Yesterday, I got the nicest note from Stephen D. Aloia, an associate professor of education at California State University, Fullerton. I interviewed Aloia for the book, so his comments, reprinted with his permission, are especially gratifying:
Just a quick note to say how much I enjoyed your book, The Case Against Homework. As a professor of special education and more importantly, a parent of five children – four of them out of high school and one still fighting the homework curse, let me say that your book was a breath of fresh air! I have made your book required reading in one of my university graduate level classes… (somewhat ironic that my homework for the class is to read why homework should not be given)… however, these are teachers and they are the ones who need to realize not only how homework destroys the family, but also how they can help in the fight to reduce homework or to ban it all together! Your insights are tempered by the passion that only a parent can know after years of fighting the good fight… All five of my children have been honor-roll students and scholar-athletes and homework made their lives so painful… not to speak of how schooling itself was often an obstacle to education. I recommend The Case Against Homework to every parent, teacher, and especially, every school administrator! Keep up the good work!
Stephen D. Aloia, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Education
California State University, Fullerton
Aloia also has a great opinion piece in this week’s North County Times, More Homework Please
A parent from British Columbia, Canada, Chris Corrigan, has issued a call for a Great Canadian Homework Ban, according to an article in the National Post of Canada, and his online campaign is stirring up support from like-minded parents across Canada. “The whole evening centres around this mad dash to get the homework done — and then everyone’s mad at each other. It cuts into family time and it really sours the night,” says Amanda Cockshutt, a New Brunswick parent who started a campaign to reduce the homework load at her children’s elementary school.
Concerns about homework are also being raised by Canadian educators. According to the National Post article, Linda Cameron, a curriculum expert at the Ontario Institute of Studies in Education in Toronto, says she is growing increasingly concerned about the escalating levels of homework given to Canadian schoolchildren at ever-younger ages. “There is no research that I have found that extended homework has any real positive benefit for the young child,” says Prof. Cameron, who specializes in early childhood education. “Teachers are concerned, and parents are concerned about it.”
…Banning homework, or at least curtailing the demands, is a very real issue for Ms. Cockshutt, who says homework was a minor annoyance when she only had one child in school, but the burden is crushing now that her children, ages six, eight and 11, are all bringing it home. “I’m all into learning,” says Ms. Cockshutt, who runs a biotech firm, occasionally teaches at a university, and whose husband teaches at the university. “But it’s the copying out of a sentence or, ‘Here’s an extra page of math.’ “You work till 5 and you try to make dinner. Then they’re tired and they don’t want to do it and you think, ‘Boy, is it worth this?’ They say it develops good study habits, but all it seems to do is help me develop good nagging habits. I nag them to do it.”
Read the entire article, Parents rebelling against homework.
Today’s the first day of school for many children and lots of parents are dreading the school year and the work it brings for them and their children. In The Villager, Chapter books and homework? Uh oh, look out, Jane Flanagan, the mother of a child going into second grade describes why:
Rusty will be going to second grade and neither of us is looking forward to it. Memories of first grade still linger. He just didnâ€™t jibe with his teacher last year, and apparently when you are 7 that means you will not jibe with anything. Thank God he continued to behave well in class, but at home he was not pleasant to be around. And that kept up for a longâ€¦ time.
Fortunately, Rusty did learn to read in first grade, but he isnâ€™t what Iâ€™d call enthusiastic. This summer, thanks to an easily accessible local library, Iâ€™ve been taking out a stream of books in a desperate attempt to pique his interest. And there was one book he liked. It was about a kid who had a really lousy day at school. Things got so bad that the character went home at lunchtime to start over. The kid put on his pajamas, went to bed and counted to 10. Then he jumped up, got dressed and headed down to the kitchen for cereal. Rusty laughed so hysterically I couldnâ€™t help but infer a cathartic element.
A glance at the lesson plan for second grade is not cheering me up, either. I see that chapter books start this year. Chapter books? Reading further down I spot a disclaimer. Picture books will â€œremain an important genre.â€? Thank God. Weâ€™ll be enjoying that genre for a long time to come. And then there is homework. At his school, homework begins in second grade. Judging from his violent reaction to the odd project that came home in first grade, this should be fun. Iâ€™m already trying to plot ways not to be the Homework Enforcer: Put him in after-school homework hours? Right. â€œNo way mom!â€? Plead with my delightful 20-year-old babysitter to take on the role? Just how much do I have to pay her for that thankless task? Promise my husband I will do morning drop-off every single day this year if heâ€™ll be the homework guy?”
Whatever happened to the idea that children should be able to do homework on their own? Forgotten, it would seem, what with the proliferation of Web sites designed to give students help, feedback, and answers to common homework questions. An article in today’s Business section of The New York Times, If You Can Click a Mouse You Can Help on Homework (subscription required), sifts through many of them:
My first experience into the world of homework help sites left me bewildered and frustrated. How to choose among them? The Discovery Channel offers Cosmeo.com, while AOL has StudyBuddy.com. Then there is HomeworkSpot.com along with Ask for Kids (www.askforkids.com). Also, NationalGeographic.com/homework, SparkNotes.com, FigureThis.org and GrowingStars.com.
By now, I needed http://www.massage.fast.
â€œThereâ€™s a lot of players getting into the mix, but itâ€™s a young industry and thereâ€™s not a lot of clearinghouses or evaluations,â€? said Don Knezek, chief executive of the International Society for Technology in Education, a nonprofit organization.
This is what I did sort out: there are two main differences in online help sites â€” those that allow a student to interact with a tutor through instant messaging and those that provide resources and techniques to help a student figure out answers to questions.
Some sites, like StudyBuddy, even provide feedback on a student’s writing within 20 seconds. According to StudyBuddy’s site, “Get your paper proofed BEFORE you turn it in for a grade. It’s free, fast and easy.”
In a five column article, I’m the only voice questioning the need for any such thing: “These Web sites are simply enabling a homework system without looking at whatâ€™s not working. In a way, I feel like weâ€™re setting our kids up for an awful lot of cheating.â€?
My co-author and I received a very thoughtful letter from a fourth grade teacher with more than twenty years’ experience from upstate New York. She writes:
There were a couple of times I found myself cringing with a tad of guilt as I read the book. Although I wonâ€™t do a cereal box or diorama book report, I usually do a few similar type book reports each year. I give the students quite a bit of time to complete the project at school (I help to supply the materials as well), but there are always some students that need some extra time. In that case, I have to let them work at home. I try to give the students a week to work on the project, along with many discussions about budgeting time. I feel these book reports allow some of my non-writers a chance to express themselves in a different style. It also allows the children an opportunity to learn about budgeting their time. I do think children need opportunities to learn, take risks, make mistakes and be successful. I feel very comfortable with these projects, but your points are well taken.
Read the entire letter.
And, you can go to the forums and discuss the many issues she raises, including, “Because of your book I am going to rethink my shaky policy about ‘no homework, no recess.’ Do you have suggestions as to alternatives?”
The Case Against Homework and Alfie Kohn’s, The Homework Myth, are the subject of an article in this week’s Time magazine. The author, Claudia Wallis, writes:
Sachem was the last straw. Or was it Kiva? My 12-year-old daughter and I had been drilling social-studies key words for more than an hour. It was 11 p.m. Our entire evening had, as usual, consisted of homework and conversations (a.k.a. nagging) about homework. She was tired and fed up. I was tired and fed up. The words wouldn’t stick. They meant nothing to her. They didn’t mean much to me either. After all, when have I ever used sachem in a sentence–until just now?
As the summer winds down, I’m dreading scenes like that one from seventh grade. Already the carefree August nights have given way to meaningful conversations (a.k.a. nagging) about the summer reading that didn’t get done. So what could be more welcome than two new books assailing this bane of modern family life: The Homework Myth (Da Capo Press; 243 pages), by Alfie Kohn, the prolific, perpetual critic of today’s test-driven schools, and The Case Against Homework (Crown; 290 pages), a cri de coeur by two moms, lawyer Sara Bennett and journalist Nancy Kalish.”
Read the rest here: The Myth About Homework: Think hours of slogging are helping your child make the grade? Think again.
In a recent op-ed in the Baltimore Sun, Etta Kralovec and John Buell, authors of The End of Homework: How Homework Disrupts Families, Overburdens Children, and Limits Learning (Beacon Press 2001) explain why summer homework isn’t a good idea. They argue, among other things, that “even if, as a recent ABC news story suggests, students lose a month’s math proficiency during the summer, there is no guarantee that homework over the summer will stem that loss.” They also write, “we bet that many teachers who require such homework would themselves insist on the value of sabbaticals to refresh their minds.” Read the full article here: Summertime not Homework Time.
For the second year in a row, students in Lancaster, Texas, were suspended for not doing their summer homework, according to an ABC News Report, 519 Students Suspended for Not Doing Homework. In The Case Against Homework, we report that, in January, 2006, nearly 1,000 students were suspended for not completing their Christmas assignments and some were even visited by police.
Here’s some unique advice from an associate professor of pediatrics at Saint Louis Universityâ€”the homework shirt, Before-School Assignment: Find a Homework Shirt.
â€œWhat a child is wearing can really help him get in the mood to buckle down and study,â€? says Dr. Haller, who also is a pediatrician at SSM Cardinal Glennon Childrenâ€™s Hospital. â€œThere are a lot of examples in life when you dress a certain way to tackle a given task. You frequently dress formally to go to a wedding. Athletes wear uniforms to play their sport. As so many kids are on the run, putting on a special shirt to do homework is a concrete reminder that itâ€™s time to hit the books, even if theyâ€™re sitting at their sisterâ€™s soccer game.â€?
Haller suggests selecting one homework shirt to wear during study sessions for the entire school year or until the child outgrows it, and washing it on the weekend. â€œIt can be something you and your child shop for or find in her closet. Find something she likes, but wonâ€™t want to wear so much that she wonâ€™t take it off when she finishes her homework. Itâ€™s in between school clothes and play clothes and lets the child know sheâ€™s come home from school but also getting ready to do a specific task â€“ her homework.â€?
Most middle school teachers who responded to a survey in the Las Virgenes School District in California stated that their homework should take between 16 and 30 minutes to complete each night, according to an article in The Acorn, Local Middle School Teachers Respond to Homework Survey. With each teacher handing out that amount the workload could be “tremendous,” a School Board member stated. She hopes that administrators will monitor homework loads. But the Assistant Superintendent of Education said that teachers cannot be expected to provide “individual flexibility” for 150 students. He also noted that coordination among departments would not be an “easy sell (to teachers).”