Today’s post is by Laura, an intellectual property and reinsurance attorney in Chicago with three children ranging in age from 5 years to 4.5 months. A long history of LD and ADD makes effective education one of her hot button issues. She wrote a lengthy letter to her daughter’s kindergarten teacher explaining her position on homework.
Homework is Detrimental to Long Term Success
Dear Kindergarten Teacher,
I am writing regarding the progress report we received for Libby this past week, specifically the home assignments to her. The primary purpose of this letter is to outline our position regarding home assignments for our five year old. We expect this letter should be included in her school records. Principal _____ is copied on this letter; please feel free to provide it to any administrator who has a valid reason to read it.
I understand assigning homework at all grade levels is Chicago Public School policy; however, I strongly believe that homework at the kindergarten level, absent specific deficiencies, is detrimental to long term educational success. A significant number of longitudinal studies show homework, especially in the younger years, increases family strife, increases the child’s stress level and does not provide a lasting gain in test scores. I agree that the lessons learned in the classroom should be reinforced at home, but I believe we do that adequately by showing how what was learned in the classroom is used in real life and in fact homework interferes with our ability to do that.
Our family reinforces the lessons Libby is learning in school in a myriad of ways. For example, Libby regularly writes letters to her grandmother and great grandmother. Libby writes the letters herself and we work together composing the letter and sounding out the words. Libby also assists with creating our grocery lists, including counting what we have and writing down the items we need. We read books every day, far beyond the 20 minutes required by ROBERTO [Read Or BE Read TO] and we have Libby read books to us. Libby measures ingredients for us when we cook and bake, she helps around the house and does a great deal of painting and drawing and creating on her own.
We research subjects in which Libby shows an interest and incorporate learning into those activities as well. For example, Libby has started ice skating, as part of that we have talked about science (water turning into ice) and physics (gravity, balance, shapes of blades) and have library books on ice skating. In addition we have “Reading Readiness” and “Math Concepts” workbooks that we take with us when we are out and about and work on for a change of pace. These are all things we do not have time to do if I am trying to fight Libby to do homework.
I am further are against assigning homework to kindergarteners because it is inappropriate for a five year old to be in school all day, with a minimum of recess, and then come home and do 15 minutes of homework (assuming that it only takes 15 minutes to get the child focused and doing the homework) and then 20 minutes of reading. When Libby comes home from school, she is mentally exhausted from her school day and often needs a nap in excess of an hour. Although she is mentally exhausted after a full day of school, she is physically wound up because she has not had the opportunity to run around and play.
Ten to fifteen minutes of recess is far below the federal guidelines for the kindergarten age group. With childhood obesity and diabetes at an all time high, as well as an increase in attention and focusing problems, it is important to model active lifestyles to children, including recess. P.E. is important, but an active lifestyle is beyond taking an exercise class. As a family, we attempt to give our kids that opportunity after school, even though the activities we can give them do not develop the social skills in the same way we feel recess would. We are unable to allow them to play on the playground after school because of the large number of older children who are not cognizant of the smaller children and act in a manner not safe or appropriate for a five year old to be around. There is language used on the playground that I do not wish to have to explain quite yet.
A standard schedule for our day is as follows:
7 am – wake up get ready for school
7:45 am – breakfast and pack up and get ready to leave for school
8:30 am – walk to school
9:00 am – 2:45 in school
3:10 pm – arrive home and have a snack, discuss the day and discuss the family plans for the evening
3:30 pm – Nap, oftentimes a story will be read at this time.
4:30 pm (at the earliest) – wake up and start to prepare for dinner, bath if needed, sometimes we read to her, sometimes she reads on her own or plays with her brother or alone.
5 pm – begin cooking dinner and associated activities, playtime
6 pm – eat dinner
7 pm – get ready for bed
7:30 pm – bedtime stories and bed.
Our family handles homework by asking Libby if she has any practice she needs to do for school. We call it practice because practicing makes you better at something, whether it is writing, or dancing or singing. If Libby says “yes” we sit down together and work through it, but if she starts to fight us on it we move on. As you can see from above, we have approximately 4 hours with Libby after school before she has to be in bed and we are not going to spend it fighting with her about homework. If she says “no” she does not have any practice and we find out she does have home assignments, we discuss honesty and trust. So in sum, we encourage her to do the practice she was assigned, but we do not demand it and we will not fight her on it.
We further choose not to participate in any of the reading incentive programs beyond ROBERTO. We read a significant amount in our family and we read for the joy of reading and want to instill that value in our children. After the first Book It month Libby began saying she wanted to read a book so she could get pizza or she wanted to read a book so she could go to Six Flags. She wanted to read in order to receive a specific reward. If she had not initially been a fan of reading, I would not be as concerned, I understand that motivating children to read can be difficult. But Libby’s interest in reading has gone from being an organic joy of reading to reading to get a material reward. This is directly in conflict with the lessons we want to teach her regarding reading. As a result we decline to participate in them despite reading far beyond the requirements of any of the programs.
Lest you think I am merely a parent who does not wish to force her child to do homework, I can provide, if requested, citations to many studies and literature regarding homework in the younger years and the lasting impact it has on the children and the families. I also have a significant amount of research regarding the lack of recess and the detrimental effects it has on our children and their long-term health, social development and educational success. I would like to find a way to work with CPS as part of Libby’s learning team, but in the same way I do not dictate the way CPS educates my children during school hours, I do not wish CPS to dictate how I educate my children outside of school hours. I would be more than happy, jointly, to create a modified plan that would provide you with the information you need to ensure lessons are being reinforced at home. Please feel free to contact me, at any time, regarding Libby, at ________. I look forward to finding a mutually beneficial solution.