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Respectful ways to address excessive homework with the teacher

post #1 of 56
Thread Starter 
My DD is in 3rd grade and the jump in homework from 2nd to 3rd is staggering.

In 2nd grade, she had maybe 15 minutes a night. In 3rd, she's up to about 2 hours.

We don't have a parent handbook - they're revising it but, the teacher handbook is online and it says 45 minutes maximum for this grade level.

What I'm finding is that there is a tremendous amount of busy work.

Math is not only a 20 question homework sheet - which I'm fine with. This typically takes her about 15 minutes.

But then, the kids are expected to spend 15 minutes on their math fact sheets - these are sheets that are in plastic page protectors and the kids are to answer the math facts in dry erase marker so they can erase and do it over and over and over again. To me, this is nothing but busy work.

Then they are assigned 15 minutes of reviewing math flash cards.

So, we're at 45 minutes already and that's only math.

On to spelling - They have to write all their words in alphabetical order - 27 words. This takes less than 10 minutes - probably closer to 8 minutes.

Then they have to edit sentences and write sentences using their vocabulary words. This takes about 10 minutes.

Then the projects begin - keeping in mind that they have 4 days to complete but, they have to get them started and work on them each night, probably close to 30 minutes a night.

My fear is that at this point, the work is super easy. DD can fly through it so part of the problem is that she gets messy so I make her erase and redo those areas that she rushed and made the work illegible. But, what's going to happen when she actually has to think about the work she's doing? If we're at about 2 hours now, I can't even fathom what it will be like when the work is actually challenging.

So, we have conferences coming up in a few weeks and I want to address the work overload. I'm very familiar with The Case Against Homework and will discuss that but, I seriously doubt it's going to alter class policy.

I do like this teacher and we'll have her for 3 years - 2 years for this DD and then my younger DD will be in her class next year for 2 years. So, I really want to keep a good, respectful relationship.

So, between now and conferences, I'm really going to pay attention to make sure the problem isn't my DD using her time inefficiently, that she's focusing and actually working instead of dreaming off etc.... and then see for certain how long it takes but, I am hoping to get ideas on how to respectfully, yet productively, address the homework / busy work issue with the teacher.
post #2 of 56
I think California and Arizona must use the same homework manual, because that was exactly what my dd had in the second grade. It is ridiculous. I hate math facts! Now my dd gets really nervous when anything is timed because of the timed tests they gave her everyday.

I never had any luck talking to teachers about homework length. They usually tell me that they have been teaching XXX amount of years and I am the only parent who had a problem with it going over 45 minutes. I know that I'm not the only parent who is unhappy, but all the other parents in her class decided not to say anything. I think that is very common. I think teachers think that parents feel like the school is advanced academically if there is a lot of homework, and that is why it is assigned.

I tend to get a better response when I mention their physical health. That spending that time doing physical activity, especially given the obesity epidemic in children, is better for their development than homework. But, they still don't really care, IME.
post #3 of 56
I'm just 'guessing' that most kids dont do the flashcard for 15 mins or at all, same for the dry erase pages.
Is that 20? sheet every night or 1-2x a week?
Spelling, is that nightly or 1x a week? for the ABC order and sentences.

Third grade is a huge jump and adjustment from 2nd. This is when projects do start and long term assignments. AZ is lagging in education so lots of things are 'busy' work and many many kids dont do them.

School just started in AZ - 1 week in, maybe?? and things are still getting worked out. I wouldn't say anything at this point. However at the conference I would gently mention the adjustment and changes from 2nd to 3rd and projects etc.
post #4 of 56
Thread Starter 
This is actually our 4th week in school. We go modified year round. So for us, the homework requirements are pretty much worked out and we're into our regular requirements and projects are now being added on top of the daily work.

As far as the daily assignments, they vary nightly but each one calls for roughly the same amount of time.

I know most kids aren't doing the full time on the math sheets and flash cards but, my point was that it's super easy now and only going to get harder. So, while my DD can fly through her math sheets and facts now, the time is going to come when these things require a lot more effort and probably time.
post #5 of 56
Good luck. If you find something that works, I'd love to hear about it.

I've tried a variety of approaches, but none of them have worked. The teachers just say it's a school policy and the principal says its a district policy. The superintendent says its up to the school board. The school board has rubber stamped every single thing the administration has proposed for the last 10 years that I have researched.
post #6 of 56
A teacher's perspective:

Third grade is a great big testing year. They may be trying to prepare the kids to do well on the standardized tests that become really punitive for schools at that stage. If the kids don't score well on the tests, the district, the school and sometimes even the teacher are punished by No Child Left Behind legislation. Third grade teachers have an enormous amount of pressure to get the kids "caught up" in time for the tests.

That being said, you might want to do some digging for research that shows that test scores can also go up when schools do things very differently (project based learning etc.), not just with rote, repetitive learning. That research is out there, but it can be hard to convince teachers to swim against the standardization stream when their jobs are at risk.

Good luck, and use your best judgment about when your dd has mastered something at home and then call it good!
post #7 of 56
Personally, I'd dump all the math fact stuff and not even bother telling the teacher. That knocks of 30 minutes right there. If you think she needs the math fact practice, drop the time. 5 minutes a night on trouble problems should be sufficient. Or, break them into several short sessions a day which is actually better for retention anyway.

As for the other work, I have some tips passed down from DD's 5th grade teacher. She said if time was excessive, put time limits on projects. Yes, it means that in the beginning, some papers and things won't be done but kids will learn to start working in those time frames. This was great for us as DD would spend HOURS on a single written essay because she wanted it "just right." She was making all her projects too detailed and too long. Time limits that year really made DD a better writer too as it forced her to streamline, really plan her essays and to fully follow the directions (the assignment is 5 paragraphs, not 5 pages.)

Are they pre-testing in spelling at all? I know DD had similar spelling assignments but they pre-tested and the homework was only on MISSED spelling words. Is this the case? If not, this could be something to ask for.
post #8 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by jessemoon View Post

That being said, you might want to do some digging for research that shows that test scores can also go up when schools do things very differently (project based learning etc.), not just with rote, repetitive learning. That research is out there, but it can be hard to convince teachers to swim against the standardization stream when their jobs are at risk.
I've tried that. More importantly, I've also asked the principal and the superintendent to provide citations for a body of research demonstrating the benefit of homework in elementary school, given that every newsletter that gets sent home is liberally sprinkled with phrases like "evidence based practices."

They act surprised, can't find anything and respond by plugging their ears and humming loudly.
post #9 of 56
Ugh, I'm a teacher and that drives me crazy. It's all evidence based until you get to something outside of tradition/mainstream and then it's just the status quo. I teach high school and I never assign busy work, only things like reading/annotating (in a real evidence based way, that actually helps the kids process the book and do well when it's time for the essay writing) our course novels, working on essays and presentations (which we also work on extensively in class), that sort of thing.

Good luck! I'd stick with it or at least set time limits... there has GOT to be a set policy on the time somewhere...
post #10 of 56
I see you are in Arizona.

Until 7th grade my daughter went to the Peoria school district, and by 4th grade, she had four hours of homework a night.

I LOVED this school. It was the best school she could have been in, but the homework was insane. It was just busy work.

It cut into our family life quite a bit. The worst part was each teacher could decide how much homework to assign, so the class next door was coming home with no homework, but my daugther's class was coming home to an entire evening of homework.

I battled it for years, and never won. I was never even taken seriously. In fact, the fourth grade teacher even accused me of being a racist because I was complaining about a "Black History month" project. (it went on for three months, and it was a three month long huge project about Alex Haley.. he's not THAT interesting)

Anyway, my point is, I never got anywhere. She still had hours of homework. On dance nights, she was up til midnight doing homework. The teachers felt like she should drop out of dance and make school a priority. (we did not)

On the other hand, when we moved into the deer valley district, my daughter was YEARS ahead of her new school. So, some good did come out of it. But, it wasn't worth it.
post #11 of 56
yeah it was insane in California.

so i didnt do any of the review. seriously. i told my dd she would have to do it on her own. in fact she 'did' hw. never the busy work - some of it was going over spellings she missed in her classwork.

dd had periods when she made many mistakes in her spelling. sometimes she didnt.

and yeah it was because of the star testing.

our school though did warn about the hw policy and told us right from the beginning that it was an essential part of school. strict adn rigorous. also because they scored the top.

when she had projects the amount of hw was reduced. adn they also got a lot of classtime to work on the projects.

however one of the middle school teachers told me that kids who come from our school adjust far better in middle school because they are used to getting that much hw.

apprently the hw amount is a huge jump from elementary to middle school.
post #12 of 56
Some families in Canada exempted their kids from homework. Article 1
Article 2
post #13 of 56
I'm a teacher too, and I don't believe in giving work out just to take home and do it. Basically, in my class, the only work that is homework is work that is not finished in class. I provide ample time for work to be finished, if it is not then 1) the student is struggling with the assignment and I need to address that and find out why or 2) they are goofing off, which I need to address, as well. I can tell students' strengths/weaknesses by the work in give in class, and usually I can help them with those too during class time. Sometimes a kid is struggling in a certain area, and I might ask the parents to do flashcards, or extra reading, or something else that will strengthen a weak area, but I don't require it or punish kids for not doing it.

I strongly believe that evening time should be family time. Maybe going to music/dance/sports lessons, playing games, even (gasp!) watching TV as a family.

I'm sorry you are going through this. It's hard when you don't agree with a teacher's policy, but you want to remain on good terms. I would just be honest with her. I'll keep my fingers crossed for you!
post #14 of 56
Thread Starter 
Tonight was better. We skipped the math fact practice all together, she didn't have to write spelling words and she finished most of her project last night so she only had a bit left for today and we were at just around 50 minutes.

I'm going to keep close track over the next 2 weeks. Then we have conferences and I'll have a better idea of how to address specific concerns.
post #15 of 56
When I was teaching 4th grade we were told the rule of thumb was 1o min of homework per grade level. That didn't include silent reading. I usually gave a math sheet (depending on how you did in class it was either review or something accelerated) and then perhaps science or ss questions. I had learned that more homework wasn't better. We tried to work hard all day so we wouldn't have much homework.

One thing that bothers me is teachers who assign projects during holidays. They only thing I ever expected on weekends or holidays was to read 20 min a day.
post #16 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by luv2homeschool View Post

One thing that bothers me is teachers who assign projects during holidays. They only thing I ever expected on weekends or holidays was to read 20 min a day.
That makes me crazy. I was actually happy that we couldn't afford to go away for spring break last year, because my dd in 7th grade would have had to spend her entire week in a hotel room doing idiotic projects. And I would hate to have to locate crafts stores in strange locations.

I don't understand why some teachers don't sleep nights unless they have ruined every day that their students get off school. Dh is a public high school teacher, and I think he gets even madder than I do.
post #17 of 56
Hmmm, HW has never been a real problem for us. It's boring and repetitive, so we just don't really do it. I'm not kidding. Look up my thread from last year about how I told ds2's 2nd grade teacher that we wouldn't be doing any HW that year.

I have worked at about a dozen different jobs in my adult life, and not one of them EVER required me to work off the clock at home. And I got paid to be at those jobs. Who is paying my kids to go to school? Of course the pay-off is that they get an "education", but do you see my point? Most adults don't get take-home work on a daily basis, at least not hourly workers. Of course career individuals working on salary may have different job requirements, but I would equate that more to HS/college level students. Not elementary.

As for my sophomore, he come home the 1st 2 days of school with "Classroom Contracts" from each teacher, 7 in total. I signed them all, but crossed out a lot of points with which I was in disagreement. For example, one teacher wanted us to agree that work assigned on days when my child was absent would be turned in within 2 days of returning to school. The district policy is 10 days, so I changed that before signing. Another teacher wanted me to sign an agreement that said, in part: "I agree that I will remind my child to put HW ahead of all other after-school activities, including TV, sports, and family activities". Hell to the NO!

So if ds1 wants to sit down and do an hour or 2 of HW in the evening, he is free to do so, but 1st he must have a healthy after-school snack, do his chores (dishwashing and tidying his room), eat dinner as family, and have our weekly bible study together. I also impose a 9pm lights out bc he tends to have pretty severe insomnia and won't be able to get up in the morning if he stays up too late.

With ds2, in 3rd grade, I haven't officially told the teacher we aren't doing HW. In fact, I've been curious to see what sort of work he is getting, bc he is supposed to be in the gifted track this year. We've done some HW, but usually I cut down the amount. For example, instead of making him handwrite 18 vocab definitions, I asked him to tell me what each word meant. There were only 4 or 5 he wasn't sure of, so those we looked up and discussed. He wrote nothing. The next night, instead of sentences for all 18 words, I made him write for just the ones that didn't know the meaning of the night before. And as far as the actuall spelling of the list, if he can ace it verbally Monday night, i call it done.

I also hate the repetition of math and spelling all freaking year long. Why don't I ever see Science or Social Studies? Oh yeah, bc of standardized testing. Gotta drill in the math and reading, right?

Our district has their 10 min per grade policy, but in the fine print there is a provision for opt-ing out. We opt out. Simple as that.

GL, OP!
post #18 of 56
I got no where with speaking to the teachers here, so we just skipped the homework. I noticed there was never a homework grade anyway in the grade lists. I could not get out of projects, but by skipping everything else, it reduced the whole thing.

I figure we cannot keep getting away with that and am worried it is teaching poor work ethic. But the homework was horrid for 2nd grade. And the projects were costly.
post #19 of 56
Thread Starter 
Thank you for all the thoughts!

It has been a bit better. Seems like Monday is the worst.

My biggest issue right now is spelling. Why does she need to write 27 words, 5 times each? And, she must turn that in. I'm going to address that issue first. That's just insane. If she can spell them then that's nothing but ridiculous busy work.

We've cut out the math facts and flash cards so that helps.

Her math homework is completely reasonable. 20 questions max but, it's things like reading a thermometer or writing $1,254 in expanded form etc.... nothing super difficult or complicated but, review of what they did in class. I have no issue with that. And, it gives DD some practice in noticing details - for example, sometimes the thermometer is in Celsius, sometimes Fahrenheit - she most always puts Fahrenheit. Or, the writing $987 in expanded form, she almost always forgets to put nine hundred eighty seven dollars So, it's good for her to have to practice noticing the details.

So, we're getting a pretty good picture of what I'm going to address with the teacher as busy work that I don't feel is necessary and I will address those issues specifically without really addressing all homework.
post #20 of 56
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lisa1970 View Post
I got no where with speaking to the teachers here, so we just skipped the homework. I noticed there was never a homework grade anyway in the grade lists. I could not get out of projects, but by skipping everything else, it reduced the whole thing.

I figure we cannot keep getting away with that and am worried it is teaching poor work ethic. But the homework was horrid for 2nd grade. And the projects were costly.
I would really worry about just skipping without letting the teacher know you're skipping and your reasons why.

I work extensively in my kids class and the kids who just skip homework with no explanation tend to get ridden by the teachers. The teachers talk to them constantly about it. They may miss recess or have to make up that homework during other times. They may miss out on activities or rewards other kids get who did their homework.

I'm not saying that's ok, I'm just saying I would be concerned about the ramifications of not doing homework without talking to the teacher and letting them know it's a deliberate decision as opposed to just a lazy kid and uninvolved parent (not saying that's what you are but, that's the perception teachers seem to have of children/parents who chronically don't do homework)
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