From my Mailbox: California Mom Dislikes Holiday Homework

This week, I heard from the California mother of a fourth grader whose daughter just received a science project where most of the work would have to be done over the Thanksgiving break. The project requires the students to collect rocks, write about them, and do a display presentation.

Because the mother considered the display presentation portion to be parent work and of no educational value, she wrote to the teacher and told her that her daughter would not do the art part of the project and she also asked how the students’ work could be separated from the parent “help” in grading the project. The mother also explained that she thought the timing of the project violated the district homework policy: “Long-term assignments shall be given with a timeline that does not require a student to do all or most of the assignment during a school vacation period or holiday.”

If, like this California mother, you don’t want your child doing homework over the vacation, now is the time to let the teacher know that. If you need a suggestion of what to write in a letter or email, or say in a telephone conversation or person-to-person chat, you can find plenty of ideas in The Case Against Homework.

10 thoughts on “From my Mailbox: California Mom Dislikes Holiday Homework

  1. Thanks for posting this. My son (6th grade) has both a science and a social studies project due on the Weds and Thurs following Thanksgiving break. They skirted the regulation against holiday homework by requiring the assignments to be due on the 2nd class after break (with block scheduling, these dates coincide with the 2nd day back for each class.) The regulation states:

    “Teachers may assign homework Monday through Friday. Although homework/long-range projects may extend over Thanksgiving, Winter Break, and Spring Break, they will not be assigned to be completed during those holidays.”

    I think their argument will be that he could have done with assignments this past weekend, but he can’t do two projects in one weekend — and we all know its going to come down to
    the wire during the holiday.

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  2. My daughter just got home from school. It’s worse than I thought. There is so much holiday homework, there’s no time to go away and we have travel plans. She has massive amounts of work in six subjects. To top it off, she has a history report due Tuesday which I just found out about.

    Two years ago, the principal announced there’d no longer be homework on breaks but that seems to have gone out the window. I am incensed.

    Weekends are not safe, holidays are not safe, and I suggested my daughter drop a proposed history AP class because of the sheer amount of summer work in that course. My daughter already attends academic programs in the summer, of her choosing, which she loves, she reads voraciously, does math problems for sport and we visit museums as much as we can, so why does she need prescribed vacation work?

    I fired off an email to the principal but am holding it to edit tomorrow. I can’t say it’ll do much good. What is the point of closing school if the vacation amounts to nothing more than homeschooling.

    Are the teachers enjoying a long weekend off? Then why can’t they extend that right to the families as well? Who is serving whom here?

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  3. Dear Homework Blues,

    That’s just awful. Good for you for emailing the principal. I hope you’re able to tell him that you don’t intend to change your plans, that family time is important, that vacation and homework don’t go together, etc., etc., etc. Good luck and let us know whether you’re able, single-handedly, to get the teachers to rescind the homework.

    Are there any other parents in your daughter’s classes who will also “fire off an email?”

    Any chance that the principal doesn’t know that that teachers aren’t following the no-homework-on-vacation rule?

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  4. Sara, thanks for your response. I don’t think there is a “no homework on vacation” rule any longer because I’ve never heard it mentioned again. I’m not aware of other parents who will email the principal. A friend emailed the counselor last month, received a reply but no changes in the homework load resulted.

    I haven’t sent the email yet. It’s really good but perhaps too pointed. Thanks so much for your response.

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  5. Interestingly, my high school senior son (taking many AP courses) does NOT have homework over the break, while my 6th grade son has a book report due Tuesday. I think it’s possible for kids to not have to work during the break, but that would necessitate their doing the work ahead of time. Unfortunately, that is not the case in this house.

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  6. I think it’s possible for kids to not have to work during the break, but that would necessitate their doing the work ahead of time. Unfortunately, that is not the case in this house.

    <<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

    My daughter has more than just one major report due when she returns to school Monday. That alone we could cope with but even that is too much. However, if it were just the one report, she’d take the books she picked out of the library yesterday with her on our trip and attempt to write the report in the car. But it’s not just the report but the magnitude of her total work volume that has smashed our entire vacation plans.

    My daughter also has a major physics exam on Tuesday, is about three problem sets behind, calculus test corrections due Monday along with a worksheet, a huge chunk of math due Tuesday, an involved multi-page vocabulary assignment due Monday, four pages of Japanese workbook due Monday, and about 100 pages of history to read by Monday. She has about 80 pages to read for an elective but I think there I may be able to work something out with that teacher, he is very kind.

    And we cannot even blame it on AP overload because I urged her to choose these courses judiciously. She is only taking one AP course but honors classes at this school are equivalent to AP courses at other high schools.

    Essentially, if we went away this weekend, my daughter would be seriously in the hole by the time she returned. There is no way she could have all this done by Monday without working every single of day of this long weekend. Simply put, it is not a four and half day respite from work, it is four and a half long days to do school a home. The curriculum has been extended into our living room.

    I am sure the history teacher would use the same argument; this report was assigned a week ago. But all I see is that my daughter does homework all the time, late into the night, seven days a week. She can’t even use her weekends to get ahead because of relentless daily assignments.

    She desperately needs some days off to recharge her batteries. If she cannot, she will return to school not refreshed, eager to learn and stronger than before but exhausted, burned out and feeling overwhelmed. There are times when less is truly more.

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  7. My school has no rule about not being able to have homework over the holidays. So I find myself so booked and not being able to have any family time. Also I think that it is pointless to have so much homework. Like is part of a holiday relaxing. I tried telling this to my principal but nothing happened he said I needed more proof then that so if any one else has this same issue please email me and give me some examples.

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  8. Homework blues said:

    But all I see is that my daughter does homework all the time, late into the night, seven days a week. She can’t even use her weekends to get ahead because of relentless daily assignments.
    —————————————————————————–
    Boy, I sure know how that feels!! That is my 8th grade daughter to a ‘t’. Nothing angers me more than weekend and holiday homework!!! The teachers get a break, why don’t students deserve one?? I like how my daughter puts it: she says, “it’s the weekEND, meaning the week is supposed to END, and so should the homework” and, for the holiday breaks: “the teachers don’t know the meaning of the word ‘break’, it’s supposed to BE A BREAK from school, there shouldn’t be homework!!”

    Amen to that! But here we are, it’s my daughters’ (I have 2 girls) winter break and of course the 8th grader has homework. Absolutely infuriating!!! But I knew it would happen, it ALWAYS happens. Teachers enjoy breaks, I don’t know why they think that students don’t also need that time to rest and recharge their batteries too! How difficult a concept can that really be??

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  9. Carolyn, you put it succinctly. The teachers get breaks on weekends and holidays, why can’t the students? Sadly, I now see teachers not viewing children as part of a family unit and needing weekend time with them. Weekends are seen as just two more days to do more work.

    As I see it, high school teachers are mandated to get X amount of curriculum in. Sadly, it’s all become very short sighted. Teacher says to herself, it’s September, this is what I must accomplish by June. And as the year wears on, the quarter draws to a close, teacher thinks, between now and next week, I must get all this done, and sending it home is the only option. Of course it isn’t but that’s how things are done nowadays.

    We talk a great deal of less homework. We also need to ramp this up and fully examine what goes on during the school day. My daughter’s daily time in school is seven and a half hours long. Why can’t much of this stuff be completed there?

    Years ago, my daughter told me she’s begun to hate three day weekends. She says it’s just an extra day to spend all day indoors, saddled with homework. She asked me, “if all I have to do is work all day, why do they call it a day off? I’d rather be in school!”

    When it comes to breaks, the same teacher that announced a monster project due day after break also writes, “have a relaxing fun break!” Can anyone explain this to me? Do we dare think teachers have no clue how long this takes? After all this time?

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  10. Homework blues: When it comes to breaks, the same teacher that announced a monster project due day after break also writes, “have a relaxing fun break!” Can anyone explain this to me? Do we dare think teachers have no clue how long this takes? After all this time?
    _____________________

    Wow, that is seriously clueless on the part of that teacher, or he/she is sadistic “oh have a relaxing time, but do all this work, muwahahaha!” Ok, maybe they’re not like that but it’s so absurd to write a message like that after giving a huge project to do!

    How do we actually do something towards lessening the load for the kids? How do we really get anybody to listen to us and care, much less get on board with us about giving less work? At the very least, not give it on weekends and holidays!

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