Today I’d like to introduce Lisa Grady, the parent of a fourth-grader from a community of 35,000 in southern California. Lisa is the co-chair of a committee which formed to raise the issue of homework in the fourth grade. Although you might want to turn to The Case Against Homework to learn the research and facts and have sample policies, petitions and surveys at your fingertips, here Lisa will tell us in her own words what’s happening in her community. I wish her lots of luck in her work and hope that there aren’t too many bumps along the way. (As always, please chime in with any suggestions, comments, or your own stories.)
Organizing Other Parents
by Lisa Grady
While I have struggled with the issue of homework in elementary school for years, my struggle was a silent one. That all changed when I learned of two new books, â€œThe Case Against Homeworkâ€? by Sara Bennett and â€œThe Homework Mythâ€? by Alfie Kohn. I was so ecstatic that others recognized the impact that homework was having on children and their families, that I began carrying the books around with me everywhere I went. Invariably, people would notice the books and ask me about them. My intention was to start a grass roots movement. It took about six months for my intention to come to fruition and the way in which it unfolded underscores how isolated we can feel until we begin talking with each other.
A parent, whom I had never met before,was surprised when another subject showed up on her childâ€™s weekly homework assignment sheet. So, she emailed some other parents in the class and queried how they felt about the additional work on top of the existing homework load. One of the emails she received back suggested that she â€œemail this parent who always carries around these books on homeworkâ€?. She contacted me and now Cheryl and I are the emissaries for a group that currently represents a third of the fourth grade at our school.
We started with ten active members and then individual members spoke to various people they knew. For those interested in hearing more, we sent out a letter briefly detailing our concerns and summarizing the research. This effort helped us grow to over 43 people. And we have only focused on the fourth grade thus far.
We hold weekly meetings, complete with agendas so that the meetings are constructive. Our overriding goal of all communication is to be collaborative and non-adversarial. Some members would prefer no homework while others would simply like less homework of higher quality. But we all agree that we want our children to have a lifelong passion for learning and anything that interferes with that demands careful examination.
As we delve further into the subject of homework, we find that homework may only be a small part of our true mission — making sure that no childhood is left behind.