Several times over the past year, Diane Hewlett-Lowrie of Plumsted, New Jersey, wrote about the overwhelming amounts of homework her second grader was getting in his local public school and the toll it was taking on her family. In January, she moved her son to a democratic community school. Last week, she wrote to the School Superintendent of her son’s former school (and cc’d his former teacher and principal) to tell them how her son was doing at his new school. (You can read her earlier posts here, here, here and here.)
A Home Without Homework
by Diane Hewlett-Lowrie
Dear School Superintendent,
As I sat down to write to you, I figured out how long my son has been going to his new school and am surprised to realize it has been over four months! Wow, four blissful months without homework – how time flies when you are enjoying life!
As you know, my family had a philosophical difference of opinion with the amount of homework our 6, then 7-year-old son was getting – 45 minutes to 2 hours, several times a week. The homework issue, along with the impending years of statewide testing, the years of being taught how to pass the test, reduced recess, and the regimented atmosphere of the public school system were all factors in our decision to try something different. We looked into Montessori, but decided upon a democratic community school which, coincidently, was only 10 minutes from my office! The homework policy for this school is that there may be one or two home-related assignments in the academic year and if the children don’t get their daily math assignment finished, they have to bring it home to complete. [My son has had to do this twice, with absolutely no trouble. He took responsibility for completing the assignments and just did them.]
My son loves his new school. I tried to get him to play hooky with me on Inauguration Day, but he refused; he would not take the day off school in case he missed something! Now we have been there for 4 months, I can safely say, on the homework issue alone, there is a huge difference in our quality of life. I drive home from work looking forward to spending a relaxing, or exciting, evening with my family. I no longer have “that sinking feeling” when I reach the halfway point knowing that a folder full of papers, notices and assignments are awaiting me and my son.
My dining room table no longer doubles as a school desk – we can eat
food there now. Stress and tension over school work are gone! My son and I rarely argue any more. Tears are reduced to an absolute minimum and reserved for issues more important than schoolwork. We can pick and choose our evening activities.What Freedom!!! In the winter months, my son went to swimming lessons, tried fencing, and learned how to play chess and “Stratego”. Now, with the good weather, he is spending most of his free time outside. Yesterday, we rode our bikes to the stream and 4 boys armed with fishing nets went searching for frogs. Tonight they are looking for food for the frogs (We’ll release them tomorrow). Any minute now his friends will be called inside for homework and my son will come in to do a couple of chores, relax, get to bed early, and read another chapter of his book.
I am not at all concerned about the fact that he has no homework. I think the way he is spending his time now will, in the long run, be much more beneficial to his overall development. By spending his free time playing with other children, exploring nature and reading books for pleasure, he is advancing his “21st Century Skills” (creativity, innovative thinking, problem-solving, communication, and collaboration). He’s seven, sociable, smart and happy, loves school, and is reading “The Hobbit”; what more could I want for him at this age?!?!
In short, our Home-without-Homework is a Happy Home and a young boy without homework is a creative, fulfilled, energetic, problem-solving, fun-loving, fit, healthy, and happy boy! We feel free again … I wish this upon all young children and families everywhere!!!!!
Thank you for taking the time to listen to our views last year. I wish you all the best in your career with Plumsted Schools.
45 thoughts on “A Home Without Homework is a Happy Home–Plumsted, New Jersey”
Diane — I am so happy for you and your family. I wish this school was near where we live!
You would think that even the most hardened superintendent would have to notice how many families are voting with their feet. And, almost by definition, it’s the involved parents with the bright kids who leave the public schools. That’s one reason the test scores keep coming down!
I have a question. I am a teacher and am reading with great interest the material in this school of thought (Alfie Kohn, etc). I find myself in agreement with the theory, and I love the wonderful stories such as the above one. Unfortunately, I am then faced with the reality of the environment I operate in.
I agree that the ideal situation for a student is to go home and have a relaxed evening with the family – participating in activites that are fun, engaging and educational. In situations like the one above it is undoubtedly working. Unfotunately, the reality is that many students (if not most) do not go home to involved parents ready to participate in activities. The students (at least in my low income school) go home to empty houses or houses teaming with disinterested relatives. Their evenings are not filled with the wonderful scenes described by those that take the anti-homework stance. Were it not for the homework given to the student there would be nothing but pro wrestling on the television for them to be engaged with.
It seems to me that no homework is a great idea as long as there are caring and involved parents at home. If there is nothing stimulating for the kids at home, an hour of homework is probably just what the student needs.
Jason — I really don’t understand why teachers feel a need to control a child’s life outside of school. How would you feel if the superintendent of schools told you he doesn’t approve of the way you spend your evenings? A child’s time outside of school should belong to the child, not you.
BTW, how old are your students? Do you really think an hour of homework is appropriate? An hour is a long time for a tired child at the end of the day.
By all means, if the kids complain to you that they’re bored, try to send them home with an interesting book (preferably of their choice), or puzzles (crosswords? sudoku?). But please don’t feel that it’s your duty to tell them how to spend their evening.
I hear your concern-
and can’t help but wonder if the children might end up playing outside, which would be a good thing.
Whatever happened to freeze tag, stick ball, catching fireflies and other pasttimes virtually unheard of now because of homework and structured activities?
Is there a local, neighborhood community center or church that might offer supervised play, board games, or something like that?
I bet with some encouragement from a concerned teacher, your students could find something to do besides homework or pro-wrestling on tv.
FedUpMom and Lalla,
Thank you for your responses.
To answer a question my students are 9 and 10 years old (4th grade).
Again, I see you painting a utopic picture of kids who would be outside “catching fireflies” and exploring their wondrous world were it not for the evil homework imposed on them. The majority of our students live in low income, government subsidized housing. Gang violence is a regular occurrence and it is simply dangerous for the children to be out after dark. Several of my students do not live with their parents but with aunts and uncles and their seven cousins.
I ask…which is a better way for a child to spend his evening? Watching TV and playing video games, or interviewing family members as best they can for our current family tree project? The sad reality is that those really are the two options for many of my students.
Jason–I worked for more than 18 years as a criminal defense attorney representing indigent clients and I am very aware of what it’s like for those who live in dire circumstances. Sadly, all of my clients were failed by the education system and many of them didn’t become literate until they were in prison.
I saw the kinds of conditions my clients and their children grew up in. Do your students have pencils, a place to work, a table or chair, their own bed? Are they caring for their siblings? Are they looking after their caregivers? Is there an adult in the home? Are they even going to the same home every night? Do they have enough to eat?
I know you’re trying hard to grapple with these issues and I really respect you for that. But I think you unwittingly paint a stereotyped and paternalistic picture of what it’s like for kids in poverty by suggesting that if you don’t provide them with something “meaningful” to do, then they won’t do anything other than watch TV. (By the way, the fact that there’s no correlation between homework and academic achievement in elementary school applies equally to everyone, so while your homework may give your students something they have to do, it won’t make them any better prepared. Etta Kralovec really delves into many of these problems in her excellent book, The End of Homework.)
If you really want to try to get your students engaged outside school, why not send them home with a book that they can call their own, at least for the evening? Does your school have a library? Do you have time to help your students choose something that will appeal to their particular interests? You may not be able to excite every child about reading, but you may be able to excite many. And, if you’re looking for more literacy ideas, I highly suggest either Nancie Atwell’s, Reading in the Middle, or Donalyn Miller’s, The Book Whisperer.
Thanks for writing.
I like Sarah Bennett’s idea about lending books–also, why not optional homework? An assignment they could take home and do if they wanted. That way they could decide whether having homework would make their evening better or not, and you wouldn’t have to worry about it yourself.
IMHO, I think optional homework even in high school would be great 🙂 You could really spend time on the stuff you were interested in without having to worry that you’d run out of time for all your other work. It would also be nice since I could practice time management (my achilles’ heel) by setting myself essays and trying to get them in by a deadline I’d assign myself–but then if I didn’t, I wouldn’t have to freak out, I could figure out what went wrong and keep trying without worrying about ‘doing badly in the class.’
Although, coming from an elementary and middle school with no grades, I think grades are damaging and counterproductive and that we shouldn’t be worrying about grades at all, only what we’re learning and how we’re improving–but that’s a whole ‘nuther discussion right there 😉
Please also read “Last Child in the Woods” by Richard Louv.
Jason — OK, let’s imagine what life is like for a kid in extreme poverty. You come home from school. Dad is out of the picture. Mom is passed out drunk on the couch. Your four younger siblings are looking to you for help. They’re hungry, but there’s no food in the house. The baby needs a diaper change, but you ran out of clean diapers, and there’s no money to buy them. You’re worried that Mom’s boyfriend might show up tonight. Ever since you saw him punch your 3-year-old sister in the face (“because she wet her pants”), you’ve been afraid of him. Looks like you’ll be sleeping with the baseball bat under your mattress again.
You’re telling these kids to go home and “interview family members”? If and when Mom wakes up from her alcoholic stupor, how do you expect her to react when the 10-yr-old wants to know the birthdates of all her aunts and uncles?
BTW, family tree projects are a very mixed bag. One of my kids is adopted, and I can tell you that there’s a lot of discussion among adoptive parents about how to handle this project. Do the birth parents go on the tree? Where do they go? Maybe the child doesn’t want to talk about his family issues with the rest of the class (think of it — the child may have been taken away from his birth family because of abuse, etc.) For your kids in poverty, I can imagine all kinds of problems with the family tree. Again, there could be secrets that they don’t want to reveal to you or the rest of the class. Your kids might prefer if they don’t have to think about their miserable home life when they’re at school.
I have some problems with these “rational” arguements for homework as well. I’m one of those “supportive” parents that Jason is talking about, who tries to provide the best life I can for my child (adopted by the way, so I don’t like family tree projects either). And I may be wrong but I get the sense that Jason is trying to provide structure for these kids who have chaotic lives…and the only way he can suggest is homework. Homework isn’t a treatment. It’s not a solution to anything. A child bringing homework home isn’t going to make that strung-out parent suddenly recognize that they have responsibility. It only puts more burden on the child. I suspect that those children who live in desperate circumstances only get further hassle when they can’t complete their homework, the blame falling to the child and the parents who won’t be engaged no matter how much work gets sent home. These kids need better parents…..not homework.
So the general consensus here is that once a child leaves the school it isn’t my business anymore how they spend their time. I shouldn’t assign any work for them to do at home and I shouldn’t expect that they come back to school having accomplished something because the added stress makes an already bad situation worse. OK…I’ll buy that.
I really am open to anything that will improve a student’s learning.
And I thought the family tree project would be one of those engaging activites that allowed the students to discover some things about their families they didn’t already know.
So to those of you that are obviously very passionate about this subject: What should a school day look like? Obviously the students won’t be expected to do anything outside of the building and school hours, but I wonder what sort of activities y’all (I’m in Texas) would find ideal for them to be engaged in while in school.
Have you read about theme studies? Our school is engaged in this type of learning. A theme is chosen for each school year and then the whole school (pre-kindergarten to Grade 9) engages in grade appropriate projects and work surrounding these themes. Two years ago, the theme was Discovery. As you can probably see…this is nice and broad so that lots of options are available. My child was in Kindergarten. In the first term, they “discovered” houses and learned all about building houses. They learned about measuring and counting and estimating. They learned about shapes. All at their level. Each child even built their own house. Parents, particularly handy Dads helped out for an afternoon or two. They went on a walk in the local area and visited a building site.
Our school does lots of outdoor work. A topic this spring in Grade 2 has been Food…so a trip to the local grocery store was on the roster. Museums, walks around the neightbourhood looking for signs of spring, taking sketch books out and just finding something to sketch…all these things don’t cost a whole lot but they are valuable experiences.
There are classroom activities, but no one has an assigned desk or spot….they have books to read for pleasure, they do research on their own special topics, they practice their handwriting. They have music, they have gym. They do worksheets in math and keep them in folders at school. The kids are thoroughly busy all day, on top of two recesses and a long lunch break in which most children eat as fast as they can so they can get outside as fast as they can.
The idea is to let children come to what interests them and then guide them find out more. The curriculum is provided by the students, which doesn’t fit so well with public school systems, I know. But the kids are engaged and enthusiastic about what they’re doing. Our school has homework in the elementary grades, which is why I’m an avid reader of this site. I’m hoping to change that. I don’t know if I’ll make any headway, but in all other aspects our school fits the kids, not the other way around.
And that’s maybe at the heart of all of this discussion. School should be a place that adapts to children, takes them where they are and takes them forward. I fear that school has become a place that children have to fit into, with goals that fit adult expectations rather than child learning needs.
And Jason….I just have to ask ..And I’m not trying to be nasty or aurgumentative in asking this… As a teacher, do you think you should have a say as to what a child does with his/her time in afterschool hours?
If I was a parent of a child in public school, I’d have no input as to what gets taught to my child during school hours. …….. Even in the school my child attends, I can’t dictate what goes on there.
Why is it OK for teachers to assume it’s OK to require the family to do things at home within specific guidelines (such as time required, supplies required, family members required)?
Jason — I quote:
And I thought the family tree project would be one of those engaging activites that allowed the students to discover some things about their families they didn’t already know.
If I had a nickel for every one of those “engaging” activities that went wrong, I’d be very wealthy. First of all, as soon as you assign the project, it’s become something the child has to do, so it’s already less engaging. Then, by your own description, you’re sending a lot of these kids home to very troubled families. There are so many ways this could be a disaster. Just to mention one, in some cultures, a child asking a lot of questions is thought to be rude and disrespectful.
You’ve got the kids in school for what, 6 hours a day? What do you usually accomplish in that time?
Hello Again Everyone,
I want to assure you I do not have an ego attached to any of these ideas. I’m completely willing to throw away everything I’ve always thought and try to do better. I’m still new to this teaching thing so I was kind of operating on the, “just do what has always been done and make it through the day” approach. Now that I’m finishing up this year I think I’m ready to make some changes in the way I do things.
Every point that has been made is valid…
-Psychmom is correct. I was simply trying to provide structure and give the kids something more productive to do at home. My thinking was wrong and I see your point. You are also correct to make the connection between a parent not having say about what goes on in the classroom and that a teacher shouldn’t have say about what goes on at home. I had never thought of that point of view before.
-I had also not thought about all of the problems involved the family tree project. I had done some family history research into my family, I enjoyed it, so I thought it would be a good activity. Whoops.
All I can say is that learning to be a better teacher will be an ongoing process and I will do better next year, and better the next year…
Jason–With your attitude, you’re going to be an amazing teacher. I hope you can find support from other teachers and learn from the best mentors you can find. As long as you’re open to new ideas, and ask yourself whether you’re doing something merely because it’s been done before, you’ll be fine. You can find a nice example of some good teaching here: . Try to ensure that your students get recess and if they don’t get to go outside, make sure there’s time in the day for them to move around. If your school doesn’t provide breakfast, maybe you can find a way to make sure that all your students have something to eat.
Most of all, I think if you take some of your cues from your students, you can’t go wrong. Find out what they’re interested in and, if you have the flexibility, design your curriculum around those interests.
I wish poor children got the same types of opportunities within their school day as kids who go to private independent schools–music, art, science, drama, gym, library, plenty of outdoor free play, etc. If you can try to recreate any or all of that within the restrictions of your school, your students will thrive.
Good luck, keep us posted, and if you need donations for books for your classroom, let me know and I’ll be happy to contribute.
Kudos to you for being open minded!!!
I think ‘take cues from your students’ is a good way to put it–because it is true that some kids might have fun with a family-tree type project just as you did. I guess I’m trying to say don’t immediately throw all your assignments that you had fun with out the window–if a kid or group of kids seem interested, you could recommend that they try it and they very well might get a lot out of it. (Just don’t assume that if one kid really enjoyed it they all would.)
Also, another ‘yes’ vote for the themes suggested by PsychMom–my elementary school did that and I think I got a lot out of it.
(Hey, just looking back at my first comment and realizing it was pretty off-topic–I’m sorry guys, I wasn’t trying to spam.)
Jason — I wanted to echo Sara’s message that you are to be commended for keeping an open mind and listening to different perspectives.
Since many of your kids have difficult lives, your classroom can be a refuge for them. Try to get them interested and involved in what you’re teaching. If you can get them reading and interested in books that’s really great — even comic books.
Jason, I agree that you will make a great teacher! The fact that you found this website indicates that you have concerns about homework. I hope you keep an open mind (it won’t be easy in the public school system). The best teachers are the ones who are not afraid to step out of the box. You can and will find ways to inspire your students during regular class time. That is really all you can do. You can not control or change their home environment and from what I have experienced and seen in the school system, homework creates battles between students, parents and staff. I would suggest that all assignments be completed in class. Do not give students the option of taking work home to complete later. Parents often get frustrated and end up just giving kids the answers. Ever wonder why some kids can’t get things done in class – it is easier to have mom or dad do it at home. If they have to complete all assignments in class, and a student is unable to do this, you will know immediately that there is a problem, and can then look at solving the problem on an individual basis. You DO have control in your classroom!!! TAKE CONTROL.
Assign reasonable age appropriate assignments – Do not try to prepare them for 5th grade in 4th grade.
Know each of your students learning styles and find ways to relate to them on a personal level.
Every day provide them with a way to succeed and feel good about themselves.
All kids, but especially those in poverty, have to like you before they will learn from you, again, find ways to connect to them on a personal level.
When it comes to discipline – Ask them “When you did that, what did you want?” You will be surprised at their answers. Then help them find better ways to achieve what is desired.
Don’t let the “system” get you down. As a teacher you have more power than you might think! Standardized testing is killing our schools. Who better to stand up for our students than their teachers. Support the kids, not the system!
I’m just going to chime in with the rest…Jason, just having an open mind is all we as parents hope for in our children’s teachers. To really make that home-school partnership work, there has to be a willingness to accept that all three people (the teacher, the parent and the child) have a voice when problems arise. Schools shouldn’t be these imposing dictatorial places that we bow to.
Last night I opened a book by Sir Ken Robinson…called “The Element”. You’ve heard about people being happy when they are in “their element”? That’s what the book is all about….and it’s more than those “finding your bliss” kind of books. This book wants to change the way we look at education of our next generation of kids….and points out how most educational programs now are failing at truly creating happy, functional citizens of the 21st century. I’m only half way through the book (and I’m appalled at how many typos I found, don’t editors read these things anymore), but I think it’s a must read for teachers. I’m giving a copy to my daughter’s teacher as a year end gift.
You’re brilliant Jason….
Jason — I have another comment for you about the many unintended consequences of homework.
Several months ago, I found my daughter in tears over her homework. She was supposed to write a paragraph about ancient Egypt, which she had done, but, as she told me through her sobs, “I can’t figure out how to make it intriguing!” Apparently the teacher had told the class to try and make the paragraph “intriguing”. I’m sure she had good intentions and was hoping they could find a way to have fun with the project, but from my daughter’s point of view it was just another demand, one which she couldn’t fulfill. If this had happened in the classroom, the teacher could have cleared it up right away.
Which leads me to another point. Kids are so powerless at school. They’re told what to do, what to study, how to learn. At the same time, teachers feel that the kids should enjoy learning, and they even say things to the kids like, “Have fun with it!” It’s almost impossible to have fun while obeying a stream of commands.
Try to give your kids a real say in what they do. For instance, have them choose what to write about. (It’s amazing what a difference this makes for my daughter.) Have them choose what to read.
Here’s a project I read about somewhere (can’t remember where) — a treasure hunt. Divide the class into two teams. Each team hides a “treasure” and then writes out directions for finding it. Then each team tries to follow the directions written by the other team and find the hidden “treasure”.
Anyway, best of luck and I hope you will stay in touch. Like Sara, I would be happy to donate to your classroom.
PsychMom, along those lines, I was having an on line conversation with Susan Ohanian one day. As I’ve mentioned before, she is the most ardent advocate of teachers nationwide. She is very sympathetic to the insane demands placed on them by administration, the state and politicians and is one of the most outstanding critics of NCLB.
But I’d been educating her, telling her tales from the front. Even she conceded that some teachers are what she called “petty dictators.”
Susan might not like that I repeated that! But it’s too pithy a phrase to ignore. Let’s face it. Way too many teachers are dictators. Do it, do it my way, don’t complain, go away. That is unacceptable. Jason, I’m glad to see you are not one of them. You are listening to us and respecting our opinions, you understand that we have years of living and parental experience, we know from whence we speak.
I often wonder, who is the greater fool? The teachers, for foisting dictatorial demands on an unwilling populace, or the parents who allow it to happen?
FedUpMom, let me quickly clarify that position before I myself into trouble. I know many parents are distressed about homework. Some speak up. Most do not feel they have a voice. They are right. We really don’t.
But I still talk to so many parents who smile and accept homework overload like the weather, something they cannot change, as Alfie Kohn says. Many parents sigh and say, yea, it’s a lot but it must get done. They are completely convinced it’s a necessary evil and there’s no way around it. One father told me his son routinely goes to be at 3am. I shuddered and asked, what if there was a better way? He laughed and replied, if there was, surely we would have discovered it by now. Huh?
I’m one of those parents who went to bed at 3am along with my daughter so let me correct some mistakes.
goes to BED at 3am.
before I GET myself into trouble.
Okay, fixed up my mistakes, feel better now, waiting for daughter to frantically edit the last of four papers due yesterday, driving child to school, will come home and tumble into bed.
Is she going to get a D for being a day late? Probably. Think about that one. Think about how hard she slaved away, how many sleepless nights it took. For a D. Because it’s one day late. For a child who should be getting accommodations anyway but don’t get me started, I’m working on round threre on that right now, hired a new fancy consultant.
I don’t remember a boss ever being that harsh, and I had some pretty mean bosses.
I’m having a lovely conversation with myself here! But I thought of something. I would like every teacher and principal who overloads children on homework to get as much sleep as my daughter does. For every assignment sent home, I’d like a comparable one to go home to the “educators.” After four consecutive nights on four hours sleep, they might have an entirely different perspective on the “value” of this lifestyle.
Monday morning quarterbacks I don’t need. Let’s get these generals into the trenches.
A very active parent I know, a very strong proponent of homework and a fierce foe on this issue once told me she was shaking things up around her house a little. No longer would she wake up to make her daughters’ breakfasts and lunches, they were now old enough to get themselves up and out of the house to catch the school bus.
Why this sudden change? She explained the early middle school hours were destroying her and she needed her sleep.I had to laugh. I quipped, “if they are destroying you, think of what they are doing to your kids!”
I’m out here and reading, HomeworkBlues, and thinking to myself….”I will not let this happen in my home”.
I proved it to myself this spring, that homework thrust onto a 7 year old, shuts her down. She read nothing for pleasure between mid January and the end of March, though the teacher said she was reading at school. Then suddenly in April and now in May, with nary a mention of the word “homework” and she’s digesting 5 books a week, on her own. The teacher again has upped the ante in these last few weeks saying “we have to get them ready for Grade 3”, but nothing is coming home and I’m not asking.
My child is only 8 but I can well imagine that your hard working daughter probably is not going to stop doing homework at this stage, no matter what you say. But I don’t quite understand why she has to work all summer too?
PsychMom, I don’t understand the summer conundrum either. Last year I wouldn’t let my child sign up for the AP History course because of a huge summer assignment.
She’ll get summer homework. You’re right. Maybe she can just blow it off.
As for college applications, if she waits until the fall, she will be completely stressed out of her mind. It’ll be worse. If with ample sleep and play, she just chips away at it, the autumn will be just a little easier. Believe me, it is NOT the way I want to spend our summer. Summer used to be th oasis and what little elementary homework got sent home but was either not done or completed Labor Day weekend.
I was talking to a sensible mom last year who is discouraged about the homework load too. But she had her daughter write grant applications and pursue internships along with all that summer homework and college essays. We’re not doing that!
The pressure on high schoolers these days is insane. My daughter, if you can believe it, actually likes her school and craves that peer group. It’s a great bunch of kids. That they burn these hard working children out is a tragedy.
She doesn’t want to leave and that is where we are. We do what we can to build in family time, we take short walks every evening and we are the only family doing this in our neighborhood. Last night I took my daughter to a park post-sunset and there she was, with all the preschoolers.
If I had to do it all over again, I would have continued homeschooling high school after that 8th grade sabbatical year. I would have done a mix of local college classes, on line and all sorts of stuff we would have designed ourselves. Or the reverse which suits me even better. I would have homeschooled ALL of elementary and middle, no questions or doubts about that. That is why I recommend it so highly to those of you who still have younger children. If you want to, don’t wait. You can escape public school tryanny, there’s a better world out there. If you are inclined, I caution you not to wait. The time will pass and you will regret not having make the leap.
I met a family at my daughter’s school. Get this! They homeschooled from preschool through 8th grade. The girl loves the school. She has no negative associations with homework at all. The point I want to drive home? I see homeschoolers enter high school and college eager and refreshed. They are so much the richer because they were NOT prepared, ramping up homework in kindergarten to get ready for first. Exhibit A.
I’m a single working mother so homeschooling is not an option and frankly, I’m not cut out for it. I love her dearly and we’ll go travelling together lots, but neither of us can take that much togetherness. My kid needs the other kids so badly too.
Elementary homework over the summer…that’s the craziest thing I’ve ever heard. If that ever came home at the end of June, it’d be dropped straight into the garbage on the way in. Where do the schools get off?
Yeah, I don’t know where this stuff about preparation comes from. “oooh if we don’t give them homework in Grades 5 and 6 they’ll never be able to do Middle School” and “oooh, if we don’t give them mountains of homework in middleschool, they’ll never make it in High school”
You know what comes to mind? That scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, where they are deciding if some poor girl is a witch or not. One person suggests throwing her in water (because witches float) , and the peasant crowd all goes wild for that suggestion. Then someone else suggests an even better way to prove she’s a witch and the crowd cheers even more loudly for that. It’s all bunk, but it sounds reasonable so lets all jump on that bandwagon.
It all makes so much sense…..
PsychMom, I hear you that not everyone can or wants to homeschool. I did it because I didn’t see a better option and it turned out to be the most magical year of our lives.
Having said that, it makes me angry to think I should be spending my tax dollars educating other people’s children while I feel forced to bail. School shouldn’t be this dire, this bleak, this joyless. But it is, for so many families. And for those who can homeschool, the time and energy you put into lobbying, researching and writing emails, you could be researching curriculum and networking. There are so many group social, educational, cultural and outdoors activities, the hardest part was not being able to say yes to every single one. As my husband jokinly sometimes cautioned, you guys are neither doing school nor home!
Again, I don’t tell everyone to homeschool and you make solid points :). But I do have a special message for those angry at the homework load, picking up an assignment and thinking, you gotta be kidding me, yearning to spend more time with their child AND wanting to homeschool. My message is for those who really want to and don’t think they can. To those I say, don’t wait. I did and regret it now. For those who want quality family life without making the seemingly drastic jump to homeschooling, my heart bleeds for all of you. And for me. I wish it wasn’t so hard. My fervent wishes are that this blog takes off and lights the nation on fire.
And certainly those who choose not to homeschool are not ones who want less time with their child. I remember a woman interviewing me for a magazine piece that homeschool year. She was looking for short term homeschoolers and an organization pointed her towards me. She is also a college professor and told me she yanked her daughter out for a year to give her a break from standardized testing and shallow learning.
She and I chatted a long while and we both admitted that initially we would have been happy to keep our children in school. If all things went as they should have, if we could have had the life we deserved, I would have been very happy to look back with NO regrets. I would have been content to have my daughter attend school all day and receive a quality education. In my dream scenario, my daughter would spend her weekdays at school and the afternoon, evenings, nights, weekends, holidays and summers would be ours.
School should do school and we do home. Doesn’t mean I don’;t educate her at home. But that’s the whole point. I know some high achieving parents who drag their kids to Kumon after school for more math. I wrote on that discussion group that my ideal of home is to complement what school does, not do more of what school does at home. I don’t want Kumon, I don’t want homework. I want school to teach my child. And when she’s mine, she’s all mine.
We have infinite ideas and ways of educating her and school just kept getting in the way of all that. I wrote here last week that for Mother’s Day, all I wanted was to take my family to the Library of Congress to view the Lincoln exhibit, which closed that day. That was all. Free, educational, time sensitive. That school eats up almost all our free time is what leads me to believe there’s no better option than homeschooling. As for socialization, she never had time to play. On weekends when she should have been making friends, she was isolated in her little homework bubble. She socialized far more in homeschooling!
It would be nice if more people had freedom of choice. It would be nice if the public schools provided our children with what they truly need so that parents don’t have to run for their lives. It’s our tax dollars and the entire system seems to be going down the tubes. That’s the real shame, that it take so much and delivers so little.
About that ‘oooh, we need to prepare them for middle school by giving them loads of work,’ ‘oooh, now we have to prepare them for high school by giving them even more work than before’ thing–my mom had a great way of putting it I thought you might appreciate: “If you’re overloading them with homework now to get them prepared for being overloaded with homework later in life, how is that different from breaking a kid’s leg now to get them prepared for potentially getting their leg broken later in life?”
You know what makes me want to pull my hair out? When people want to extend the school year because “they’ll forget it all over the summer”. If it’s anything a day or so of review won’t fix, it wasn’t taught well in the first place. Here kids don’t get out of school until June and start back the second week of August. And all they’ve been doing for the last few weeks is watching movies. A friend of mine went ahead and pulled her kids out of school a month early, and I was so proud of her.
My favourite comparison is Amanda’s suggestion for teachers…they must practice wearing Depends for a few hours each day because someday they’ll need to know how to wear ’em!
There are no dry runs (pardon the pun related to the above analogy) in real life. All the really important aspects can’t be prepared for.
We grow into them and if we fail, we try again. In fact, don’t we learn the most when we fail?
Before I took the homeschool plunge, I worked with a respected consultant whom I adore. I detailed to her the homework overload and sleep deprivation (and we are talking 7th grade here, it’s only gotten worse with each passing year) and that was my driving motivation to homeschool.
I told her how each year we were admonished that she must have this much homework because if she doesn’t get this in 3rd, she won’t be ready for 5th and 5th will prepare her for middle school which of course will then get her ready for high school.
My consultant/author replied that this is what she tells educators in her speaker programs: if you knew a famine was coming next week, would you begin to starve your child today to prepare her?
When I told the middle school counselor I was contemplating homeschooling 8th, she looked at me in horror and proclaimed, “but how will you prepare her for high school?” “By not preparing her,” I replied.
When my daughter was 4 I had the option of putting her into the school we’re in now, because they had a pre-kindergarten program. She had been in her daycare since 22 months of age and was extremely happy there so I decided to let her “graduate” from daycare. This process of completion I think should not be underestimated either. Part of any process is to go from neophyte to, for lack of a better word, “expert”. I have no doubts that she could have handled a new school easily, but why should I have deprived her of the year to be the “big kid” in the daycare? By the end of that last summer, everyone knew she was ready for school and she couldn’t wait to go.
Though the pre-kindergarten program is for the little ones and they have a different “school” experience, it’s still school with its regimentation, its academics, its social dynamics. There are much bigger kids around. It’s school. The confidence my daughter gained and that certain amount of “swagger’ that goes along with being the old hand is a valuable experience as well.
How do our kids get to experience, at the latter part of Grade 5 or 6, at the end of their elementary years, that sense of “swagger” if we are constantly “preparing” them for middle school. Our middle schoolers at our school have a graduation when they finish Grade 9, but do they really feel like they’ve finished something?…do they feel like they’ve accomplished something?
I don’t know if I’m expressing the idea properly to you all, but I think by pushing this idea of preparation we are depriving the kids of experiencing the moment.
Here’s a conversation I’ve had in my head, though it hasn’t happened in a conference yet:
them: But she’ll have to do homework some day!
me: Some day, we will all be dead. That doesn’t mean we need to practice lying down in a coffin. When the time comes, we’ll figure it out.
The “better get ready for it” attitude is pervasive in our school district. Beginning in second grade, all students are given (we have to pay for them at the secondary level) assignment planner notebooks. Each day, students must write down all homework assignments in their planners and use them to keep organized, plan long term projects, and record due dates.
At the elementary level, students must have mom or dad sign the notebook planner every night. If it comes back to school unsigned, the child is punished – usually with a loss of recess, their name on the board, or a loss of points. Teachers have all sorts of punishment plans for not having a planner signed.
When I asked why a child is punished at school for something that a parent is supposed to do at home, I was told that it taught responsibility, character development, and long term planning skills. I was admonished and told that when kids are in high school, they’ll have to use planners to keep track of their multiple classes and homework assignments.
It’s insane for teachers to expect an 8 or 9 year old child to have the same planning and organizational skills as a high school student! It’s even more insane to punish a child when they don’t have these skills yet.
The rebel in me would abstain from ever signing that book and make a point of insisting that my name gets put on the board, and it would be worth my while to come for a week (I think that’s all the teacher could stand) and sit with the teacher for recess while my child goes out to play. I figure if they’re asking for adult behaviour then the adults should take the “punishment” for not doing their work. I would not ever expect my child to do something that is clearly my responsibility (signing the ruddy book). Is it the child’s responsibility to MAKE their parents sign?
This is the kind of stuff that incenses me.
Right, they send young kids home with stuff they couldn’t possibly complete on their own, and then punish them the next day if it isn’t all done.
Here’s the fun part — if you go in and complain, they tell you you’re “overinvolved”! What the …? The only way the homework can happen at all is because of my involvement. I’d be thrilled not to be involved, but then my kid will spend her time at school being harassed and punished.
I’ve noticed the same pattern at the public and private schools where my kids have been enrolled. Both times, the principal thinks the homework should be completely the child’s domain, with no input from the parents. The teachers, on the other hand, routinely send stuff home requiring the parents to sign, correct, and supervise. Get on the same page, guys!
Think how many problems would be solved if they just scrapped the homework entirely.
PsychMom, I love your response to the planner thing. We had to get planners signed in 7th grade, and I hated it. There are ways other than a planner to organize yourself, and it was never effective for me. I can’t believe that they’re inflicting it on second graders, and you’re right on about the responsibility thing.
When the planner came home in second grade, I sat down and signed every page of it all at once. I ended up signing my name 180 times, but it was done for the year and the teacher never said a word.
I must remember that come the fall. I’ll either do something like that or write a note like another Mom wrote about saying that she trusted her daughter to do her work and she would not be signing off on it.
I go back to my original premise…only people with fully integrated frontal lobes can be expected to organize and plan..and that does not include many 8 and 9 year olds.
My Middle School has about 3 hours of homework a day. I would like it better if we did the homework in class (or just make the school day longer) instead of having homework at night when I have my figure skating classes, irish dancing, chess club, and my time for writing speaches for student council. A lot of other kids have after-school activitys too and I interviewed everyone in my class and 74% have an after-school activity every day of the week. I have also started a secret project in my class to give the students more autonomy in class. Oh, and also, sorry if this got a little off topic I just had a lot on my mind.
I congratulate you for being the best parents I have ever seen. But how can I stop it? I’m 13.
I’d actually prefer for my kid watching TV over him doing pointless busywork for school.
At least he has a chance to relax and just forget about school when he’s watching TV. At least he doesn’t feel like another few hours of his life have been wasted if he watches TV. At least he will be more relaxed the next morning, and we can watch TV together without the tears and frustration homework brings.
A child who watched two hours TV a day will look back at his childhood more fondly than one who did this amount of homework. And while you might think this doesn’t matter, it does.