Please Help Each Other

It’s the start of another school year and, as always, I’m getting a flood of emails asking for help. However, I’m no longer running Stop Homework.

But this website still gets plenty of traffic.

So if you write about whatever’s on your mind in the Comments, I’m sure many of the faithful readers of Stop Homework will happily provide their advice, ideas, and suggestions.

60 thoughts on “Please Help Each Other

  1. Yes, another school year. A year in which my O.D. has seemingly better adjusted to the demands of homework (knock on wood), though that’s not a good thing in the larger sense. Little to no substantive changes otherwise. Over the summer I had a discussion with the principal and was essentially threatened over the content of my blog. So I took it down, and I’m not even using my name here.

    Meanwhile, O.D., now in 6th grade, brings home an assignment that involves finding images that represent her personality and interests and pasting them onto a “collage.” For “social studies,” I think. If there’s a silver lining, it’s that my wife is now the one tearing out her hair — she correctly called this assignment 3rd-grade level — so at least my pain is shared!

    But, take heart, I am planning another year of activism. This year rather than just polling parents for their support, I am going to ask them assertively to speak up and to accompany me on my mission. Stay tuned.


  2. I was wondering what had happened to your blog…good to know you’re still out there FB.

    I had been considering doing what you did myself (starting a blog about my school concerns) but I’m reconsidering in light of what you’ve experienced. One thing too, is that I want to conserve my energy to devote it to really finding a way out of conventional school altogether. I’m beginning to think it’s a lost cause, and preserving my child’s energy, enthusiasm and brains before it all goes cold seems a more urgent endeavor.

    Tim Ferriss (The 4 hour work week-guy) talks about mini-retirement or spacing out retirement over a lifetime rather than saving it all till the end and I’m contemplating this idea so that I can educate my child. The thought of me dealing with school for the next 8 years while I watch my child wilt is so frustrating.


  3. @FedUpMom, I was wondering the same thing.

    A lot of assumptions here, but… Assuming FB is American, the school is public and the blog did not contain anything libelous (or is that slanderous? I never remember which is which), then that would be a pretty clear government violation of the First Amendment. I know there are a lot of Canadian posters here, but I don’t know your rights.


  4. FB,

    I was also wondering what happened to your blog. I don’t use my real name on my blog, and I never name the school my daughters attend; the anonymity makes me feel more comfortable speaking my mind, although now that I think about it, I did give some pretty big clues both in my blog and in my guest post on this site. But overall, in my regular postings, I am anonymous. Would you consider setting up an anonymous blog? It’s disturbing that you were threatened, and it’s sad that you felt you had to take the blog down. I enjoyed reading your posts.


  5. Hi Sara and all,

    Below is the first letter I wrote to my son’s second grade teacher.

    September 6th, 2010

    Dear Ms. —,

    Thank you so much for your beautiful presentation at the Back-to-School night. I truly appreciated your emphasis on love of learning and differentiated instruction to meet each child’s interest, need and learning styles. I appreciate your hard work, dedication and talent.

    I am very happy that my son likes having you as his teacher very much. I am also happy to see that my son is gaining confidence in learning at school. Thank you so much for providing such an engaging and positive learning environment for him.

    Last week, my son did not complete drawing as part of his homework packet and it was returned so he could finish over the weekend. I would like to ask if we can work together to make my son’s home learning a better experience.

    Upon my request, the principal kindly sent school’s homework policy last June. Then I have read studies on homework conducted by researchers such as Dr. Harris Cooper at Duke University, who reviewed research on homework, which showed almost no correlation between homework and achievement for elementary school students.

    I taught in schools in Tokyo for over ten years before coming to a prestigious graduate school in the U.S. for my second Master’s degree in Education. Then I taught Japanese for two years at a U.S. public high school. Even with the experience and focus on education in Japan and the U.S., I did not receive any training in homework and the research result came as a surprise.

    However, it fit my experience and observation of my son. Two years ago, he spent an hour crying not wanting to do his first homework assignment in Kindergarten. Last year, he often asked, “Why should I be forced to do this?” when it was time to do homework. For the last two years, homework often lead to frustration, tears and tension.

    In order to take my son’s interest and learning style into account, I would like to share how he spent his time at home over the last ten days.

    Currently, my son is madly in love with Magic Tree House audio books and finished more than seven books in a week. Since babyhood, his father has regularly read to him for more than half an hour a day. This weekend, he read to our son Bionicles and a biography of Walt Disney among other books, some of which my son read aloud. Also he carried around and worked on questions and answers of a book called Obsessed with Star Wars.

    My son is also fluent in Japanese and I speak as well as read to him in Japanese.

    He has a younger brother and they played together. It seems the more they spend time together, the better they work out disputes by themselves and get along with each other.

    Over the weekend, we had gatherings with our families and friends, some of them are from Texas, others are from India, Jamaica, Africa and other places in the world.

    My son also visited the Academy of Sciences, a beach and an organic Ranch in the area. At the beach, he found clam shell fossils, hermit crabs, and sea lions. He also made Native American bows and arrows with feathers, Jasper rocks and willow branches.

    There was downtime, unstructured free play, and outdoor play as well as time spent on reading and relaxed meals.

    Instead of homework, I would like to share this email hoping to create a better learning experience at home.

    Thank you so much again for all your time and talent.

    Sincerely yours,

    Thank you, Sara, for your intelligence, time and talent in leading parents, teachers, student and the field of education in the direction that honors childhood and family ties.


  6. That was a great letter KSP… I’ll be interested to hear any response you get. Whatever the response is, I encourage you to remain firm and do what your heart tells you is best for your son. He’s worth it.


  7. Hi All, Thanks for your interest and support. I saw the movie “Race to Nowhere” the other night with Diane (another poster to this blog), and we were both moved to tears. It did also inspire me not to give up the good fight.

    During the summer I had a conversation with the principal to see where things stood. I received some vague assurances that they (administration and teachers) had discussed the issue, some changes in the parent “handbook” concerning homework might be in the offing (I have not had time to check yet), etc. During the conversation the principal said that many teachers were upset and angry about what I’d written on my blog, that she had shown it to the school lawyer, but the lawyer had said that nothing in the blog was actionable.

    It came as a slight surprise that my blog had been “leaked” to the school, but it’s true I did not use a pseudonym for myself. I never named anyone else, whether my children or the teachers or others, but this being a small town I concede that it would not be hard for anyone local reading the blog to figure out the people involved. And it’s true I was at times harsh on the teachers for their assignments.

    I believe the implied threat was an empty one, more a matter of posturing than anything — of course I am free to criticize without impugning anyone’s character. But in the interests of moving forward as best as possible this year and not creating an oppositional climate (though it may be too late for that), I decided to take down the blog.

    My now-6th-grader had 20 math problems for homework — over this weekend. So I am not seeing any substantive changes — except, as I said, for the fact that my daughter has managed to tamp down her own anxiety and handle it more gracefully and easily — for now — and not that that is necessarily a good thing.

    As I say, I am in the process of reassessing and restrategizing. I’m not overly optimistic of my chances. One of the things I’ve said before is that when you start pulling on one string, like homework, you’re really pulling on the whole web of insanity, and it’s not that people are so ignorant that they can’t see that. So they’re going to resist because they think the whole house of cards will fall (to mix metaphors) — which maybe it will and should, but for that to happen there will need to be a nationwide movement of the kind that “Race to Nowhere” is trying to promote.

    In the meanwhile, with our options limited for now, we just have to practice a combination of quiet activism (to quote one of the greatest environmental activists I’ve known in my life, Brock Evans: “Endless Pressure, Endlessly Applied”) and coping. We have much to be thankful for — our daughters’ native ability and maturation, for example. Today we were riding with one of her friends who is in 7th grade in the neighboring town. Our daughter has a ridiculous 10 minutes to wolf down lunch followed by 20 minutes of recess at most — horrifying — but her friend told us they eliminated recess altogether in her grade, and moved the start time of school 20 minutes earlier! So to use one of our Jewish expressions, it could be worse!!


  8. I am so sorry you are having so much trouble with the school! One of the best choices we made for our kids was to switch to homeschooling. If it’s an option for your family, I highly recommend looking into it. It sounds as though you are already homeschooling him, to be honest!


  9. Hi!
    Wow, I just revisited this site to find your supportive comments. Thank you so much! It means so much to me.

    I considered homeschooling all this summer and couldn’t convince my husband.

    Since my husband likes homework and school, I handed him the job of dealing with my son’s homework this school year. I am in charge of keeping track of my son’s well-being, talking with school and teachers, going to a movie “Race to Nowhere” and Challenge Success conference with my husband, and last but not least, playing & exploring the world with my sons.

    My son’s class teacher and I had a meeting after I sent a letter I posted last time.

    Here is how it went.
    I stated my concern that my son shows signs of stress like a face twitching when I mention schoolwork and homework. I also felt my son’s love of learning was diminishing. Instead of worksheets given as homework, I would like to supplement my son’s learning by offering what is missing in school at home such as more physical play, sibling time, pursuit of interest, second language, family time, relaxation and outing. We have only four hours on W.T.T.F. between school and bedtime to do this.

    The teacher, a wonderful young lady, showed me how my son was doing academically. He was right at the grade level, she said, but he needed to work on capitalizing the first letter of a sentence, simple addition and subtraction, etc. Writing was the area my son needed to be working on as he would stare in the air when writing was assigned. So my job as a mother was to have my son write more at home. She said it’s okay to modify her homework to fit my son’s interest. She emphasized “the more he writes, the better he will get at it.” She said if my son can’t finish homework in thirty minutes, I could just write so on the homework sheet. If he missed a day, then he would need to do double the amount the next day.

    She emphasized, “Homework is important. A child can’t say, ‘I didn’t do homework because I was tired’ in high school or upper grades.”

    She calls students scholars. She said, “A scholar needs to do homework.” I question if it’s true.

    So I said I would keep a record of my son’s homework for two weeks and discuss again in two weeks. I’ll posting again.

    I’d appreciate any comment or thought.

    Thank you.


  10. ***
    She emphasized, “Homework is important. A child can’t say, ‘I didn’t do homework because I was tired’ in high school or upper grades.”

    This makes me crazy! Your son is in second grade. He needs an education that is appropriate for his developmental stage now. Giving young kids homework doesn’t prepare them for homework later; it just burns them out. Let him handle high school when he gets there. A high-school aged kid is a completely different person from a seven-year-old.

    She calls students scholars. She said, “A scholar needs to do homework.” I question if it’s true.

    There is NO correlation between homework in elementary school and any measure of academic achievement. Zero, zip, none.

    Your son is not a “scholar”; he’s a kid. He has many needs that have nothing to do with school, or whether he’s capitalizing the first word of a sentence. He needs to play, he needs to spend time with friends and family, he needs to go outside, he needs lots of sleep and plenty of downtime to process it all.

    The teacher sounds heartless and/or clueless. I’m guessing she doesn’t have kids herself. If your son has a facial tic that shows up whenever you mention schoolwork or homework, he’s way too stressed out.

    When you keep your record of homework, I hope you’ll also include any symptoms of overload that you see in your son. Every time he says “I hate school”, or you see that tic, put it in your record. If he cries, or throws a tantrum, or starts to regress, put it in the record.

    When my daughter was depressed because of school pressure, she threw some really strange tantrums. At the time I couldn’t figure out where it was coming from. Also, she started to regress, speaking in a little baby-talk voice. She said she wished she could go to preschool like her little sister. These were all symptoms of her depression and anxiety.

    Good luck!


  11. KSP, I second everything FedUpMom says, and say, courage and persistence — endless pressure, endlessly applied!

    I’ll tell you what, everything you’re getting is exactly what I got throughout my older daughter’s fifth grade year. It is the same old story, year in and year out. It never ceases to amaze me how much homework is not only an act of blind (and misplaced) faith, but how much educational philosophy — and reality — has regressed under the onslaught of “standards and accountability.” Nevermind FUM’s child — and no offense to FUM! — but if you want regression, it’s right there in the classroom!! It’s like 1958 (the year I was born, and Sputnik, which started the whole “education arms race”) all over again — except 100 times WORSE!!!!

    So, we have to resist! Nicely, but firmly, resist. Use everything you see here in your dialogue. Sweetly: “You know, I do expect my child to capitalize his sentences someday, but I think that will come in time, and it’s really not so important to me now as his love of learning.”

    And if that doesn’t work, show her a bleepin’ e.e. cummings poem!!!!!!!!!

    In fact, let me offer one here, the first one I found online — seems weirdly apt, does it not?
    maggie and milly and molly and may
    by E. E. Cummings
    maggie and milly and molly and may
    went down to the beach(to play one day)

    and maggie discovered a shell that sang
    so sweetly she couldn’t remember her troubles,and

    milly befriended a stranded star
    whose rays five languid fingers were;

    and molly was chased by a horrible thing
    which raced sideways while blowing bubbles:and

    may came home with a smooth round stone
    as small as a world and as large as alone.

    For whatever we lose(like a you or a me)
    it’s always ourselves we find in the sea

    Beware the “we’ll do what we can to help your child” trap, like the 30-minute limit. I’m intimately familiar with that one. It is a convenient way for the school to pass the buck about dealing with the real problem, which is: why would a second grader have more than 30 minutes of homework to begin with?!

    You have my sympathy, and good wishes.


  12. Thanks, FB! I agree with everything you say. I could add that even 30 minutes is more than the 20-minute-per-grade rule (which is nonsense, but sometimes useful for bargaining.)


  13. I was just on the FreeRange Kids blog today and the topic is letting your kids walk to school on their own. Apparently a school is telling parents that their children must be escorted to the gates of the school. If they don’t, the school will call social services. Apparently, it’s tantamount to child abuse to let your kid walk to school, because SOMETHING could happen.

    Parents are outraged.
    The overwhelming reaction to this from the parents who are writing in to comment is …How dare they tell us parents how to take our kids to school!!!!”

    In this situation it’s so clear to them, what their role as parent is…they get to decide about what their children do.
    Now why can’t parents see the invasion of homework into their lives in the same way? Why can a school not be allowed to tell them how their kid gets to school, but it’s perfectly OK for the school to dictate what goes on in their own homes!!!!!?

    I don’t get it. If the stop homework movement could get some of those parents who are so passionate about fighting the schools’ encroachment on other aspects of family life, we might get some traction.


  14. Jason, Jason Jason!

    I’ve printed this brilliant post of yours and I’m giving it to the head teacher at my daughter’s school tonight.

    You have said so eloquently everything I have had in my head and heart about homework for two years now. The only part I would have added would have been more about the physiological effects of the chronic stress of children’s (and their parents’) lives. It is literally killing us. Obesity is one way that our childrens’ lives may be shorter than their parents’….the suppression of the immune system, the effects of depression, the neglect of our bodies all lead to shortened life spans.

    The only thing better than a week without homework is a lifetime without it.


  15. PsychMom writes: To HomeworkBlues…hope she sees this..”

    I just saw it! Three months late, admittedly. Haven’t been on here in AGES. It feels so strange. I used to post multiple times a day, some days.

    FB and Mathew too, great to see you back here!


  16. We are responding. We love our schools. We declare
    Valentine’s Day, 2011, to be I Love Public Education Blog Day. On this day we
    will write our hearts out, about why it is that public education is so
    important to us, our children, and our democratic society. If you or your readers will join us and tell why you love public education too, send your comments and posts to

    Writing will be displayed at the website, and will be tweeted with the
    hashtag #LovePublicEd. We offer the march and events of July 28 to 31st
    in Washington, DC, as a focal point for this movement, and we ask participants
    to link to this event, so we can build momentum for our efforts


  17. If you no longer want to give your help, you might wish to put on the website of The Case Against Homework help each other at instead of see Sara Bennet at.


  18. Hi, it’s me again after a year of silence.

    So I found a group of like-minded mothers this summer after negotiating to opt out for a year individually.

    We went to meet with the principal before school, and our concerns around stress from homework were communicated to the teachers.

    There seems to be less homework this year and the homework seems to be more meaningful.

    On Back to School night, the teachers send messages like, “let’s not make homework stressful.” “let’s make it fun.”

    Great progress.

    But, here is what I am not happy about.

    Today I received a new and updated school homework policy, which added kindergarten.

    Please look at the time assigned for each grade:
    K: 15-20 minutes.
    1: 20-25 minutes
    2: 25-30 minutes
    3: 30-35 minutes
    Reading is assigned in addition. It’s much more than the 10 min. per grade rule especially in the lower grade.

    Also, in the policy, there is still a consequence to not doing homework.

    I tried opting out last year and my son’s report card’s homework section was marked down. I thought the teacher and I had agreement it was more of my choice to opt out.

    There are other parents who don’t come to meetings, but voiced that they will support us. There is a teacher or two and a board member who support us too. At the same time, there is the other end of extreme who wants more homework and more rigorous curriculum.

    My group wants to make “opt-out without consequence” a formal policy. How realistic is that in this education climate of high pressure and top-down approach? How can we make this happen?

    Please help me think this through.


  19. KSP, could I post your comment to my blog, the Coalition for Kid-Friendly Schools? You might get more responses there.

    Brava to you for putting a group together! I wish every school had a no-consequences opt-out policy.


  20. Dear KSP,

    It’s great to hear from you (I remember our conversations well) and I’m so happy to hear you’re still working so hard on the homework issue. I love that you’re still thinking about the opt-out solution and that you were able to opt-out last year. Because your son is so young, you don’t need to worry about his report card being marked down. In reality, the homework grade is yours, not his. In reality, the homework grade in elementary school is almost always a reflection of the parent, since very few kids have the skills to complete homework on their own. I’m convinced that most kids wouldn’t think of homework at all if their parents didn’t pull out the work for them. (This is why I always advocate that parents get together and make a pact not to help their kids with homework at all–not even ask about it. If parents would do this for just one week, I bet teachers would have to rethink homework altogether.)

    As to how to make the “opt-out-without-consequence” idea work…. Has your group thought about writing a joint letter to the teacher/principal outlining your ideas and then asking for a follow-up meeting to discuss? Have you been able to get your ideas out to the entire parent body, not just to the members of your group? Have you proposed some kind of experiment, with students in different groups–one opting out, one doing the homework that’s assigned, and one getting more homework? Parents could select the group they want their children in. Given that there’s no correlation between homework and academic achievement in elementary school, you might open the eyes of some teachers and parents when, at the end of the year, they discover that all students have progressed at the rates they expected. I’d guess that the students in the opt-out group have progressed the most and, at the very least, I imagine their love of learning would be intact and they read more for pleasure than the other groups.

    You might try posing your question on the stophomework facebook page. There’s a pretty lively back and forth going on over there.

    Good luck, keep us posted, and feel free to write me privately if you want to discuss this further.


  21. Hi Sara,
    I so appreciate your post. I will pass your comment to my group, which is now trying to form a letter, meeting with a superintendent/principal, and going to a board meeting, etc.

    I will keep you posted.


  22. Message to FedUpMom
    My comments disappear when I hit preview on your site…and I haven’t been able to post anything since last Wednesday….


  23. Good heavens, PsychMom! I have no idea what the problem is. I certainly haven’t done anything to change your status, and I just cleared the spam filter and didn’t find anything from you.

    Could you try going straight to “Submit” without using “Preview”? Does that work?


  24. First of all, bitch has another meaning: a female dog! So… you mean: Haaaaaaaaaaa you boring female dogs!!! What?! I’m just sayin’… OK! Guys, I know that you all hat homework, is that right? I do too. Let’s see. We can’t just say, “STOP HOMEWORK NOOOWW!!” to the gov. That’s just plain rude. Seriously! WHAT SHOULD WE DO???!!


  25. To FedUpMom
    I am still reading you ardently but cannot comment on your blog anymore, likely blocked somehow by the server I’m using….
    On your latest post..I think of that famous Gary Larson comic strip entitled “What we Say to Dogs and What They Hear”


  26. PsychMom, I guess if you want to comment on my blog you could put your comments here and I could re-post to my blog.

    I hope you and your daughter are well and happy!


  27. THis might have been answered before but what does everyone here say to the opposers that states that not having homework for kids is lazy parenting and it actually going to hurt learning since they don’t have an outlet to practice what they learned?

    I think i’ve been seeing this problems on alot of boards(maybe even here assuming I missed it) and just wonder what are good counter aurguments to these post.


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