom learning plan. It may cost lots of money to get every child a custom learning plan that evolves as the child grows but it will pay off there will be successful students that will change the world but for that to happen the schools have to change.

    November 22nd, 2009 at 1:37 pm
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  89. Steven Y. says:

    I asked my teacher if I could discuss my connections rather then write them and she said that it was a good idea and that she was going to start putting us in groups to discuss our books, she also told me that instead of writing the log I could just use a microphone and record my log on Audacity (if you haven’t read my other posts, I have trouble putting my thoughts on paper and that its easier for me to just speak my thoughts and ideas.) Thank you! to the creators of this website and all the people commenting I would be struggling to write my log if it wasn’t for you!

    November 23rd, 2009 at 5:07 pm
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  90. Mrs. M says:

    Hello all.
    I’ve been reading everyone’s comments for the last 45 minutes now and I am amazed at how this homework topic has some people so fired up. Mind you, I’ve listened to arguments on both sides, but I, personally, am torn. Here’s why…
    I am a 2nd grade teacher in an urban city where I have many below-level children in my classroom. This is my 2nd year teaching.
    I struggle with the notion of not giving ever giving homework. Sure, it would probably benefit me and free up some time in my own life so I don’t have to check it, but I don’t know.
    Here’s the deal…There are so many children in my classroom that are 2 years below reading level and I have been told by my administrators that homework, specifically READING, must be assigned every night. Whether its being read to them or if they are reading themselves I am supposed to send home a reading log for the week. Now there is something to be said about how much children need to practice reading to become fluent readers. I mean if my 2nd graders cannot read and write at a 3rd grade level by next year they will not even be able to read the directions on the state tests. With that said, how can I not push them to read at home. Many of my students do not even have books at home, so I provide the books for them. I am really the only vehicle that drives them to become educated many parents in our areas do not pick up their children until 7pm and so the work gets done in an afterschool program of sorts. I, personally as a teacher, do not give homework that should take any more than 30 minutes. I mean my students are only 7 or 8.

    November 24th, 2009 at 9:45 pm
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  91. Mrs. M says:

    Oh to make my previous entry a little clearer. I have yet to implement the “Reading Log.” I have not done it yet. My students will pick out a book of their choosing to do this for the first few weeks. Your thoughts please…

    November 24th, 2009 at 10:13 pm
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  92. Sara Bennett says:

    Dear Mrs. M,

    I am thrilled to see you are grappling with these issues and really trying to figure out what will help your students learn how to read better. While I don’t think assigning a reading log will help, I do believe that creating a culture of reading in your classroom will go a long way towards getting your students excited about reading. And letting them take home books of their choosing to read in the evening or over the weekend is critical, especially if your students don’t have books in their homes. Are you familiar with Nancie Atwell’s, Reading in the Middle, or Donalyn Miller, who has a blog and a book of the same name, The Book Whisperer? While both those authors/teachers work with middle school students, their approaches can work just as well with early or non-readers.

    I am not a teacher by training, but I have taught in a variety of settings, most recently in an alternative school with plenty of non-readers. Slowly, over the course of the year (I was in the school for 3 hours a week), I was able to encourage the students to read, just by setting aside a time and place for them to read in school, suggesting books, reading aloud to them (sometimes one on one), and having them read to or with me as well. I would always start off our sessions by having one or two students talk about the books they were reading (it was always voluntary). As the students talked about “their” books, other kids would then want to read them as well. And, even though I set aside some of my class time for writing, I often couldn’t get the students to write anything. So I started a newsletter and after the first issue came out, the students who hadn’t written anything were sorry not to have participated and contributed from then on. Those who couldn’t write would draw or write a few words or dictate to me and, with each issue, there was more and more writing.

    But best of all, as the year progressed, I could see the students becoming readers. They were eager to share what they were reading and wanted to tell me all the books they had read during the previous week.

    The students at this school were incredibly diverse and came from a mix of socio-economic backgrounds. My students were ages 5-13; some were strong readers, some couldn’t read at all. At the end of the year, all of the students had made incredible progress but, most important, all were readers in the best sense of the word.

    November 25th, 2009 at 10:22 am
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  93. Anonymous says:

    this is so stupied

    November 30th, 2009 at 7:40 pm
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  94. teachermom says:

    Such animosity. Boys and girls, it’s quite simple. If your child’s teacher assigns things you disagree with, than use it as a chance to discuss the issue with your child. Come to a decision and follow through. Do this for everything in life. Help your child make choices that fit your values and aspirations in life. And yes, you can explain this even to a kindergarten. You could say, well honey, this work isn’t something you and I are going to spend time on this evening. Your teacher assigned this work to her students because he/she believes it will help your learning. Your learning is so important and your teacher is doing what he/she thinks is best for all her students. In our family, we do what’s best for us and right now what is best is to spend time doing —-, not this homework. I will make sure your teacher understands. You do not need to worry about it.” If your child’s teacher does anything other adjust the grade, you have the right to complain to his or her boss and make sure it never happens again. Take advantage of this freedom.

    If however you are bemoaning the fact that the grade adjustment isn’t fair either, than you need to think about whether you really care about your child’s LEARNING or about your child’s GRADES. Because, as so many have pointed out, they are different entities.

    Consider this example:

    Homework A is assigned: parent and child frustrated/don’t agree with busy work/practice/whatever.
    Dicussion ensues.
    Parent and child choose not to do it.

    Result: grade is affected (because society has chosen for schools to evaluate both learning and work ethic and assign a letter to represent it. If you disagree with it, fight to change it, accept it and assign your own personal value to it, or cry and bemoan your horrid circumstances for living in a society with both great and poor rules and regulations.)

    Grade card comes home: parent and child frustrated assign blame to others OR parent and child realize why grades are what they are (because of choices made together), they discuss if these letters truly represent child’s REAL learning and whether or not they care enough about these letters to:
    A: complete future homework assignments or
    B: continue choosing which assignments matter to their family values and life style and life aspirations and continue to self-evaluate if true learning is still occurring despite letters on grade card.

    Continue above throughout education:
    If parent and child are frustrated about the limitations society (colleges and/or employers) have set for students with poor grade cards than do something about it, accept it, or choose a different route in life. Parent and child will benefit from their decisions (improved family life, spiritual life, leisure time, etc.) and suffer the other (perhaps not as many options for careers, societal views/scrutiny, keeping up with the Jones’, etc.) However, this should balance out according to what is important to you anyway.

    If parent and child ultimately decide that working on things they believe are not really important to them, but the advantages given by society are worth the inconvenience, they will benefit as such.See above in reverse!

    Really, in a nutshell, your child’s education is up to you as a parent. The American education system is set up to present content and processes to students. For the most part, teachers do their best to present the material in an appealing way to students that is the most effective while still dealing with the constraints set upon them by the society (work force) in which they choose to work.

    For the most part, parents are doing their best to raise children in the most appealing and effective way while still meeting with the constraints set upon them by the society where they choose to live.

    We must remember we have choices. We are not living in an ideal society and the hardships we and our children/students face may or may not be our faults or any ONE person, parent or teacher’s fault. It is what it is and you must choose how to deal with it and how to help your child deal. So you may choose to accept it in a way that best suits you and your family’s value system or you may choose to fight and change the system. But let’s all stop the name calling and blaming. There are so many wonderful, dedicated teachers out there who just want what is best for children and many who are turds who need to step down from teaching. There are also many parents who forget that their child is ultimately their responsibility to educate and choosing the American public education system is just one way parents choose to do so. Homeschooling, private schools, moving to other countries, expanding at home on public school curriculums are other choices often made by parents. You choose your child’s doctor, you choose your auto mechanic, you choose your spouse, YOU CHOOSE the way to educate your child.

    So make your choice and accept the consequences.

    I assign homework and reading logs. It motivates SOME to get extra practice either for learning’s sake, the sake of their grades, outside pressures, or for fun. Some parents/students choose not to do it. Sometimes the choice affects their grades, sometimes not.

    Some parents/students cry about their grades and raise holy —- because they don’t like the grades. Silliness.
    If they care about their child’s GRADES, then they will adjust their value system to include all of the hard work, time, effort, and occassional frustrations and baloney that goes along with earning them. If they care about their child’s LEARNING, then they will take and leave homework, school work, assignments, etc. and use just what suits their family’s value system and ideas of valuable learning. Parents will have to accept the outcome if this is their choice. I have met parents that choose this route and there are mixed results. So be it. No one is forcing you or children to do homework or school work for that matter. Never the less we live in a society with rules and you may move away from this society, accept and deal, or fight to change our education system. Meanwhile, everyone, teachers and parents, quit ur bellyaching. Education in this nation is still a choice, just as parenting and choosing your career is still a choice. If you don’t like it, homeschool, change it, or deal with it.

    December 9th, 2009 at 2:20 pm
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  95. Sara Bennett says:

    Dear Teacher Mom,

    Hear, hear!

    –Sara

    December 9th, 2009 at 2:41 pm
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  96. Matthew says:

    @teachermom and Sara, I don’t really agree here because this is a Hobson’s choice. Sure, we have the freedom to not do homework, but if the cost of choosing that is always a 0 then we don’t really have a choice, do we?

    A better solution (and one that I have seen teachers implement) is to simply not count the assignment if we chose not to do it and can provide sufficient justification. What that means is that when the grades are tallied up at the end of the quarter, each of the other assignments counts proportionately more and a bad grade in something else will weigh down the average more heavily. This seems fair.

    And none of this means that I, as a parent, am obsessed with grades just for the sake of having high grades. If a brilliant student could pass all his tests and other assessments in a G/T level class without doing homework, but got zeros for those assignments because he chose not to do them, do you think he’d be allowed to stay in the G/T program very long? No. The grades have a relevance within the system.

    December 9th, 2009 at 3:01 pm
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  97. Sara Bennett says:

    Matthew–

    Very true. But if you can’t persuade the teacher to do what you suggest and if you can’t get your school to allow your child to opt out of homework, then teachermom’s ideas make sense. And I hate to say this, but many of those G/T classes aren’t necessarily more interesting or thought-provoking; they just move at a faster rate so a student can cram in more material to forget.

    –Sara

    December 9th, 2009 at 3:17 pm
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  98. FedUpMom says:

    Good heavens, I don’t say “Hear, hear” to teachermom at all. Her message is basically, “yeah, the homework may be pointless and totally unrelated to learning, but that’s life, suck it up.” This seems like the road to nowhere to me.

    There’s a basic contradiction here:

    *************
    Never the less we live in a soci­ety with rules and you may move away from this soci­ety, accept and deal, or fight to change our edu­ca­tion sys­tem. Mean­while, every­one, teach­ers and par­ents, quit ur belly­ach­ing.
    *************

    And how exactly can we fight to change the system without “bellyaching”? Bellyaching is the first step. It shouldn’t be the last step, but it’s the obvious place to start. My only warning is that it’s important to complain to the right people, that is, teachers and administrators. It’s not enough to complain to the other mothers at the bus stop.

    If we all took teachermom’s advice, we’d be guaranteed to get no change and we would just have to put up with the status quo. That certainly isn’t my plan.

    teachermom says:
    ******************
    If they care about their child’s GRADES, then they will adjust their value sys­tem to include all of the hard work, time, effort, and occas­sional frus­tra­tions and baloney that goes along with earn­ing them.
    ******************

    In other words, if we care about our child’s grades, we’re not allowed to challenge the school, we just have to make our child do whatever the school requires, even if it’s baloney, even if it’s eating our child’s free time and causing the child to lose sleep. How is this a good idea?

    Speaking of contradictions, what about this?

    *****************
    But let’s all stop the name call­ing and blam­ing. There are so many won­der­ful, ded­i­cated teach­ers out there who just want what is best for chil­dren and many who are turds who need to step down from teach­ing.
    ****************

    OK, let’s stop the name calling. I, for one, have never called a teacher a “turd”.

    December 9th, 2009 at 11:11 pm
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  99. teachermom says:

    Fed Up needs to reread. If everyone took my advice, you would have peace. Peace with your decision to deal with homework as is, peace with your decision to go forth and work for changes, peace with your decision put your emotional/time investment into other matters. Bellyaching is not the first step to change, it is the first step towards getting others riled up while everyone says, “They should do something” and leaking poison amongst other parents. Taking action is the first step towards change. I did not call anyone a turd, I merely stated that some are turds. Because there are. Reaching a bit aren’t we?

    Seriously, folks, I was a mom before I was a teacher, so I truly understand the non-teacher perspective about the pressures put on students. My child was assigned a project to build a historical victorian mansion out of a cardboard box. The children were taken on tour of the historic neighborhood, learned architectural elements, learned some town history, etc. Great lesson/silly project to US!! Wel laughed as we assembled and painted a cardboard box with windows and fashioned a front porch from a shoebox lid. Tedious and not beautiful. Not a ton learned on that project, although the build up to the project was definitely beneficial . I griped and groaned to anyone and everyone about how pointless this project was and how it was a “mom” project, because the kids could not possible do this on their own. However, when brought to school, our project sat next to a really nice cardboard mansion. Ha, obviously that mom had a lot of time on her hands I muttered to myself. Yet, in this case, the child did the majority of the work himself, barring the cutting of the cardboard. The mom glowed about his project and told anyone who would listen how he had come up with adding the “gingerbread” trim and window shutters out of popscicle sticks. “He wants to be an architect now!” she beamed. Obviously, the stupid, pointless, tedious project to us really caught interest to this little guy. True story boys and girls. Humble pie.

    One time I had a student bust into tears as I began to explain the homework for the evening. I pulled her aside to see what was wrong and through sobs she began to explain that she had a lot of homework tonight and it was her sister’s birthday and her family was going out to dinner, party, etc. She was afraid she would have to miss her sister’s birthday. I calmly explained to her that, no, she would not have to miss her sister’s birthday, because sisters and family come first. Losing a few points on her homework was no big deal compared with missing a very special evening with her family. I explained to her that she was a very hard worker who took her learning seriously and her responsibilities very seriously and she should be very proud of herself, but that tonight she would be a sister and not a student.

    Folks, this pressure did not come from school. No way. It came from her internally or from family or society.

    Parents, re-evaluate where the expectations are truly coming from. Say lights out to the child up at 3am doing a paper. Hind the books from your overachiever if they don’t know balance of learning, success, family, love, nature, spirituality, etc. Let them know that there is no doom and gloom at the end of C, D, or F. Only a desire to accept or change, or accept a little and change a little. If that’s not acceptable to your family, than set your child’s learning priorities and make room for the work. If not, than don’t. Quit blaming teachers for the homework, and start looking at who is putting the pressure on the kids.
    I could say with confidence that fewer than 1% of the teachers in this nation would admonish a student if the parent were to come in early in the year and say, “Our family may operate a little differently than most. We encourage our children to be able to pass every test you give. In fact, we encourage and work towards A’s and B’s on the tests and projects that demonstrate his ability to apply his learning. We also encourage our child to participate in —-(activities, church, family time, whatever) and so there will be times when we excuse him from homework. We are prepared for the grades that will result. Please let us know if at time you are concerned about his learning being below average as at that time we will re-evaluate our approach. Meanwhile, we don’t expect him to endure any consequences except for those connected with his grades and we are aware of some of the negative affects this approach may have on college applications, etc. Please direct all your concerns to us. Meanwhile, we want you to know that we expect our child to be respectful and to put in his best effort everyday in your classroom. We appreciate all your hard work and want you to know that we value your time and expertise, but we also appreciate you supporting us raising our child in a way that we believe suits our family’s needs.”

    And yes FedUpMom, if you care about your child’s GRADES you must put up with the baloney, because that “baloney” may not be baloney to the other students in that class. In fact, that baloney, may be just the ticket towards understanding or achieving a goal for several of those students. Differentiated learning is a practice that is wonderful and everyone hopes that it will become easier to implement even as class sizes increase…but, until then, there will not be perfection. The great news is, you still have a choice. There are many opportunities to choose private schools who have different policies, or you can homeschool, or you can advocate and begin policy changes within your own schools.

    However, schools will never be the perfect haven that adapts an entire curriculum towards your child’s personal needs, nor would teachers with current circumstances be able to implement such a curriculum. (That would be why I said that, ultimately, PARENTS are responsible for your child’s education. Teachers are still striving to help individual students while still working for all their students, just as parents would not want their child to gain if meant the other children may suffer. We all want the same thing. Don’t we?

    December 10th, 2009 at 12:40 pm
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  100. PsychMom says:

    Sorry teachermom, I repectfully disagree.

    And I disagree so much that I don’t know where to begin.
    I’m going to sleep on it.

    December 10th, 2009 at 1:30 pm
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  101. FedUpMom says:

    teachermom writes:

    **************
    I did not call any­one a turd, I merely stated that some [teachers] are turds.
    *************

    If I had written this, there would be cries of “teacher-bashing!” echoing all around the internet. I guess you can write things like this with impunity because you identify yourself as a teacher. It sure sounds like name-calling to me.

    *************
    Obvi­ously, the stu­pid, point­less, tedious project to us really caught inter­est to this lit­tle guy. True story boys and girls. Hum­ble pie.
    ************

    So apparently one kid in the class got something out of this assignment while numerous others wasted their evening on something with no meaning for them. Why is this OK? Let the kid who gains something from the project go ahead and do it, and let the others opt out.

    *************
    One time I had a stu­dent bust into tears as I began to explain the home­work for the evening. I pulled her aside to see what was wrong and through sobs she began to explain that she had a lot of home­work tonight and it was her sister’s birth­day and her fam­ily was going out to din­ner, party, etc. She was afraid she would have to miss her sister’s birth­day. I calmly explained to her that, no, she would not have to miss her sister’s birth­day, because sis­ters and fam­ily come first. Los­ing a few points on her home­work was no big deal com­pared with miss­ing a very spe­cial evening with her fam­ily.
    ****************

    You’re putting this child in a completely impossible position. (How old was she, by the way?) Children want to trust the adults in their lives. When they get grades and points, they take it very seriously, and they constantly get the message from school that they should take it seriously. You are not helping her when you pull her aside and say, “it’s no big deal to lose a few points on your homework”, when the whole system is telling her that her value as a student depends on her points.

    The child burst into tears because she already had homework from other teachers, right? Will those other teachers tell her it’s OK to not do the homework because her sister is more important? I doubt it. Will her parents think it’s OK, or will they keep her home to get the homework done? The child doesn’t have control over this situation.

    If you think family is so important, why didn’t you give the child an extension on the homework? Conversely, if you know that skipping the homework will make no difference to the child’s learning, why do you assign it? Do you teach actual content, or just “work ethic” (i.e., compliance)?

    December 10th, 2009 at 2:04 pm
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  102. Matthew says:

    @teachermom said “I calmly explained to her that, no, she would not have to miss her sister’s birth­day, because sis­ters and fam­ily come first. Los­ing a few points on her home­work was no big deal com­pared with miss­ing a very spe­cial evening with her fam­ily.”

    Gosh, how gracious of you.

    That borders on child abuse because you’ve an already emotionally distressed kid in an impossible situation.

    December 10th, 2009 at 2:37 pm
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  103. PsychMom says:

    So much for sleeping on it…..

    teachermom, do you not see the emotional bind you are putting the child into? You are punishing her for doing the right thing, all the while giving subtle messages that she’s doing the wrong thing, because grades are a competing force here. The point I would make is that if you are serious about taking “pressure” off kids, then don’t trap them in impossible binds, and don’t punish them for making the correct choice. You could have instantly relieved this poor child by saying: “It’s Ok, you can forgo the homework tonight, without penalty. It’s not that important.”

    There should not be a penalty for making the right choice. Not for children.

    December 10th, 2009 at 2:46 pm
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  104. FedUpMom says:

    teachermom writes:

    ***********
    Folks, this pres­sure did not come from school.
    ***********

    This is such a cop-out. The child is stressed because she has a big pile of homework assigned the same night as her sister’s birthday party. Of course the pressure came from school! If the school had a reasonable homework policy, this conflict wouldn’t have happened in the first place.

    For one thing, if the school had a policy that homework would only be assigned if it was necessary for the child’s learning (and I mean learning an actual subject) the amount of homework could be cut way down.

    ***************
    Quit blam­ing teach­ers for the home­work, and start look­ing at who is putting the pres­sure on the kids.
    ***************

    Why shouldn’t we blame teachers for the homework? You’re the ones who assign the stuff.

    Teachermom, you seem to think that everyone involved needs to make changes except you and the other teachers. I don’t buy that. Schools are not forces of nature that we just have to live with. They are social constructs and they can change in the future, as they have changed in the past.

    December 10th, 2009 at 3:52 pm
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  105. teachermom says:

    To all the above, what penalty? What emotioanl distress? The distress placed on her by her parents for putting such importance on grades in the first place? The penalty of seeing her parents disappointed at her or angry at her teacher? If I had not taken away some “late” points, than I would be doing her a disservice, because she would later expect others to do the same…when circumstances may have changed and then she would blame the teacher rather than take responsibility for her circumstances and take her lumps. Which, by the way, wouldn’t be so lumpy if the PARENTS would teach her that grades ARE ink in the shape of a letter on paper, not an extension of her self-worth. LEARNING is important, not grades. (I won’t even get started on how much I agree with so many of you about YES we need schools, systems, programs, teachers that are willing to implement a NO grade system with an individual learning curriculum in its place and colleges who let students test in rather that “Make the Grade” and then demonstrate their work ethic with valuable community service/volunteer hours, etc.) Until our society works on this, and people/parents like us and teachers like me keep on keeping on with our good fight, instead of blaming and crying and moaning we must OURSELVES comfort, teach and guide our own children about our educational beliefs. Remember Aristotle said, “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” Are you teaching that to your children? You can go through school, take what is useful and meaningful, disregard the rest, apply what you want and need in order to reach the goals you’ve set for yourself. In America we pride ourselves on working for our successes. Why can’t the same hold true for our education? Do the work if you want the privileges, don’t if you don’t. If the work proves too much, why should others not benefit from it just because it is too much for you? Anyway, I may or may not believe what I just wrote, I’ll have to ponder it, but it will be interesting to see other thoughts and ideas branch out it.

    Okay, I’m stepping down from my soap box now. Just putting another perspective out there folks, my perspective and I wouldn’t want to live in a country where others didn’t argue back. So thanks for an interesting couple of hours these past afternoons and I will resume my search for “reading logs” which is how I came across this blog. Many blessings to all.

    December 10th, 2009 at 4:23 pm
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  106. FedUpMom says:

    teachermom says:

    *************
    teach­ers like me keep on keep­ing on with our good fight,
    *************

    What good fight?

    Let’s try an analogy here. Suppose your principal said to you, “I’m sending all the teachers to a conference this weekend. Your job assessment will depend partly on your participation at the conference.”

    And then you said, “What? I’m not free this weekend! I’ve got a special romantic anniversary trip planned this weekend with my husband!”

    And then the principal said, “Don’t worry. Your marriage is really more important than your job. I’ll still have to mark you down, of course, because that’s probably what your next principal would do.”

    How would you feel? Would you feel grateful to the principal for recognizing that your marriage is important? Or would you feel that you had been put in a no-win situation for no reason?

    December 10th, 2009 at 6:08 pm
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  107. HomeworkBlues says:

    Teacher mom, I’m a regular comment contributor here but have been away from the blog for a almost a week and have a lot of catching up to do. .

    My immediate reaction is one of dismay. I too don’t see a “hear hear” quite the way Sara does, although Sara is one of my favorite bloggers. The best I hear coming from you, teachermom, is that at best you won’t necessarily harass my kid for not doing the homework but you’ll still penalize her.

    Okay, points off are better than recess missed. They’re better than hostility. But as Alfie Kohn says, to use another analogy in expressing his discomfort over time outs (time outs were a big deal ten years ago, are they still?), he would say, people tell me all the time, but time outs are better than spanking. Well, spanking is better than shooting.

    So points off are better than shooting, to be unbearably humorous here. Not to get into a discussion over time outs here, but you get my drift. You won’t harass (as least you say you won’t) but you’ll still take points off. You say that parents are too grade focused. But listen to this case scenario.

    My daughter is in a selective magnet public high school. She likes the school (unfortunately it’s laden with stress) but keeps telling me, they are too grade focused, they are too grade focused. She’s been telling me this for years. She wants to learn, she is tired of the incessant emphasis the teachers put on grades, not just here but starting in elementary.

    Well, recently I had a meeting with a teacher over something. In an email, he made the case that the students simply will not learn XYZ without the constant tests. So in meeting with him, I repeated my daughter’s complaint, that she feels the school is too grade focused. He told me she needs to learn to get over it, that’s the real world.

    So as a parent, you can’t win. You are accused of being overly grade focused except when you’re not. Then you are criticized for not caring enough about grades.

    Bottom line: the school is too grade focused. I don’t care if the Stevens family wants constant tests and grades. I don’t. As long as you don’t keep giving all those tests and grades, it matters not a wit if the Stevens family cares too much about grades. It is so easy to shift the blame on the parents. And trust me, I know where you’re coming from. I’ve brushed up against a horde of hyper-competitive parents in the years my daughter has attended GT programs. But…the school, in my opinion, creates the monster in the first place. And if they don’t, they do a heck of a job of enabling.

    Again, bottom line: Whatever the motivation, teachers are unbearably grades, tests, and points obsessed. And as Mathew pointed out, just how long would your child survive in a GT program if the parent did as you suggest, refuse to do the homework?

    Oh, we picked our battles and stood our ground when I saw fit. And the teacher took it very personally. Trust me, I would have been happy with the reduced marks alone. It would have been better if she’d not been penalized at all. It was the hostility and missed recess I could have done very nicely without.

    But points alone? It’s fifth grade! Who cares? The teachers use the grade as the stick. But who wants a stick when you love to learn? Who wants to be hit over the head all the time?

    December 10th, 2009 at 6:57 pm
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  108. Disillusioned says:

    FedUpMom- Great counter points. Teachermom- I’m not sure you hear the patronizing, condescending tone you have (“such animosity boys and girls”). Your patronizing tone is common amongst educators today. By the way, at my child’s elementary school, the kids miss reccess if they don’t turn in homework (I would say this is a penalty). Moreover, parents who do not turn in homework are villified and made to feel they are eroding their child’s self esteem. Again, please hear your arrogant tone (oh, boys and girls…we know what’s best, if you would only listen and comply, the world would be a much more peaceful place). Yes, the world would be a much more peaceful place for the teachers and administators if everyone just did as they were told!

    December 10th, 2009 at 7:08 pm
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  109. Disillusioned says:

    More thoughts upon re-reading teachermom. In addition to your patronizing, condescending tone (“true story, humble pie”?) your logic is muddled. I find it so frustrating that the teachers who reply can’t concede we have logical points.

    December 10th, 2009 at 7:38 pm
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  110. HomeworkBlues says:

    Disillusioned hit the nail on the head for me. Teachermom, you must be wondering, why are these parents ganging up on me? What did I say? I tried to help them!

    Your patronizing comments virtually drip with sarcasm and condescension. It was hard for me to accept them in the “good faith” you thought you were intending.

    December 10th, 2009 at 8:46 pm
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  111. FedUpMom says:

    teachermom says:

    ***********
    To all the above, what penalty? What emo­tioanl dis­tress?
    ***********

    OK, here’s the penalty:

    *************
    If I had not taken away some “late” points, than I would be doing her a dis­ser­vice,
    *************

    Here’s the emotional distress:

    *************
    One time I had a stu­dent bust into tears as I began to explain the home­work for the evening.
    *************

    What I see from teachermom is a real failure to take responsibility for her actions. She causes a child to burst into tears in her class, because she’s assigning so much homework. And then somehow she wants to blame the child’s parents! What the …?

    Teachermom, who’s assigning this unnecessary, time-consuming homework? YOU ARE! Take responsibility for what you do. Don’t tell us parents it’s our fault because we neglected to tell our children that they shouldn’t take grades seriously.

    Similarly, she says that many teachers are “turds”, and then denies that she is name-calling.

    And then she expects us to believe we’re all on the same side!

    *************
    people/parents like us and teach­ers like me keep on keep­ing on with our good fight
    *************

    PsychMom, we need your services here. I don’t get it.

    The really disturbing part is the complete lack of sympathy that teachermom has for the child’s point of view.

    December 10th, 2009 at 9:14 pm
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  112. HomeworkBlues says:

    FedUpMOm, teachermom has us so befuddled, we need a shrink? PsychMom, get on over here. We need you!

    December 10th, 2009 at 9:21 pm
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  113. FedUpMom says:

    HWB, I don’t know whether to call in a psychologist, an exorcist, or a bootlegger. Time to shut down the computer …

    December 10th, 2009 at 10:04 pm
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  114. PsychMom says:

    Ok, Ok…I slept on it…it was Disillusioned who articulated the urksome feeling I had as I read teachermom’s post…”dripping with sarcasm”, wasn’t it?

    There was a character in one of the middle Harry Potter stories, I can’t think of her name, but she smiled as she prescribed what was best for the school, and it that was whatever she said it was. I got the same sense from teachermom and it rattled me.

    As for my particular “expertise”, I don’t think I know anything the rest of you don’t already know. I wouldn’t presume to ever think, I, as a parent, would ever have a partnership with this kind of teacher.

    I fundamentally disagree with her about grades being the focus of parents not school….parents do need to take a stand but, as I always say, teacher and education experts are supposed to be the EXPERTS. They have the professional responsibility to be on the forefront of best practices in education. The research seems to show that homework is of no benefit to elementary students. The research is now showing us that carrot and stick motivational practices DON’T work. See Dan Pink. But school and universities stick to grades. They “know”.

    But teachermom has moved on..I’m sure.

    December 11th, 2009 at 8:24 am
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  115. PsychMom says:

    Did anyone pick up on the “Late” points comment that teachermom made in her last post. She didn’t take points off for missing homework. She took points off for late homework which implies that the child who foolishly thought she should enjoy a family supper out for her sister’s birthday, still had to do the homework, she just was allowed to hand it in later. So the supposed break this woman was extending to this child was no break at all. The child got punished for enjoying herself AND for doing her homework late. Nice.

    It’s the same bind some employers put workers in over H1N1 this year. They say, if you have symptoms stay home for 7 days. But, if you are off work for more than 3 days in a row, you switch over to short term disability and are docked pay. Or you may work for an employer that pays for no sick time. So, the message is: You are doing the right thing by protecting your fellow workers from catching the flu, looking after your own health, and following our policy, but we’re punishing you for it by taking away your pay.
    Guess how many people report symptoms of the flu?

    It just makes no sense to punish the desired behaviour.

    Don’t dog handlers say you should never punish a dog who has run away from you, for returning?

    December 11th, 2009 at 9:06 am
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  116. HomeworkBlues says:

    PsychMom, on the docked pay issue, for many workers, it’s not simply the loss of wages that make them afraid of reporting symptoms. That alone might be manageable to some, heinous though it may be. It’s the deeper issue that they may lose their jobs over it. In this tight economy, it sets up a dichotomy and places the worker in a very difficult position. And it reinforces that truth comes at a cost. Hence, the worker keeps his mouth shut and winds up infecting the entire department.

    And as Matthew says, teacher mom has merely set up a Hobson’s choice This is even more insidious because children are impressionable, vulnerable and look up to teachers as role models and authority figures. teachermom is putting the distressed child in an untenable position. A Hobson’s choice is a free choice in which only one option is offered, and one may refuse to take that option. The choice is therefore between taking the option or not; “take it or leave it.”

    teachermom, the child came to you for some comfort and trust. You had a rare moment there, to connect, to make a difference, to do something kind that might have immortalized you in this child’s eyes. Don’t you want to be the teacher some little kid remembers forty years from now? You blew it. I doubt that little girl will ever reach out to you again.

    December 11th, 2009 at 9:19 am
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  117. PsychMom says:

    Good point about the job loss fact and reporting illness, HomeworkBlues.
    Yeah, and I agree too, that when that girl encounters a similar situation again, she will be no further ahead. She won’t know how to solve the dilemma for herself and will have no peace. It was a missed opportunity.

    December 11th, 2009 at 9:39 am
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  118. FedUpMom says:

    I’m thinking teachermom’s strategy is more of a Morton’s fork, where there are two options, both bad. The child can do all the homework as assigned, and miss her sister’s birthday party. Or the child can do the homework slightly late, which means an even bigger homework pile-up the next day, plus losing points for lateness.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morton%27s_Fork

    And as usual, the teacher doesn’t even attempt to claim that the homework is necessary for the child’s learning.

    We need a Bad Choices Bingo card, on the model of the Logical Fallacy Bingo card.

    http://www.shagadelica.net/?p=627

    December 11th, 2009 at 9:42 am
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  119. Matthew says:

    Learned something new…I’d never heard of Morton’s Fork before. I always thought that’s what a Hobson’s choice was.

    Of course, the official policy of our middle school is that you can’t use Wikipedia for anything. Not “here’s how to evaluate sources to assess their accuracy”, just “you can’t use it – period.” Goes with the whole “memorization – your key to life in the 21st century” plan that my school system pushes.

    So FedUpMom, I didn’t officially learn anything from you. :)

    December 11th, 2009 at 1:43 pm
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  120. Anonymous says:

    Wow, I think teachermom’s essential idea, the kernel at the heart of what she wrote (and what Sara cried “Hear, hear!” to), is getting lost.

    Boiled way way down, I took teachermom’s post, at its heart, to say that we have to teach our children that school grades should be considered in a larger context, rather than blindly sought at any cost.

    If we teach children to consider grades in their proper perspective, then they grow up knowing how to work for grades when there’s a good reason (college, sports requirement), and how to let bad grades roll off their backs when the price is too high.

    Grades should be a means to an end, but not an end in themselves. That’s a lesson that can be taught.

    December 11th, 2009 at 6:00 pm
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  121. HomeworkBlues says:

    I’d love to take it a step further, anonymous, and throw the grades out entirely. Given that that suggestion might unleash a barrage of, BUT THEY WON’T LEARN OTHERWISE!, do know that there are kids for whom grades are a turn off to learning and as Alfie Kohn says, it forces kids to focus on performance rather than process.

    I doubt my daughter is the only one. Research shows that interest in learning begins to take a dive in second grade, precisely when grades are formally introduced. Public school, in its infinite wisdom, has in the last few years decided to introduce them even earlier, in kindergarten. Hey, it’s never to early to crush love of learning, is it?

    My daughter learns in spite of grades, surely not because of them. Simply put, I am sick of them, I’m sick of the incessant pressure. I’m, sick of talking about them, I’m sick of asking about them, and I’m especially sick of that conversation, “we have to bring up her grades.” How about, we have to use our time wisely in school so that she learns? Please. Don’t send me interims. Four annual report cards are quite enough, thank you very much.

    Find me a creative school that takes learning uber-seriously, combining the best practices of traditional and progressive education, and I’ll be there 9:30 Monday. Not earlier, though, I’m afraid. Teen sleep phase delay, you see.

    December 11th, 2009 at 6:20 pm
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  122. FedUpMom says:

    anonymous says:

    *************
    If we teach chil­dren to con­sider grades in their proper per­spec­tive, then they grow up know­ing how to work for grades when there’s a good rea­son (col­lege, sports require­ment), and how to let bad grades roll off their backs when the price is too high.
    **************

    But why is the price so unbelievably high? Kids should not be asked to give up their sleep, their social lives, and their mental health in order to avoid bad grades.

    The problem cannot be solved without real change in the schools. It’s not enough to tell parents to tell their kids not to worry about grades. That doesn’t fix a broken system.

    December 11th, 2009 at 10:56 pm
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  123. HomeworkBlues says:

    FedUpMom writes: “The problem cannot be solved without real change in the schools. It’s not enough to tell parents to tell their kids not to worry about grades. That doesn’t fix a broken system.”

    This is very seminal. It is key. The system is broken. A prominent journalist, a friend, whose children attend schools in our wealthy district, recently characterized our schools as “sick.” She was specifically referring to the early high school start times but our conversation progressed to homework overload, producing children who are tired, disengaged from their learning, and unhealthy. She is right.

    At its core, the schools have lost our trust. Yes, there are many parents who have drunk the Cool-Aide are sop up all the frothy PR the schools disseminate.. As Disillusioned wrote, these parents are deliberately deluding themselves because admitting the “nominally high performing school districts” are offering mediocre education, outsourced to parents, would decrease their property values and bragging about the “excellent” school down the street, “committed to excellence and rigor” means the value of your house rises.

    Until that trust is restored, until parents are treated as real partners and not as lowly servants, forced to obediently bow to the bidding of schools without input, we cannot proceed. An intelligent discussion requires scrutiny. You simply cannot have one without the other.

    December 12th, 2009 at 4:46 pm
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  124. HomeworkBlues says:

    Correction: I wrote “are sop up.” Meant to say, AND sop up. Of course!

    Sara, if you get this fast, can you correct and repost? I’d love that!

    December 12th, 2009 at 4:49 pm
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  125. Disillusioned says:

    HWB- You are correct about a loss of trust. Conversely, the public school system doesn’t trust the parents (or children) either. The ironically named Principal at FedUp Mom’s public school lacks principal. As so many have noted, parent triangulation is a form of manipulation. Again, the irony of trying to build character and responsiblity in our children when the public school system breeds distrust and fear.

    December 14th, 2009 at 3:12 pm
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  126. HomeworkBlues says:

    Disillusioned, again, you hit the nail on the head. Very astute.

    The irony in all of this is, when you stop and ponder it all, we have a monolith, a huge system that, and forgive the blunt candor, doesn’t trust us or our children but doesn’t give us much reason to trust it with either. It’s a huge entity, gulping down vast resources and dollars, and despite the slick PR of “world class education, committed to excellence and rigor,” is essentially a test prep factory where everyone is on guard.

    December 14th, 2009 at 8:36 pm
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  127. Anonymous says:

    Wow! It just amazes me to listen to some of the views and positions that are being expressed by the parents on this page.

    As I read each blog it puts such a bad taste in my mouth about some of the things that are being said. You have one side saying that homework shouldn’t be given- (of course this is coming out of the mouths of individuals who evidently don’t teach) and then the other side that say that homework needs to be given- (apparently from individuals who are in the classroom everyday, staying hours after the school day has ended, as well as assessing their students’ work performance continuously pondering effective ways to meet every need of every child in their class) hmmmm?
    Like I tell my team, my battle isn’t my students- that is only half the battle. The real battle is the parents- maily those who don’t work with their children at home to ASSIST the teacher in the SUCESS of their childs learning. Parents have lowered their expectations for their children which makes teachers job twice as hard in the class. If you do not require you child to excel in life then don’t expect them to excel in the classroom. Apparently teachers are sending home work to reinforce what is being taught to HELP your child. So if you are the parent that feels that homework is a waste of time. Do your teacher a favor and tell him or her not to give your child any homework since you feel it is a waste of time. Then you make sure to refrain from all request for conferences on your child’s progress, ( because that would be a waste of time) definately don’t make any (rude) phone calls when your child brings home those wonderful C’s, D’s and F’s you and I both know they don’t deserve and definately don’t expect them to advance to the next grade level with confidence and skills needed to do well and keep up.
    Do me a favor and make my job easier- this way I can focus on the students who parents are active in their childs learning. We would greatly appreciate it.

    December 26th, 2009 at 9:45 pm
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  128. HomeworkBlues says:

    Gosh, Anonymous, do you always write so poorly or is it just today? Frankly, I’d rather trust our children to the parents of this blog all afternoon, evenings and weekends than to your homework.I can only imagine the drek you send home. Could it be you assign so much homework because you are so ineffective in the classroom?

    I fully support homework. For you! Go back to school and brush up on your grammar, spelling and syntax. Perhaps you teach persuasive essay writing in your classroom but please don’t lead by example! And while you’re at it, read a book in your spare time. It’ll do your and your students far more good than all the paperwork and assessments crowding your desk and your time.

    December 27th, 2009 at 11:02 am
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  129. HomeworkBlues says:

    Correction: “It’ll do YOU and your students,” not YOUR and your students. Typo.

    December 27th, 2009 at 11:06 am
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  130. HomeworkBlues says:

    Anonymous writes: “Like I tell my team, my battle isn’t my students–”

    I’m confused. You’re clearly a teacher. Dear god, please don’t tell me you are a principal too.

    December 27th, 2009 at 2:49 pm
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  131. Disillusioned says:

    Anonymous- Your comments leave a terrible taste in my mouth! As HWB has already pointed out, your writing is atrocious. Moreover, I find your use of war metaphors unsettling. I’m sure the majority (if not all) of your students’ parents do not consider themselves at war with you or your school. However, I know this rather foul and offensive idealogy is prevalent amongst educators. To paraphrase, “You’re either for us or againts us!”

    Just because a parent (an adult by the way) dares to question homework policies should not mean he or she should not hold the public school system accountable for his or her child’s progress while they are in school six to eight hours a day! Your astonishing claim that you would prefer to focus on students whose “parents are active in their child’s learning” is asinine and lacks logic in the extreme!

    First off, how dare you assume that anyone who questions your homework policies does not care about their child’s education? Secondly, if you are spending hours after class assessing your students work performance; shouldn’t you know who needs some extra help mastering the curriculum? Thirdly, why would you not deign to help a child whose parents you consider “not active in their child’s education?”

    If you consider parents who do not fall in line with your expectations regarding homework “making your job twice as hard” too damm bad! Instead of becoming a teacher/martyr; why don’t you leave academia and see what the rather ruthless, complicated, nuanced, competitive real world is like for awhile. Maybe you won’t be so quick to judge all of those slacker parents who make their way everyday worrying about their jobs and how to advance in a world where people skills matter!

    Good lord, if I had a job where I could spout off the inanities I have heard from you and your ilk, I guess I could have a confrontational, condescending, arrogant attitude and not have to worry about getting fired!

    December 28th, 2009 at 7:28 pm
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  132. HomeworkBlues says:

    Bravo, Disillusioned. I was fit to be tied when I read that letter from Anonymous. I don’t just find Anonymous’ poor writing a joke, I find it a tragedy that we hire, maintain and pay such “educators” to teach our children. My daughter wrote better prose in second grade.And when I homeschooled, you can be damned assured I would never have let such sloppy writing go past my eyes.

    I wasn’t expecting Abe Lincoln or T.S. Eliot but it blows my mind how concerned you are about our children’s SUCCESS when you can’t even spell the word.

    And to second Disillusioned, how dare you assume we don’t care about our children’s education because we question bad homework policies? We care because we want our children engaged in meaningful learning when they arrive home from school, and not just blindly following your orders. We care more than you are willing to acknowledge. That is why we have gathered here on this blog.

    December 28th, 2009 at 8:23 pm
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  133. FedUpMom says:

    Anonymous says:

    *************
    The real bat­tle is the par­ents– maily those who don’t work with their chil­dren at home to ASSIST the teacher
    **************

    Well, at least you’re honest enough not to call the parents “partners”. But guess what — we’re not your assistants either. We have our own agenda, and our own ideas about how we run our families in our own time.

    This crazy idea of the parents-as-assistants seems to be a natural outgrowth of starting homework too early in the school cycle. If you delayed homework until it was developmentally appropriate (probably high school), you wouldn’t have to depend on parents to organize and nag and be responsible for getting the homework done.

    I would like to see a no-homework policy for elementary schools. Then parents could stop fighting with their kids and the teachers could stop fighting with the parents. Then we could see what the teachers were actually doing with their prime 30 hours a week when the kids are at their freshest.

    December 29th, 2009 at 12:09 am
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  134. FedUpMom says:

    From Bad Teachers, by Guy Strickland:

    ***********
    [The teacher] feels that she has turned her back on income and social standing in order to help the world as a teacher, and she wants parents to appreciate her self-sacrifice. Even the bad teachers, those who have not devoted effort or dedication to their teaching, expect parents to be grateful for the *time* they have sacrificed.
    ***********

    In other words, the teacher as martyr.

    December 29th, 2009 at 11:21 am
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  135. HomeworkBlues says:

    FedUpMom, excellent. Disillusioned referenced that too, the martyr, who sacrifices and expects the parents to be subservient and grateful to this supreme sacrifice. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if teaching was about teaching and not all this emotional (somebody please love me!) baggage?

    I’m still stuck on the appalling writing. Later, when I have more time, I’ll extract another Guy Strickland piece about teachers who cannot write and therefore don’t bother teaching it. He says, when your child comes home with an essay and it’s not marked up, all you see is a grade on top and the occasional CLEVER, don’t fall for the “I didn’t have time to do more” line. More likely, the teacher cannot write and doesn’t want to highlight that deficiency.

    I know there are some good teachers out there. If only we could get rid of the bad ones…

    December 29th, 2009 at 12:06 pm
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  136. FedUpMom says:

    From “Bad Teachers”, by Guy Strickland:

    **************
    Here are a few things to look for:
    …….
    2.) Notes from the teacher that contain misspelled words and grammatical errors; this isn’t just a clue, this is plain evidence that the teacher lacks fundamental skills.
    3.) The absence of graded papers, especially compositions.
    ****************

    December 29th, 2009 at 5:25 pm
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  137. HomeworkBlues says:

    FedUp, our Anonymous teacher here writes that we should be willing to ASSIST her. I see where she’s coming from. With that kind of writing, she needs all the help she can get.

    December 29th, 2009 at 5:40 pm
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  138. FedUpMom says:

    I just finished reading “Making the Grades”, by Todd Farley. I highly recommend it.

    I wanted to highlight a quote from the book:

    **************
    I always hoped my teams would consist of people who were smart enough to understand the rules but not so smart they’d be disinclined to agree with them.
    *************

    This reminds me so much of our local public schools. They want kids who are smart enough to make the school look good, but not so smart that they question the busywork they’re made to do every day. Don’t look behind the curtain!

    December 29th, 2009 at 8:38 pm
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  139. Disillusioned says:

    FedUpMom- Exactly. They also want parents who do the same (and most do).

    December 30th, 2009 at 3:15 pm
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  140. HomeworkBlues says:

    As John Taylor Gatto says, very smart children who think outside the box cause trouble for schools because they do indeed peer behind that curtain. Those are the ones most vulnerable to disillusionment because no one bothers to answer their questions. Notice how the most vocal parents on this blog are highly intelligent and can write a decent sentence?

    I’m not bragging here but I’m incensed that if you dare to question policy, you are branded a slacker. When in fact, the opposite is true. It’s when you really care, when you start to question what your children are bringing home, when you wonder what they do in school all day;when you decide that as a taxpayer you really do have inalienable rights, that is the epitome of a caring, nurturing INVOLVED parent who is in fact very concerned about the education her children are getting from the public school system.

    How about in this new year, school brass resolves to put the PUBLIC back in PUBLIC school and has the dog wagging the tail, for a change. When pigs fly?

    December 30th, 2009 at 5:44 pm
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  141. Angela says:

    what is the point!! we were just at school!!! homework is dumb!!

    January 4th, 2010 at 5:46 pm
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  142. LM says:

    I am a second grade teacher. I give homework because it is required by our school board. I’ve tried to minimize and I’ve gotten complaints from several parents. On another note, I’ve been teaching for almost 20 years and I have a five year old. I’m planning on homeschooling him. I know several teachers who are fed up with “the system” and are homeschooling their own children.
    **
    Our principal told us at a meeting recently that if all of our kids were not proficient in the near future, we would be losing our jobs. But, no stress right? I believe all kids can learn, but it’s developmental. Wouldn’t it be nice if kids could learn at their own pace? Or what THEY wanted and not this list from the government?
    **Climbing off the soapbax**Thanks for listening.

    February 10th, 2010 at 9:54 pm
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  143. PsychMom says:

    Oh LM…I wish teachers like you felt more empowered because you’re the type of person who has a right to call herself a professional teacher. You are 100% correct about development being at the crux of young children’s learning. Insisting on young children meeting milestones at a prescribed is just nonsense and you have the sense to see that. And it’s refreshing to hear that a public school teacher would homeschool…from the sounds of some teachers who write in here sometimes, homeschooling is a choice for parents who are antisocial at best, and mollycoddlers at the very least.

    February 11th, 2010 at 8:04 am
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  144. cfuchslao says:

    I don’t mind minimized amounts of school homework. However, I do a lot of additional “homework” with my children. For example, my four year old, knows how to count by 2s, 5s, 10s, and 100s. He also knows a great deal of sight words too.

    My now just turned 7 year old, who is in first grade, is doing multiplication and reading “Captain Underpants” books. As a former teacher, in a private school, … it is not about good ” stock” or great “genes.” That is an opinion; and more often, this IS not the case. Most kids are average!! However, you can teach your children to have great study habits if you start early, rather than later. If you wait until an issue arises with your child’s performance in a specific area, it is usually very difficult to “catch up” and remedy the given situation.

    If you are a parent, you have to decide what is important … (kind of like buying a house … location, or bigger home, etc). If you sacrifice one area, you better be willing to pick up the slack!! And, a final note, living in a great local with a great school and a non active parent still means average results at best with the child.

    March 1st, 2010 at 10:02 pm
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  145. Anonymous says:

    homework sucks!

    bob loves goats man

    March 22nd, 2010 at 10:36 am
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  146. Anonymous says:

    I homeschool all 4 of my kids in less time than I would spend helping them with homework if they were in public school. All parents homeschool whether you admit it or not. I say you may as well do it completely and it will be so much better and your family life will change in amazing ways. However, thank God for teachers who try their best with what they have to deal with. My hats are off to you. I wanted to be a teacher before I got married and had kids. Today, whether I had kids or not, there is no amount of money you could pay me to be a teacher today. No amount.

    April 26th, 2010 at 12:10 pm
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  147. HomeworkBlues says:

    cfuchslao writes:

    “My now just turned 7 year old, who is in first grade, is doing mul ipli­cation and reading “Captain Underpants” books.” (snip)

    “However, you can teach your children to have great study habits if you start early, rather than later. If you wait until an issue arises with your child’s performance in a specific area, it is usually very difficult to “catch up” and remedy the given situation.”

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

    I’ve instilled lasting values in my child too, starting early. But it wasn’t geared around “performance” as much as it was a love of learning, imagination, creativity, curiosity and a love affair with books.

    I agree about instilling a work ethic, a sense of accomplishment, learning to meet deadlines, putting your all into a project (how about the self directed kind where your child is in a state of flow and doesn’t come up for air for hours?)..But this notion that homework fulfills those needs is rubbish. And the guilt placed on parents that if they don’t start early and often, it’ll almost be too late.

    You seem to like Captain Underpants. Take a look at the kind of student the creator was:

    http://www.pilkey.com/pilkey_speech1.php?video=speech_512.mov&w=500&h=375

    April 26th, 2010 at 12:47 pm
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  148. Donna says:

    I just found this on freerangekids.com. Thank you all for explaining for my why I homeschool my children. 2 – 3 hours a day, they’re done, and then they can go read, explore, and play. AND they’re ahead of grade level.

    I don’t miss the days of fretting over homework at all.

    May 20th, 2010 at 6:38 pm
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  149. HomeworkBlues says:

    Donna, welcome! And kudos to you for voting with your feet and saying goodbye to all that useless sleep robbing homework. We did the same here for one year.

    That’s a great blog too, free range kids. It’s nice to see traffic drifting over from there.

    May 21st, 2010 at 9:38 pm
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  150. vinni says:

    you are crazy

    July 19th, 2010 at 8:32 pm
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  151. Heather says:

    My daughter is a voracious reader. Just out of the 4th grade, she is reading 8th grade-level books on a regular basis. I have started taking her to the public library since they only let children check out two books at a time at her school library, and she finishes those long before the next library day. And once a week or so, as she flies out the door on her way to school, she will exclaim with dismay, “Mooommm! You NEED to sign my reading log!” And then I sign it every for every day that I have missed, even though the rows are blank (she will fill in the rest on the way to school). I have tried to tell her that it’s ok for her to sign that one paper for me, because my signing it makes absolutely no difference – I know she reads, she knows she reads, and her teacher knows she reads, and me signing empty rows for her to calculate pages and books read later, on the bus on the way to school, is pointless – but I have also raised her to be honest, and she refuses to sign for me. Instead, we go through the ritual once a week or once every other week, the day after the teacher tells the class that he will be collecting the logs the following day.

    And every time a report card comes home with excellent marks all around, there is usually a slightly admonishing note on the reading portion: “Needs to read more non-fiction!” At which I laugh, and promptly ignore. When you make something like reading a chore, a required activity, a timed duty, you take away all of the fun. I am a big believer in reading, and yes, some kids need to be encouraged to read, and need more help reading than others. My daughter does not, so the last thing I am ever going to do is to try to dictate her choices in reading. I’m so glad that some other people share my views!

    August 4th, 2010 at 8:10 pm
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  152. Anonymous says:

    Get a life people! You have been complaining about this for over a year! The time you have spent bullying others on this blog could have been spent with your children. If you are all for spending precious time with your kids, please tell me why you have spent SO much time ridiculing people on this blog?

    Oh, that’s right, you are all crazy, controlling parents who I’m sure have kids that CANNOT wait to get out from under your roof! I feel sorry for your children’s future spouses. Talk about in-laws from HELL!

    I’m also sure the teachers at your children’s school know about you before they meet you because you make every year so “enjoyable” for the teacher before. The real issue is who is in control…not homework or reading logs! Heaven forbid you teach your kids to obey authority figures and meet guidelines that are less than desirable. A reading log is not a big deal. The reason your child is turned off to reading and signing a log is because you make it such a negative experience and make a huge deal out of it in front of your child I’m sure. How embarrassing for your child!

    Your children will go out into the world on their own and not have a CLUE how to function in a real job. I would like to see you go tell their boss that your child won’t be particiapting in a job requirement because you do not see the value.

    WHAT A JOKE!

    August 11th, 2010 at 5:49 pm
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  153. PsychMom says:

    Oh Anonymous….we’ve been at it a lot longer than a year…..But when you’re trying to change the system, you have to be committed for the long haul. The interesting thing is that when you are old and grey and maybe have some wisdom, you might see that blindly obeying anything is sure to lead you down the wrong path. Everyone of the parents who write in have attended traditional schooling and been taught to obey. We are questioning it, finally. We are fully functioning, working Moms and Dads with demanding lives…who don’t just do what we’re told. Why should we?

    Oh and by the way, I don’t want my child to go through school so she can get a job. That strategy worked in 1970. She has to learn how to live in 2020, to be flexible and to know herself and to be an independent thinker. Obediently writing in a little book what stories you’ve read, and then nagging your mother to sign on the dotted line because if you don’t, you miss recess, is not the start down the path to independent thinking.

    August 12th, 2010 at 9:00 am
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  154. FedUpMom says:

    Anonymous says:

    ***
    Heaven forbid you teach your kids to obey authority figures and meet guidelines that are less than desirable.
    ***

    So you figure the purpose of education is to make kids do things they don’t want to do, to get them accustomed to people bossing them around, which is what their adult life will also consist of.

    What a dreary world you live in.

    How about an education that encourages kids to ask questions, to think for themselves, and to learn real intellectual content?

    August 12th, 2010 at 1:57 pm
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  155. Anonymous says:

    I stumbled upon this blog looking up a reading list for my fourth grader and all I can say is WOW!

    Not all students are great, avid readers like yours. They do not start out as good readers nor do they love it right away, nor do they have the parental support at home like your children seem to. They need all the practice they can get.

    Reflecting on what you have read is a great comprehension tool. I’m not saying a reading log is the answer but a journal to reflect in is a great way to think about what you have read when necessary. Short, picture books maybe not so much, but longer novels need more thought and some kind of journal can organize these thoughts.

    As an adult, we read with all of these reading strategies without knowing it because we have learned to either by teaching ourselves or elsewhere. We use our inner dialogue to interact with what we are reading. It seems to come naturally because we have had so much practice.

    Asking them to reflect on their reading is not a waste of time, it teaches them to use that inner dialogue. I agree with Anonymous. Every night, yes, that is too much but being defiant to what your child’s teacher requests they do is not the way to go. Talking to the teacher first to decide a more appropriate avenue for your child is best. Not telling him/her my child will not participate. Being honest with your child’s teacher and letting them know signing every night is too much to ask will keep the communication lines open between you and the teacher, the partnership which you desire. Teachers are there to work WITH you not against you.

    That’s great your child wants to read on their own but some children would NEVER read unless asked to and that is just the way it is. Not because he has lost his “love” for reading but because he has never been told to.

    I too am an employee, whose salary comes from your tax dollars. Many people are paid this way. I understand you want YOUR money to control what you want it to but that’s not how it works. Your tax money also pays for those people that cannot afford food. Do you feel the need to control them to because they work for YOU considering you pay for their meals? That is just absurd.

    Education today does teach our children to be independent thinkers in this world. They cannot get a well paying job without education. So, when you say you don’t want your children to go through school just to get a job, well that’s just confusing. Isn’t that what it’s all about? Learning and developing your skills to be a functioning adult in a profession that you love is the goal. Maybe your child will have a boss, maybe they will be their own boss, either way we all have things we don’t want to do, but we know we need to. You can’t just not do something because you plain don’t want to it. Do you let your kids tell you that they aren’t going to do their chores because they don’t want to? I doubt that. Teachers aren’t there to “boss” your child around and make him/her do things they don’t want to do.

    Seems like you both have a poor idea about what teachers really do for your children and that is just sad to think. Teachers where I’m from encourage cooperation, imaginative play, oh, and EDUCATION! The children work at their own pace and are rewarded for their accomplishments. They ARE professionals and take pride in the training and education they have received. I know there are some teachers that should never be around children, but they are the minority. The parent is the child’s first teacher but a teacher has training that gives the knowledge to go beyond what you can do with them when your child is at school. Stereotyping every teacher because of the poor experiences you have had is just not right. Telling your teacher your child will not do homework because they learn enough at school is silly. What exactly does your child do at school for 7 hours a day? A LOT! Volunteer a day in your child’s room and you will see. Homework is intended to extend the activity and allow time for practice. It is not meant to be busy work. And if it is taking your child a long period of time to do their homework, TALK TO YOUR CHILD’S TEACHER and see if you can work something out. You might be surprised. They are there to work with you not make your life harder than it already is.

    The point I’m trying to get across is this…reading logs that require title, author, blah, blah, blah are boring and do not serve a purpose, I understand what you are saying. Talk to your child’s teacher before throwing something back in their face and saying my child won’t participate. That is not a positive foot that any teacher wants to start the year with. If you are defiant to the teacher that not only makes it uncomfortable for them but for your child who has to sit in class EVERYDAY with the teacher you despise. If you don’t respect the teacher, why should your child? That is the message you are ultimately sending.

    When you ask the questions of, “What do you think will happen next?” and “How do you think (character) feels?” it teaches the child to develop an inner dialogue while they are reading. You may not agree with that but it works. When you can interact with what you are reading and feel the characters’ feelings, that is when the real love of reading takes place and it becomes pleasurable. If you do not know how to interact with a book, you will not learn to fully enjoy the experience. How is reflecting on your reading not independent thinking?

    If you think you can do a better job of teaching your children, GO FOR IT!

    August 12th, 2010 at 8:55 pm
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  156. FedUpMom says:

    ***
    When you ask the questions of, “What do you think will happen next?” and “How do you think (character) feels?” it teaches the child to develop an inner dialogue while they are reading.
    ***

    No it doesn’t. The child feels like she’s being put on the spot to come up with the “right” answer that the teacher will approve of. All it does is alienate the child from her own experience of reading the book.

    August 12th, 2010 at 11:57 pm
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  157. FedUpMom says:

    I gave a fuller response to the Anonymous comment on my blog:

    http://kidfriendlyschools.blogspot.com/2010/08/training-babies-to-sit-up.html

    August 13th, 2010 at 12:40 am
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  158. Notafanofthisblog! says:

    From the US Dept of Education website:
    Provide direct and explicit comprehension strategy instruction
    Many students in middle and high school can decode the words in a text, but are unable to identify the central ideas or to explain the meaning of what they have just read. Students can improve their comprehension through the use of specific comprehension strategies such as questioning and summarizing. Content area teachers and reading specialists can provide direct instruction in comprehension strategies by encouraging active participation with text, as well as opportunities for both guided and independent practice.

    Dr. Dole (recommended by the US Dept of Education) states:
    There are two comprehension strategies that seem to be the most powerful for students. One is summarizing, and many students do summarize, but it’s a very, very difficult skill to learn. And very honestly, it’s a very difficult skill to teach as well, but we know that it’s one strategy that has a powerful effect on comprehension. The other strategy that’s most effective is asking questions. Now, by asking questions, I don’t mean that the teacher ask questions of the students. Rather, the students ask questions about the text itself. So, students may be reading, and they may stop and ask a question, say perhaps: “What do the authors mean by the three branches of government?” Or “Why are there three branches of government instead of two branches of government?” Students asking themselves those kinds of questions seem to also have a powerful effect on comprehension.

    So I guess you think the US Dept of Education is just a bunch of MORONS?

    –The !Kung San of the Kalahari Desert in southern Africa believe that children must be drilled to sit, stand, and walk. They carefully pile sand around their infants to prop them upright, and sure enough, every one of these infants soon sits up on its own. We find this amusing because we have observed the results of the experiment that the San are unwilling to chance: we don’t teach our children to sit, stand, and walk, and they do it anyway, on their own schedule.

    That has nothing to do with learning to read! Putting a book in front of a child EVERYDAY for years will not teach them to read. Nor will it teach them to love reading. And they definitely won’t start reading out of the blue one day.

    –A three-year-old toddler is “a grammatical genius”–master of most constructions, obeying adult rules of language. To Pinker, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology psycholinguist, the explanation for this miracle is that language is an instinct, an evolutionary adaptation that is partly “hard-wired” into the brain and partly learned.

    So we should partly already know how to read before we learn to?

    Also, teachers that recommend books to their students are not horrible teachers! If a student loves it great, if not, that’s OKAY too!

    Listening to a parent read aloud is a great way to show your child how to read fluently and with expression. But unless you are “thinking” out loud as you are reading, asking those higher level thinking questions, how is your child going to learn to do it themselves when you are not there to read to them? And guess what…if your child was “left alone to read” they would probably choose something else to do! Unless you encourage them to start the habit early, they will not carry that on into adulthood. Blaming your child’s teacher for the fact your daughter didn’t read for 6 months is just ridiculous! You just wanted a reason to justify it. Maybe she just didn’t want to do it at the time!

    I’m not a teacher, nor am I an expert on reading, but I can tell you one thing. If my child was not encouraged to read he wouldn’t. He makes straight A’s, is in the gifted and talented program, and is a great reader. But he would always find something else to do. He enjoys reading when he takes the time but it is not something he wants to do ALL of the time! And I APPRECIATE all of his teachers for teaching him how to “interact” (as you say) with his books. I think it has taught him to be a better reader!

    Instead of preaching what not to do, give the people that read your blog some positive things we CAN do with our children besides, “leave them alone to read when they want and what they want” and they will love reading. That doesn’t work for every child. Encouraging a child to read requires more. So tell us what else we can do!

    August 13th, 2010 at 4:49 pm
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  159. FedUpMom says:

    Notafanofthisblog! says:

    ***
    So I guess you think the US Dept of Education is just a bunch of MORONS?
    ***

    I don’t think they’re a bunch of geniuses, that’s for sure.

    You’ve got a bunch of different issues mixed up, and I see you’ve also mixed up a bunch of different writers (I’m not the same person as PsychMom). I don’t have the energy to untangle it right now.

    I will just say this. My objection to making kids answer questions like “what do you think will happen next?” and “what is the character feeling?” is that it turns kids off to reading.

    For more, try this:

    http://voices.washingtonpost.com/answer-sheet/guest-bloggers/literacy-kudzu.html

    August 13th, 2010 at 7:23 pm
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  160. PsychMom says:

    Notafan is mixing blogs and writers…
    Just for the record, I was not blaming a teacher for my daughters lack of reading for 6 months. The teacher told me repeatedly that she did in fact read at school. She didn’t at home. But I blame the teaching method for suspending the love of her books. Reading became a chore…that’s what I didn’t like.

    And all this “depth” that kids are supposed to develop through thinking and questioning. It’s all internal processing that can come about with group discussion during class time. I don’t need to be sitting at 7pm on a Tuesday night with an exhausted kid trying to get her to figure out and compose a paragraph about how some character in a children’s story feels.
    It felt ridiculous just writing that last sentence, let alone actually doing it.

    August 16th, 2010 at 7:37 am
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  161. TiredTeacher says:

    When kids don’t feel that they need to do homework, most of them begin to carry that same feeling about class assignments.

    Every student who consistently brings homework also has the work ethic to get their classwork completed in a timely manner. Students who don’t do homework also don’t do classwork.

    I teach third grade and have students reading two grade levels below. I am a good teacher, but I am not a miracle worker. Your child is going to need to do extra at home.

    I send homework to see if you can do the work without me. I tell parents I don’t need them to help with the homework just to see if it is done. I use the homework to help drive my instruction and create my small groups. If you can’t do it without me then I know you don’t understand.

    I have three children and I often don’t agree with some of the things the teacher gives, but that is between their father and myself. You have to support the teacher. I tell my children often times we have to do things we don’t always agree with or want to do – we do because we have to – like following a dress code at work.

    October 20th, 2010 at 6:29 pm
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  162. PsychMom says:

    Sorry Tiredteacher, but a dresscode is not the same as doing homework. And besides that, many barriers around dress codes have been broken down too. You must be a tired teacher, because that’s a weak analogy.

    If you have a problem with what the teacher sends home, it’s between you and your husband? I don’t get that. Even a teacher can’t have a conversation with another teacher? That’s serious.

    October 21st, 2010 at 7:01 am
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  163. Parent/School Employee (not a teacher) says:

    Our 4th grade son makes straight A’s in fourth grade, has scored in the 98% percentile on the National Measure’s for Academic Progress (MAP) by NWEA in Math and his Reading scores on that assessment are in the 90% percentile range. (Math and Reading are subjects that are assessed at this level in our state)…he has also scored the highest score possible on the state assessment in Math and has scored well above the state average in Reading…he continues to score 95+ in each of his subject areas…BUT, he has received ‘detention’ (loss of recess) at least 4 times this year already for not having his homework completed…Just recently, he received ‘detention’ for not having his homework completed – he needed to ask the teacher a question before he completed one last question and I advised him to take it in and ask her about it at the beginning of class. Unfortunately, that advice resulted in him getting another ‘detention’ – To top it off, the loss of recess every now and then doesn’t even bother him – which says that the ‘punishment’ isn’t working! I am just now starting to research this topic and I have appreciated all the comments on this thread (haven’t agreed with all, but have appreciated the comments). I hope our district will begin a little research of their own on this subject and stop expecting our students to be in ‘school’ extended hours each day (and I would like to stop doing part of their jobs once my child comes home each day) :)

    October 25th, 2010 at 11:14 pm
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  164. TiredTeacher says:

    Psychmom – All I am saying is all your life you end up having to do things that you don’t like. You can either do it or keep looking for that Eutopia where you can do whatever you like (I would love a job like that!)

    I am sure the reason homework was assigned in the first place in history was because some parent started complaining that the school system wasn’t doing enough. So now we have another wave – my child is tired from working all day and homework in the evening is too much – blah, blah, blah.

    There is no pleasing parents – you complain if the teacher doesn’t give homework and you complain if the teacher does give homework.

    The parents who do the most complaining are the ones with the children struggling and who can’t get up to the school for conferences unless it’s about something ridiculous. I have a student who does zero class assignments and zero homework yet his mother is there in a heart beat if I take some toy away from him during class.

    Some of these comments sound so vicious – like teachers are going out of their way to make your child miserable. Believe me all of us would gladly give up giving homework if we didn’t have to listen to another long list of bloggers complaining that teachers don’t give homework so I don’t know what my child is doing etc, etc.

    As far as my children’s assignments – they are practice. It helps my middle schooler learn to manage his time and get things completed on a timeline. He does plan to go to college and I don’t think his professor will care if I send a note that this is too much homework.

    It also allows them to practice what they learned in school that day. If we encounter anything we don’t understand I ALWAYS send a note about it and asking her to explain it.

    I don’t have problems communicating my concerns about the homework to a teacher. I just don’t encourage my child to become this homework activitist.

    My husband and I don’t discuss our feelings about a teacher in front of them. That is what I mean when I say it is between my husband and I. If we need to talk to the teacher we will, but that does not give my child a “get out of homework pass.”

    I don’t feel like supporting the teacher’s efforts at home is “doing her job.” After all I have an advantage, instead of 25 – 30 children vying for my attention, I have a perfect 1:3 working ratio. When my husband gets home from work the ratio is even better.

    I would love to hear how you can please all of the folks all the time when it comes to homework.

    October 31st, 2010 at 5:29 pm
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  165. FedUpMom says:

    ***
    I would love to hear how you can please all of the folks all the time when it comes to homework.
    ***

    I’ll tell you how you do it — you make homework optional. Let every family decide what works for them. Parents who want their kids to do homework can have their kids do the homework, and parents who don’t want their kids to do homework can opt out, or opt out assignment by assignment.

    And you know the amazing thing? You would probably see no difference in performance, unless there was an improvement because the kids are happier and less stressed out.

    October 31st, 2010 at 6:58 pm
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  166. FedUpMom says:

    TiredTeacher says:

    ***
    You can either do it or keep looking for that Eutopia
    ***

    You’re more likely to find Utopia if you can spell it.

    October 31st, 2010 at 8:12 pm
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  167. PsychMom says:

    Tired Mom said:
    All I am saying is all your life you end up having to do things that you don’t like. You can either do it or keep looking for that Eutopia where you can do whatever you like (I would love a job like that!)

    As FedUpMom said, you really should learn how to spell utopia before you can ever hope to find it. You know what Tired Mom? The trouble with this way of thinking is that what we end up doing as a society is teaching children to give up before they even start. I know you think your outlook is “mature”…I think it’s just depressing. Sure, we adults DO have to do things that are boring and routine …who the heck likes to do laundry. But to give children tasks that are boring and routine, that shuts down their love of learning, just because we believe they are doomed to an adult life of boredom, well that’s just not the way I think.

    When my child started kindergarten I told myself that what I truly wanted for the next 13 years was to never hear her say, “I don’t want to go to school today…I hate school.” I’ve been luck so far, she’s made it to Grade 4 and I haven’t heard it yet. Only 8 more to go. Why would anyone want to do something they hated? Why should teachers turn school into something kids hate?

    I’m not suggesting that bouncy castles greet them…..oh wait…I take that back. Bouncy castles at the entrance of school every morning is a great idea. It promotes exercise and kids would walk in the door excited and pumped for school. Then they should all sit down for a hearty breakfast. After all that, they might be interested in settling in for an hour or two of something interesting.

    And by the way…adults would be a lot healthier if more people were doing jobs they enjoyed instead of the mind numbing work they force themselves into because they feel they have to. I am not going to teach my kid to settle. It’s a lousy way to live.

    November 1st, 2010 at 7:40 am
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  168. PsychMom says:

    Oops..”I’ve been luck-y so far.. I mean to say.

    November 1st, 2010 at 7:42 am
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  169. TiredTeacher says:

    Maybe if FedUp and PsychMom did some homework they would know you can spell Eutopia either way.

    November 3rd, 2010 at 7:34 pm
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  170. TiredTeacher says:

    Maybe if FedUp and PyschMom did some homework they would know Eutopia can be spelled either way.

    November 3rd, 2010 at 7:36 pm
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  171. Disillusioned says:

    TiredTeacher- Snarky comment to be sure. I have never seen Utopia spelled Eutopia. Is this an Old English spelling? I’m sure this spelling would be counted as incorrect on a spelling test.

    November 3rd, 2010 at 7:57 pm
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  172. Disillusioned says:

    Looked it up on dictionary.com and they say it is an obsolete spelling (kinda like the curriculum at many schools). I know, I know, snarky right back at ya!

    November 3rd, 2010 at 8:01 pm
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  173. FedUpMom says:

    What? “Utopia” is the title of a book by Thomas More describing an ideal society. His title was a pun — “Utopia” means “no place”, but it sounds like “Eutopia”, which simply means “a good place”.

    If you’re referring to the famous book about the inaccessible perfect society, it’s spelled “Utopia”, period, full stop.

    If you spell it “Eutopia”, you’re no longer referring to the famous book, you just mean “a good place”, which might or might not be findable.

    They are not at all alternate spellings for the same idea.

    November 3rd, 2010 at 9:51 pm
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  174. active mom says:

    I just don’t get the “no homework” approach? Homework teaches our kids skills beyond the classroom – i.e. responsibility, initiative to complete a task without mom asking, etc. My middle school-aged kids do their homework after school before I am home from work. It is their responsibility to start, finish, and ask questions as necessary. When they join the work force, any employer would be thrilled to hire someone who doesn’t need their hand held to complete each and every task.

    I keep hearing “my kid is smart so he doesn’t need to do homework.” My niece is a prime example of this. The girl can pull straight As without cracking a book. Yet, she is failing because she refused to do her homework. However, if you ask her to do the dishes, you better plan for “the Look” and a lot of grumbling before the dishes will ever be done. Homework teaches more than classroom skills.

    Parents are the child’s first teacher. The teachers are there to assist us in teaching our children to survive the world when they become adults. Any help provided by my kids’ teachers are a huge benefit to me since I don’t think I would be that great at teaching them history and calculus. I welcome comments from my students’ teachers and feel it is my job to assist them in teaching my child. I have two kids to teach. They have 30. It is the parent’s responsibility to raise their child and that includes teaching them. By sending them to school, you, as a parent, are getting ASSISTANCE in teaching them. The teachers are not there to teach your child everything and raise the child for you. As a parent, that is your job.

    November 26th, 2010 at 11:01 am
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  175. FedUpMom says:

    ***
    The girl can pull straight As without cracking a book. Yet, she is failing because she refused to do her homework.
    ***

    Clearly the homework is not necessary for her. Why should she do it?

    ***
    However, if you ask her to do the dishes, you better plan for “the Look” and a lot of grumbling before the dishes will ever be done. Homework teaches more than classroom skills.
    ***

    I’m not interested in teaching my kids mindless obedience. If that’s what you want to teach your kids, be my guest.

    A lot of kids these days don’t do household chores. They don’t have time, because of homework overload.

    ***
    The teachers are not there to teach your child everything and raise the child for you. As a parent, that is your job.
    ***

    Believe me, I want to raise my kids. That’s why I don’t want homework taking up the little free time I have with them.

    November 27th, 2010 at 10:56 pm
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  176. MimiR says:

    My AP classes have precious few graded homework assignments, I rarely did homework and make high As and aced the AP tests. If you need it, the assignment should be there; if not, not! Seems pretty simple to me.

    December 3rd, 2010 at 3:22 am
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  177. Cera says:

    To start, no, I didn’t read all the comments. I read about fifty, but I’ve been here too long, and I’m a university student with, you guessed it, too much homework to stay online any longer.

    From what I have read, however, I see both sides. The comments I was reading start in early 2009, when I was less than a year out of high school. I’m nearly finished my third year of university now, taking Elementary Education, and reading this is seriously just //stressing me out//.

    I see the side of the parents. I remember homework. I remember the tediousness, the pointlessnes, what have you.

    But I see the side of the teachers.

    I don’t know how to reconcile these differences. We are taught to teach fewer topics more in depth. Yet the curricula include not a few topics, but a vast many. So… We spent the day deep in discussion, allowing children to “construct” their knowledge in true Vygotsky fashion, but now the kids need to practice and do an assignment so that the teacher has something to mark for the report card coming up which must include x number of topics if the entire curriculum is going to be covered on time.

    But wait! We can’t take marks from anything done at home because we don’t know who did the work or if the student cheated! So all summative assessments must be done during class hours. That sounds good, especially in elementary. But WHEN? Not to mention the fear of burning out our kids… There is absolutely nothing I want more than to have my kids love learning. Absolutely nothing. That is my honest to god goal in life. But then I will be rated as a teacher according to their standardized tests covering these huge curricula.

    I am absolutely rambling, but having just come off of my first practicum, I simply do not understand how it all can be done.

    My opinion? It’s not the teachers. What is failing our kids, our parents, AND our teachers the province/ state who creates the curriculum and trains the teachers.

    They actually teach us in university that teaching elementary is more of a race against the clock. They teach us that it’s impossible to teach everything we’re supposed to in the time that we have, but we sure as hell better try. Oh, and you had BETTER get your 40 minutes of daily physical activity in (in addition to recesses), as well as the fine arts! It’s like we’re being mandated to make up for those few parents (those who wouldn’t even come to this message board because they are not involved– I know you are all here because you are fighting for what’s best for your kids!!) who do not try to raise a well-rounded child by either not encouraging physical activity or not encouraging intellectual activity (or both..).

    I see the point of views of the mothers fighting with their kids, I really do. I remember that. I remember pulling an extremely late night in the fourth grade because I had a project due the next day and I had put it off to the very last night. That sort of thing shouldn’t happen! But I simply don’t understand how NOT to assign homework. I say again. It’s the system, not the individuals within it.

    I think all of you, on both sides of the debate, teachers and moms alike will very much appreciate this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDZFcDGpL4U&feature=youtu.be&a

    Enjoy. Good luck to both sides. I, for one, am going to go back to my positively abhorrent amount of reading I have due for tomorrow, all about the elementary curricula, and try to figure out what the hell my own stance really is.

    I do not know if I will make it back to check up on this blog, but I’m more than happy to learn from parents and other teachers alike, so please, if you have anything valuable to share with me, feel free to send me a message (please don’t make me regret this). But goodness me I REALLY NEED TO GET BACK TO MY HOMEWORK (lol… ).

    –Cera
    x.cera.x@gmail.com

    January 24th, 2011 at 11:06 pm
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  178. Cera says:

    Sorry to double post. Also, having read the assault on the anonymous teacher with poor writing, I think I should be editing my posts! Perhaps I could insert a disclaimer so as not to be torn apart for any of my typos?

    Anyhow, I’ve now read posts 1-50 as well as 120 on.

    I have trouble with the solution of “make homework optional.” The trouble? The kids who need it most won’t do it. Solutions for that? I mean, yes, we should be differentiating instruction for our students (and I think most teachers do?) and I think their homework assignments ought to be differentiated as well, but I’m not sure about simply not giving homework to those who “don’t need it”. One solution we’re taught in university is not to give the gifted students more work, but rather, more challenging work, so as to occupy approximately the same amount of time that their peers are spending. So if the students having trouble need the extra practice, and take stuff home, in theory, their peers will have the same amount to do for homework.

    But this doesn’t solve the no-homework-for-those-who-do-not-need-it problem. I know most of you advocate no homework at all for anyone, but I have seen some concessions that some children need extra practice. Your thoughts on qualitative differentiation?

    I love HWB post 121 about Alfie Kohn. I love his ideas. While I was in the school (did I mention I was teaching grade six in my practicum? I don’t know if it makes a difference for you all, but anyway…) we talked a lot about getting rid of grades. The teachers are talking about it. We’re talking about it at the U as well… Using primarily formative assessments, and simple outcome based reporting. Yes, your child can do this, or no, your child cannot. All about comments.

    That scares me a little. Probably because I am a student yet and a full 75% of my life has been hinged upon my grades… particularly now when my funding depends on it. But for the little bit that it scares me, it TERRIFIES most parents. I kid you not! I was able to witness parent-teacher interviews while I was on practicum, and the parents obsess over grades. I’m sitting there thinking, ‘They’re only in the sixth grade! One poor math test is only one poor math test!’

    Despite my apprehension, I like the idea of outcome based reporting over grading… I can’t imagine what the backlash would look like though.

    I also would like to comment on the post by teachermom and subsequent replies.

    But I have lost the ability to string together cohesive thoughts. I need to be awake again far too soon, and homework for the evening didn’t happen… I guess I’ll be suffering the consequences. I’ve spent the past hours (almost three, oh my god), learning something besides what’s in the text… Let’s hope it helps me.

    –Cera

    PS: Sorry for the short essay I’ve now posted. If you only take one thing out of all of it, let it be the youtube link I posted in my last post.

    January 25th, 2011 at 12:14 am
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  179. PsychMom says:

    I hope you’ve seen Ken Robinson’s two TED talks as well, Cera. And read his book, “The Element”.

    Just one comment from me…when we talk about homework being optional, I don’t think we’re meaning that the homework is optional for the child. The teacher does not stand at the head of the class and say, “Here’s your homework. Do it if you like.”

    We’re offering that the option should be with the parents, and the decision made on a family basis. In my case, I don’t check class webpages, check my 9 year old’s child’s backpack, or ask her about homework. Whether she does school work at home is her choice, but it’s not instigated by me because I do not see school work as part of our homelife. If she asks me to help her with something, I will. If a document comes home saying that I, the parent, must do some school work with my child at home, I go back to the school and say, “No thanks, I’m busy.”
    1) The option should be there when schools start asking parents to do things.and 2) Homework should be optional because adults who run households and who have children who work hard in school, should have the say so over what goes on in their home.
    Whether teachers can get all the curriculum covered is not really my concern.

    January 25th, 2011 at 9:21 am
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  180. FedUpMom says:

    Cera says:

    ***
    I have trouble with the solution of “make homework optional.” The trouble? The kids who need it most won’t do it.
    ***

    This is already true. The kids who most need the homework don’t do it (or cheat), and the kids who least need it will stay up all night worrying about whether it’s perfect.

    January 25th, 2011 at 3:47 pm
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  181. Cera says:

    Psychmom:
    I should clarify. I don’t expect curriculum EVER should be covered at home. I just wonder if a student can be taken from a level of basic understanding to mastery without that extra time that simply isn’t available otherwise.

    I’m also very curious as to your opinion on what I would consider positive homework. For instance (please, give me the opportunity here) in social studies where the students have a unit on communities and the past. I’m sure you can agree that the most meaningful community in a child’s life is their immediate family. Something I might do with my students would be to ask them to approach the unit by beginning with an assignment where the children were to go home and discuss with their families their roles and responsibilities, what their parents roles and responsibilities may have been when they were children, their grandparents, and so on. I come from a very rural area, so many students would have different responsibilities living on a farm than in town. Some in town might find their grand parents had very different lives than they do presently. Perhaps they’ve come from another country and traditions are different there. I would want children to have that personal connection to the material and the valuable knowledge that would enrich the following lesson on community.

    I could stand up there and say “fifty years ago, things were done in such a such a way” but that’s just blah, blah, blah to the child. I don’t believe in lecturing. I believe in discussion.

    So, then, I’m curious if you may bend your rules for that sort of assignment? And no, I wouldn’t expect anything written to be turned in, but I would (of course) mark the child’s participation and activity in class which could potentially be inhibited if they lacked the background knowledge.

    Thoughts, please! =)

    January 25th, 2011 at 4:16 pm
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  182. Cera says:

    Please, forgive the typo. I don’t know how it ended up that way, but my post should read “Something I might do with my students in order to approach the unit is by beginning with an assignment where the children…”

    I had originally been saying something else about approaching grandparents. Apologies! You can tell my attention was diverted.

    As I write another post, I’m interested in your (the three of you who are most active here, in particular) thoughts on some of my other points in the earlier posts. How would you approach the backlash if we did move away from grading? The video I shared? Of course, the most recent post including the scenario as well.

    Thank you! I look forward to your replies.

    By the way: I shared some of your thoughts in one of my lectures this morning. Very many responses of a very wide variety of course. The discussion there was cut short, but is expected to continue. I hope to bring ideas back here and gain your thoughts on them as well. Nothing to report as yet however.

    January 25th, 2011 at 5:03 pm
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  183. PsychMom says:

    To Cera:

    While I appreciate what you’re getting at, and I’ve heard this suggestion before, but an awful lot of thought has to go into it and from my experience, teachers don’t often have the time or inclination to think of meaningful tasks.

    I think of the genealogy projects that often happen in Grade 2 where children are supposed to create a family tree. The teacher asks the child to bring in baby pictures…to comment on how the child has features or characteristics similar to other family members. But did the teacher consider the adopted child ….this task may cause alot of upset.

    I’ll get back..I have more to say later.

    January 26th, 2011 at 8:31 am
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  184. PsychMom says:

    ..to continue..

    For me, the term “positive homework” is an oxymoron, particularly if it’s applied to school children. If the world of education were to change into the type of world I would like to see, the term homework would not even exist. I do not accept it as a given part of education. In today’s system, homework is seen as a given part of the curriculum because…..and only because….it’s a habit. It’s the way things are done. The belief that sending school work home (in K to 6) is beneficial to learning has not been proven to help any child learn anything. In the older grades, a small effect has been found, but the correlations between time spent on homework and achievement are weak.

    To get to your specific question Cera, no, there’s nothing wrong with having a discussion with your class about family traditions and history. But you don’t have to turn it into an assignment. To me, your role is to get the kids wondering…so that they will want to go home and ask questions on their own and discover for themselves. How do you do that??? You talk about your own family, you ask the kids what they already know about their own families (but be prepared for some of the unsettling things you might find out). You can bring in an older member from the community and have the kids interview that person. Or invite the kids to bring their grandparents in…or anyone they admire. That’s how you bring the community into your classroom…..quite literally. Yes, it takes a lot more work on your part..

    Teacher’s need to stop forcing learning down kids’ throats, and instead create circumstances where it happens naturally. I often recall a field trip I chaperoned a couple of years ago. It was to a country farm and the kids (ages 7/8) travelled in groups around the farm, dutifully listening as an adult spoke for a few minutes about some aspect of this 1800’s style farm life. The kids were supposed to ask questions…I think the teacher had made up some questions ahead of time that the kids were supposed to find answers to…..All of this was the forced learning part. Then, near the end of the day, we were all heading back to the bus when one of the “farmers” decided to shear one of the ewes right there under a nearby tree. She had new lambs with her and he brought them out too and tied them up close by. The kids were transfixed. Suddenly they were full of questions..What’s he going to do? Why is that baby lamb crying? Why did he bring out the lamb if he was going to shear the ewe? How are you going to shear the sheep? and on and on and on went the questions. If you would ask those kids what they remember from that day…they’ll tell you about the sheep shearing first….and not much else second.

    My 9 year old daughter is keen to learn how to iron. Do I send her to her room to look up “iron” in the dictionary and then write it out 10 times? No. Do I get her to look it up on the internet? No. Do I ask her to think about why we iron clothes, how she feels about ironing clothes, and ask her to read books about characters who like to iron clothes? (ok I’m getting silly) Do I dump a pile of clothes on her, tell her to iron them, and leave the house and go shopping? No. I teach her how to iron. That’s the way I wish teachers would think? Figure out what the kids want to learn about and then bring it to them..or go out with them and find it. We need to stop telling kids what they should know, and start asking them what they want to know.

    And as a society we then need to figure out how to make THAT happen.

    January 26th, 2011 at 12:23 pm
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  185. Cera says:

    Psychmom:

    Please do not take this negatively, but that is the single best post in this entire discussion so far.

    Thank you for your thoughtful reply. Very insightful.

    I see so much distaste in your post, however… and I find it so unfortunate and just downright saddening. There’s such a burning passion in the people in my courses, the “pre-service teachers” to do exactly what you promote: Teach in a TRUE constructivist manner, through experience and practice in applicable contexts. Student-directed, with the teacher as a mere guide. It’s such a shame because that’s exactly how they’re trying to teach us to teach, too. May I ask whereabout in the world you live? I am in Alberta, Canada… We have been updating all of our curricula these last five years, trying to force teachers to do all of this… though I am perfectly aware of plenty of resistance.

    The reason I used Social Studies as my example is because it’s truly my favourite subject. Some of the suggestions you give for gaining interest, such as having someone come in to talk to the kids, are actually mandatory aspects of unit plans I design for my courses… and things I fully anticipate to use in my future classroom. I appreciate your correction to my idea. Get them interested so they ask the questions on their own, don’t “assign” questions.

    Now, to get defensive of myself and my peers for a moment, and I hate to sound high on myself, but as I stated before, my goal in my career is to make kids have the same love of learning that I have. And (this is where I get egotistical) I do very well in anything I do. I see no sense in doing a half-assed job of anything. I really do want the best for these kids, and I will absolutely try to do what I think will help them… And I will keep in touch with outside views as best as I can.

    I can’t help but say again, though, that there are so many more pressures put on by people other than the students. It’s like we have to teach these in spite of so many things (…not to mention how so often, in so many classrooms, the kids are learning IN SPITE of the teacher). I agree with you that a lot of teachers are going about teaching entirely the wrong way. Just don’t tell anyone I said so, because it’s against professional code of conduct! The standardized tests are the worst part. Oddly, it sounds like all teachers seem to think that standardized tests are dreadful, yet they’re becoming increasingly central in public education. Schools in my province are ranked by Provincial Achievement Test results. Funding is dependent upon these. Enrollment counts on good numbers. It’s just awful.

    Now… It all comes back to the fact that the problem is not that it’s impossible to successfully teach our children without homework “assignments”. We all know that!

    The problem is the “practice” garbage that teachers are virtually force to do in order to get the students ready for the meaningless, de-contextualized, (pardon me) shitty questions we rank our kids on. I guess that’s the part that gets me. We teach them properly all day, but where do we fit the “shit” that is going to get the kids ready for what I feel are shit tests. (I could most definitely get in trouble for saying that, heh). I hear these tests are even worse in the states. I’m not very familiar with their system, aside from having heard about the “No Child Left Behind” ideal, where teachers lose their jobs if the kids don’t do well enough on the standardized tests. More like “No teacher left standing!” (Or kid, for that matter).

    What I suppose I’m getting at here is that I don’t know about fighting the teachers… Because I really like to believe that most teachers are like me and understand that the meaningless tasks are a waste of time, which is why they appear as busy work and are getting sent home. That and an honest misconception about what constructivism is meant to look like.

    Am I an insufferable optimist? A little. I’m going to go ahead and blame that on being just-turned-20. You’re supposed to still believe the world is a good place at 20.

    When I taught in my IPT, my mentor was very traditional. She was trained as a high school PE teacher, took fifteen years away from the classroom to raise kids, and returned to an elementary school teaching all subjects. I gave homework, because she expected me to… It was the way she was trained almost 30 years ago. My homework was the practice questions similar to what would be on the PAT (because the sixth graders have them! …3, 6, 9, what a joke). IN class, I gave them problems. They solved them. Not always ideal problems, but stuff they could dive into. Stuff that related to their world, like the bake sales they were having, and the sports they played. We didn’t have time for time wasting textbook questions… I think we were too busy actually learning. We played games. MAN I cannot wait to get back into the classroom.

    Anyway, I think that for the most part, we agree on what education should look like. I see the use for some at home stuff, but I definitely don’t see a necessity in it being “assigned”. I mean a reading log would be great just to help me pick books for the kids, and adding books to the classroom library.. just keeping track of interests and stuff. But to make it mandatory is silly too… it’ll make it seem a chore. I see the use in at home discussions and individual research… actually the necessity of intrinsically motivated research… but I have to be mindful that I’m not forcing it.

    I just worry a lot more about the system forcing teachers to do homework… I find it very hard to blame the individual teachers at this point. I’m pretty sure that’s the point at which we part ways in our views.

    But anyway, this has become a rambling mess. Hopefully I’ve been somewhat coherent. I really must stop trying to write any sort of, well, anything this late at night.

    Thanks again.

    PS: I really know what you’re saying about the geneology thing… I hope I can stay mindful of students’ differences. I know Mother’s Day/ Father’s Day was always very touchy for me as I had step-parents, and I’m somewhat resentful of the experience to this day. Same goes for Christmas concerts that were overtly religious. Just not mindful of the students… Definitely something to keep in mind. Doesn’t mean the past of the families can’t be looked into of course… a case such as an adoption can be celebrated within the classroom, and adds a whole new, wonderful dynamic to the discussion. The kids can really learn from it. Same if there’s just one parent, or two moms/ two dads. Anyway. Just wanted to touch on that briefly too.

    January 27th, 2011 at 2:17 am
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  186. PsychMom says:

    Wow, what a post Cera..I live in Nova Scotia, a resident for 14 years. Before that, born and raised in Ontario.

    I must say you’re a surprising 20 year old. The perspective that you have on your profession is something I did not have at that age. But I find it a little concerning that you say this:

    I agree with you that a lot of teachers are going about teaching entirely the wrong way. Just don’t tell anyone I said so, because it’s against professional code of conduct

    Talking about a specific teacher in an unprofessional way, should be contrary to professional codes of conduct. But finding problems within the profession and how it’s carried out should not. This is why I feel changes are not happening in education. Teachers feel their employers have more power than they actually have. To me, when you are a professional, you must question.

    There was relatively less “distaste” in my post than there has been in other posts I’ve written. But it’s not actually distaste. It’s dismay and frustration. You are just getting started in your career but already you’re submerging your beliefs in favour of what you’re being told. Respect for elder teachers only holds if what they’re doing is correct. If you young teachers are so willing to hold your tongues…when will anything change?

    The situation in the States does sound much worse in terms of standardized testing, but they do it here in NS too, at 3, 6 and 9 as well. And 10 years ago before I was a parent, I looked at the stats from these assessments and thought they actually meant something. But in the last 5 years, I started to read about education and about how damaging standardized testing is…I’ve changed my mind. I’m no one special..but I consider myself informed, or at least willing to be informed. No “idea” that I have is set in stone anymore..the world is changing too fast. My ethics remain solid, I hope….but if I offer my child guidance that is based on fear and maintaining the status quo….she’s doomed. I just would like to have faith that schools worked on that same principle. I do not have that faith.

    January 27th, 2011 at 9:06 am
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  187. Cera says:

    I do apologize for the length. I can’t seem to say anything without writing an essay about it. Perhaps it comes with having an English minor.

    I don’t have time to say much tonight… I get to go back to the real classroom tomorrow. Your mention of how things are rapidly changing reminded me of a cute video, one which you’ve probably seen, but which I actually used as a conversation starter once with my grade sixes. It was pretty fun to see what they thought of it… And helped me gain some insight. For instance, something that came up is that they had never heard of a floppy disc. Anyway, link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wQFTUJK9TkI&feature=related

    I have a few things I’d like to talk about but don’t trust myself to write tonight. Tomorrow!

    Cera

    January 28th, 2011 at 12:59 am
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  188. JP says:

    One way or another, it’s up to us as a society to figure out how to keep the joy of learning alive in kids for as long as possible, until a bit of maturity kicks in hard enough to engage their self-discipline.
    How we do that is essential, and I don’t think multiplying homework hours exponentially is the answer. Kids are still kids, and their capacity to absorb pure academia is finite. Learning by rote is just (ultimately) stupid, and by definition, if you think about it.

    On reading (I’m a librarian, and rather in love with books)
    …it’s been a lifelong affair.
    A book is always a possible treasure to a child, and the potential it releases is such a fundamental part of the learning process.
    No-one gets anywhere anymore without hard reading skills, and the only way to get them….is to read.
    Along with that package comes the added bonus – what’s actually in the books. Perhaps the trick is to tap into whatever it is that turns the kid on.
    I read tons of comic books as a kid – they did me no harm.
    But stat-packing reading is not the way to beat the endless teckie-distractions in a kid’s life. That, unfortunately, is probably a lifelong battle.
    (when I was a kid, the only distraction was the tv – and that came with danger-zone consequences if abused by over-indulgence – parental thunder.)
    Yet the wide world was the biggest distraction, only it was so well-enhanced by what I found in books.
    Encouraging kids to read can never be a bad thing. Turning reading into crime and punishment is not, however, the way to go.

    February 5th, 2011 at 10:08 am
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  189. Tracy says:

    I’m at a brain conference in the Bay area of California and several Harvard and Stanford professors/researchers state that doing homework doesn’t lead to more academic success. Homework is just busy work. Instead just saying go home and read what you want for as long or as little is better and having a parent read to their student has an even better result on memory. Now that is something that should be shared with everyone.

    February 18th, 2011 at 11:35 pm
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  190. PsychMom says:

    To Tracy:

    For those of us who have been writing here for awhile…you’re just confirming what we’ve been saying for years. Harris Cooper, who has done extensive metaanalysis of the homework literature said the same thing about homework in elementary school a long time ago, but then complicated the issue by saying that 10 minutes per grade is acceptable. Not necessary, but acceptable….what is that supposed to mean???

    Who were these researchers?

    February 22nd, 2011 at 11:25 am
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  191. Jennifer Armstrong says:

    My daughter is still new to English at 11 years old — I adopted her at 8 years old. Reading is something her teacher has been totally relaxed about with her. Rather than push her to read we’ve been concerned with her literacy in a broader sense — her interest in stories, her vocabulary, her spoken English, her attention span — these are all very highly developed. Her actual reading skills are coming along slowly, but at least we didn’t “spoil the milk” as her teacher cautioned.

    March 3rd, 2011 at 1:40 pm
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  192. ControversialMomma says:

    I read these comments with interest. I’m a teacher and a mom and before I was a mom, I plead guilty to being a teacher to assigning what I realize now was too much homework. Do I still assign homework? A little. Unfinished work (as a last resort for someone who has been away a lot) and a home reading program where one book is sent home for a week. To be honest, it’s the kids that are reading at and above grade level who are doing it regularly. I have given the parents a guide to help them help their child. My son’s teacher used it and I found it so helpful for me as a parent (despite being a teacher) that I adapted it for my students. What some parents forget is that they are their child’s first teacher and that is the most important role of all. Why are some children entering school without knowing the alphabet? Or in the fourth grade and can’t read? Or in the tenth grade and can’t write a sentence? Some people blame the teachers but I look at how the students who have parents who are supporting them seem to get further and further ahead (despite learning disabilities or behavioural needs). I can only do so much with what I have been given despite additional support, resources and time. Often the kids who are far behind, struggle because their parents struggled in school as well and don’t know how to help or didn’t know how to help in the pre-school years, where so much learning is going on. We have free early years centers in my community and it’s the educated parents (who may not need these services) who use them most. It’s hard to get the parents whose children are at risk to come to the centers and to get involved into their child’s learning. If someone has the answer, I’d love to hear it!

    Now I teach at the neediest school in my community and my children go to one of the wealthiest schools in the community within the same school board. I am amazed that an 8 minute drive can take you to a different world. My school doesn’t assign anything new for homework. There are no projects, no busy work. There is home reading with a guideline for parents (available in a variety of languages) with a-z books provided. Students may have unfinished work to complete but that is a last option because it rarely comes back finished and is usually not seen again. I have students in grade 4 who are reading at levels C, all the way to Z. Contrast this with my son who in grade one has home reading every night (15-20 minutes), spelling (5 minutes), math or sentence dictation (10 minutes) plus projects, and tests to study for. He is reading at level H (late grade 1) and we were told that despite getting B’s in reading, that he is being referred for reading support because he is one of the lowest readers in the class. My second lowest group in my class is level H!!! This is simply ridiculous. My board is apparently moving away from homework but clearly, my son’s school is not supporting this trend. I value my family time and resent the amount of time we are spending on his homework. I am not looking forward to when my daughter starts to get homework too!

    March 14th, 2011 at 9:31 pm
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  193. FedUpMom says:

    ControversialMomma, if a child is in the fourth grade and can’t read, you bet I blame the school.

    If you really believe that it’s the parent’s job to teach the kid to read, what exactly is the school’s job?

    March 15th, 2011 at 3:45 pm
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  194. Disillusioned says:

    ControversialMomma- I’m wondering if you read PsychMom’s vision for re-thinking education in the western hemisphere. The framework for education hasn’t changed in 100 years. I doubt PsychMom’s vision will take root because education is somewhat akin to organized religion. It takes an enormous amount of vision to re-define a government institution and such a vision would come up against many long held fears, myth and dogma surrounding education.

    March 15th, 2011 at 7:11 pm
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  195. Christine says:

    AFter reading the remarks have to put my 2 cents in here. I have 5 children… 3 of whom have learning issues. I have to say that after school is the most dreaded time of day for me. I don’t totally knock homework. I can understand studying spelling words and for tests but when I have to stay up long hours with one of my children in tears I have to draw the line. Its just not worth the emotional upset . So yeah studying for tests and spelling yeah Im for it but other subject that require hour after hour of sitting and no time do the other things that Children are suppose to do ; like I dont know be active, have family time, socialize . Yeah I got a problem with that

    March 16th, 2011 at 11:42 am
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  196. PsychMom says:

    It’s a sensitive time of the year for me because it’s the section of the school year when books are handed out for kids to read (at a prescribed rate) and then answer questions about what they read. My daughter says she likes the books but only the first few pages…then the book is untouched. This has been a pattern for over three years now. This year there is even less involvement from the teacher with a greater expectation that the child (age 9) take responsibility for the reading and doing the weekly questions. My daughter is two weeks behind and she is not reading the book. I don’t know if the teacher knows..I’m not hearing anything, My daughter is too tired and lately, sick with a cold, to do work at home at night and I’m not forcing her because I inherently disagree with this whole situation. How will this end up?

    Invariably my daughter will be pressured. Will she miss a whole week of outdoor time at lunch because she has to read a book she’s not interested in? It’s possible. I have a problem with how this is being handled and it so glaringly illustrates my problem with how reading is fostered and how inhumane homework is for young children.
    To the teachers reading….what would you suggest I do as a parent?

    March 17th, 2011 at 7:26 am
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  197. Sarah says:

    As a reading teacher and a parent, I agree that too much homework is an issue, however I do believe in some homework. My students have always been given time in class to complete their work if they chose to use the time. For those that chose to socialize, they had homework. The only real homework I assigned were some bigger projects, although they were always given time in class to work as well.

    Independent reading is different than required reading. My students had required reading throughout the school year- although these were read in class- and they had independent reading- again also required during SSR time.

    There needs to be a balance and for parents to think that teachers assign homework because we are not doing our job is ridiculous and quite frankly, insulting. I wish I was allowed to do the job I was hired to do and signed up to do. Instead I am required to teach a curriculum created by non-educators so that students will pass the almighty test.

    I have always been a supporter of public school, but my son will be attending a private school that values education and not a test. I do expect he will have homework, I expect that he will need my assistance (one of my responsibilities as a parent), yet I do not expect him to have hours of it each night.

    I must also comment on the parents who have said they do the homework themselves- yes, as teachers, we know when a parent has done the work. We also know the student is learning that s/he does not have to responsible for anything, and that it is ok for him/her to lie and cheat his/her way through life. What a lesson for a child to learn.

    If we, as parents, want education for our children to change, we need to start storming Washington. NCLB needs to be repealed, not just modified. NCLB is dumbing down our children and has not been proven to have had a positive impact at all, but actually a negative one.

    April 12th, 2011 at 9:37 am
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  198. Disillusioned says:

    Like many teachers who post here….your self-righteousness shines through. Many parents would elect to opt-out of homework if it was socially exceptable and there were no penalties. The internal bias you have towards homework is ingrained. Young children don’t need to be “accountable and responsible” to any large degree. As with all life skills, these traits come with time and degree.

    April 14th, 2011 at 7:14 pm
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  199. jacqie arntfield says:

    oi. i have a pre-k and 2nd grader and genius IQs run in my family. i myself had anxiety disorders so i always turned in my homework for rear of bad grades and whatnot, but i see noooo need for homework.
    my genius 16-yr-old brother has a 4.0, jr. year, and spends 4 hours per night on homework. he has no other life. it isn’t right to me, for him to have to sacrifice this time of his life this way. it disgusts me. he won the Pi contest, 3.14– recited 198 numbers of it at his school. he doesn’t need to do homework. i didn’t need to. i never studied and got over a 3.0 always. i don’t know, every child is different, but childhood is supposed to be a time to have FUN, not meet deadlines.

    April 16th, 2011 at 8:56 pm
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  200. Tracy says:

    I think homework is a necessity by high school but homework in K is ridiculous! In high school my 16 yr old spends so little time receiving instruction that h/w HAS to be done at home. The school day is filled with rallies, meetings and schlepping from one class to another. By the time teacher has everyone’s attn so much time is lost.
    My home schooled son is faring much better and of course when we’re in charge of their day, we can do so much more that we feel is worthwhile.
    To the parents sitting up with their child till 3am in the morning – why? Helicoptering ur child is insane, it’s their homework not urs! My son recently stayed up till 2.30am to get an assignment done. He felt so cruddy the next day I doubt he’ll leave it to cram that late again. His problem, not mine.

    May 18th, 2011 at 11:25 am
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  201. Sarah says:

    @Disillusioned- I in know way feel I said anything self-righteous. First, I agreed that too much homework is a problem. However, I do not think some homework is unwarranted or unexpected. Second, your comment, “Young children don’t need to be “accountable and responsible” to any large degree,” I never said kids, young or otherwise, needed homework to learn accountability or responsibility. I said parents doing the homework for the child teaches them not to be accountable or responsible- there is a distinct difference.

    I did not note it in my original response, but I do not teach the young ones anymore, however, when I did teach first grade it was required by the school (a charter) to assign homework nightly, I thought it was ridiculous. I thought it was ridiculous that my 4 yr old nephew was sent home from pre-k with weekly homework. I do believe homework has its place and a value, but not in excess.

    I think before attacking teachers just because they are teachers, you should actually take the time to read the comments first.

    May 29th, 2011 at 8:52 pm
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  202. Anonymous says:

    I think many of the above arguements are interesting, but it became increasingly apparent as I read them that many of these views where from largely the perspective of middle class parents/society. Homework may be considered a “pain” by some, but when you teach children who are 1-2 years below grade level no time can be wasted. I definitely agree that children should have fun and should not be bogged down with homework but with guidance and encouragement, homework does not have to have such a bad rep. In the community in which I teach many of my students’ parents ask teachers constantly, “What can I do to help my child learn and grow academically? Can I get extra reading material, practice sheets, fun learning activities, etc.?” I think this is a reflection of the mindset that our children, parents, and teachers should never stop learning. If you feel like your child is receiving an unfair amount of homework. I would suggest asking the teacher why your son or daughter has to complete it. I’ve never met a teacher who gives out homework “just because”. Research and studies may show trends that suggest it does not good, but I think it is up to the parent and teacher to approach homework with the right mindset so that the child see it as something positive.

    June 9th, 2011 at 8:00 am
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  203. HomeworkBlues says:

    I think many of the above arguements are interesting, but it became increasingly apparent as I read them that many of these views where from largely the perspective of middle class parents/society.

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

    But that’s the whole point here. I’ll speak for most of us when I say we truly care about ALL children. But when you make the point that because your students are two grades below, therefore homework is justified for all, it just doesn’t hold any water.

    I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again. Just because Johnny’s mom won’t take him to a museum, therefore I can’t take my child? Just because Suzy is sitting in front of the tv all afternoon, you must assign homework to all? Because we didn’t do that! I could cry when I list all the creative and educational opportunities we missed (and I say “we” because when you are taking your child to a museum or spending the afternoon in a library, you are learning right along side her) because of homework overload.

    I might have kept my mouth shut if it was just during the week. But when homework began to gobble up more and more of our weekend time, that is when I put my foot down and proclaimed, ENOUGH!!!

    And even if some child does while the time away, it’s not your job to legislate what goes on at home. I like my deal better. You do your job, let me do mine.

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

    Homework may be considered a “pain” by some

    <<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

    In the community in which I teach many of my students’ parents ask teachers constantly, “What can I do to help my child learn and grow academically? Can I get extra reading material, practice sheets, fun learning activities, etc.?”

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

    Oh, I ask that too! I speak in past tense because my daughter recently graduated high school. Every day, I would ask myself, my husband and yes, my child, how can I best educate this person? The sad part of homework is how much it took away from learning, rather than contributing to it.

    With all due respect, I don’t need you giving me worksheets. practice sheets, fun activities. I’m perfectly capable of finding those resources myself. I’m not against some other parent seeking you out for advice. But the operative word here is advice. Last I checked, the homework was mandatory.

    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    I think this is a reflection of the mindset that our children, parents, and teachers should never stop learning. If you feel like your child is receiving an unfair amount of homework. I would suggest asking the teacher why your son or daughter has to complete it.

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

    Been there done that. Good luck.
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

    I’ve never met a teacher who gives out homework “just because”. Research and studies may show trends that suggest it does not good, but I think it is up to the parent and teacher to approach homework with the right mindset so that the child see it as something positive.

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

    Oh, I approached it with the right mindset, alright. When I was younger and more naive. It took only a few months of family strain and tears to realize how harmful it all was.

    June 9th, 2011 at 3:54 pm
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  204. PsychMom says:

    Yeah, that last paragraph from Anonymous, was a sharp poke in my ribs. Who says that doing homework is the “right mindset”? In my household, homework is the wrong mindset, and a bad way to teach kids about boundaries and keeping work and home separate.

    June 10th, 2011 at 7:05 am
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  205. HomeworkBlues says:

    Exactly, Psych Mom. I’ve been away from this blog in a while and on a whim, decided to check back in and see what’s up. While I’m thrilled you commented too, so good to see you here, remember all the great conversations we had, it’s disheartening how the same wheel keeps spinning, the same bromides trotted out.

    After all the research, we’re still being told homework is the “right mindset” and we all need homework because some kids are two grades behind and their parents aren’t reading to them at night? Say what? Our experience has been that it’s the “high achieving” schools that assign the most. Nothing to do with inner urban issues. It’s about pressure and competition and control and schools boasting they have the highest SAT scores.

    June 10th, 2011 at 9:20 am
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  206. PsychMom says:

    Hi HWB:

    I have been tempted to respond to some of the postings here at times, but so many are just harping on the “you-suck-as-parents” angle, so I ignore them.

    At my daughter’s school (still the same one) homework is seen as an essential “must do” kind of thing..and it’s a given. The trend that the city public schools are scaling back on homework is seen as a poverty issue, and that it’s unfair to give homework when not every home has the same “advantages”. Because ours is a private school, homework is a requirement because somehow it’s important to foster.

    Next year, dear daughter is entering Grade 5 … other parents have said that much is downloaded into homework in Grade 5 “as they prepare for middle school years”. Homework was pretty much a non-issue in Grade 4…she didn’t do much of what was assigned and I never heard a peep from any sector. My stance was that I was not a reminder or a participant, and I didn’t allow things to be done at midnight on Sunday night.

    Reading made a huge comeback in our lives, much to my relief…now my beef changes to…”I’m not buying each and every book in that series on a weekly basis”…but that’s a domestic issue. We need to learn to appreciate libraries.

    June 10th, 2011 at 10:08 am
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  207. Cathy says:

    I’m sorry that some of your children are being overwhelmed with homework at a young age. Fortunately, I have not had too much of an issue with that yet with my daughters who are about to start 2nd and 3rd grade. However, I do wonder about the amount of make-up work when my older daughter missed a day last year. It was hours and hours of work, and whatever she didn’t finish at home that night, she had to stay in for recess to complete the next day! I wonder if perhaps some of those assignments could have been skipped, or if she could have been allowed more time to complete them before needing to miss recess. For the most part, though, their homework has been reading (yes, sometimes with logs, which I hate, but I realize that in SOME cases, not all, having that log to be accountable to helps parents get everything in) and practicing math facts, either with flashcards supplied by the school, online websites they suggested, or anything else that we find that works. We’ve kept up that guideline of at least 20 minutes of reading and 10 minutes of math practice during the summer as well, though I never actually watch the clock. My girls love to read, and for math, they help cook (measure), and we have a couple of games for the ds and my huband’s ipod that they can play (with limits–they don’t play video games very often). One daughter has struggled with math and thinks she hates it, so we try to keep it fun.

    We did have a daycare teacher who wanted kids to bring in a ‘sound of the week’ item at an age that I thought was way too young (2 or 3). I was quite irritated with that, because with two young children going to daycare, the last thing I needed at that point was ‘homework’. Just making sure everyone had enough changes of clothes, pull-ups, etc was enough for that age, I would think! Read them stories, play games, sing with them–don’t worry about letters and sounds yet, except MAYBE helping them recognize their own names?

    I’m also a high school teacher in a different district. I have heard homework horror stories from my colleagues who have children of varying ages. It kills me to hear how much homework elementary aged children are given in some places. It’s no wonder I can’t get my high school students to do ANY homework–they’re all burned out and so are their parents!!!

    Now, before you attack my giving homework, I want to say that very rarely do my students leave my room with written homework, but since I teach a foreign language, I do ask them to spend 15-20 minutes each night doing some kind of vocabulary review. I don’t give them written busywork for this. Instead I make suggestions and give strategies throughout the semester on things they can do on their own to review. The first day of class, for example, the homework is to go home and teach a family member what they learned. It’s always a few basic questions/answers (What is your name? Where are you from? How are you?) . Many do it. A lot don’t. The problem is, they’re either so sick of the homework overload they’ve struggled through in the early grades, they don’t think studying is ‘cool’ enough for them, they’re too busy with the demands of a job or sports, or, yes, there are some households out there where no one is checking up with them or holding them accountable for their learning. Before you all attack–obviously, that isn’t any of you, or you wouldn’t be here concerned for your children’s education. But, like it or not, there are parents out there who aren’t taking an active role in their children’s education. That is a fact that teachers do have to deal with. Unfortunately, I think sometimes the more motivated kids suffer, because they are then told what and how to learn, study, and review, when they might have been better off left to just review what they felt they needed to review. I’ve actually seen situations where parents were contacted because their child wasn’t doing well or was a behavior problem, and the parents reacted by homeschooling. Unfortunately, not everyone who takes on homeschooling is good at it. There are many WONDERFUL homeschooling parents, but I’m sure even they admit that not every homeschooling situation is a good one. Anyway, in many of those cases (the not so good ones), the homeschooled children are brought back to school after a year or two, and it is evident that no homeschooling actually took place. Reading skills have decreased, behavior problems are greater than when they left, etc.

    Many have said that it isn’t the parents’ faults or the teachers’ faults, and I tend to agree with that. It is the system. Certainly, there are teachers that are giving busywork and aren’t open to the individual needs out there. There are also parents that aren’t doing everything they should be for their kids’ education. Ultimately, though, I think the problem is our system. So, where do we go from here? When students are not reviewing as they need to and score poorly on tests (assuming no learning disability), what is a teacher to do? If the teacher taught, and 80% of the kids are doing well, but he/she knows that more of the students are doing well, but they aren’t applying themselves, what is a teacher to do?

    August 2nd, 2011 at 11:08 am
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  208. Cathy says:

    *but he/she knows that more of the students are CAPABLE OF doing well

    Sorry, left out a couple words that are kind of critical to my statement making sense!

    August 2nd, 2011 at 11:10 am
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  209. Love2Teach says:

    I am a first grade teacher. I changed my career to teaching after 15 years in the business field. I found this blog because I was looking for additional documentation on research based reading strategies. I also have a Masters in Reading Pre-K to 12. There are many points that I disagree with; HOWEVER, there are also many interesting and VALID points. As a result, I’ve picked up a few suggestions from some of the parents. So thank you everyone. I feel it is important to hear all viewpoints because I am always trying to improve my teaching and parent relationships. Incidentally, I believe my parent communication and relationships have been very strong.
    My first graders have a reading log. I ask for 4 days of reading (any day of the week). I only check the log on Fridays. Parents reading TO their children is encouraged and counts as reading. Any book, magazine, etc. counts. I don’t require pages or dictate how much time. Just the title and date. I do ask parents to initial the log for support and validation. I recommend 5 – 15 minutes. If children are “lost” in the literacy moment and want to read longer, that’s great. I also don’t take away recess. I provide “optional” Take Home Literacy bags. I work in a poverty school district where 80% of the kids are on free or reduced lunch. I found this wonderful website if anyone is interested http://www.trelease-on-reading.com. He is the author of The New York Times Bestseller The Read-Aloud Handbook. Jim Trelease had some interesting information on his website and free downloadable handouts. See below:
    Won’t ‘requiring’ children to read
    eventually turn them off?
    Do you require your child to brush his teeth every day? How about changing his underwear or making his bed? Do you worry that such requirements will eventually lead to your grown son giving up teeth-brushing and underwear changes because you “required” it in his childhood? Sounds pretty silly when we put it in those terms, doesn’t it? In my book The Read-Aloud Handbook, I write about Sonya Carson, a single parent who required her two sons
    to obtain library cards and read two books a week. Today
    one is an engineer and the other is a preeminent
    pediatric brain surgeon (Dr.Ben Carson). Their story
    can be found in Ben’s book Gifted Hands. The man who
    invented the Mobile Army Surgical Hospital (M.A.S.H.) and became the world’s greatest heart surgeon, Dr. Michael DeBakey, was required to read a book a week
    as a child. These are huge testimonials to parents
    who believe in raising their children instead of just watching them grow up. Children will never have a chance for higher achievements without higher-level reading skills. Where nothing is asked, usually nothing is received. In offices where punctuality is not required, people seldom arrive on time. So how to require reading and still keep it pleasure-oriented?
    First, remember that pleasure is more often caught than taught (that means—read aloud to them). Next:
    • Make sure you (the adult role model) are seen reading daily. It works even better if you read at the same time as the child.
    • For young children, looking at the pictures in books and turning pages qualifies as “reading.” We become picture-literate before becoming print-literate.
    • Allow children to choose the books they wish to read to themselves, even if they don’t meet your high standards.
    • Don’t take that vacation car trip without recorded books on board. They count too!
    • Set some time parameters, short at first and longer as children get older and read more.
    • Newspapers and magazines, even comic books, should count toward reading time.All of it amounts to exposure
    to print.The self-selection,self-interest factor is important here. Let children read what interests them. (Those school
    summer reading lists usually require them to read what interests the faculty.) The goal here is to raise a lifetime reader, not an English teacher. The great national shortage is not in the latter but in lifetime readers. Every
    lifetime reader I’ve ever known spent summers
    reading everything — including junk.
    In closing, I want to say that I have two sons and I do believe there are teachers that assign too much homework. I don’t believe I am one of them. I am very much in favor of having a reading log, IF it is done in a positive way.

    September 5th, 2011 at 9:02 pm
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  210. HomeworkBlues says:

    Love2Teach, remember, we are not opposed to reading, just reading LOGS. Requiring my child to read? You bet. I just didn’t put it that way. I seeded the house with books. Read to her starting in the womb. Early childhood was marked by almost daily visits to a library and/or bookstore. Books are everything in our household, learning never ends. I created a passion for it. It may look as if I was merely watching her grow up rather than doing anything active, but her endless reading was no accident.

    September 9th, 2011 at 5:03 pm
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  211. Love2Teach says:

    HWB – I didn’t mean to imply that you were against reading in general. The parents on this blog are very dedicated to their children and well spoken. I was adding the read aloud information because I found it interesting and thought others may as well. I feel my reading log is a reduced version of some that are given. Only date & title, 4 days, no required pages or time, no recess taken away and parents don’t have to sign the log. Students can turn it in without signatures. This is because I do think there are teachers that give too much homework.

    What I find interesting is for the last 7 years my class has had the highest averaged reading scores in first grade (7 teachers) by the end of the year. I don’t think it’s entirely because of my teaching. I’ve had great success with getting kids to read at home too. I think that my reading log and take home literacy bags have helped. Another factor could be because I work many hours during the school year. So far this week I have worked 55 hours. It’s only the 2nd week of school and I’ve already conferenced with one parent to discuss intervention strategies for his daughter. I offered an intervention folder with short activities they can do at home. This is optional. I won’t send it home unless parents come in, see it and really want it. So it all works together.

    September 10th, 2011 at 10:10 pm
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  212. Zapp says:

    I accidentally found this blog. I know it’s 2 years old, but looks like people are still contributing. I found more research.
    A poll conducted for the Associated Press in January 2006 found that about 57% of parents felt their child was assigned about the right amount of homework. Another 23% thought it was too little, and 19% thought it was too much. A survey conducted by MetLife in 2007 found that 87% of parents saw that helping their child with homework was an opportunity for them to talk and spend time together. More than three fourths (78%) did not think homework interfered with family time, and nearly as many (71%) thought that it was not a source of major stress.

    The homework question is best answered by comparing students assigned homework with students assigned no homework. The results suggest that homework can improve students’ scores on the class tests that come at the end of a topic. Students assigned homework in second grade did better on the math tests; third and fourth graders did better on English skills and vocabulary tests; fifth graders on social studies tests; ninth through 12th graders on American history tests; and 12th graders on Shakespeare tests. Across five studies, the average student who did homework had a higher unit test score than the students not doing homework.

    However, 35 less rigorous (correlational) studies suggest little or no relationship between homework and achievement for elementary school students.

    The National Parent Teacher Association and the National Education Association have a parents’ guide called Helping Your Child Get the Most Out of Homework. It states, “Most educators agree that for children in grades K–2, homework is more effective when it does not exceed 10–20 minutes each day; older children, in grades 3–6, can handle 30–60 minutes a day; in junior and senior high, the amount of homework will vary by subject.”

    Practice assignments do improve scores on class tests at all grade levels. A little amount of homework may help elementary school students build study habits.

    Source: Harris Cooper, PHD

    As far as Sara Bennett’s book “The Case Against Homework….Read Jay Mathews article from The Washington Post called “The Weak Case Against Homework. Looks like some parts of the book and sources were discredited.

    September 18th, 2011 at 3:41 pm
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  213. Anonymous says:

    I have enjoyed reading the comments about homework. I am a 4th grade teacher and I try to give as little homework as possible. I find very interesting the comments about families finishing what the teacher didn’t get done in class. I would never send home work for my students to do that they didn’t get done in class, and I don’t think many teachers do. What we do send home is work that helps to reinforce the new concepts that were taught during the school day lesson (especially math), so that the student gets additional practice at home for the day’s lesson. Many times, if it is a new concept that is taught, it requires more than one repitition for mastery of the skill. Our Everyday Math curriculum that we use in our district has a study link (homework practice sheet) to go home with the student after the days lesson, to give them extra practice to help them work towards mastery of a new skill. When I look at their homework paper the next day, I use it as a tool to see who is getting it, and who needs help, or reteaching, of a certain skill, because I can see by the homework, that they did not get it the first time it was taught. In this way, I can use homework to guide my instruction (i.e.- I am not going to move on to the next math lesson if the majority of students did not master the skill from the day before.) If it is only a few students that did not get the skill, I will pull them as a small group, and do some reteaching of that skill. Homework is a way for me as a teacher to know who is getting it, and who still needs more help. I never give homework as “busy work”. Why would I do that, as I am the one who has to spend the time correcting it?

    October 10th, 2011 at 7:45 pm
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  214. FedUpMom says:

    Anonymous, the problem is that your intentions are not the same as the actual results. Sure, you don’t intend to give busywork, but if it feels like busywork to your students then that’s what it is. It’s not really your determination to make.

    And don’t get me started on Everyday Math. If you’re following that curriculum, trust me, you’re assigning busywork.

    October 11th, 2011 at 7:54 am
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  215. Love2Teach says:

    Beware of the man who read one book. Those who are 100% against homework have not considered ALL of the research. And there are parts of Sara Bennett’s book that have been discredited. Where nothing is required, nothing is received. In the work place where punctuality is not mandated, employees do not arrive on time.

    October 15th, 2011 at 9:18 pm
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  216. FedUpMom says:

    Oh, please. You think the people who comment on this blog have only read one book? Give me a break.

    Believe me, we’ve seen the research, and it’s absolutely consistent that homework in elementary school has NO correlation with achievement. Even Janine Bempechat, who’s strongly pro-homework, admits that.

    In any case, it’s not just about the research. Most of us are parents who see the toll homework takes on our kids’ well-being. Even if homework has benefits, they must be weighed against the harm homework causes. The benefits would have to be enormous to be worth the harm that homework causes our children.

    October 17th, 2011 at 7:48 am
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  217. Zapp says:

    I’m a research driven person. And while reading comments I saw one that said those people not reading Sara Bennett’s book should not be posting. And it is the only book advertised on this blog. So I agree, all the research should be considered. To say homework “harms” children…that’s an exaggeration to say the least. Balance and meaningful work is the key. I posted research in an earlier post and it appears that it doesn’t matter. To see an issue just one way is not how I want to drive my instruction or live my life. Jim Trelease is highly respected.

    October 18th, 2011 at 11:26 am
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  218. FedUpMom says:

    Of course homework harms kids. It makes them hate school and learning, stresses out their entire family, and wrecks their relationships with their parents. It deprives them of sleep, exercise, fresh air, and time with their friends.

    All this for something that has never been shown to have any correlation with academic success in elementary school, and very minor correlations with academic success in middle school and high school.

    October 18th, 2011 at 2:16 pm
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  219. FedUpMom says:

    Zapp, I see you quote Jay Mathews as a proponent of homework. You should know that he changed his mind, and later wrote an essay advocating no homework but free reading for elementary school.

    http://www.dailymail.com/Opinion/Commentary/201109223300

    October 18th, 2011 at 2:21 pm
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  220. FedUpMom says:

    Here’s a copy of the original Jay Mathews anti-homework essay:

    http://mikefalick.blogs.com/my_blog/2008/06/another-interesting-article-on-homework-from-a-former-homework-fan.html

    October 18th, 2011 at 2:26 pm
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  221. HomeworkBlues says:

    And Zapp, Jay Mathews didn’t do any meaningful research on this topic. He’s an education reporter!

    I used to read everything Jay wrote until I got too fed up to continue. I am very familiar with his writings and stance, I have been reading and discussing him for years. And even Jay, even Jay, who called himself Mr. Homework, finally came around and begrudgingly admitted that especially if a child is inclined to read all afternoon, that that is better than prescribed homework. Kudos to him for being big enough to admit when he’s small.

    A further caveat on Jay, though. I’ll have you know he also doesn’t like gifted programs. He is very big on a one size fits all. He wants everyone taking AP courses, no matter how poorly they do, because his Newsweek rankings issue sells big time.

    I don’t think even Jay fully understands how much homework is assigned in Fairfax County’s GT Centers (now renamed AAP). In 6th grade, the levels varied wildly. Either children were bored midnight blue or were up till midnight, completing college level assignments. It was some misguided attempt to impress the parents.

    However you feel about homework, can’t we all just agree once and for all that when a ten year old has been at it for three hours, that that’s just too darn long? That when a child doesn’t have time play outdoors or is stuck in the house all weekend long with homework, that that is just plain harmful? I can’t imagine any sane person would argue with THAT.

    October 19th, 2011 at 10:49 am
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  222. HomeworkBlues says:

    ** TO play ** Insert the word TO

    October 19th, 2011 at 10:50 am
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  223. shara says:

    home work is bad!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    November 17th, 2011 at 7:05 pm
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  224. http://tinyurl.com/openlay40500 says:

    Ur blog post, “Stop Homework ? Fourth Grade Teacher: ?I Did Away With Reading Logs?” was worth commenting down here in the comment section!

    Basically wanted to state you really did a superb work.
    Thanks for your effort -Glory

    January 16th, 2013 at 9:47 pm
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  225. Anonymous says:

    do you no were i can find a new reading log for my child she lives in carver ma

    March 19th, 2013 at 8:09 pm
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  226. Anonymous says:

    I am in high school and can promise you assigning large amounts of difficult homework will do nothing for the average class because majority of it will end up worrying about getting through the assignment and not learning the actual criteria, or the students will simply cheat or not do it. Say what you will but I know many students who have endured too much stress from too much pressure to excel academically and have hit their breaking point. A little bit of homework to help reinforce our learning is perfect but it gets to the point where we stay up all night doing hours and hours of pointless busywork. What is this doing? Making us hate the teachers who are supposed to be the person we look up to as a positive influence? Making us choose academic approval OVER OUR OWN HEALTH? Amounts of stress that homework creates can make a student miss out on sleep, eating, healthy interaction relationships, it can give a student anxiety, make them want to self harm, make them feel stupid, damaging their own self esteem or even going to the extreme as to wanting to commit suicide. I am sorry, we are kids in high school, we want to have fun and are trying to learn about the world around us, homework should be a small sidenote, NOT the longest most demanding part of our day.

    December 1st, 2013 at 8:44 pm
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