Guest Blogger: Inspiration from a Parent

At the end of the last school year, Sharon Stochel, a parent from a Jewish day school in the New York area, was invited to give a short presentation on homework to her school principal, teachers, and staff. Throughout the school year, Sharon had approached the faculty about some of the problems with homework and the school took her concerns very seriously. At that same meeting, another parent gave a pro-homework presentation.

In the coming months, Sharon will let us know what the school decided to do with the information it learned at that meeting and whether any policy changes are implemented.

Parent Presentation on Homework
by Sharon Stochel

Thank you…for inviting me to discuss with you the ever increasing debate over an issue concerning today’s parents, teachers and children alike: homework. I applaud the school’s effort to re-evaluate and examine their current HW system.

During the past several years, numerous books have been published and articles written exploring the topic of HW as the concern and desire grow to keep up academically with our global economic competetitors, today’s demanding job market, and with top schools and universities. One of the most important facts I want to stress is that as of today, as explained by Alfie Kohn , the author of “The HW Myth”, is that “NO study has ever, EVER, demonstrated ANY academic benefits to doing homework for kids in elementary school and little, if any, value to kids in High School.” He goes on to say that ironically, “more and more homework is being piled on to younger and younger children when research supporting HW isn’t just dubious – it is non existent.”

Let’s take a moment to debunk just a couple of myths about HW.

There is a conception built into our society that HW has non-academic advantages: that it builds character, creates good work and study habits, and gives kids self discipline and responsibility. [This is a myth]. This is really a value judgement. The notion that HW has these affects has never been shown empirically. And there are numerous other ways, other than HW, where these benefits can be achieved.

There is also a pro-HW argument that advocates the need to increase the HW load to help create super kids so that they can keep up with and compete with other international industrialized nations. But after tracking international test scores, the most recent research shows that schools in countries with high test scores like Japan, actually give little, if any HW!

I always pictured my children coming home from school happy and excited to be home. Instead, many times they walk in tired and stressed from the day (yes, children have stress) and they come home with anxiety over the thought of having to sit down yet again for a period of time to do assignment after assignment. HW has become a battleground. I feel guilty as a parent enforcing the HW on them, many times with arguments, resistance, sometimes yelling and sometimes even punishing. All this going on when I know that they would be better off exploring their passions, developing a special talent or reading a book of their own choosing for however long they would like to read it.

I am the mom of five children under the age of ten. Life after school in our home is quite active as you can imagine. Dinner time, shower time, an extra curricular activity (depending on the evening), bed time routine which involves reading, talking, laughing and snuggling, multiplied by five, all take time. When my children walk in the door from school at 4:30 (sometimes 5:20 depending if there is an after school activity) and go to sleep at 8:30, there is little time for anything else other than HW. I urge you to consider the various studies that encourage families to have dinner together, have a game night, watch a movie, take a family walk in the early evening. These activities offer the opportunity for family discussions and facilitate a re-connection after a long day when every one has been running in different directions. HW interferes with these moments.

Please try to understand how HW competes with home life. How our dinner time is rushed so that the children can get back to their assignments. How a spontaneous evening activity is cast aside. How there is no time to ride a bike.

A parent, not a teacher, should determine how a child spends their time at home

Playtime, whether alone, with siblings, or with friends is what forms their interpersonal skills, their creativity, their bonds, their memories that take them into adult life. As psychologist David Elkind, author of “The Power of Play” explains: “Unscheduled and unstructured, creative play nurtures curiosity, cooperation and imagination and serves as the bedrock for future learning. Play is a basic human drive, the way we transform the world to fulfill our needs. Children have a short time being a child and the rest of their lives being adults. We stop learning when we stop living.”

I understand that as a teacher you have certain guidelines you need to adhere to and schedules and curriculum you need to accomplish within a certain time frame. The flow of your day is interfered with unscheduled interruptions, snack, lunch, specials like art, gym, music, assemblies, and so on. It’s a lot of work given a limited amount of time. I understand the pressures and I respect it. As a parent, I, too have a limited amount of time to instill in my child the values that I wish for them to live by. With all the research and studies today that show there is no correlation between HW and academic achievement, why are nightly assignments given which take children away from what they really need to be doing at home: creating life experiences that will help them grow up to be healthy, creative, happy, and well adjusted adults.

We need to be partners in the raising of these creative, emotional, spiritual beings. During the day, I entrust my children to you, as educators, to offer them an environment where they can learn academic skills which will empower them and give them the knowledge and resources, the edge, they need to be successful in the world. When they return home to me at night, you need to trust me that now I can offer them a warm, loving and stimulating environment where I can empower them with family values and traditions to be the best person they can be in life. Together we can raise confident, successful, and thoughtful individuals who can make the world a better place. This is the partnership between parent and teacher. Let’s work together.

Thank you.

13 thoughts on “Guest Blogger: Inspiration from a Parent

  1. What a well organized presentationt!! Kudos for Sharon for speaking up…..as a member of the homeschool community I can say that this whole hw topic is definitely a strong reason why parents need to reclaim the raising of their own children!!! If hs ing works for you, then great, if not, then be sure to be as involved and outspoken as Sharon to defend your children in their educational environments!!

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  2. This is an interesting and powerful message. Could you share some citations about the link (or lack thereof) between homework and performance? I’m interested in peer-reviewed publications, but anything you’ve got would be great.

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  3. What an amazing speech! I am in year ten and ironically, I am doing a homework assignment on the question of homework’s advantages and disadvantages. I believe home should be a place to develop strong family bonds, hobbies, creativity and passions, a time for relaxation and a time for reviewing the day’s lessons. With a time table so full of homework, I become stressed and anxious. I am a highly unorganised person with little self motivation and I constantly find myself procrastinating and fretting about the huge amount of homework instead of doing it. When I do complete it, it is often terribly late and I am too tired to concentrate on school the next day which leads me in a vicious cycle. With less homework, I would be able to stop worrying and feeling guilty when I’m enjoying my hobbies instead of studying. I would have time to write stories, train my animals, paint and draw, socialize, and develop stronger relationships with my family. I believe in the eight hours rule- eight ours for each work, rest and play. I spend seven hours at school and am expected to complete two hours of homework- that makes nine hours of work, which is compensated by cutting play time (leisure time) into sleep time, reducing sleep and making me more tired for the next day. I often become tired and bored in class and am horribly prone to doodling. I love school and learning new things but I often find myself dreading school becaused of uncompleted assignments. Some nights I sit in my room crying about the work load and hating myself for being so disorganised. I want the freedom to pursue my interests and have time at home to simply relax and take long walks and enjoy the world while I am still young. I believe imagination is amazingly important and I try to find time to feed mine all it can consume, but am finding less time to do so.

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  4. I have a little girl who is 10 years old and in the 5th grade. She has so much homework that as soon as she gets off the bus and eats supper she is right back to studying. I hate this because our family lfe we dont have much because we are constantly having to help her with 4 testa usually once a week. She does not eat good and now every moring she said her stomach hurts. Some of her homework when she does not under stand it makes her up set and she gets very moody and cries. This usually makes our home life a night mare. We dont even have family time unless its Thanksgiving or Christmas or Summer vacation. We need more time for our family lfe and to go to church. When we go to church we dont want to have to hurry out the door because our daughter has to hurry and do homework. Today in this day and time kids our getting burned out and I can see why. Things they do now some of it we did not do till we were way up there in school. They are pushing that no kid left behind thing and I think that is with these sol test is to much. Down here where I live they are in a new chapter every week. I cant understand going on to another when the kids some of them did not get the first chapeter. I think they are going to have to let up if not kids will be dropping out at an earl;y age and some of the kids who are carrying guns to school are probably the ones who cant keep up with all of this. Its time to let up on our kids and slow down the pace.

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  5. I loved your speech. I”m a student and I have 4-5 hours of homework every night and an additional 2 hours of extra curricular activities.I think we have way to much homework and that we have no time to sit and relax i mean i go to bed every night at ten o’ clock. I never have any rest time so i’m always worrying , i just think we need less homework.

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  6. Is anyone in your community (parents/teachers/students) doing anything about the homework load? What kind of school do you go to, what grade are you in, and where are you located?

    Thanks.

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  7. that is all false

    every single bit of it.

    because you can’t have family time together, big deal. Its not our problem that your children are dumb

    So, YOU SUCK

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  8. I Think if kids did not have so much homework, they would have more time to actually study and keep up their grades!

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