Advice Needed: Part 2

In my last blog entry, I asked you to post comments to help out the woman from Pennsylvania who is struggling with her child’s teachers and school. Although I’ve received dozens of emails in the interim, only two people posted their suggestions on the blog. So again, here’s my plea: please post your suggestions in the comments or in the forum. It’s so important that we talk to each other and learn from each other’s experiences.

3 thoughts on “Advice Needed: Part 2

  1. I brought up my homework concerns one-on-one with my first graders’ teachers last fall. Conversations were cordial but unfruitful. Then I brought it up at PTA.

    This winter, I have gotten as far as holding a parents’ meeting. It was held without the blessing of the PTA as they were not interested in pursuing it at all. They repeatedly refused (or forgot) even to put it on the agenda. We had about 10 parents show up, without really advertising it. I just contacted some first grade parents who I thought might be interested. Other issues of concern were that lunch was too short for kids to eat, and that recess was being withheld for disciplinary reasons (including not having homework finished).

    What all the concerns have in common, I think, is that they are the result of trying to cram too much academics into the day. I have been keeping the teachers and principles informed of our meeting and the concerns that came from them. Just doing that seems to have lightened at least the homework load considerably. I am trying to avoid if at all possible a confrontational atmosphere. Nothing puts someone in a more defensive mood than to find out there has been a secret meeting about them. Our meeting was not secret, so I made sure that everyone knew about it.

    The ball though is in my court to take it to the next level, to try to make permanent the change, and to get teachers to embrace no homework as a better way to learn.

    Next I am going to summarize our meeting, then go back to the participants and choose a concern to focus on. Then we will bring that one to the principle, try to get a change codified, then move on to the next one.

    I have assembled a collection of excellent articles in which I have highlighted the quotes and sections which make the point that more play and less stress and less homework are better for learning in the early years. I would be happy to email the articles to anyone who would like some ammunition.

    There has arisen in our school a keen interest in Wellness. While I am concerned about wellness too, we take care of that at home, and I was at first a little annoyed that Wellness has crowded out conversations about Homework.

    However, I have come to realize that homework and related concerns can be discussed as Wellness issues. Recess should not be taken away as that fresh air and exercise and mental break from the classroom are essential for Wellness. Longer lunches will let children finish their lunch with less hurry, better for Wellness. And no homework will allow children more time for play and exercise. I am trying to expand the definition of Wellness that they are working with (nutrition mainly) to include physical wellness from exercise and fresh air, and mental wellness from more play, less stress and better balance.

    One teacher who is very serious about giving homework is also very serious about wellness. She feels strongly, however, that the school has no right to tell parents how to feed their children. Agreed. And I am looking forward to the opportunity to add that the school likewise has no right to tell families how to spend their free time together.

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  2. I have avoided posting advice in response to the call for it because I haven’t felt that my efforts to curb homework have been very successful. I can tell you what I have done.

    Over a year ago I started a dialog about homework with teachers and the principal of my children’s public elementary school. I felt that homework was having some very nasty effects on my home life. I read everyhting I could on the subject and contacted a number of the authors by e-mail.

    I too organized a meeting of parents to discuss the issue. This was followed by the official letter signed by 20 parents to the principals of both the elementary and middle schools in my community.

    Alas, despite asking for an elimination of homework except for pleasure reading for elementary school students, and a request for reductions at the middle school, nothing has really happenned. The new homework policy at the elementary school has a few interesting features, like no vacation homework, no homework on nights of school activities such as concerts, and 2 weeks when reading only will be assigned. Homework is still the norm for all of my children.

    I am left with the conclusion that the next step is to attempt to educate the community on the ineffectiveness of homework, and recruit more bodies to the cause. Unfortunately, this takes time and I haven’t had enough of that to devote to the cause.

    One thing I will say, I think it is important to be clear that you are a strong supporter of education, it’s just that you feel that homework is not advancing education, rather it is detracting from it.

    Hope you have better success than I have.

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