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Author Topic: Opting out of homework  (Read 21016 times)
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« on: February 26, 2010, 10:08:41 PM »

My 1st grader had homework every night except the weekends.  Then sometimes on the weekend he had a "fun project" to complete.  One night I timed it.  He spent 41 minutes actively working on his homework and we didn't even complete everything.  I finally decided it was enough.  He wasn't learning from his homework.  After a 7 hr day at school, he just couldn't concentrate.  If I expected meaningful participation from him then sometimes the homework took all night and some tears.  Most of the time, I was essentially feeding him the answers so we could finish it in less than 1 hour.  Finally I called his teacher to discuss it, and she was fine with him just opting out of homework.  Apparently she has no control over the curriculum and understood my concerns.  Now my son has a more balanced lifestyle.  Ironically it is also more intellectually stimulating -  he joined the chess club, watches documentaries, and will be starting yoga soon.

Prior to talking to his teachers I polled everyone I knew about their homework experience.  Most everyone reported that their kids had too much homework and it interfered with their family life.  Some people reported that their kids can't play or socialize with friends on school nights.  Parents of older kids reported that their kids don't get enough sleep because of homework.  On the other had, there were a few people who reported that their kid did the homework quickly and it wasn't an issue. My son goes to a public school in central NJ.  I was just curious whether anyone else on this forum has issues with too much homework.

I think it is presumptuous to assume that kids don't need time to themselves to explore interest outside of the school curriculum.  How am I suppose to raise a reader if my son only has time to read the boring assigned texts?  How is a child to discover his passion if it isn't covered in the curriculum?  How is he suppose to learn to make decisions for himself if his whole day is structured?  How is he suppose to make meaningful connections if he has no time to even daydream about concepts?  Finally what about the topics not covered in his curriculum.  His homework was denying me the opportunity to teach him anything myself.  Anyway I was curious what others think about this topic.


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« Reply #1 on: March 03, 2010, 06:29:07 PM »

I can't believe a 1st grader would have that much homework! I don't blame you in not wanting him to do it. At least the teacher was understanding.


"While we try to teach our children all about life, our children teach us what life is all about."

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« Reply #2 on: March 03, 2010, 10:31:24 PM »

Alfie Kohn has written an entire book on this topic: "The Homework Myth" and here is an article summarizing some his views on the topic.  Maybe you could recruit some other parents in your son's classes and attend some PTA meetings to lobby for less homework.

« Last Edit: March 03, 2010, 11:36:02 PM by Twinergy » Logged
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« Reply #3 on: March 03, 2010, 10:37:20 PM »

In the French public school system, kids get quite a lot of homework from the 2 year of primary schoo- it's often the parents who end up doing it.. (especially maths problems and little essays  tongue )
Usually they do get most of the homework to be done over the week-end. Week days are usually revision for the next-day test.
For first graders it's mostly reading a few words, writing some nicely, or memorising a little song or poem.

I think you could probably ask the teacher to 'select' what is essential to what's not. What type of homework does it get? (reading, writing, counting etc..?)

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« Reply #4 on: March 04, 2010, 05:49:33 AM »

Twinergy - thanks I just finished the book.  It was helpful in solidifying my resolve.  I just hope I can stay strong each year because it is going to be a long haul.  I wish I could afford a private school. 

Hypatia - He was gets 1 or 2 worksheets (addition, subtraction, or writing  workshop work), some reading ( poems, level 1 readers, etc), about 100 out of 200 sight words to study, and a phonics game to play each school night.  Then on weekends, he is suppose to continue studying the sight words and sometimes has "fun projects" to complete.  Most kids probably have less sight words to review but my son has a learning disablility so his list keeps growing.  They get 2 new sight words added to their list daily.  Then the teacher tests them periodically and removes the sight words that the child has mastered.  However my son has mastered very few of them.  To keep up I made an agreement with the teacher to break his sight words into 2 alternating lists.  But now that I've opted out of homework whatever I do except reading is optional.  Recently I read the book suggested by Twinergy, The Homework Myth, and now I'm convinced that there is no scientific proof that homework is helpful to elementary school kids.

NHockaday- Our school system has a 10 minute per grade homework policy, but this excludes independent study and reading.  So a first grader is suppose to get no more than 10 minutes of homework.  However, our teachers treat the 10 minutes as a floor (not the ceiling) and add nightly reading and study items.  Also to ensure compliance, the homework list comes home daily and a parent must sign that it was completed or write an excuse.  He had homework in kindergarten and his early intervention preschool.  My son also has a learning disability and was assessed to be 2 yrs behind his peers.  Yet he gets the same curriculum.  In the morning he goes to a smaller class to get extra help in his core academics then is mainstreamed for the rest of the day.  With higher student/teacher ratio, his resource room class is just 1 week behind the regular classroom.  Much of his work is at the outer limits or just beyond his comprehension.  His day is intellectually exhausting.  He also attends summer school and only gets 2 weeks off in the summer - one week before it starts and another just before the new school year begins.  He has been working very hard for too long.  I wanted to leave him behind in preschool and delay kindergarten entrance by 1 year, but the school system refused per "No Child Left Behind."  Apparently you are able to delay entrance into "the school system" until age 6.  But in my case I already entered him in "the school system" once I put him in their early intervention preschool.  So without realizing it, I lost my opportunity to delay kindergarten.  I never wanted all this stress for him.  So my best case scenario is to at least stop the homework.  I'm going to restore balance to his life.  I can't wait for spring so he can play outside everyday until it is dark.  Maybe he will even do better since his many of his classmates (trapped inside with homework) will be denied the restorative benefits of sunshine.  Also he will have time to himself to grapple with the concepts that he didn't understand last year.

Thanks for the replies, Lori

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« Reply #5 on: March 15, 2010, 01:36:18 PM »

I just had a parent-teacher conference.  My son's teacher was upset that homework had caused my son so much stress.  She is a big believer in balance.  She has a classified daughter herself.  She says that usually parents are asking for more homework because they are desparately trying to fix their kid with extra school work.  I must admit that I gave my son extra work in the past.  I'm so over it now.  My son learns differently than other kids and some of the basics just don't stick in his memory very well, but then every so often he does amazing things - like he is learning to play chess.  Last night just after I tucked him into bed, he called me into his room to confirm that bishops move diagonally.  I like knowing that he is pondering chess in his sleepy state.  He is such a unique kid. 

I still worry about future homework policies.  I think that I will always feel that I need more time with him to focus on other non-academic pursuits so I can find out his passion in life.  More than other kids, I think it is important that we discover what makes him special in order to build his self-esteem.

Anyway I hope he has this teacher again next year.  She has a mixed 1st/2nd grade classified class.  I forgot to ask her if she might get my son again next year.  It will be so much easier. 

« Last Edit: March 15, 2010, 01:49:19 PM by akalori » Logged
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« Reply #6 on: March 15, 2010, 02:57:38 PM »

  My child learns differently also.  teachers should not get upset when a parent tells them that a child is getting fustrated by the homework if anything they should be coming up with other options for that child.  Also if this teacher is not willing to help you with your son I would go and see if the person over the school is willing to step in and help you.  my son has an issue of things not staying in his short memory  and after a period of time where the teachers just talks he has the ablity to "zone out"  I told the teacher that he has now that what ever they are working on his class send it home and we will finish it.  I have learned that in our system that if i do not stick up and tell these teachers what i need from them for me to help my son to become successful they will do what they want and i made it clear that I am his mother and I determine what he needs. and also i guess that i am one that when it comes to my son i am going to tell them what is going on with my son and if they do not like what i have to say than tough that is their problem, it is their job to educate our children and make sure they develop the skills they need to be the best they can be.     

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« Reply #7 on: March 15, 2010, 03:05:10 PM »

hello,are you in the U.S?  if you are when you attend the conferences in reguards to your son does the school not offer you a copy of your rights for him?  in reguard to his education? 

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« Reply #8 on: March 15, 2010, 03:29:47 PM »

I live in the usa.  I suffered in silence because I was embarrassed to admit that homework was just too difficult for my son.  I also tried to do every bit of the homework including any of the optional additional homework suggestions.  I was worried that if my son didn't do it all that other kids would and he would fall further behind.  Additionally I tried to get my son to do extra reading at home.  Then finally I came to the conclusion that it was all just too much.  So I decided to cut back.  Even after cutting back, I noticed that the homework just wasn't meaningful for my son.  He just wasn't attending to it so I was essentially feeding him the answers.  Finally I checked the districts homework policy.  It is 10 minutes per grade, so my son should only be doing 10 minutes each night since he is only in 1st grade.  Then I had the epiphany that if an average child is only expected to be able to concentrate for 10 minutes after a full day of school, of course my classified child is completely spent and unable to concentrate after school.  He spends his whole day compensating and stretching himself to his limits.  Of course he needs to relax and replenish himself.  Then I started researching homework to see how much damage would be done if he didn't do homework.  It seemed that there really isn't any basis for any homework beyond reading in elementary school.  So now when my son seems relaxed and willing I have him read.  My son has an IEP (individualized education plan) and so far everyone at school has been very accomodating.  However our school system has very high standards.  People move to my town for excellent school system.  It's great if you have a kid who can excell and feel challenged by the high standards but it might not be the best fit for my son.  People in my town get tutors for their high acheiving kids so that they will accelerate to even higher academic levels.  The housing prices here are high and scholastic achievement is a status symbol.


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« Reply #9 on: March 15, 2010, 04:53:06 PM »

I hope that all works out for you.  please do not suffer in silence,  when you go to the meetings in reguards to your son where they create or mend his IEP they should give you a copy of your rights under I.d.e.a.  do they not give these to you?  If you feel that he is having way much more work than he can handle have them to ammend his IEP.  I urge you to let the ones in charge of writting his Iep that you are worried that he is going to get behind.  you said in the reply that school achivement is a status symbol in your town are you worried about  how this will make you look if you say he can not keep up?

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« Reply #10 on: March 15, 2010, 05:24:02 PM »

Actually I have gotten a copy of my rights.  I was worried that if he didn't catch up that he would have poor self-esteem.  His teacher has been very supportive and doesn't care if he does homework.  She assigns it because parents expect and ask for even more of it.  She is happy that my son is having time to run around and has even made suggestions about a sports league for special needs kids like him.  He was on a regular soccer team but didn't get to be meaningful part of the team.  By time he noticed the ball someone else would take it away.  She believes that reading is helpful and that even reading aloud to him would be helpful, so I just ordered this book called "The Read Aloud Handbook."  At his point, my only real disappointment is that my son wasn't able to delay kindergarten entrance.  But who knows maybe he would have done worse if it was delayed.  Ironically, the whole first grade including classified kids were given a test for the Gifted and Talented Program.  It was some sort of logic test and apparently my son may have done very well.  His teacher was glancing at his answers and noticed that he was doing exceptionally well.  He has such a unique mix of skills and deficits.  He was actually assessed by the child study team twice because the first time they immediately got the impression that he was advanced for his age because of his vocabulary. logic, and self-control so they didn't do the full complete evaluation.  The second time they were surprised to discover that in some areas he was a whole 2 years behind.  So in some respects, I guess he would be better suited to remain in the same grade with his peers.  Unfortuantely his deficits involve reading and math skills which is nearly the whole first grade curriculum.  it sounds like you have come to a peaceful place with your child.  What grade is your child in?  I'm still very much worried about my son on a daily basis.

« Last Edit: March 15, 2010, 05:25:43 PM by akalori » Logged
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« Reply #11 on: March 15, 2010, 05:30:43 PM »

I think..Children should have work to take home...of course I totally desagree if takes you all night long to get it done.Too much homewrok is not healthy for children and parents because ends in frustration.
I will say a 15 minutes homework that helps to show responsability to parents in children school life. I give children homework that could be fun to make with parents in the house.
It is very important to show parents that they need to participate more in children's activities one of them is homework.
Also is  a way parents know what are children learning at school, how are they doing? what do they like to do? what clases are their favorites?
ALso don't forget that children behave differents with teachers than they do with parents, most of the time children whine,cry and make things harder for parents in homework time.This doesn't mean they don't like to do homework what is means they just don't want to do it.I had parents asking for help because of this, their kids will cry ,they will throw tamtrums, and scream...etc...because of homework...sometimes a 5 minutes homework will became a 40 minutes homework or not even that, parents will get tired and say ok. we are finished. I said parents if they don't want to do homework in the house..that is fine..maybe I can help them next day at school with homework. Children will do homework next day at school in less than 5 minutes without a problem!!
We as parents need to make this precious time with our kids FUN!! if is math time? good let's get some real apples to count...let's make this fun!!
I think homework is some times harder for parents than for children!We just don't have time for that, we need to cook, or get ready for next day..etc. I totally understand I am a full time worker and a full time mom. But our children grow so fast that I have at least at the end of my day 30 minutes or so to dedicate to my child's homework.

It is just my personal opinion, Of course too much homework is not fun and becames difficult for evrybody!! EVERY thing has  a limit. Teachers have the obligation to make thsi easier not harder.

« Last Edit: March 15, 2010, 05:35:57 PM by PY » Logged
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« Reply #12 on: March 16, 2010, 12:12:29 AM »

  I wish i have completely come to that peaceful place with my son's learning issues.  there are days when I sit and think about him and how we got to the place where we are now I sit and think and wonder if i had did something wrong or ate something i should have not while i was pregnant with him.  I just know that I can build his esteem and i want him in a place where he can be the best him he can be.  I work full time with children and every day I am faced with the fact that my son is not like his peers for a moment It made me sad and I felt really bad but then I realized that he is not like his peers now but he is a strong, sweet, and bright young man and he will catch up to his friends soon and I love him the same.  I just think that things could always be worse.  I just count the blessings that i do have with him.    I hope all works out with your son and he blows those teachers away.  just keep hope and working with him at home. smile     

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« Reply #13 on: March 16, 2010, 03:23:17 AM »

PY - Actually I shouldn't say we have completely opted out of homework because we do the reading assignments and practice his phrases (sentences with sight words).  We also practice number recognition whenever any real world opportunities occur.  We just aren't doing worksheets, and have cut back on the number of phrases/sight words that he practices each night.  In addition, he has interest outside of the 1st grade curriculum.  So we do science projects and learn about geograpy and other cultures.  But actually I don't agree that all children should have school work to take home each night.  This plan works for us.  It's nice that we get some books from school to read plus some that he has selected himself.  His interests exceed his reading level so it is hard to find books that won't bore him.   If it is an assigned homework book, he will read it without complaint despite his lack of interest.  However I think for some kids no homework in elementary school would be fine and would give them more time to pursue their own interests.  I think there are many advanced children on this forum who may grow to find their school's curriculum unchallenging, and homework would only be busy work.

Anneka7187 - That's funny because I always wonder whether it was something I ate too, or maybe perservatives in his jarred babyfood, or pba in his plastic bottles.  Or maybe one of times he banged his head crawling out from under the table.  Yes, you are right we should just count our blessings.  My son is wonderful and unique.  I just wish there wasn't so much pressure for my little square peg to fit into a round hole.

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« Reply #14 on: March 16, 2010, 01:23:58 PM »

Got a meeting about my son today.  Just got a call from the teacher,I believe that in the meeting we are going to discuss putting my son in a typical classroom seting.  for the longest time I have wanted this for him, however i feel a little sad because of the fact that if he goes into a typical developing classroom that he could possible struggle and end up falling behind or even worse end up with a teacher that does not care for him as much as his current and just brushes him off.  There is a part of me that is ready for him to be in that setting so that i can see how he adapts and if he will excel, or if the pressure is too much for him.  I guess you can say I have mixed feelings about the situation,should I be happy smile  or sad  confused

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