I recently heard from Lisa Grady, a parent of a fourth-grader from a community of 35,000 in southern California, who helped to form a group of fourth-grade parents in her pre-K – 5 elementary school. The group calls itself “For the Love of Learning” and has a mission statement: “To partner with our teachers to inspire lifelong learners while offering our children the time and freedom to experience a balanced childhood not only through academics but also family time, socialization, physical activity and play.” Lisa told me that they wanted “to stop the complaining about homework and create positive change at our elementary school.” After obtaining the support of over 1/3 of the fourth-grade parents, they wrote a collaborative letter to the fourth-grade team. In addition, 12 individual families wrote their own personal letters to provide a bird’s eye view of their homes lives, and they put together a packet with a synopsis of the current research, including references to The Case Against Homework, The Homework Myth, a podcast from srdad.com and articles from a number of newspapers including The Wall Street Journal and The San Francisco Chronicle.
In the upcoming months, Lisa will keep the readers of this blog posted on the group’s progress. And, in the meantime, if you have any suggestions for her group, or are doing something similar in your community, please post a comment.
Here’s the letter her group wrote:
Dear Fourth Grade Team:
We know you care about our children, both personally and academically. We also understand that you are hardworking, dedicated professionals who must often seek to balance state mandates with the individual needs of thirty plus students and their parents — not an easy task. We come to you now, not as adversaries but as collaborators in solving a situation that has become challenging for many families. It is our childrenâ€™s diminishing passion for learning that is most troublesome to us.
A group of parents recently gathered around the topic of homework. While the meeting began with voices of mounting frustration, pleas for support and sighs of relief at not being alone, what emerged was a cohesive, well-thought out plan to work with you on solving this problem.
What we discovered was that homework is putting a tremendous strain on children and their families. Accompanying letters will give you a birdâ€™s eye view into what is going on in our homes. You will also see the struggles are not related to any particular type of student but affect our children at all levels. Finally, the problem is not restricted to just a few vocal students and their parents but rather over one third of the fourth grade.
The degree of struggle runs the gamut as well. From students who are spending one and one half hours per night and managing to those who are requiring three to four hours and have a very difficult time attending to homework emotionally and physically. There are families whose children work independently for the most part and those families who feel they are essentially home schooling after-school. Regardless of what end of the spectrum they fall, most families agree that given the lack of studies supporting the value of homework in elementary school, the opportunity costs of this amount of homework are too great.
Ironically, those very things that have been proven predictors of childrenâ€™s future success as well as a positive influence on behavior and emotional intelligence are casualties of homework , i.e. unstructured play time, the family dinner, reading and sleep. Further, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence to show that a childâ€™s love of learning is fueled by time to explore, imagine and pursue their own passions. We must work together to keep our childrenâ€™s innate desire to learn about their inner and outer worlds very much alive.
We understand that homework is only part of the issue. Our society today seems to push our children through childhood at dizzying speed, with parents often in the driverâ€™s seat. Our concerns are also not limited to the fourth grade homework load and in fact, this has been building for several years. We are not singling you out in anyway.
We ask that you review the attached presentation. We would appreciate the opportunity to meet with you after Spring break to discuss this further.