Moms (and Dads) on a Mission – Suburban Chicago

Today’s guest blogger, Mary Sullivan, is a freelancer writer and mother to two fifth graders and a seventh grader in suburban Chicago. I tracked her down after she posted a Comment linking to her webpage, Too Much Homework, and I asked her to write about what motivated her to post her own page.

Too Much Homework
by Mary Sullivan

Like many parents here, I’m proud of our district and appreciate that teachers care and work hard. But in terms of homework, there are issues with both volume and consistency. Parenting twins has been revealing over the years, as the amounts (not to mention types) of homework they’ve received from different teachers within the same grade has varied dramatically. Other parents of multiples I know locally have said the same thing. Through the PTO we did some research last year with families and found the inconsistency is system wide, especially in about grades 4 and up. Part of this, of course, is that some students take much longer than others to do the same amount of work. But that can’t be the whole explanation.

I still don’t think many teachers know about Harris Cooper’s 10-minutes-per-grade-level rule, its basis in meta-analysis of 40 years’ worth of well-crafted homework studies, and the science behind moderation as the most effective approach to homework. I’m sure many parents don’t know, either, and feel confused and helpless when their kids are overwhelmed and missing out on adequate sleep, exercise, reading for pleasure and other essential “nutrients” for developing minds and bodies. Hoping to reach both parents and teachers, I wrote the Squidoo article based on our family’s experiences and on what I’ve learned over the past several years about homework–from The Case Against Homework and other sources.

Something else we learned through the PTO research is that a large percentage of parents feel their kids should be spending more time on “chores” and “helping others”–which to my mind are closely related. Both household chores and service/volunteerism are “other directed” activities, unlike something like homework, which requires much effort but is ultimately self-directed. (The only beneficiary is the student, through good grades, praise, etc.) I tried to touch on this in the Squidoo article through the box on “what kids could be doing if they had less homework.” Life skills like taking responsibility and acting as a contributing member of a community need to start at home. With hours of homework, kids have no time for chores, or parents take pity and just do things for them. As parents we need to run a “gut check” on all this and speak up when it doesn’t feel right. Kids should work hard, but in a *balanced* way that makes intuitive sense.

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Be sure to visit Too Much Homework.

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