Abolish Summer Homework

In yesterday’s post, I wrote that guidelines issued by the New York State Board of Education provide that when a school requires summer homework, it must comply with a set of rules. But from what I can tell, schools don’t comply with those rules and continue their summer homework assignments as they have in the past.

If your children have received summer homework assignments, or are about to, why not nip the problem in the bud?

Here’s what you can do:

1. Call your school’s principal. If you’re in a state with guidelines like New York’s, ask your principal whether your school will be following the guidelines. If s/he’s unaware of them, offer to send a copy. Tell the principal what the guidelines say. It’s pretty difficult for a school not to follow the guidelines once a parent’s asked about them. After all, the guidelines were issued in response to litigation, and non-compliance leaves the school open to wrath, scrutiny, lawsuits. Get several of your friends to call the school principal as well. There’s power in numbers.

2. If you discovered that your school doesn’t have any rules about summer homework, open up a discussion on the topic now. If you wait until your child brings home an assignment it’s too late. (Of course, you don’t have to make your child do the assignment. And how many children, especially those in elementary school, would actually do an assignment if they didn’t have parental help? Let the school see what happens when parents resist.)

3. Get together with a few of your friends and ask the principal or department head for a meeting. Tell them how summer assignments affect your family. Read a little about the problems with assigned reading so that you can make strong arguments:

    * An article on summer reading in USA Today, cites a recent study by Richard Allington, a researcher and author of many books on literacy. Allington and colleagues selected students in 17 high-poverty elementary schools in Florida and, for three consecutive years, gave each child 12 books, from a list the students provided, on the last day of school. No assignment came along with the books–no reading log, no essay, not even an order to read them. Three years later, researchers found that those students who received books had “significantly higher” reading scores and read more on their own each summer than the 478 who didn’t get books. (I’m sure that any school that gave students books from a list of their own choosing would see the same results–students who like to read more and, as a result, students with better comprehension, better written and analytical skills and yes, even higher standardized test scores.)

    * This op-ed by my co-author and me published in The New York Times four years ago. I think it’s still relevant.

    * An article on reading books you like from The New York Times.

Given the pressures most students face during the school year from high-stakes testing, homework, and extracurricular activities, summer should be seen as a time to explore passions, get outside, read for pleasure, hang out with friends, work a summer job (if one can be found), become a little more independent, etc. These are where students learn to problem solve, be responsible, make good use of their time, in short the kinds of learning experiences most students don’t have time for during the school year. And these life skills are ones that will serve them well in the future, undoubtedly more than most of what they learn in school.

In sum, gather a few of your friends and talk to the people who assign homework at your school. Explain why summer homework doesn’t work in your family and why you’re opposed to it. And let me know what happens.

64 thoughts on “Abolish Summer Homework

  1. I have contacted teachers, the high school principal and the superintendents and all I have done was made them more insistent on summer homework. I have contacted other parents and they either don’t care or believe summer homework is a good thing because they think it keeps their kids busy. I sent out about 20 emails in the beginning of the year and received one reply – the parent said she disagreed with me and asked me to never email her again. I just can’t believe the lack of response I have gotten from both parents and educators.

    Like

  2. It feels like they’re all asleep doesn’t it and you’re the only one awake? That’s the way I feel too in even talking about this topic of homework. We don’t have summer homework, but parents are very hesitant to say that homework should be banned. They just think it’s a part of school..and that kids need to be innoculated to it slowly so that they can do it in middle school and high school.

    To keep my sense of humor I always recall Amanda Cockshutt’s recommendation to teachers….start wearing Depends now, because some day you’re going to have to wear them and you need to get used to it.

    Like

  3. Not directly related but always relevant.

    “Common standards ensure that every child across the country is getting the best possible education, no matter where a child lives or what their [sic] background is. The common standards will provide an accessible roadmap for schools, teachers, parents and students, with clear and realistic goals.”
    — Gov. Roy Romer, Senior Advisor, The College Board
    Press Release CoreStandards.org
    June 2, 2010

    Ick. Education is trying to become like McDonald’s. Ubiquitous, always the same, lacking in substance, and boring. At least a Big Mac tastes good. Can’t say the same for these so called ” Standards.”

    And shouldn’t it be “or what HIS (or her) background is?” Looks like this “expert” could use a little standards himself.

    Read more. With introduction by Susan Ohanian, our favorite education critic.

    http://susanohanian.org/outrage_fetch.php?id=688

    Like

  4. I feel for you Erica. In our case, we are very afraid to speak up because of retaliation from administrators, the district, teachers, etc. It is a reality. The teachers have a union. The children need a union. No teacher would put in the hours my high schooler puts in, 730 AM til midnight, EVERY night, including long weekends. Our family’s lives are governed by homework. It is abusive. Child labor laws are kinder to our children.
    If anyone is in the South Miami area, let’s get our heads together.

    Like

  5. Pajamas, thank you for writing this. Teachers, if you are reading, please take pajamas’ plea seriously. The kids are afraid of you, afraid of retaliation. What kind of environment are you creating for them? Be there protectors, not their tormentors. If you feel you are between a rock and a hard place, be sympathetic, not vindictive. You have no right to take out your frustration on innocent children.

    Our high schoolchildren put 18 hour work days and must continue working on weekends and holidays. We are now seeing drastic increases in summer homework too so that our children always have the homework cloud hanging over their heads. Is it small wonder so many are dropping out of college after the first year, suffering from depression and anxiety?

    This is child abuse. Pure and simple. When we are finally able to call it what it is, we may start taking the first steps to remedy it.

    Like

  6. Ah, another correction. Wish I catch these BEFORE I post :(.

    Be THEIR protectors (not THERE). I know better. I swear it was a typo!

    Like

  7. @Homework Blues: “Their” is somewhat accepted by younger writing professionals as an adequate, if informal, ambiguous pronoun. His or her is very cumbersome, and new pronouns are extremely difficult to invent, so I wouldn’t be surprised if in a hundred years “their” is considered the norm. It happens all the time in other languages. Still, the circumstances you mentioned usually call for a more traditional pronoun.

    The only homework I ever had in the school year was IB English reading in high school. We’d only have to read one book in the whole summer, all of us had signed up for IB and were ostensibly interested in literature, and almost nobody bothered with it anyway. Why waste a very limited summer doing what you can manage in the first weekend of September? I don’t even slightly buy the argument that it keeps students busy. Most I knew needed two months of free time just to recuperate!

    Like

  8. Loads of summer homework was assigned again this summer in every single class including electives such as weight training, piano, dance, etc. This is the only high school in the county that is requiring it. There is no policy. Official course book says English honors and AP classes “may require reading.” This I can understand. Very poorly run program. At least several parents signed up to be on summer homework planning committee but were never contacted + 10 school board members contacted and no response = conspiracy to keep summer homework going. School Let’s raise the high school’s test scores by making the parents home school their children for the summer while the teachers have off! If they don’t want the children to lose it over the summer then change the school calendar and make the teachers give up their summers, too.

    Like

  9. In our school, english assignments over the summer consist of reading and fully comprehending three books, packets, and vocabulary sheets. We all know the vocabulary sheets won’t teach us at all and will be forgotten after the test. Why don’t teachers teach us in class aurally, the way we learned how to speak. Giving us homework won’t take place of our natural, deep learning for shallow, quick cramming.

    Like

  10. At my school summer reading is required for AP/Honors English. Not only that, but my senior year I’ve had 2 essays to write over the summer. As if it isn’t enough working on visiting colleges, volunteering, work, and completing requirements to apply for scholarships to fund college. It is just a big fat cloud hanging over every student’s head and most of the time isn’t completed until the last week of summer or until the school year begins anyway. Half of the books required to read for the 9th, 10th, and 11th grade years have failed to be presented and discussed during the school year, and the teachers act like it’s so important to read the books when they don’t even go over them in the school year. No wonder so many kids don’t even bother reading them! They don’t realize that we are teens, we are going through hormones and have many things we have to take care of so our future can be positive, reading books that aren’t even interesting can just be a waste of time. If they want to require reading at all it should be books of a student’s choice, I agree reading is good for all students, but let them explore things they find interesting.

    Like

  11. my son hates summer homework.From 2nd grade he had summer homework. he is a very smart child about to be 13 but i see that when he is doing summer homework he is very depressed.i told him not to do it and he ended up going outside more.school starts september 7th and i just know that the school isnt going to do anything.

    Like

  12. Wow, I find it hard to believe that elementary schools are giving summer homework. My children attend one of the highest scoring schools (not that it means much) in CA and there has not been any summer work.

    As a teacher, I would never give summer work. I have taught AP Chemistry were it is almost expected, but I did away with it. Most of the work is of poor quality as it gets done the last few days of summer. I would give guidelines of expectations of things they should know entering the class, so those that want to prepare over the summer can.

    Around our area it seems that the biggest problem with homework is the middle schools. The teachers apparently think that hitting the kids with tons of homework will prepare them for high school. My homework in high school is usually minimal, but there are some days it may take longer. My longest assignments would never be more than 1/2 hour for almost all the kids and many assignments the students can get done (or nearly done) in class. But there is also a large number that choose not to take advantage of the time in class, so they have longer homework.

    Yes, its up to the teachers to control homework amounts, but the students also need to use class time wisely. If they have 10 minutes in each period for 6 period to work on things that is a full hour, if they choose not to, that is an extra hour of homework they may have.

    Like

  13. the end of school is now 3 months away. I would like to bring up the topic of summer homework before it is assigned. Last summer my youngest child (a rising first grader) had to complete 50!!! pages of math in the stupidest book I have ever seen. It was not even anything that he had been exposed to in K. Same 50 pages in another book for my 3rd grader and my older children had to write essays, read books and complete 20 pages of very complicated math. If summer homework is going to be assigned- The school should mail it home 2 weeks before the start of the school year. It is pointless to A) either do it all in June or b) cram it in at the end of the summer, making the fleeting days of summer covered by a black cloud. Summer homework travelled with us on vacation, summer camp etc. and ended being finished with a tutor in a frenzy in the 48 hours before school started. I am disgusted and dont want a repeat of last summer. Any ideas???
    ps. now we are getting HW emailed home on snowdays. even for first graders.

    Like

  14. Hi mom:

    You won’t like my ideas…just giving you a heads up on that.

    If a bully sent one of your kids an e-mail saying..”bring me 2 bucks on the first day of school….or else” What would you do?

    To me there is no difference between what the school is doing and what that bully is doing. These things are coming into YOUR home. It’s not your children’s house….it’s your house and you are the adult to whom the school is sending stuff.
    Some would argue (but I wouldn’t buy it) that the school is allowed to expect that homework will be done during the school year. The summer is not part of the school year. Do not bring the work into your home…your children are too young to organize their own time, and it shouldn’t be an expectation that you do it for them.

    Just say no thank you.

    Like

  15. Homework is sooo hard and difficult for my kids that it’s driving evryone insane. If the board of education are giving kids homework that is harder than what I had in a Catholic school, then they better understand it when they arrive home, so they can finish quicker. They have spelling test, handwriting, and really hard math that their own teacher doesn’t understand. By the time he finishes, it’s time to go to bed. He doesn’t want to go to school in the morning, he cries. School is scary to him. It is mentally destroying him. He use to be a happy child, now he is withdrawn,serious, and his self-esteem is going so low, because he can’t understand his homework. I will not allow this to go on. It should be the parents decision if they should do homework. If you want to have more children graduate from high school, and not drop out, you have to start a whole new make-over in schools. You have to make it less intimidating for the child and more fun to where he can’t wait to get to school. School is a scary place for the child because the school work is soo hard, they don’t understand it. Some teachers don’t understand it. I can’t help him, because I don’t understand it. It’s not the same math I did in grade school. Looks more like hard, crazy, chemistry. Where do they get this stuff? Millions feel the same way I do, and if there is anyone who will protest” NO MORE HOMEWORK” or ‘HOMEWORK IS DISTROYING MY CHILD MENTALLY”, I will march with you. These are our kids, not theirs. They don’t know what goes on at home. Teacher’s don’t want to teach, so they give it to the children to deal with at home. Then this will be our choice.

    Like

  16. WHO IS BEHIND THIS!!! THIS IS A FORM OF CHILD ABUSE!!! ITENTIONALLY EFLICKTING EMOTIONAL DESTRESS!!!! THE HOMEWORK/CLASSWORK DOES NOT FIT THE GRADE….WE WILL MARCH!!! NO WONDER TEENS WANT TO DROP OUT BY THE TIME THEIR IN JUNIOR HIGH. THEY HAVE HAD ENOUGH!
    WE NEED SOMEONE WITH COMPASION AND BRAINS TO OVER-HAUL THE WAY THE SCHOOL IS OPERATED!! NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND! LOOK HOW MANY ARE LEFT BEHIND!! WE NEED CHANGE!!!! YOU ARE NOT GOING TO DESTROY MY FAMILY!!!!

    Like

  17. Stop Homework FOREVER BECAUSE IT IS PATHETIC AND TERRIBLE HOMEWORK SHOULD NEVER BE USED. so everyone lets stop homework forever to make the world be at peace

    Like

  18. my son hates summer homework.From 2nd grade he had summer homework. he is a very smart child about to be 13 but i see that when he is doing summer homework he is very depressed.i told him not to do it and he ended up going outside more.school starts september 7th and i just know that the school isnt going to do anything.

    Like

  19. My son is going into 7th grade next September, and I find that he is spending 1-2 hours EVERY DAY on summer homework. He complains that it’s not summer anymore with this load over his head, and I can’t fathom what will come next in the actual school year!

    Like

  20. Parent, I bet you’ve discovered this by now, but this was only the beginning of what is the hellhole of 7th grade. Good luck.

    Like

  21. Grr……silly teachers. They think they can assign
    loads of tests just because it’s the last term of the
    year. And to celebrate my last term in primary school like this, no way!! 😦

    Like

  22. good idea i should of thought of that a while ago i am in grade 7 i go to p.e mc gibbon st public school sarnia ont and i am rebecca and the past years of grade school i been getting homework every day and i am sick and tired of my teachers giving me homework even though i do and lots of work at school and i have no energy doing home work every day after school i want NO MORE HOMEWORK I THINK IT SCHOOL BE BAINED FOR ALL THE SCHOOLS IN ONT

    Like

  23. I HATE HOMEWORK ITS THE WORST THING IN MY WHOLE LIFE I WISH IT WAS GONE THEN THE WORLD WOULD BE AT PEACE (for those who think homework is good get lost!)

    Like

  24. Can I say something? I know this is an anti-homework site and all, but this is how I feel about homework. I am 22 and I am about to start my third year of medical school at Emory University.When I was a sophomore year of high school, I began to truly do my homework, even seeking extra work when I had time. I worked 21 hour days, with only 2-3 hours of sleep per night, every night, for three years. I finished high school with 14 AP credits, and did all my homework without a complaint. When I got into Stanford University for my Undergraduate studies at the age of 16, only then did I realize how much doing my homework helped me. At Stanford, I did even better than I did in High school, the long work days and the countless hours of homework, instead of stressing me out in college, made my life a Stanford easily the best years of my life. This whole narrative of my experience with homework would show the opposite of what many of you seem to believe. Though it makes life tough now, and trust me no one wants to see their child suffer, it really helps so much more in the future. When your child goes to college, only then will you, and them, realize how much doing homework helps. Also, I saw a lot of criticism of teachers on this site. Strangely, these people have learned how to teach. They have been through school. In most cases, your child is not the first child they have taught. These people know what helps in college and beyond. Take it from a current student who still works 22 hours a day.

    Like

  25. Well anonymous…. Good call. It is common sense that a lack of sleep is not healthy. But the real question is… Are you willing to sacrifice now for the goal of doing what you love in the future? I, along with all of my classmates, would say so.

    Like

  26. I am against summer homework. I am a rising 6th grader and this summer I had to:

    1. Read 3 books
    2. Write 3 essays on those 3 books
    3. Visit a museum or cultural event
    4. Write an essay on it

    All that destroyed me summer. My parents say that just because I am in Honors 6th grade Language Arts there’s nothing wrong with it. THERE IS!!!!!!! I had to spend most of my time reading books I hated and visiting dumb places. School is about to start, and I am totally not ready for what the middle school teachers have up their sleeves. SOMEBODY STOP THIS ABUSE!!!!!

    Like

  27. Americans are so far down the list when it comes to academic standards…and you want to take away even more educational time?
    Are you serious? And the sixth grader complaining about having to read a few books over the summer…are you people serious about this?

    Like

  28. To all concerned Parents,

    Well…I am totally against summer home work for much of the same reasons as most of the parents and children are opposed to it. Children need a break from the loooong hours of school work that is imposed on them each year. They are kids and an 8 hr. work day including homework is ENOUGH of a prerequisite for what’s to come in the their future in the working world. And although that one one doctor (to be) may believe that all the hard work paid off for his college education, there are probably hundreds if not thousands of other doctors or aspiring professionals that did very well in college and their professions without doing summer homework.

    I am not a professional such as college educated Doctor or Lawyer but a Tradesman, an Estimator and Project Manager in the electrical industry with only high school and military trade school education and I do well enough to provide for my family. I never had any summer homework and I think I turned out well. I also am an entrepreneur with online businesses that I taught my self. It is the kids…the young adults who will desire to learn on their own as I did in order to make something of their lives.

    And yes I believe that the kids should read but something that THEY want to learn about…on their terms. The summer is about having some fun. Where families can go on a summer long vacation together and bond with each other. All we do is work as a society. We never have enough time with one another as a family. I’ll be damned, that I’m going to STOP what I’m doing and let me go to the library to find some books on a list that most likely are already taken out (by some NYS school law abiding parents) and won’t be back for a week or two, then let me go back and check again to see if they are available for my daughter to check out only to make her miss the summer by reading and writing two hours a day for the entire summer to do 4 book assignments before 3RD GRADE!!!

    Holy %&%!!! Not going to make her do it. a couple years ago, I told my older daughter’s 5th grade teacher, SORRY but her summer homework…. It did not get done. She said, “oh it’s ok, she wont be penalized for it anyway.” SO what IS the guidelines on this LAW anyway? I will review these links to find out.

    But on the other hand, maybe there is something to this homework in the summer thing because clearly some kids may need it. Now I hate to mention names here but a previous poster (a 7th grader) had some serious run on sentences, no punctuation and toward the end of her rant made absolutely no sense. I had to show it to my now 7th grader who is a high honors student. She just just said, “pretty stupid.” She should be ashamed of herself for her improper use of English at that grade level.

    Never do I want to belittle kids, as most are smarter that I when it comes to the subjects they are studying. I’m amazed actually of what they are learning. They are our future but let’s let them be kids… while they can. And let us parents (and NYS lawmaker parents) enjoy our kids as a family even if just for 2 months out of the year. No more SUMMER HOME WORK!

    Best Regards,

    Mike Scarchilli,
    Fishkill, NY

    Like

  29. Over the summer my son had an insane amount of summer school work. He is now in 7th grade in public school.Though he is an avid reader and will never be found without a book he was very resistant to doing all this work. Although I agreed with him I had to spend a big chunk of time nagging him to do it which -needless to say- spoiled a lot of great summer days. He turned the work in at the beginning of the school year and was excited about going back. New teachers, new year, clean slate… or so we thought, until we found that the work was being graded! Is this even legal? Unfortunately he got a bad grade on his math packet which all of ruins his grade for this marking period. Moreover due to a strict policy, be will be banned from joining clubs and activities that the school offers until his grade “recovers”. I should mention that all the other math grades that he received so far for this year were 100s. Any comments? Were can I find regulations about this? BTW, we are in New Jersey.

    Like

  30. Well, most people I know actually wait for the last 2 weeks so then they are burning out answers to math problems. Then we get back to school and OMG it is worth 10% of your grade. Then the prblems are things you did not even learn yet and I know I am exaggerating but it goes like, ” I had 1 apple, my friend gave me 2 apples. Calculate the sun’s mass.” Now a non-exaggeration I was told to find the perimiter of a trapezoid in a 3rd grade packet.

    Like

  31. Abolish homework only if you are going to shorten summer breaks and have periods in school where the kids can work on assignments. Shortening the summer holidays and starting school later in the day will be healthier and a schedule more suited to today’s work environment.

    Like

  32. i just believe in this site because it is very true i am a mom if any one want to go against me pls contact or debate

    Like

  33. I think summer homework should be banned because summer has the word “VACATION” in it. What’s the point of having homework over a BREAK? I think summer homework should be outlawed because
    1, Some people are disabled and need serious help
    2.Summer has the word vacation in it meaning no work.
    3.Nobody likes it and nobody NOBODY wants to do it.
    4.This is actually considred SLAVERY
    5.It’s not fair your little brother gets to have fun but your dumb teacher wants to ruin your summer
    6.Sitting down all day is not good for you and can possibly make kids overweight
    7.Teacher’s don’t get summer homework so why do we?
    8.Summer homework makes you stir crazy which is not good for you
    9.It’s pointless because you forget all of it
    10.I dont care what where gonna do next year we can learn it later
    11.If you go on a road trip you dont get to have fun
    12.Nobody does it
    13.Gets too confusing because you didn’t learn them math
    14.Too many distractions
    15.It makes kids hate teachers
    16.You need to make friend’s in summer as well.
    17.Its overrated well at least by teacher’s
    18.You have more important things to do
    19.You dont get to play
    20.Even Nerds dont do it

    Like

  34. I had more summer homework in 4th grade – 7th grade than the person who wrote #33.

    I am in 7th grade going into 8th grade.

    All homework should be given in (moderation)!!!!!

    I had more homework than an 11th grader
    S.H.I.E.L.D.

    Like

  35. At my school they give us 5 summer packets.

    1. Math
    2. Language Arts
    3. Social Studes
    4. Science
    5. Catholic Religon

    If we don’t do them we get a 0% F test grade.
    And our parent/student handbook’s rules are pure lies

    Like

  36. Summer homework = no summer break

    It should be called summer homeschool where you do homework all day every day during summer while all the students from the outher schools have fun.

    I wrote it improperly because it is understandeble and much easer to write

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: