Advice Needed

Each week, I get more and more email from parents around the country about how to handle homework problems. On occasion, if a person has a particularly difficult problem, I’ll answer their questions through a telephone conversation rather than just email.

I know there are a lot of other activists with ideas on how to change homework policy who can also provide advice and support. So, please post your suggestions, similar experiences, etc., in the comments.

NS and her husband, who live in Eagleville, Pennsylvania, near Philadelphia, have been meeting with their son’s middle school teachers and the school principal to try to reduce the homework load, but they aren’t having much luck. They have been discussing homework overload with their children’s teachers for years and, last summer, told the school that their fifth-grader would not do any summer homework. This year, though, they are having difficulty getting the middle school to reduce their son’s homework load and are unilaterally deciding which homework is worth their son’s time and which isn’t. At a recent meeting with their son’s teachers and the principal, the teachers had to admit that their son’s grades were reduced significantly because he hadn’t done much of the homework, but that if homework were not part of his grade, he would have received all A’s. Nevertheless, the school is now suggesting that their son be tested for a learning disability. These parents are also having trouble finding like-minded parents to join their efforts and are feeling a little isolated.

Is it possible that they live in a place where everyone else is comfortable with their children’s workloads, which, by the way, include weekend, vacation, and summer homework? Do you have any ideas of what they should do, how they can find other like-minded parents in their school of 1,500?

I suggested that she try writing a letter to her local newspaper to highlight the problem and to find other like-minded parents. Do you have any ideas? Do you have a sample letter you’ve written to your local newspaper?

Please click on the “Leave a comment” button below and help her out.

8 thoughts on “Advice Needed

  1. Hi,

    Getting other parents to agree that there is a problem is hard. Especially in high achieving communities where everyone expects that 12 hour days are the norm for workers and thus for kids. However, it takes work and dedication.

    Letters to the editor are very effective ways to find other parents. I don’t have a good sample, but what I would do is gather a bit of information about the impact of homework on your family, the recommended daily time (i.e. the 10 minute rule sponsored by the PTA) and present it. Then ask how long other families are spending on homework? Ask if it is affecting their family life? Finally, suggest they contact you directly for more information.

    Robine

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  2. Hello, I have a daughter in a middle school in our district in 6th grade and the homework situation all over the district is similar to yours. The Lake Washington School district in Wa state where I live teaches totally for the WASL tests that are now required in order to graduate. My thinking is, there is a lot of pressure to cram it all in, and I mean for us, this translates to 2-4 hours a night of homework; projects, web research, pages of math and Spanish and the list goes on. Ironically, our particular school has wonderful caring teachers who from day one told the new parents and students that they were always available to meet and work out any problems face to face, however when my husband and I decided the meeting would not include our daughter and would be a further discussion about the homework situation and how we could work together towards a solution, then it was a mad strange scramble to set us up with the Principle. We finally did meet with her (she only had 1/2 hour to spare….) but it went better than we thought. She basically heard our point of view, balked at hearing about other parents (“I do not listen to parking lot talk or take petitions”) and although she said she knew of the Menlo Park homework ban, she did not believe in no homework, and would not have the power either way to make changes. I got the understanding that our district is a big beaurocracy and change is going to come slowly if at all. Where we are now, is that I am to keep a month long journal of the homework my daughter does and how long it takes. I also requested that the Principle ask at her next meeting with the teachers, how they together figure out how much time their combined homework equals out to. It is supposed to be 1 1/2 hours total according to them. Between three or four separate teachers a trimester and all giving homework, I want a clear explanation on each teachers time frame since they all say they are aware of the other teachers homework. I plan to email all the 6th grade parents at the school following the advice in Sara’s book and hopefully get some other parents behind me. One mother told me she thought the 6th grade load was horrendous but unfortunately she is one who believes the notion that this will get her child ahead come highschool. I am also seriously thinking of contacting our local newspaper. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Sara and her fantastic book without which I wonder if I would have known how to proceed. I have read and reread many pages to prep for the meeting with the Principle and such. I understand how frustrated and perhaps angry you must feel about the school wanting to test your child. I would be furious and I would not allow it. This is plain lunacy. My daughter’s teachers also kept coming back at my emails with wanting to meet again to discuss “homework strategies with your daughter” as if it was all my daughters fault. They also told me in an email that they “do not modify” homework and that if we wished to have accommodations for our daughter we would need to fill out forms, which were basically special education paperwork and like you, testing to get such accommodations. I just emailed back that my daughter certainly would not be eligible anyway and that that was not at all what we were asking for. I think you definitely should try to get other parents behind you with their situations. I will post an update when I have more to tell. Best of luck to you and don’t give up! Sincerely, Julia

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  3. Go ahead and let them test your son for a learning disability (LD). If he struggles with homework, as my son did, and fights doing it, he may indeed have an LD. If that is the case, the teachers will have to modify the homework load for a documented case of LD. And your son will get some special services and attention in the area of his weakness, including tutoring or one-on-one with a learning specialist. Knowledge is power, the more you learn about your child’s learning style, the better for him.

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  4. Congrats to you! It is not easy to keep the fight as long as you have. I agree to have your child tested. My child, in 6th grade, was doing hours of homework and no one could explain why is was taking her so long. We had her tested and she has a mild reading disorder. So 18 months later of private tutoring, she is thriving and doing about one hour of homework a night without our help.
    However, if the issue really is about homework overload, then stick to your guns. It is grade school who cares about the grades. You can tell they are learning by test scores.

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  5. Homework is ridiculous. I homeschooled both of my children for the past 3 years and in 4 hours we could cover all these subjects. My daughter just started “school” going into the 6th grade. Each teacher has given out homework, some just complete NONSENSE BUSYWORK. It can take us about 2 to 4 hours a night to complete everything.

    How is it that as a homeschooler we can complete EVERYTHING in 4 hours but the public schools take 7 hours of contact and then an additional 2-4 hours of homework each night (grand total of 9-11hours) . My daughters class size is capped at 15 students per class.

    She has time to eat a snack, go to her Tae Kwon Do class for one hour, eat dinner and then do homework all evening.

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