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kids do not have to do homework

post #1 of 59
Thread Starter 
I posted in another thread that kids do not have to do homework in elementary school. I am a teacher and I know that parents have the right to say they would like less, more, or no homework at all. Rather than hijacking the other thread to reply, here is my response to flyingspaghettimama's question:

Thread-jumping here...boongirl,is that really possible? Would teachers be miffed by a parent saying this? Up to what grade level could a parent say this without getting their kid in trouble (assuming I know she already knows how to do the work, it's just busywork for her and a power struggle for us, etc)? Second, third grade, higher?
Is there a law that says homework is required? No. It is usually a school board policy and it varies from district to district and school to school. In every school in which I've taught, we've graded students in different academic areas based on their work in class. Homework in elementary school is usually graded separately and reported in a different section of the report card. This changes in middle and high school where your grade for each class does reflect upon the homework. But, in elementary school, if you do not want your child to do homework, what can the school do? You can meet with the teacher and the principal and state your wishes and there is not much they can do about it. The worst that can happen, in my experience, is that the little homework section of the report card may not have a very positive grade on it. Yes, the teacher would probably be miffed. But, can't you make a really good argument that the homework is most likely not teaching your child anything at all, is a waste of family time, and a shocking waste of paper? In my opinion, homework has gotten out of hand in schools today. Teachers waste reams of paper to create newsletters that are barely read and homework packets that teach nothing. The best homework is to read a book and do an occasional long-term project. Some try to argue that students need to establish proper study habits. I never had homework when I was in elementary school except for the occasional project and I did just fine in high school - scored 4s and 5s on 4 AP tests, thank you very much.

Now, this may be different in some other schools and districts. You would need to talk to the principal to make sure your child is not going to be penalized inappropriately for not doing homework. But, the waste of time and paper that is perpetuated on today's elementary students under the guise of "improving study habits" needs to stop. I have taught 1st through 5th grades and I have never seen my students get much out of any homework I gave them other than reading and long-term projects. And, no it was not the homework I gave - it was homework in general. This is a revoluationary idea - but homework should be less and more meaningful.

This is the very topic of Alfie Kohn's current writing project, btw He is going to write about the idea that homework is mostly just busywork and not useful at all. If you visit his website, you can find out more information.

post #2 of 59
Very cool. Thank you.

I guess I see a difference between cool homework that applies things learned in class to real life situations/interests (i.e. studying measurement = go home and measure everyone in your family; read to your family, etc) vs. skill drill worksheets that it appears the teacher only glances at later. The former I wouldn't mind, but the latter is what I'm seeing the most of in local schools. If she were really deficient at understanding something to the point of needing that much practice, I would help to solve the underlying problem sans homework battles.

Thank you again for taking the time to answer.

I have heard that it's often the parents who are demanding more homework for their kids. Do you find that to be the case?
post #3 of 59
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by flyingspaghettimama

I have heard that it's often the parents who are demanding more homework for their kids. Do you find that to be the case?
Oh yes, I find that many parents want their child to do more homework. I used to try to get away with just reading as my homework policy (and finishing unfinished work) but enough parents protested that I had to add the dreaded "packet" of timewasting drill and skill sheets. I would try to make the packets more meaningful and interesting but some students inevitably found it too confusing to do. I know some teachers who spend hours each week making and grading homework packets and take recess every day to have students stay in to finish homework and then they also take calls at night about how to do homework. Then, after they grade the homework packet, it gets recycled or thrown out! If it is not meaningful enough to save, then why create it! And, don't even get me started on the panic that happens in schools when the copy machine breaks! Teaching should be able to continue without the copy machine! Arghh!
post #4 of 59
Sadly when I taught in public school it was the norm to grade homework and include it in the report card grade. Kids whose parents didn't want them doing it at home were SOL and had to find some other time to do it.

post #5 of 59
Originally Posted by boongirl
Teaching should be able to continue without the copy machine! Arghh!
Haha. That's a good way to put it though - if it's not important enough to be kept, it's probably not that important to begin with...
post #6 of 59
I'm a high school teacher, and I NEED my students to do their homework so that they can participate in class in a meaningful and thoughtful manner. Many of my ninth graders have difficulty with this.

I think that one reason it's often difficult for high school students to take homework seriously is because they had WAY TOO MUCH meaningless drill-and-kill in early elementary school. I think large quantities of homework in the lower grades frustrate students and teach them that homework is meaningless. It's very difficult to change this attitude once they've learned it. Plus, I con't figure out how elementary teachers find time to grade it all.
post #7 of 59
Interesting thread. I will have to remember this for next year. They tell me that in my district 3rd grade is when they start to pile on the homework. Right now my ds's homeowrk consists of reading a min. of 15 minutes, spelling words & a math or grammar worksheet. It does not take a lot of time and we get it out of the way when we get home from school.
post #8 of 59
I'm generally anti-homework but I have found that one positive aspect of it is that it keeps me a little bit in touch with what my kids are doing in school, and how they're understanding it. So if my 5th grader is doing long division at home and really struggling, I can help tackle the problem in steps---first coach him to ask the teacher for more help, and/or try to help him myself. I can see firsthand that for some reason my 2nd grader freezes up as soon as we turn on the timer for the timed math facts drills, but that she can answer them fine with NO timer. This becomes important information if I have to talk to the teacher as in to question: Is it more important that she be able to subtract, or that she whip off 100 problems in 5 min.? (which as a skill I don't think has a 'real world' equivalent) If the knowledge is what's important, then why all the stress involved with the timer at this age? So I wouldn't know all this if she didn't come home with the dreaded worksheets. I have been able to get unofficial accommodations made as a result of this insight.

I really have liked when my kids have brought project assignments home that we can get involved in--like insect sculptures, dioramas, etc. Sadly, I am seeing this kind of homework on the decline at my kid's school, as NCLB gets more entrenched. There is more and more of the drill type homework getting sent home.
post #9 of 59
Originally Posted by kewb
Interesting thread. I will have to remember this for next year. They tell me that in my district 3rd grade is when they start to pile on the homework. Right now my ds's homeowrk consists of reading a min. of 15 minutes, spelling words & a math or grammar worksheet. It does not take a lot of time and we get it out of the way when we get home from school.

this is what kat has most nights, and it counts toward her grade. One parent actually asked for less and was told that not completeing the assignments was not acceptable, and the parent being the cause would be educational neglect and be turned over to the prosecutors office..
post #10 of 59
I love your post. It is one of the main reasons I'm looking into other educational options other than a public school. There is NO reason a K student needs homework, ESPECIALLY packets of busy work that can't be done in school and can only be done at home. I had homework maybe 3 times in elementary school, and still managed to graduate 2nd in my class.

The poor 5th-6th grader near me is doing 2-3 hours of homework a night. That is appallingly ridiculous.

post #11 of 59
I'm technically out of my forum, since we homeschool now, but I have really found this discussion interesting.

In teaching college courses I would never in my life dreamed of giving assignments that were really busy work. I had to much respect for my student's time.

But a huge reason we homeschool now is that ds1 hates busywork writing. To the point where he just won't do it. He isn't defiant about it, but he just shuts down.
The kid can spell better than I can--heck he can spell better than I can when I have a dictionary in hand
He consistently had all of his spelling work, quizzes, and tests at school correct.
Yet, he still had to do the write the words out 3 times, define them, write them in a sentence thing.
He also did not color. Nothing. Ever.
Many of the homework activities were completed with a reward of color in whatever it was. That was sheer torture for ds.

In first grade they were supposed to have something like 30 minutes of homework.
For us it turned into 4 hours.
4 hours of us fighting with him.
Every night.

I know the class had a rewards program (trying to remember now if it was colors or what...it was one of those public things though) and not having your homework done was an automatic penalty.
Ds was held in at recess. He was not allowed on trips.

Had the school (it wasn't just the teacher) been more supportive and flexible, we might have been able to work something out.
As it was, we were lucky to be able to homeschool (which has led to its own struggles and battles, but nothing like with the homework).

Back to the college kids, though. I can't imagine a fair way to give the class an assignment to assess their learning and exempt certain students from it.
I do believe in multiple intelligences and I, as often as possible, gave students multiple options for assignments. A paper, a website, a presentation, etc.

I can't figure how to translate that to an elementary classroom.

I'd love to see it though!!
post #12 of 59
When I taught, I had parents complain about their child not having enough homework, and parents complaining about too much homework. Seriously, for a teacher, sometimes it's hard to win in the area of homework. In general, I asked my students to read for at least 30 minutes, anything they wanted to read. I also sent home a math assignment or a language arts assignment or a writing assignment that was practicing some skill we had already learned. I believe that a good amount of homework in elementary school is 10 minutes per grade, mostly reading (you can never practice reading too much!!), so that's what I did. 5th and 6th graders on average then had 50-60 minutes of homework.

I did grade homework because no one told me to do any differently. Some of the students had more trouble than others getting homework finished at home for a variety of reasons, so we always had a catch up after noon on Fridays. Most of the time it wasn't a big deal.

I'm not sure what I would have done if a parent requested no homework. I never came across that. It's something to keep in mind though, both for when I go back to teaching someday, and for when my dd is in school.
post #13 of 59
I give homework to my elementary students, but it's REAL WORK, not busy work. I do expect it done unless there are unusual circumstances. The work is interesting, based on student interest, and an extension of what we did in class. It is written as a note to the family (always) to keep everyone updated on what we are doing. It often involves a conversation with the child and then something produced from that conversation.

I have had parents tell me before "my child can't do the homework, it takes WAY too long and it's a fight." which made me wonder... why is the child able to do the same type of work easily in school, yet struggles at home? I invited a parent to watch one day. The HW that wasn't completed (with a note on it saying the child tried for hours and couldn't do it) I gave to the student right before recess and he finished it (correctly) in about 10 minutes. The mom was shocked!

I am not at all in favor of busy work homework, except for skills that DO need drill. (and in my opinion, those skills are very few and far between). When I do have to use some kind of drill, I make it into a game. I do think every kid should have the opportunity to read and write every night. This doesn't have to be in a formal way. Reading a few chapters at bedtime and writing in a journal, or writing someone a note/card, or making a list for the store, etc.
post #14 of 59
In every district where I've taught, homework has been part of a student's regular grades, and elementary school students who don't complete homework at home have to stay in at recess to do it. That's SOP in two states, and a total of 4 districts (including the very large one I work for now).

Some kids with IEPs had their homework modified, but I can't imagine a teacher allowing a student to be excused on a regular basis because of the parent's desires. Schools make exceptions for things like religious holidays, but not parental choice. If you don't like the homework policy, you can find a private school that better suits your families or just suck it up...

post #15 of 59
Maybe someone can explain it to me then, since we are having such a nice discussion.

Why does an elementary child need homework? Seriously. I'm looking for a 'reasonable' answer to this, b/c it is one of the strongest reasons I'm reading both boards on the education area daily to glean info to help my figure out what to do with my kids for school.

Kids are at school all day long. Why do they need to sit more at night and do homework every single night??? I guess I'm going completely via my experience, of having done homework 3 times max in grade school, and that was for a 'special' project.

My time at home was MY time. That was when I read, did projects with my mom, helped cook, church stuff, played outside, etc.

I guess the reason I ask, is b/c I did perfectly fine w/o homework at that level, and found a good usage for my time without it. I understand at a high school level, and even junior high...but don't understand any need for it in elementary school.

I mean is it simple b/c of the push on testing and NCLB? or is it due to the push via parents to get their kids ahead? What is driving this trend for insisting on homework every evening? or was my school back in the 70's odd for not mandating homework nightly? and for those that gave it, why did you think it was necessary?

I guess I'm just really concerned that as a society we are taking away more and more 'free time' from kids...tme that I feel that at the grade school level they need to grow.

post #16 of 59
Originally Posted by quaz
I mean is it simple b/c of the push on testing and NCLB? or is it due to the push via parents to get their kids ahead? What is driving this trend for insisting on homework every evening? or was my school back in the 70's odd for not mandating homework nightly? and for those that gave it, why did you think it was necessary?

There are 2 differeing opinions-- and it's funny b/c sometimes the same people have both opinions.

1. america's children are not able to compete in the global marketplace. american public schools are not teaching children enough. our standards are too low. we push kids through each grade without teaching them enough.

2. kids are pushed too hard in school. they need time to be kids at home. they need time to relax and play at school.

it's hard for teachers to naviagte the 2 of these together. we don't want the kids to be working 24 hours a day, yet we know that the amount of information and skills they need by the end of the year is ASTRONOMICAL. we simply can't fit it all within the day, combined with lunch/recess/art/music/gym/etc.

so homework helps in a few areas:
- reinforces what you did in class so that you don't have to waste another class doing just review. kids generally need to do things EIGHT times before it really sinks in.

- gives parents a chance to see up close and personal WHAT you are doing and what issues your child is having in that unit.

- homework should be establishing daily home reading/writing. i think this is pretty cool-- in terms of test scores or academic acheivement, children who are in the habit of reading/writing for pleasure at home FAR outpace kids who are doing drill and test prep. reading ANYTHING and writing ANYTHING is the most important thing your child can do in terms of future academics.

-there are a ton of kids who do nothing but watch TV and play video games all night at home. they literally lose everything we teach all day and come back the next day remembering nothing. HW helps these kids keep it fresh.

now--- i'm not saying I 100% agree with every one of these ideas. i go back and forth with my views on HW. as it stands right now, i believe in REAL WORK as homework.
post #17 of 59
I think a large part does have to deal with "teacher accountability", which fwiw, I think is a load of bunk. You don't leave your younger children at a day care center from 8am until 3pm and afterwards ask them to prove that they did their jobs....
(No--I am NOT equating school to day care, not at ALL!! It is just the idea of having someone else having charge of your child for those basic hours, kwim?)

Anyhow, I think parents want to see that their children are learning.

and at the same time, curriculum changes have pushed what was 1st grade when I was a kid into the Kindergarten year. And that same material was 2nd or 3rd grade material when my parents were in school, from what I have been told.

To keep the pace up, I think the schools have found that kids need more reinforcement of concepts. Instead of taking as long as necessary to do that in school, the extra work has moved to the home.

I dunno.
I took secondary ed coursework in college, not elementary...so I can't explain the change at all.
I know for secondary ed, my program encouraged us to not fall into x minutes per grade, but to create assignments that would be seen as valuable (at least as much as is possible by the average high school student )
Review work was fine--but try to find a way to reinforce concepts while allowing the student to bring a part of themselves into the assignment.

Again, it is something that came to me fairly easily for a high school classroom and for a college classroom. But I can't wrap my head around doing it in elementary school
But maybe that is why I didn't go into elementary ed
post #18 of 59
Sometimes I wonder if assigned homework is used as an "equalizer" because not all families are natural learners that spend time "doing" things with their kids that is educational. Perhaps the assignments are meant to make sure each child gets SOME learning at home every night. Dd is only in preschool and there were parents ASKING for homework. I was thinking, "Why the hell don't you just spend some time with your kid and teach them something?? Why does a teacher have to tell you how to interact with your 4 year old??"

The idea about competing in the global market... I don't think homework is going to do ANYTHING about that for kids going to school in the US. The whole educational system and attitudes about education will have to change in the US. My dh is a naturalized citizen, a university professor, and is one of those rare people that spend lots of time reading both mainstream and alternative papers in several languages. He'll read Le Monde (France), Die Welt (Germany), Radikal (Turkey), Manchester Guardian (UK), and New York Times each morning and the rest of the world often has articles about how poor the US educational system is. Unfortunately, it's not addressed at all in the US. Kids have to be entertained to learn. Kids watch TV from birth and then they never learn how to sit still and learn. Attention spans are getting shorter and shorter in the US because kids don't know how to focus for more than about 20 seconds (the average length of a Sesame Street segment). I feel so sorry for teachers these days because instead of teaching, they are doing 12 other things. If we would turn off the TV and video games here in this country, kids would learn to pay attention in the elementary classroom and then no homework would be necessary. That's my opinion, anyway.

ETA: By "kids" I'm pretty much thinking of mainstream kids and not the kids we AP mommas are raising.
post #19 of 59
Double post
post #20 of 59
Very interesting thread & very timely for me. DS started getting packets of worksheets from his K teacher a few weeks ago - a few of the sheets were interesting and fun for him, but a number were covering skills he had known for quite awhile. Completing all of the worksheets took a total of 10 minutes over the course of an entire week, but it still seemed silly to me so I asked his teacher during parent conferences. She said not to do them. She sent them home because a large number of parents were asking for "stuff to do at home" and a small percentage of parents seemed to be doing NOTHING with their kids at home - not even interacting. Anyway, she pretty much said she was trying to be all things to all people, but that if we didn't think they were value added we shouldn't do them.

I will be interested to see how this pans out with future teachers & in future grades...thanks for the links and thoughts wise women!

Barney & Ben
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