Why We Say “NO” to Homework


I care about my kids' learning. That's why I say tree forts win over homework.

It’s back-to-school time.  Time to write THAT letter again.  The letter to my child’s new teacher that explains why our family bans homework.

That’s right.  I care about my children’s learning.  That’s why I believe tree forts win over homework.   Quite simply, I believe homework has no place in a young child’s life.

The trouble is, the American education system doesn’t agree with me.  Homework starts in preschool in many cases, and it only goes up from there.  They even establish quotas: Ten minutes per grade. My son’s in third grade now, which means thirty minutes a day.  What a surefire way to get kids to hate school.  Elementary-aged kids don’t need homework.  For seven hours they’ve had to focus on the academic sides of their brains with grown-ups telling them what to do.  When school’s out, it should be OUT.  Kids need time to get other needs met.

What do kids need?  Time outside.  Time with family.  Time goofing around and picking their nose. Time pursuing their own interests.  Time doing family chores.  And an early bed.  There you have it: Play, family time and sleep.   My kids get 10-11 hours of sleep each night.  Instead of homework, kids would do much better in school if they got their full quota of sleep and were in bed by 7:30 or 8pm.

Logs in the park...

Here’s what my children spent their time doing after school yesterday:

  • Building tree forts
  • Dancing on logs
  • Running
  • Jumping
  • Negotiating game rules with other kids
  • Prying with levers
  • Hunting for toads

Prying with levers...

 

 

 

I don’t know yet how our third grade teacher will respond.  What the principal will say.  So far we’ve been lucky and our unusual stance has been met with puzzled acceptance.  We don’t mean to be trouble-maker parents.  We just mean to stand up for our children’s learning by giving them space and time to roam.

Here’s a copy of the “anti-homework” letter if you’d like to read more:

“Dear      ,

Can we talk?  We’d like to support you in the classroom, and at this early stage I don’t know your views on homework, but…

I don’t believe in homework for children ages 11 or under.  Homework becomes important in high school, with a year or two of “practice” homework in middle school.  I know that’s not how most of American education works right now.

As a parent, perhaps you understand.  There is such a short amount of time in every day.  School learning takes up most of the day, and when school is out kids need space and time for other things.

My son gets home around 4pm. He gets into pajamas around 8pm. In those short four hours, he -

  • Has an after-school snack, talks and unwinds from his day
  • Plays/ pursues his own interests
  • Goes outside and climbs in tree forts
  • Giggles with his brother
  • Does family chores
  • Practices piano
  • Has a family supper
  • Reads his own book and listens to a bedtime story

These are all more important uses of his time, or any young child’s time.  My view is homework interrupts home learning. Homework tends to give school /learning a bad name and when given too young, kids learn to resent it instead of value it.  Kids don’t need to “practice” the routine of homework.  That can come much later, in middle school.

The only type of “homework” I value at this age is reading at home.  In our family we already do this every day. 

When homework does become important, I view it as the child’s responsibility.  We will take an interest in what our kids learn in school, but not tell them to do it.  No parent signatures signing off on assignments, etc.  I also don’t believe in the practice of adding 10 minutes a day per grade, or any arbitrary amount of time.  Learning doesn’t work by filling a quota of minutes.

I realize this is not the prevailing view in education right now, and perhaps flies in the face of the school’s policies or your own ideas.  Can we talk?  I’d like to find something that’s comfortable for everyone and make sure your goals are supported as well as ours.” 

Well?  What to you think?  Would you do the same?  It takes courage to buck the system, but childhood is worth it.

We say "no" to homework and "yes" to dancing on logs.

Starlighting Mama is the blog of author Heather Shumaker, the “renegade” parent behind “It’s OK Not to Share…And Other Renegade Rules for Raising Competent and Compassionate Kids” a new book from Tarcher/Penguin.

This entry was posted in Parenting with Renegade Rules and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

195 Responses to Why We Say “NO” to Homework

  1. “When school’s out, it should be OUT. Kids need time to get other needs met.”

    I am in complete, total, and absolute agreement with you! This is a FANTASTIC post that I’m going to share with the social media on Twitter, Google+, StumbleUpon, and Reddit.

    Further, if I were you, I’d send that same letter to the editor of my local paper and ask them to print it, along with the name of your new book.

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      Glad you agree and THANKS for sharing! It’s hard taking a lonely position.

      • Dawn says:

        Heather, I agree completely with what you say in your article. I have to say though, that what worries me even more are the situations in which parents load their children up with so many extra curricular activities, that all the time that would normally be free time is so structured and goal oriented that in the end the child is not able to play in an unstructured environment and ultimately has no free time anyways.

        • JAN says:

          And then they have absolutely no idea HOW to spend their “free time”.

          • JAN says:

            which is a shame..I agree 100% with you.

          • Kris says:

            This approach is great except and I totally agree in allowing children to stretch this part of their development….However,what about the parents who don’t use this philosophy at home and do not do any kind of stimulating “natural learning?” The child is planted front of the tv or video game and the parents have no real one on one interaction on a personal level. There are also parents focused on bringing home enough income to provide the basics to feed and clothe their children. They have to do this by working two jobs and are exhausted when they get home. Then there are the parents who just don’t care about spending time motivating and challenging their children during their time at home. There is no structure, rules or accountability.The homework would not get done regardless, but the child is not given opportunities to expand his/her depths of those important “non academic” that are essential to children’s total development.
            All of this is good in theory, however it does not always happen in real life. Regardless if the teacher gives homework or not.

          • Stephanie says:

            Kris: I think part of the point of this article is that kids should have a decent amount of time to decide for themselves what activities to pursue. Things on the list above like “goes outside and climb in tree forts” don’t really require any adult enrichment. I’m a firm believer that kids get the most out of their time when adults just leave them alone. Obviously, you have a point that if the adults have trained the kids to plant in front of a screen when they get home, it won’t work, so I’m all for sending them outside.

      • Chris says:

        For a similar viewpoint look up Alfie Kohn.

    • Robin Fuller says:

      Hi! As a retired teacher and parent to 3 beautiful daughters, I must disagree. For example many of my students were only going to learn addition, subtraction facts etc. by extra practice at home. I taught grades 1 and 2 and every Monday I sent home the homework for the week so the parents could decide when and how to do it. This also kept the parents in the loop – they knew what was being covered in school.
      I did not send a staggering amount of work home – on average 20 minutes per day -
      why does it have to be all or nothing?

      • Qtpies7 says:

        7 hours is enough. Why 20 more minutes? I can teach them effectively in 2 hours a day, why can’t you manage it in 7 hours? I know that you have MORE kids, but you also have more time.
        That is a huge reason we homeschooled. 2 hours, sometimes 3, and we were DONE, and then we learned life, play, family, community. Well rounded, educated kids with little effort. (and I know it is successful, my oldest is an air traffic controller)

        • ASanders says:

          Wow Qtpies. Way to be a bit judgmental there. If you are not a classroom teacher, you have no idea how hard it is to teach everything that needs to be taught in 6 hours. It is entirely different with your own children. I’ve done both. And guess what? My oldest is in college on a full mathematics scholarship. And he went to (gasp) public school! So I know it is successful…. Now see how silly that sounds? The great thing about education today is that there are options for everyone! Both ways work if parents are involved. And for what it is worth, I actually agree with the blogger. Most homework in elementary is just busywork.

        • Amanda says:

          Wow. Why can’t classroom teachers manage to teach them “effectively” in 2 hrs? Well – they have 30 kids and only one of them. That’s why class size is such a huge issue in education. Of course it is easier to teach one or two children the same amount of material in 2 hours. I think most teachers would love to have a 1:2 teacher-student ratio, but that’s not really feasible. When you have a 1:30 ratio, and in those 30 kids you have so many different capability levels, of course it’s going to take more time to effectively reach every student.

          • April Cook says:

            I’m not terribly certain Qtpies7 is trying to be judgemental, I think she just believes very strongly in her personal decision to home school.

            Anecdotally, I’m interested in schooling my son at home. The public education system was a complete nightmare for me. I had undiagnosed ADD. Because I wasn’t hyper active, my teachers had no idea that I could be staring a hole through them and every word they were saying would be going right over my head. I was well behaved, “aced” tests without studying, but I was also disciplined repeatedly and publicly shamed in front of my classmates for being messy and not doing my homework in particular. I’m a daydream prone, right brained thinker. The public education system in our country is very supportive of and practically tailored to left brained thinkers. And, if you do a little digging, you’ll find that our present school system was set up to assist in churning out perfect little factory workers that would excel in the industrial environment after graduating school. There are several wonderful TED videos available on youtube that help perfectly illustrate and confirm that this can be verified historically.

            Qtpies7 doesn’t condemn you for choosing to send your children to public school or hate teachers, I’m guessing. She just very firmly believes in her decision to homeschool. Homeschooling isn’t possible for every family and every situation, but when it is possible, it can provide a holistic environment that supports learning as well as supporting a healthy childhood. And it CAN be done in just a few hours a day. Please don’t take offense! :)

      • Sarah says:

        I agree with you. I think there is a place for homework, it’s not that painful. Third grade home work has parents talk about behaviors and learning how to interact with other kids, once a week. Otherwise it’s flashcards and a little reading time. The rest of the night they are outside playing. Yes, I make sure the kids also get 10-11 hours of sleep each night.
        Not every kid gets math and reading and needs help with one on one practice at home. They are all not cookie cutter personalities. I think you also lose connection if you aren’t reviewing what is being taught in the classroom and how it is being taught. I think it’s great if you are happy with your choice, but making it a movement of standard practice isn’t beneficial to all the kids. It just gives them an extra 20 minutes of play time each night. Not a huge sacrifice. Your child may benefit from this freedom, but they may not. You just don’t know that answer until they grow up and let you know.

  2. Bonnie Peterson says:

    This concept is so logical. You are right on target. My personal experience includes a great dread of “homework”, even in high school. College classes were enjoyable…homework got done. Many children lack the family interaction and proper rest which are so necessary for successful learning .
    Send that letter ASAP! Nice job.

  3. Brava, Heather! What a refreshing philosophy in this day and age. Good for you for challenging the collective wisdom of public education.

    I received my copy of your book the other day and am looking forward to reading it, once I get my current book finished. Best of luck with the book and its promotion.

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      Refreshing to hear – scary to do! Glad you got a copy of “It’s OK Not to Share…And Other Renegade Rules.” I guess I am turning into a renegade.

  4. Karen Rieser says:

    I taught middle and elementary school for thirty-two years. Heather is exactly right!!!!!!!!!!! In the elementary school this was my philosophy and I had to endlessly defend it. I did not have trouble with parents or children but with many of my fellow teachers and administrators. I had high expectations for my students and expected them to work hard for the six hours I taught them. Play is a child’s work, as it is said. Family time is precious. Lessons in the fine arts, religion, sports are not provided to any great extent by schools. Many educators feel assigning a lot of homework makes them look like they are doing their job and or are good teachers. Most homework is just checked in and sometimes not even that. There were times my students individually chose to do work at home for fun and bring it in. I got poems, pictures of stories we had read, math problems etc
    … all student produced. I would always check it and high five them. I read the book, No Homework…it makes sense. I was so happy to read this blog. Thank you.

    • AG says:

      I’m curious, what did you do with the students who did no work in the classroom? I have been teaching for 5 years now, 5th and 6th grade. I have high expectations for my students, but there are those who, no matter what is done, do not do their work at school in the classroom, even with a variety of assignments to meet each learning style. No matter how many emails or phone calls home, no matter how many trips to the office, the students still don’t care. There seems to be a huge lack of parental support. I do my best to give the students time in class to do their work, and whatever is not finished in class becomes homework (yet some still don’t do it). How can I avoid assigning homework if work is not being done in the classroom? (and yes, I do try to make the assignments meaningful while aligning to the state standards).

      • StephanieP says:

        To AG, You can lead a horse to water…

        Heather sounds like she is supporting whatever the teachers are doing in class. She’s reading to/with her kids, she supports curiosity and discovery, and creative thinking.

        I don’t know what kind of neighborhood in which you are teaching, but if the kids are not doing the work in class, the parents are not supportive, and they don’t care about punishments (trips to the office, etc), then homework isn’t the fix either.

        That’s a bigger problem that can’t be fixed with homework.

        My son is in kindergarten and he has 5-15 min of homework each night, after a 7 1/2 hour day. Homework now, does not guarantee admittance to Harvard, or an amazing career, or a financially successful one. It doesn’t guarantee future “happiness”, which is what this is really all about.

        You can’t dictate TRUE learning. If the parents of the children in your classroom aren’t interested in supporting their learning, that is a shame, but ultimately, it’s up to individuals to make the right choices for themselves.

        Personal responsibility is what it comes down to. Not what makes the schools or politicians look good.

        When my son comes home with homework that is really homework for ME (because it requires so much help), I resent it. I am a parent who reads to my children. I am a parent who has always valued outdoor play, nature walks, museums, arboretums, botanical gardens, aquariums, walking the dogs (as a family responsibility and pleasure), teaching in the home, cooking/baking together, and learning in any number of ways. So to be told I need to read to my children each week in the homework letter, really irks me.

        And if the reason is simply that a parent is uninvolved because s/he is working two jobs to make ends meet, homework is only adding to their work load and stress levels.

        More homework is just not the answer.

        Thank you to Heather for a great letter. After wrestling with this issue for a few months, I have decided I am going to compose my own letter on my son’s behalf.

        • Heather Shumaker says:

          Best of luck with your own letter. We are the best advocates for our children, and true educators will be your allies.

  5. Heather Shumaker says:

    Karen, great to hear from you! Good for you in taking your no-homework stance, and too bad you were constantly on the defense. Sounds as if your students learned tons and had down time to explore their own interests – like poetry! There are several good books presenting in-depth research against homework:
    The Case Against Homework
    The Homework Myth
    The End of Homework: how homework disrupts families, overburdens children, and limits learning

  6. Robin Jordan says:

    Just wanted to let you know that I love this! My son is in the third grade and this is the first year he has a teacher that doesn’t believe in homework other than reading and studying spelling and as a result he is playing outside more. Its only been about a month that they have been back to school but I can already tell a difference in his overall attitude, until I read your article I hadn’t made the correlation that homework and his attitude change were linked! I say yea for no homework!

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      Wonderful! So glad you have a child who’s playing outside more instead of doing homework. Yes, individual teachers can make all the difference. Enjoy his third grade year together!

  7. Lori Gillespie says:

    We chose the school that our children go to partly because it doesn’t assign homework. Kids are expected to do the work at school, then enjoy what they want to when school is out. The philisosphy of the school is to teach the “whole child.” Too many people forget that that there is more to life than academics. And there are learning opportunities in every aspect of life. We do read every day, just as you do. But it’s not viewed as “Homework.”

  8. Julie says:

    This is wonderful. Thanks for sharing.

  9. Tracy M. says:

    Kudos!!! I am going to email my daughters teacher telling her that 1.5 – 2 hours of homework a night is taking away from our precious time as a family and that I will allow my daughter to spend 30 minutes on homework and that’s it! If her grades start to decline, which I doubt highly would happen, then I will allow another 15-30 minutes.

  10. Hello Heather,

    Thank you for sharing this. I’m curious, when you say that it has been met with puzzled acceptance before does that mean they excused your sons from homework? Did that effect their grades? Did you notice any difference in their schoolwork?

  11. Becki says:

    hmmm….sounds like you are a home school mom!
    We home school and are usually done with our assignments by soon after lunch. I can not even imagine making my kids sit through an evening of homework after school, farm work and part time jobs. They would have to give up sleeping to get it all done.
    Glad you are willing to go against the popular views to do what is best for your kids.
    You are a rare breed and I applaud you.

    • Jen Wadman says:

      Thinking the same thing Becki. This sounds like a family who would LOVE learning together! Please consider it, and give it a try. Bet your whole family will love it but if not, you can always go back to government school.

  12. Jennifer Jenkins says:

    Ok, hate to be the only one ( no, I really don’t), but I have to disagree. I did all those things as a child and did homework too. So did my kids, and we’re all well rounded, college educated, happy, and capable of getting a lot done. I didn’t always like it, but then, we have to learn to do things we don’t always like in life at all ages. Also, I’m a teacher, I don’t believe in a lot of homework, and I don’t believe in some arbitrary time plan, but it takes more time than we have in a school day to master the curriculum expected of children today. Whether you agree or not, it is what it is.

    • Joe says:

      I agree with you. I see homework as an opportunity for children to learn self-discipline.

      • Pauline says:

        I’ve witnessed my child and his many homeschooled friends learning self discipline through other activities. I think it just takes us opening our eyes and seeing that there are other ways. Not trying to be argumentative; just trying to say that homework is not necessarily the only way to do that.

      • Madeline says:

        Don’t you think sitting in a classroom for six hours is enough to teach a child under 11 years old a lesson in self discipline?

      • Beth says:

        You don’t learn SELF discipline from other people making you do things.

    • Heather Suhrie says:

      I think you said it well, “I did all those things as a child and did homework too.” You don’t say your age, but by average, you (and your kids) did a lot less homework per night than children are expected to do now. That’s time that you used for climbing a tree. Also, when I was growing up, my public elementary school offered in the class day, gym, music, and art. My local school offers 45 minutes of art once every two weeks(certainly not music and gym). A child must do after school (tree climbing time) classes in order to have the school experience that I had during the school day.
      The amazingly, shockingly low test scores country wide speak to how successful piling the expectation of learning more and more, and taking more and more time to do it, is actually working.

  13. Michelle says:

    AWESOME! As a special education teacher who has taught High School and Early Childhood programs, I have to agree with you. Research shows that children who are allowed to PLAY do better academically in later years than those who face academic focus in early years (preK-3rd grade especailly). The public school system in America is not set up that way for reasons that I cannot even begin to touch on, however if more parents would take a stand such as yours, our children would be much better learners throughout their school years. Way to go!

  14. Genia Means says:

    That is all great but reality is our national leaders believe our teachers are not doing a good job and so now our jobs–paychecks– are based on what your child does on the end of the year test. I am thrilled that you encourage reading at home as reading is the foundation to all subjects and in the working world. I remember we got to play outside like your kids do but in our “world” today many do not. I am a teacher in Middle School—-there are kids that wasted time everyday and then parents call with why does my child have an “F”. Well, zeroes equal “F”. If we had more parents like you to take a stand against our POLITICANS and get them to get rid of their riduculous laws added in the last 20 years —-we could have more class time when they give us back the right to discipline the class behavior problems and the special education programs could do their jobs. Right now every one is having to do extra documenting of everything including why they teach what they do????? I am rambling better stop. ONE last thought “not all sizes fit even your world” you are one of the lucky ones. Would like to talk more.
    Genia Means

  15. Erin says:

    Teachers are constantly under fire for not doing a good enough job. All while their class loads are increasing, standards are getting piled on by state legislation, and while they are expected to try to teach to each learner in their diverse/multi-leveled classrooms. Teaching is a stressful job and most people think they know what’s it like because they were once in school, but they really don’t have a clue until they stand in front of 30 kids and actually have to teach them. As a teacher, I realize that there is a life outside of the school day and I try to be sensitive to that when assigning homework. Meaningful homework should be an extension of the school day. Reading and writing outside of the school day is a really good thing, because it teaches young kids to find a purpose for reading and writing other than just school but for enjoyment. I personally think you should be careful. What are you teaching your children? That learning isn’t fun when it’s school? That they have an option to say no to anything they don’t really want to do, just because they don’t want to do it? While, yes, we have a choice, there are lots of things we have to do because it is the right thing, or because there is a need, or because it’s required by a job. I would rather play with my 4 year old than grade 150 tests that the district made me give my students any day of the week, but I can’t always do that. How about changing your outlook from “We have to do homework.” to “We choose to do homework, because knowing how to read, write, and do math will help my children be more prepared and productive citizens of the world.” Yes, playing is important, and balance is key, but we also have to teach the importance of education and how it can change our human condition, and also respect the fact that is work.

    • Peggy Aspinwall says:

      Erin, If you sat with us as my 10 year old grandson tried/tried not to do his homework, mostly crying then by him – later by me. You would see all he was being taught is how to find ways to not bring homework home so he wasn’t subject to the stress, I think your opinion of teaching children to ENJOY any part of the learning process might stand on a weak foundation. I wish I had what it took to stand up to the teacher (my failure due to pressures from grade school) and say “What time I have with my grandson is precious. You can not dictate how that time is utilized.” If a teacher can not give the child an education during school hours, you can’t have my time to do your job. It is like saying “I used mine all up, now I want yours.” Thank you Heather!

      • Erin says:

        With increased standards (what we have to teach in 180-190 days days/depending on your state), higher accountability by the teacher (with no accountibility on the student or parents), and data driven schools, they just don’t give us the time in the day to accomplish all that needs to get done. We’ve practically eliminated recess in most elementaries, we’ve eliminated some specials time, while they are adding and adding more and more content and literacy standards, to be accomplished earlier and earlier. I think this isn’t about “standing up to your teachers” it’s about voting for the right legislatures and state superintendent of education. We [teachers] do what we are told, and really have no voice. So, make sure you know who you are voting for, and what their policies are on education. More rigorous standards, or just raising achievement standards on standardized tests, is not the answer to a more fulfilling and meaningful education. Listen carefully. They will tell you what they think. This isn’t an education system run by educators, it’s an education system run by politicians. That is a shame, if you want my honest opinion.

        And, I was that kid who cried at homework. I worked and worked, and by the time I was in high school things got better. In the meantime my mom got me extra help from the local university (she seeked out free help, as she was a single mom and couldn’t afford a tutor), and my grandpa sat with me for hours. I now have two masters degrees now, and am working on a PhD. I love learning. I sometimes wonder where I’d be if they told me just to blow it off to go outside and play.

        • Brad says:

          I couldn’t agree with you more Erin. Parents really have no clue of the stress, pressure, etc. that is placed on a teacher. Politicians are even WORSE!! Expectations of teachers are extremely unrealistic as it is but they get ESPECIALLY worse when you have parents/grandparents who think like Peggy. Anyone who thinks that 100% of learning should be done inside the classroom is extremely naive. I could go on and on, but it when I see ” If a teacher can not give the child an education during school hours, you can’t have my time to do your job.” It is just not worth my time and effort to deal with that kind of IGNORANCE.

        • Beth says:

          So if children aren’t learning what we teach we need to teach the way children learn. Sit down with paper and drilling information only works for a small portion of kids. My teacher training said there were at least 7 different learning styles.

        • Prggy Clift says:

          Sought.

      • Christine says:

        Peggy, if your grandson is struggling with his homework to the point where he and you are brought to tears, perhaps there’s something more going on than just he doens’t like homework and should be tested for a learning disorder. While I agree that some schools assign too much homework, I don’t think 30 minutes a night is asking too much. Furthermore, some things such as reading and espeically Math require ongoing practice and drilling that, performed during the school day, would take too much time away from instruction time. And if the homework assigned is meant to be an intro to a project or some other function of class room time the next day, what then? Your child goes to school unprepared. You may be better off a) allowing kids to play and eat dinner and get a break before homework time and b) reviewing assignments ahead of time for value to weed out busy work.

      • Pauline says:

        Peggy, there was a time when I struggled like mad with homework, and I didn’t have a learning disability and I got great grades. It is sometimes just EXHAUSTING to be in school all day (plus 2+ hours per day on a bus) and then have a lot of homework to do. Just wanted to support you in what you’re saying. :)

        As for “knowing how to read, write, and do math will help my children be more prepared and productive citizens of the world”, it really depends on what one considers productive. Not all skills are needed for someone to be valuable, and some of our priorities as a society are questionable (more investment bankers, anyone?). I know plenty of “smart” people who aren’t great citizens or neighbors at all. I wonder if– instead of non-teachers arguing about whether teachers are doing their jobs and teachers arguing about how the job they chose takes up too much time–we should bring the discussion up the chain a bit and reexamine whether what they are expected to do is reasonable and effective. It seems like it isn’t. We’ve placed more and more emphasis on “learning” (in quotes because so many forms of learning are undervalued in our system), more and more emphasis on drills and homework and practice, and the results haven’t been better. Insane. I think 6+ hours of classroom time is more than enough to drive home the “importance of education.” Another hour or few hours isn’t going to help for the better.

        • Amanda says:

          Homework isn’t about teaching the “importance of education,” and honestly i’d argue that schools/teachers/classroom time have little impact on how important education is to a child. Parents are the ones who teach their children the importance of learning/education…they just get a different educational experience at school than they get at home (both are educational, just in different ways). I don’t value education because of the teachers I had, or the subjects I learned..I value it because it was something my parents valued and something they were very invested in having me value as well.

    • JAN says:

      What is “meaningful” homework? Mark Twain said he never let education interfere with his learning.

      • Brad says:

        I would say any activity that requires the student to practice a standard that they have not yet mastered. If the student has already mastered the standard I believe there is no reason for that student to be required to practice.

        • Virginia says:

          @ Jan: I have that Mark Twain quote on my wall. Love it. @ Brad: No matter how much some kids practice, they may not master the standards within a week, a month or a year or two years….So with your definition, kids who have learning disabilities would just need to do tons more homework?

  16. Amy says:

    Back in the 1920s, my grandparents never had homework, not even in high school. They lived on dairy farms and had chores to do – their family’s survival depended on it. Both of my mom’s parents grew up to be teachers – Grandpa taught chemistry and physics for nearly 40 years, and Grandma taught first grade for over 20. They had chores, yes, but they were also allowed to be kids, and they never forgot that.

  17. I completely agree with you! Young children do not need the kind of pressure that many of the school systems are putting on them in today’s day and age! I have been an Early Childhood Educator since 1998 and have a play-based learning philosophy! The job of the child is to play, and the job of the adults in their lives is to make sure play happens! Regardless of their age! Parents need to play more too!

    I would love to review your new book on my blog! Please email me at aandsrempel@yahoo.ca to arrange how to make this happen!

  18. Theresa Crawley says:

    I’ve been lucky that our children’s school believes the same thing,last year he had “practice”, that’s what they call homework, twice and that was looking up some research nothing major. They provide adequate time during class so if the child needs help to understand how to do something they can help them. I love that you are defending your kids right to be kids.

  19. Debbie says:

    My hubby has been saying this for years.
    We now have an almost 3 year old and a 4 month old and will probably be taking this stance.

  20. Sheli says:

    I am so torn already about homework. My daughter just started kindergarten (full day, btw), and they send a homework packet home on Monday that is due on Friday. This was the first week, and she loved it as we have always “played school” and this is part of it and makes her feel like a “big girl”. I was the one stressed out about it!! We are still working on figuring out how the weeks are going to go, with a husband who travels 1/2 the week, and a new nanny for her brother some days, etc, and we ended up leaving one page until Thursday night…MISTAKE!! My husband was away, my 2 year old son was getting into everything, and I was the one that ended up losing it. Obviously, lesson learned, but I keep thinking, wow…THIS is kindergarten?? The school also does a program called the 100 book challenge so there is a 15-30 minute reading requirement also. This is not so difficult as reading is readily done in our house, but add it to everything else, and it really is a lot!! I agree with you that homework for a young child is not the responsibility of the child, it is the FAMILY! We are all effected by the need to get it done. I don’t think I am ready to ban it from the household, as she is enjoying it, I DO however, need to do better by our family to make sure I am not the one making it an unpleasant or stressful experience.

    • Peggy Aspinwall says:

      Sheli, Wait until you see how many children are FLUNKING kindergarten these days. It is a trend. A statement form the teachers that children are not ready to perform in school so young. I was appalled when my grandchild flunked kindergarten. What kind of negative effect does that place on a child just getting started??!!

      • Mary says:

        With the rigors of school and testing demanded by legislators that do not know the first thing about child development many kids are “flunking kindergarten,” but better kindergarten than 4th grade.

    • SusanOR says:

      Sheli, We asked kiddo’s teacher for the packet on Fridays instead of Mondays. We are a working family, we live 30+ min from kiddo’s school, so we were trying to fit homework in between 6:30 and 8 pm — such a nightmare because we were all tired & hungry. This year (2nd grade) I encourage kiddo to do her homework at homework time in her afterschool program when not in another activity, and by getting the packet on Fridays, we can do a little bit on Sat & Sun early in the day so it lightens the Thursday night scramble.

  21. Karri says:

    Our school district doesn’t believe kids need a lot of homework. They get spelling words and maybe a short reading assignment or something but never more than 15 or 20 minutes worth for the week. They said studies show homework isn’t all it’s cracked up to be so they don’t assign it very much. It was strange to me, but it is nice since our kids are involved in after school activities and church.

  22. Heather Shumaker says:

    Wow – thanks for all your comments. I can see this topic strikes a chord with families everywhere – no matter what your stance. If you are a firm believer in play for young children, come visit my website http://www.heathershumaker.com which is all about free play and parenting following “renegade” rules.

  23. Amy says:

    I agree 100%. I feel the same way you do about homework. It has caused us so many problems. My boys hate the homework-most of it is busy work. It does make them hate school.

  24. Stacey says:

    My only comment as a second grade teacher is to not send a letter, but to request a time to talk with the teacher either on the phone or in person to talk it over.

  25. Heather says:

    This is a great post! I do have a question or two. What about special projects or reports that may be assigned? Class presentations? Do you have your children do them? If not, how is their grade affected?
    I love this.

  26. Rebecca says:

    Yay! Our fantastic charter school has no homework except for nightly reading and family “bingo” (today my 2nd grader picked “Have a chat with your family about the meaning of ‘Don’t cry over spilled milk’.” from her bingo sheet). We love it! Kids should not have time for homework after school! They should be too busy LEARNING!

  27. Peggy Aspinwall says:

    Heather — I am so proud of you!! Things are going to change, and for the better with citizens like you that uphold the moral values that made America what it is/was. My son, now 39 was going to flunk second grade for the second time, when a school nurse advised me to put him in a pilot program. Keith was tested with an IQ of 186. The new school had an open door policy. They took all the walls out of the class rooms. First graders could study with fifth graders and reverse. Kids became tutors to each other. The students choose the area of study for the year. Giving the student respect and responsibility, giving them charge of their own education gave the kids an opportunity to grow. Keith excelled in the new school. In Arizona we have charter schools. If you don’t like the public school – you can enroll your child in a charter school. Most have smaller classes and specific areas of study. I know that is not the answer, but it is a start. I believe it will be parents like you that correct the mess we have made of our children education. Sorry public school teachers. I say don’t ask me to do your job and I won’t ask you to do mine. Thanks!

    • Amanda says:

      Public School teachers aren’t the ones that have made a mess of education. It’s the ridiculous testing and laws that politicians have put in place that have tied teachers’ hands that have made the mess. Parents need to speak up via their vote to tell politicians that NCLB is in fact leaving many child behind and is not the answer.

  28. Tracy says:

    I was a teacher for almost 30 years but at the high school level where homework was the norm. I read your post and your readers’ comments with great interest. This topic is an important one that relates to the qualtiy of the school day and education for life. I have been following the news on the Chicago teacher strike and am myself very much in sympathy with them. Teachers have been dealing with very different and very stressful demands under the No Child Left Behind mandate and are now facing even more stringent requirements regarding testing. Some of your readers are teachers — equally concerned with offering your children a quality education–but their hands may be tied. The quality of education in this country is under assault (mostly) by people who don’t have teaching degrees or certificates and have not been in a classroom probably since they were in high school. If you really want to make an impact, you should be directing your concerns to the school board, the administration, the Department of Education, The President, etc. Heather, and all the readers–where do you stand with the Chicago teachers? Do you see the connection?

    • TC says:

      Tracy,
      Very well said! I agree with you about those who berate the education system are not well educated. Most of the time the homework requirements are not up to the teacher, but a higher level of authority. I strongly believe the teachers hands are tied. The “no child left behind” has hindered my children, not helped them. My children are advanced, yet I feel the NCLB, tries to bring everyone to the same level, average. So those children that do excel are hindered, because of those that do not. I don’t mean to sound like a snob, but I’ve seen it happen.

  29. I loved reading this article. My son has just started secondary school. He is supposed to get between 45 minutes to 1 and a half hours a day homework. He finishes at 3.45 and can stay on to do homework club until 5. He wants to do this as then home time is home time. He wants to come home and do what he wants. I like this idea too. The only thing I will say is that I wish he’d had a little more homework last year. I think it would have been helpful for him to have had 10 minutes homework a day in his last year of junior school. The work he has been set so far has been easy but because he wasn’t used to it, he felt overwhelmed.

  30. Renee says:

    I applaud you! Your kids are blessed that you have provided this balance for them!

    My girls both have their own variety pack of special needs. When they were in grade 2 and 4, their mainstream support teacher asked how I felt about writing in “no homework” into their IEPs (individual learning plans) I could have kissed her! Homework was always such a struggle! These girls were WELL overwhelmed by schoolwork and needed to NOT be doing more of the same at home. Without homework, the girls were free to LEARN at home (they were not learning anything from the homework!) We still couldn’t do much in the way of clubs,and lessons, and sports and stuff… school took SO much energy and added SO much stress.

    One teacher was quite concerned that she wouldn’t know how to give our daughter a grade if she didn’t do homework! REALLY? She spent 5 hours in a classroom with my daughter, which allowed her to hear her answers to questions as well as see all her written work IN class! Based on (grade 4) 40 minutes per day guidelines (gak) 7 days per week that would be 4 hours and 40 minutes of work. You mean to say she couldn’t evaluate a child based on 25 hours in class, but she could evaluate a child based on 29 hours and 40 minutes of class and homework time?

    We have been home-learning for 3 years now. My girls are loving those clubs and lessons and sports that they missed out on in their early elementary years. Our most “schooly” program is a gem called Wildwood, where they go once a week for a full day of multi-sensory learning about everything from geology, ancient history, business economics, world festivals, philosophy, and more! PLAY is SERIOUS learning! Here they are “in Greece” Well actually in Fort Langley, BC, learning about Greece during one such day filled with experiences that no textbooks or worksheets could ever replicate:

    http://www.freewebs.com/wildwoodeducationalenrichmentcentre/apps/photos/photo?photoid=96968867

    I have the pleasure of watching my children grow and learn and take JOY in their educational pursuits! One has discovered a passion for ancient history, and spends hours each week on that alone. The other daughter is into all things science, especially geology and botany. They have both recovered from the “math allergies” that they developed in public school. One day in the middle of summer…. actually… one night… it was 10:00 at night… in July, when my youngest asked “please could I do some math in bed tonight instead of reading?” “Ummm … well… OK I suppose you can!”

    …. because we have no homework requirements!

  31. LJayne says:

    Interesting viewpoint. I can see with that much homework I would agree with you. I’m in the UK and my oldest is 9 – not sure what US grade that equates to, here it is Year 5. He has english once a week that should take no more than 25 minutes and maths similar. So we have chance to do that over the weekend (my 6 year old daughter has maths for about 15 mins and some spellings so they sit together and do it) as well as all the very important things you describe. So I guess we are lucky that it doesn’t impact too much.

    Definitely in favour of free play, plus we read daily, my son has music practice, we all eat together and bed is 7.30pm for my daughters (littlest one has no homework yet) and 8.30pm at the latest for my son.

  32. Kristi says:

    I am a third grade teacher and I couldn’t agree with you more. This is exactly what I tell my students’ parents. You would be surprised how many parents actually WANT their children to have homework! My kids work hard the whole day and they need time to be a kid. Thanks for sharing this.

    Kristi

  33. TNC says:

    It sounds like you are teaching you kids that the rules don’t apply to them; instead of teaching them how to balance their time to include homework. I’m trying to understand your point of view. I wonder as your children grow if it will change. I too, used to complain about their homework at such a young age. However, with age, comes wisdom. I know my views now are very different now than when first one started school. My kids (2 in HS & 1 in elem, all are extremely intelligent & in the gifted program) are only at school for 6 short hours. That is not enough time to teach them what they need to learn. There are so many distractions in class that it can be challenging to teach everything in such a short span of time. I believe homework is essential. It is a parents/guardians job to assist their child with homework to help them continue to learn outside the classroom. We need to be a team with our children’s educators! The American work ethic has become way too lazy! We need to teach our kids to work hard, to go above & beyond to succeed, not just to quit if it gets too hard & look for hand outs. The upcoming generations are already inheriting a strong sense of entitlement. No one is owed anything…..its needs to be reinforced that you need to take pride in yourself & your school work to strive to achieve greatness. I’m not implying this towards you, just our society in general. I enjoy taking the time each night to help my children with their homework. It gives me an opportunity to see what they are learning & how they understand the concepts. (Just my humble opinion)

    • Becky says:

      If my daughter learns one thing in her life, I hope that it involves standing up for things she believes in. It’s not that the rules don’t apply – it’s that they disagree with the rules. That happens everyday in the real world. You must approach the disagreement with maturity and intelligence. This mother was very calm and has an excellent point. It would be very hard to argue with her, especially since the school employees are on her payroll.

    • Amanda W. says:

      If you really believe that 6 full hours in a day is not enough time to educate children well, then I feel you may have a very misguided outlook on education.

  34. Ashley Housman says:

    Same goes for us. My daughter has Asperger’s syndrome, a form of autism. She is in 2nd grade, but learns on a 6th grade level. Well, they send home 3rd grade homework and she is bored with it. Do I make her do it? NOPE. It doesn’t benefit her. In fact, this is the exact same homework she was sent home with last year. Homework for a 7 year old is preposterous. She should be free of that. All day she’s had to obide by social rules she doesn’t understand and stay seated when that is really diffcult for her. She is in sensory over load every single day. When she comes home, she gets to be LINDY….not what others want her to be. I am so glad I am not the only parent out there who thinks homework for small children is a really dumb idea. Let them be free!!!

  35. barb says:

    As mom I can agree. As educator I can value your opinion. Only wish half the families spent the quality time with their children. You must also bear in mind that if your child is struggling you will be better able to help support that child at home than a teacher who is trying to work with 20+ kids. Homework provides a window into what the child is learning and you have the opportunity to see how they grasp the subject and whether or not they need additional support.

  36. Mary says:

    As both an educator and a mother, I have conflicting feelings on this. I understand your point that in the early grades, children need to play and actually learn by doing so. However, in the later grades, when preparing children for the job force or college, homework becomes a critical assessment of what children have actually learned in the classroom. What I completely object to is meaningless, timed homework. “Busywork” has no place in education. It is not practical or useful. A meaningful homework experience should reinforce what a child learns and challenge them to be ready for the next step. I only assigned homework when necessary, but some of my colleagues were not as generous. I also agree with some of the comments above that you are walking a fine line of teaching your children that rules don’t apply to them. I think your approach would go a little better if you designed a replacement homework plan that aligned what your children do after school to the skills the school was practicing at that time. You appear to do that already.
    One more thought and I will stop… Please be mindful that your children are very lucky that you are not only a caring and interested parent, but also one that values their experiences at learning through play. Many children are not that lucky. The little bit of homework time after school may be the only positive learning experience they get in the 18 hours they are NOT in the classroom.

  37. Samantha says:

    I agree with this concept completely. My son just started K this yr. and occasionally he will bring home a sheet for homework; however, it takes all of 5 min to complete because it is basically just a repeat of what he did that day. Basically writing his letters. This is why I love the school we are at, I have found out that the majority of the teachers in higher grades send little to no homework home as well. They help the children do their work in class and that only leaves them minimal homework later, with that usually being reading so not a big deal. I understand what some of the teachers are talking about with their pay & the new laws that have been set but that is something the teachers need to stand up against as well. The elementary teachers at my sons school are all great teachers and the children learn everything they are suppose to for the EOG. I don’t see why it can’t be done in the 6 1/2 hours you have to teach it in. I do sympathize with them about “problem students”, although I don’t believe in such terminology there is always an underlying problem either at school or at home, and being overwelmed with the number of students, but this doesn’t mean the rest of our children should suffer. And for those who said their children were well rounded with doing homework and other things, that’s great for you; however, did your child honestly get the family time he/she craved?? Also, she said she didn’t agree with homework for children 11 and under. Therefore, from the 7th grade & up your child would have homework & this should be good enough because there is more to learn and less time per class to learn it but should they really have between 2 & 3 hours worth of homework?? Ok I’m finished, but kudos and I’m glad you take a stand every year for your children.

  38. Ashley says:

    I found a school that agrees with you! My kids attend a small private school that, on principle, doesn’t assign homework. And, yes, it’s great! Not only do we get more family time, the kids are doing all of their work in school, with a skilled teacher present who can help them when they have questions. This needs to be a revolution: no more homework!

  39. Zahra says:

    Thank you for sharing this. Homework is always such a struggle. I say “Yes” for no homework!! Family time is more precious than spending the rest of the day doing homework!!

  40. Marian Andeweg says:

    The first thing I did after reading this was emailing the principle of my 7th grader’s middle school. This year is an experiment and they have practically no homework, except for an occasional project that comes with the TAG classes. I thanked her for not giving and grading homework. And that’s exactly the hardest point for my 5th grader. I could tell her not to do homework, as I have done a few times after sitting through 2 long and painful hours of homework, but her homework gets graded. We can’t just skip it. After talking to her teacher she agreed we could go ‘a bit easier on her’ but my daughter freaks out because she doesn’t want a bad grade. HELP!

  41. Elizabeth says:

    “No parent signatures signing off on assignments, etc.
    I laughed at this, as I refused to sign my sons “planner” which he never used! The teacher was adamant that he just write anything in there–what tie the teacher was wearing—what funny joke someone said, and I was supposed to sign it each night?? I don’t write junk in my daytimer—and no one else has to check up on it–it is the child’s responsibility–not mine!
    I have 3 sons–2 who have no use for school, and are heavy equipment operators—who should have been steered in that direction, right from grade 8—and one who is gifted, who fell in the middle, did a 5 year university degree, and has a great job, traveling the world, teaching and training about environmental stewardship. The “student” did his homework on his own–never once did I need to ask whether he had completed everything. The other 2—well, they did what they had to do, to get by, and now love their jobs. Not everyone fits into the “school box!”

    • Valerie says:

      Elizabeth,
      I am so glad to read a post from a Mom of kids like mine!

      My daughter was the one who played school, made up extra homework, went above and beyond and got her Masters degree in four years. She’s now married and a gem of a Mom who is currently staying at home, but is also in business with me.

      My son is the one who did the absolute minimum to squeak by and always knew he wanted to work for the railroad. He is 19 and currently the youngest conductor in our area. It’s a job which he worked incredibly hard just to get, and will always work hard to keep, but he loves it.

      Both of my children are incredibly intelligent, but they are gifted in different ways. They make me very proud.

      For one, homework actually was play, for the other, it was sheer torture and often went undone. There is a part of me that makes the boy vs. girl comparison, because I know they learn differently, but classrooms are mixed so kids just have to deal.

      My one beef with some of the educator comments I’ve read is about not having time to get everything done in the classroom. My frustration lies with how many times one of my kids would come home from high school and tell me they did absolutely nothing all day. When pressed to give an account of each hour, I would hear about movies they watched, YouTube videos a teacher would show, or how a discussion would last all hour and have absolutely nothing to do with curriculum. In my opinion, every minute of the class should be used wisely, and there were many times that it wasn’t, and my child would end up with homework to make up for all that time the teacher “didn’t have.”

      Conversely, I also agree with teachers who say NCLB is unreasonable, because it is. I got so tired of my kids being taught how test instead of how to learn. That is not what education is about.

      Finally, I have to take issue with Erin who “has two Masters degrees and is working on a Ph.D” and used the phrase “she seeked out free help”. Really? I have a high school diploma and I know that “seeked out” should be “sought.” (I’m also an editor, so those things drive me crazy!) :)

      • Amanda W. says:

        Ahaha, I had that thought about “seeked out” as well :-) I am a homeschool mama and my main focus is on helping my children develop their strengths – I know many peers who worked like fiends to graduate top of their high school class “just because it was the right thing to do” and then went on to earn Bachelor’s and Masters “because it’s just what you do” and worked in a career they hated for a few years earning a lot of money because “that’s the American dream” and… then quit. Just stopped, changed their lives and realized they would have been happier cutting hair, or teaching English overseas, or yes, being a conductor of a train.

        My job is to give my kids an awesome foundation (excellency over the 3 ‘R’s so to speak) and then help them realize their God given interests and talents. That is where the crux of the backlash comes in – we all want that for our kids, and teachers are NEVER, EVER going to be able to do that for our children, even if they want to. More parents should consider home educating!

  42. Mindy says:

    I agree 100% – there’s so much more to life and learning than school! If there isn’t enough time to teach the curriculum during 30 hours of school time each week, then let’s cut out the many unneccesary assemblies and “skip-a-thons” and that sort of thing. Our kids take dance, music lessons, belong to clubs and play sports, as well as making mud pies, riding bikes and just playing during their after-school hours. This is equally important to school work. For those who advocate homework for young children, think for a minute about the concept of balance. Kids are only kids for a short time; all too soon it will be time for them to “work hard, to go above and beyond to succeed.”

  43. Zane says:

    Love this letter, Heather! And especially the tone of it. You have a gift of keeping it positive—even the tough stuff!

  44. Julien says:

    I’m French. Here, Homework has been banned by law for a few years. Yet school teachers still give lots of things to do at home and are surprised to see those young children tired at school and even tired of school.
    The idea behind refusing homework was to give every child the same chance. When they’re doing homework, some kids get help from their parent while others can’t. If a child didn’t understand something explained by the teacher, how would (s)he understand it alone?
    But you’re right in your post: a child needs time to grow, time to play, time to laugh, time to sleep and that’s more important than learning equations one year early.

  45. Emily Shiffer says:

    This is why I chose an online charter school for my children. They can spend the day playing and do school at night. Their school work takes roughly 4 hours, leaving a wonderfully large chunk of time for play, exploration, and field trips! And best of all, no homework! Ever!

  46. nickichai says:

    “The only type of “homework” I value at this age is reading at home. In our family we already do this every day. ”

    We have always placed high value on reading at home (we’ve read to & with our 2 since they were tiny babies) but I’ve regretfully come to the realization that we haven’t placed enough value on practicing basic math. My 4th grader is not fluent in basic math (incl. times tables), which for some kids is only achieved with much repetition. She understands the concepts taught in class but there is no time during class time to get the information in there so they are fluent (simple mental arithmetic), and this is impeding her ability to progress in that area. I wish more parenting advice had encouraged me to do this instead of focusing solely on reading.

    We now include the daily Bedtime Math newsletter into our evening routine, so hopefully it won’t be as much of a struggle for our 1st grader.

    • Amanda W. says:

      Seek out some skip counting (essentially the times tables) song CDs. My littles even know their full times tables because they learned it to fun songs :-)

  47. Jenna says:

    Hmmmm….here’s my stance. I completely agree with you. Couldn’t agree more! Your kids are lucky to have a mom who understands that there are more important things than academics all day every day and that play, exercise, family time, and sleep are crucial components of a happy and well balanced childhood.
    BUT…if you feel that strongly against the status quo of the traditional American education system, I feel you should find another option for you kids, whether it be homeschooling (as our family does) or a charter school or some such option that has the same philosophy as you do on homework expectations. I just think it is unfair to send a child to a school, knowing fully the expectations and beliefs of that institution, then expect your child to be exempted or treated differently based on your personal beliefs. It’s unfair to the classroom teacher who has to find another way to fulfill requirements for grades that would be coming from homework assignments and unfair to the other students in the class who don’t understand why they have to do homework and other kids don’t. Just my two cents. It seems this would be equivalent to signing a child up for a competitive sports team and allowing them to go to practices, but refusing to allow them to compete in meets. You can choose to send them to school or not send them to school, but if you do choose to send them to school, you should take the good (policies) with the bad (policies).

    • Homework is really a very small part of public schooling, and if a parent won’t participate with one small part of public school doesn’t mean that the parent/children have no right to participate in public schooling.

      The only way schools will change backward practices that have no research to support them is by parents taking a stand like Heather.

      • Lucy says:

        In that case, I hope both parent and child are willing to accept the lower grade that may result from a failure to turn in homework.

  48. Jen says:

    My kids’ school is pretty good. 1st grade she comes home with a “connect the dots and color” thing that she’d do regardless, so I think they’re just getting practice of doing homework in. The 2nd grader certainly doesn’t have 20 minutes of homework. The thing is, one thing I noticed this year in the 2nd grade classroom were two multi-page project packets called, “All about me” and “The origin of my name” with a question and answer format where the children wrote everything down while interviewing the parents. I felt it was COMPLETELY intrusive. I was originally tempted to give answers such as, “We named her that because my husband accidentally called that name out during an intimate moment and we decided if that was the time we conceived, that would be her name!” …just for fun.

  49. Katie says:

    Heather, while I respect your opinion and appreciate your passion for how your child is educated, I don’t really like your strict boundries. Age 11. Wouldn’t some kids be age 9? Or age 13? My twins are in kindergarten and we love the 15 minutes of homework each night and I often give them additional learning activities because they enjoy it. You say the only acceptable ‘homework’ is reading. Why reading? Why not math? I’m in a math career I am passionate about math and my kids are strong in math. They enjoy math worksheets and flash cards. We do those as fun activities. You don’t seem to make exception for each child being different.

    Something to consider is can’t these activities overlap? So of my fondest memories of my father are doing 2nd grade practice spelling tests and practicing vocabulary words. Family time can be learning time.

    The last question I pose is why do you believe the teacher should make exceptions for your child? If some other parent doesn’t believe in standardized test, does that mean the teacher should give that child a free pass? I don’t think a college application will get much attention if the SAT scores are blank because the parent didn’t believe in that. Playing by the rules is also a valuable lesson for our children.

    I’d love your insight on these topics.

  50. James says:

    Why the bias to reading over say, math?

  51. Carrie says:

    After reading through all the comments, it’s plain to see that most parents understand very little about NCLB and the ramifications it has on a regular classroom. We don’t have control over state testing, nor are we allowed to voice our opinions, without risking our paychecks. I went into teaching because I loved working with children and watching them light up as they grew and discovered new things. The new laws make it difficult to enjoy teaching the way it once was. Reading is a major 1st grade skill that needs to be practiced in a variety of settings, one of which needs to be within the walls of a child’s own home. As a first grade teacher I do ‘assign’ homework, which is basically geared toward the parents . . . I want them to spend 20 minutes a night reading to/listening to their child read. The number of parents who don’t spend even that small amount of time with their child is appalling. I applaud the parents who spend quality time with their child, but based on my classroom observation, you are few and far between. Those that have the money/resources for private school, kudos to you, not every family is so fortunate. As a parent, I too balked at the amount of meaningless homework brought home by my children, but they were able to do what was needed to be done and still have time for those other activities that they enjoyed. I feel for children who don’t have the support from home.

    • Amanda W. says:

      If you went into the education sector because you loved teaching children, but your hands are tied to teach them in effective manners… why continue? Why not branch out and start a paid home-school co-op? I had a friend who was a public high school science teacher for several years and was insanely frustrated by the broken system… so she started a business that offered group lessons to homeschool co-ops or other similar gatherings. She makes as much money, actually impacts kids who are interested and has parental support. *Why stay in a broken system?*

      • Amanda says:

        The children in that broken system still deserve to have teachers who are in it for the love of teaching, even if their hands are tied more than they should be.

  52. Jen says:

    Totally agree with you, Heather! Kids need time to be kids and I am glad someone has the courage to stand up for children against so many “educational experts”. My children are just beginning their academic journeys and I hope I can be as assertive as you and advocate for my child’s right to be a child and to learn through meaningful, authentic experiences in the outdoors and with family rather than worksheets.

  53. Bravo!!! So pleased to see other parents who value the importance of play in a young child’s life.

    We still do homework because it’s very short and most if it is reading for my kinder daughter or just a few minutes of drawing or verbal discussion. One night the teacher gave a homework assignment telling the kids to help their parents clean for 10 minutes. That’s my kind of homework assignment! Also, my daughter has been enjoying homework so if it’s fun for her, we are going to keep it up.

    I would love it so much if you linked up this post to our Sunday Parenting Party. It would be a wonderful addition. http://www.thegoldengleam.com/2012/09/connecting-at-bedtime-sunday-parenting.html

  54. JAN says:

    I agree. Been saying it for 40 years, as a teacher, I don’t get much support. There is plenty of “work” at home. If it doesn’t get done at school LEAVE it there!

  55. Diane Johnson says:

    My child attends elementary school in Chesterfield, VA. Last year at back to school night they unveiled their new policy of “no homework” According to the administration, studies have shown that, at least in elementary school, their is no benefit and there may be detriment. I wholeheartedly agree. I was surprised at how many parents opposed this. They were baffled. For me, I loved it. Less homework for me as well. I’m a big advocate for increasing physical activity for kids, and homework decreases available time for that. Having said all of this, over time, it seems that some “enrichment activities” have creeped in. Semantics. But overall, less homework and my child is happier. I’m proud of the school for taking a stance.

  56. MaggieB says:

    I really appreciated reading this article. My kids are a little older now (15, 18 & 20) but over the years we have taken a very strict stance on homework when it comes to homework assigned over the holidays (but this makes me wish we had had a stricter no-homework stance throughout as well). Nothing drove me more crazy than having homework assigned to do over Christmas break or spring break – I banned it and on a couple of occasions I had to write notes to the teacher explaining that they would not be completing the assignments over their break but that they would make every effort to catch up with it during school time once they returned.
    Actually, there was one thing that drove me more crazy – when there was homework assigned that was a to be done as a group with one or more other students outside of school time. Our family was most definitely an exception in our community – we only allowed our kids one structured extracurricular activity each. Had seen far to many families over the years who dragged their families from one sport to another to piano to dance to … we strongly believe that kids need the time to simply be kids. SO, when it came to assigned group project homework, it became near impossible for our kids to arrange with other the other students (whether they were allowed to pick their partners or not) adequate time to complete the projects. More often than not, my children took on the bulk of the project themselves simply to ensure that it got done and done well.

    Thank you, again, for this refreshing article. I will be sharing it with others.

  57. Pingback: Do you Believe in Homework? — Happy Baby Solutions

  58. Sarah says:

    Wow, what a varied amount of responses! I too think homework is silly for younger kids. If you read to your kids, have them read to you, involve them in family life like cooking, reading and measuring from recipes, shopping, and etc they will be learning maths, science, reading. Let them explore the outside world and they will be learning, build your relationship with them by engaging in activities together, they will be learning. I find it interesting that in early education (before formal 5 days a week schooling) the emphasise is fully on the child learning through play, however when they turn 5 and attend school, they all of a sudden are supposed to not learn that way. I will encourage my child to chose what they learn outside of school hours, and the only time I will implement ‘forced’ learning is if they are having a lot of trouble with a certain area.

  59. Yes both my kids attend(ed) Waldorf schools. I am a Waldorf trained teacher. My son adores going to school and learning to knit a gnome, play the recorder, garden & compost, learn the land of letters and number kingdom. Childhood is a magical time of life. The richer the child’s imagination and free time, the more secure and independent he/she will be. Therefore we will have kids that grow up to do their passion, instead of a “JOB” that is soul deadening. Being part of Waldorf in Silicon Valley has been life saving, heart saving, peace of mind saving. Thank you for your writings, keep on telling the truth. We are out here! More parents are catching on each day. It is holy work, protecting children.

  60. That sounds awesome, I really sympathize. But it’s probably a great solution for your kids in your environment, no so much for big cities, like where I live: San Diego. We don’t have toads and forts to experiment with (we do have chickens and a rabbit though!). But a lot of our neighbor kids have big brothers in gangs and big sisters being hoochie to deal with. They have murderous streets to stay out of. Most elementary teachers that I know design their homework towards parental involvement rather than busy work for the kids — because there’s too much absentee parenting going on in general.

    Really, truly, I loved this article, I want it for the world, but I don’t think it practical for all situations.

  61. Annika says:

    I agree with you, the only thing in our society is that most parents don’t seem to want to spend time with the family anymore.They are always too busy and kids even have to have dinner by themselfs – so sad.
    When I was in Elementary school we only got reading as homework, but that was in former East Germany.
    I am always surprised that not more parents complain about homework.They tell their kids “oh I am too tired to help you right now, I just worked 8 hours so I need a break” well their kids just worked 6+ hours too, so why arent’s they getting a break?
    Actually, I believe the Parents (at least one of them) should get homework – their homework should be to spend at least 1hour outside with their kids, 20+ minutes reading with their kids,and 30+ min. having a nice family dinner with their kids,and even a few minutes WITH their kids to do house chores with them. That would be so great, instead of just letting the kids sit in front of TV or the Computer.So that gives the parent and kid over 2hours after school of “homework” – then they can do whatever they want by themselfs – and the child should have to check off if their parent did all the stuff with them, maybe even write down themselfs what they did that day. I would love that.While a child plays they can learn so much more, especially if they have an adult near by or play with them who answers questions they have.

  62. Pingback: For those of us that DON'T send the kids to nursery - Page 19 - BabyandBump

  63. Kirsty says:

    Great ideals! You really need to add a facebook “like” app or something so I can share this with all my mummy friends, there are so many people that agree with you x

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      Let’s see, I’m new to all this, but I believe there’s a “Share” button at the end of the blog post. My facebook page is Heather Shumaker Writer and it’s posted there, too. Thanks!

  64. babz covington says:

    i wish you’d take a moment and research my friend erin kenny. i believe you’ll love her preschool .

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      I looked up Erin Kenny – and you’re right, I love her outdoor preschool. Kids need to be outdoors in all kinds of weather, and I especially love that her outdoor kindergarten is inspired by waldkindergartens from Germany. After all, Germany gave us the original idea for kindergarten, a place where children should NOT “read, write or cipher.”

  65. Lorien says:

    I LOVE this! What a fantastic thing to do! This might just make public school bearable for us.

  66. Triplet Mama says:

    Wonderful viewpoint!!! Thank you for sharing your insight and your sample letter!!!

  67. Pauline says:

    This is great and I think you are SUPER respectful of the teachers and clearly understand that you have no reason to be anti-teacher. I can see in the comments that many teachers are pointing out the pressures they are under. I feel for them and they are so right: a lot of this comes from above them. Good for you for being a good example of how to stand up for what you believe while still being civil and open to discussion. Seriously, I’m beaming at this.

  68. Genevieve says:

    I love this. It’s perfect.
    I realize that not every kid gets to go home to a place where he or she can play outside, but there should be options for them too that aren’t homework. Especially at that age.
    As for teachers. I appreciate the strain you’re under. And I would also never be okay sacrificing my child’s happiness for the sole reason of making your job easier. I would rather fight for political change, and I’m happy to do so.
    I spent 12 years in public school. At least 90% of that time was a complete waste because they never could shove me in the box hard enough to make me stay. I walked out with anxiety and clinical depression. So no. My kid won’t be going through that.

  69. Danielle says:

    Heather,

    I am compelled to dish out some constructive criticism, as I feel you are hindering your effort of making a solid argument for your beliefs to teachers and administrators. If the letter I read above is an accurate sample of the one you send to your children’s school, you are inviting a negative first impression. You are addressing educators; therefore, you need to follow the guidelines for formal letter writing, using impeccable grammar and perfect punctuation. You will gain immediate respect for showing your expertise in proper communication. Remember, you are selling the notion there is enough learning during school hours. Will they really buy into it if you send in anything less than an A+ effort?
    As for your hot topic, I feel our children earn the opportunity to enjoy afternoons and evenings after a long day of learning. Considering most working adults are accustomed to an eight hour work day, should we expect the same, or more, from our children? Unfortunately, school systems nationwide continue to reduce their schedules, leaving our teachers in a bind. (We are down to 160 days this year.) As usual, it comes down to money, or lack thereof, and everyone feels the impact. I accept homework as a necessary evil; but, I find busywork for the sake of having homework to be cruel and counter-productive.
    Thank you for your thought-provoking post.

  70. Pingback: No homework for my kids. No school for mine. For whom do such approaches really work? | Get Schooled

  71. Liza says:

    I like the idea and I absolutely abhor homework in elementary school. However, without it being a class wide or school wide rule I think it will make it hard for your child to stay on the same page as everyone else in the class. It also creates a way for for parents to be involved in what their kids are doing in school and leads to many conversations about what your child may not understand and does not have time to communicate or are afraid to communicate with the teacher. From my experience also, if you expect your child to be disciplined in something by the preteen years it is best to start the practice in the earlier years. Getting a teenager to start a new habit is not fun. If you do choose traditional school it is important to teach your kids to follow the rules in place and respect the authority of their teacher. If we let our kids think we can just opt out of a rule that everyone else has to follow because we don’t like it they will begin to challenge other things their teacher does. School wide policies have to be fought at a higher level, not put on the back of the classroom teacher who already has their hands tied by policies in so many ways. Teaching our kids to fight battles on the appropriate level in the right places is a tricky balance. I just think there are so many other options out there if you are looking for a more non-traditional way of schooling. I better idea, in my opinion, would be to meet with all the teachers of the grade level your child is about to enter to find out what their teaching philosophies are because while almost all public school teachers have to give homework, the amount and type of homework differs from teacher to teacher. Then you can ask to have your child placed with the teacher that best fits your needs. I think the real key whichever route you choose is positive family and parental involvement. I was never encouraged to do homework and was forced to “play” outside everyday after school. I was always very behind in school and I would have loved for someone to sit down and do homework with me. The homework seriously is not that extensive in elementary school and if the parents take the time to make it a fun and positive time together there is still plenty of time for all the other stuff mentioned too. Like someone else said, if homework is just too painful for a child there is usually something more going on and you would never know that if it weren’t for those interactions. I also agree with the person who commented about city kids, that was my situation. We played in the street and kids ran a muck around the neighborhood with absolutely no adult supervision…not something I would want for my kids.

  72. Shaina Cadman says:

    The school district my child attends has a board policy in that teachers are not allowed to assign homework until third grade. With that said my son is in first grade and does not officially have homework, but brings home a practice worksheet with several activities to complete in order to reinforce the weeks lessons. We are not required to complete the worksheet, but I work with my child to complete it. I feel that this is not homework, just reinforcement to aide in the student’s learning. I don’t see anything wrong with assigning homework as long as it is reasonable for their grade level. I would be a concerned parent if I felt it was too much homework coming home. Children need to know that homework is a part of school. I don’t know about you, but I had homework when I was in elementary school and I know my parents did not complain about the homework being sent home.

  73. My concern with your plan is simple – when will your child learn necessary basics required to advance through the rest of their education? If you think that schools these days are able to provide enough education to cover even simple basics, you have another thing coming.

    If anything, you may want to do homework to make sure your child is actually learning something. I would suggest expanding on it – use school curriculum as a basis to expand your kids knowledge and sense of wonder. If they are learning about ancient Rome for example, use the opportunity to expand on it by reading more, visiting Rome (via Google Earth or through videos)… If they are learning fractions, make cupcakes and have kids figure measurements based on certain change in the recipe…

    Don’t shoot me, just my 5 cents worth.

    P.S. While most teachers may take this well, you will create some disturbance which in turn will cost your child. If you want to implement a no-homework rule, then fight through the school board, not over your kids backs. If you decide to enroll your kids into school, you should follow their program – it is unfair to teachers and other parents that you are only taking parts of the program that you like.

    If you want to have full control over your kids education, then home school.

  74. aLEX says:

    I think I love you. This is exactly how I feel. My daughter has just started pre-school. She’s in school for over 6 hours a day and on top of that she’s supposed to do work at home. Quite a bit as she is supposed to keep up with kids who have already been able to read before even starting pre-school. After school she is soooo tired. I am a big believer in free unstructured play and I want her to be able to spend time with her younger sibling, too. I also don’t want for all the quality time that I can spend with her to be based around structured learning.
    I grew up with half-day school. We went home between 12 and 1. Yes, we did have homework, but not a whole lot and not until we were 8 or so. I just don’t believe you can have the kids in school pretty much all day AND give homework at the same time. It’s not fair on kids and it’s not fair on families.

  75. Betty Farnsworth says:

    I am against busy work homework but using more learning in daily life. Katie’s K teacher gives a packet to do weekly but some is count the steps between… reinforcing skills from school but making it something to deal with the real world. In college I had trouble with math but the class I finally was allowed to use was applied math. We learned about math in the daily world and had to find something where math was used. I found out about the timing of street lights and really enjoyed math in that way. We also learned about USB codes and what they stand for. I loved it. Every subject deals with life, why can’t homework deal with life? Allow projects of the child choosing so they are interested and will learn more

  76. Andrea P says:

    Don’t like homework or the education system how does HOMESCHOOL sound

  77. Florida Teacher says:

    I teach 5th grade gifted and high achieving students. I agree with the author completely. Homework is nothing but a waste of time. I do provide enrichment activities, but these are optional, ungraded, and usually take the form of contests such as essays that can win scholarship money or science projects for Week of the Ocean. The families are free to decide how time is spent outside of school.

  78. Jim Baker says:

    Spot on Heather. Check out my article ‘Homework – Education’s Biggest Scam – http://jimbakersonlinelearning.co.uk//Homework%20-%20Education's%20Biggest%20Scam%20.pdf and my Prezi ‘Evidence that Homework does not Improve Learning’ – http://prezi.com/opl9tpu1yn1z/evidence-that-homework-does-not-improve-learning/

    I hope ‘the powers that be’ shall soon listen and act.

    Best Wishes

    Jim

  79. Lucy says:

    While I don’t disagree that homework can be overwhelming and, depending on the school, nearly useless, I don’t agree with a letter to the child’s teacher. Mainly because I don’t think my child deserves any more or less than any other child in his class, and acquiring some kind of special-snowflake status for him would be more to his detriment than having him do the twenty minutes of busywork.

    Children need to keep busy and they need to create. They also need to learn that there are jobs for everyone, that they need to do what they’re asked as well, and there are certain parameters of behavior within which they need to operate. Homework is not about corralling a child’s imagination, or dampening their enthusiasm, or anything of the sort. It’s an education in doing as you’re asked, learning what’s expected of you, and letting sink in the lessons of the day.

    If one is adamantly against homework, I would suggest homeschooling, which would seem to fit better with your philosophy in general; or a school with a no-homework policy. But making your child the exception to the rule does not seem like an acceptable answer to me.

  80. Ashley says:

    I did not do homework in elementary school. We would get the odd project but they were always more fun than work, like collect leaves or make a family tree. I feel that not having homework at that age made me more independent. I also see that I was more capable of solving problems and more creative. Today when I go to homes of friends with children I see that most of the time the parents do not have the time or patience to help their child with homework. This is because the parents have to get dinner ready as well as do things around the house that could not be done because both parents work. As a child I spent my time outside riding my bike, climbing trees and playing pretend. I am shocked how little time children now spend outside. When I have kids of my own I will not be helping them with homework after school I will be watching them play and enjoy their childhood as all children should be. I would also like to add that not doing homework in elementary school did not set me up for doing poorly, I was always a good student and had great grades and graduated with over a 4.0 gpa.
    ~From a very successful kid that did not do homework

  81. Christy says:

    What I have a real problem with is the “homework” that requires shopping and heavy parental participation! If homework is assigned, it should be something the child can do on their own with minimal support. I agree kids need time for other things, like being a kid, which too many over scheduled children do not know how to do! And preschool or kindergarten homework, ridiculous! That should be limited to “find something at home that starts with the letter A and bring it to school tomorrow”. But I understand the value of learning to get tinto the habit of the studying after school routine. Why does it have to be all or nothing? Why can’t the homework be about applying what you’ve learned to your homelife as a young child? Like a choice of come in tomorrow and tell us about the book you read last night, or draw a picture of something that makes you happy to share tomorrow, etc. Let’s not start with things that make school and learning agony. That’s how it was for me, I hated every minute of it. And I still earned 2 BAs in 4 years, sadly I could not stomach anymore!

  82. Rachel M says:

    Please update us with the teacher’s response.

  83. Sorta blog says:

    I think that the reason that you haven’t had much resistance on the subject from teachers is because most teachers agree. Research shows that homework at such a young age does nothing to improve scores or achievement, and only sets a president for homework in the future. The ten minute rules was put in place by Marzano who researched the topi and found many teachers were over killing. It also is nice to have at hand when parents ask for more. That where the issue stands: 1) many parents feel if their kid isn’t doing homework, they’re not being supportive at school. I give little homework and I’m always asked to assign more from parents. 2) when I don’t assign homework, I’m thought of a bad teacher. 3) not all children Jae the structured home you seem to have. Patents often rely on the homework to keep the kid out of trouble when they’re working or dealing with siblings. I would find your letter a bit conduced ding. Again, most teachers would probably agree. It would take little convincing. I’d like to use it to send to my parents though.

  84. All we can say is LOVE…..LOVE LOVE LOVE this and completely agree. (And I was a teacher)
    You are not alone!!

  85. Ann says:

    Sounds like homeschooling would be a perfect fit for your family – then they can have abundant time to live an abundant life as a child! :)

  86. Pingback: Can You Opt Out of Homework?

  87. Diane O'Hara says:

    This is excellent! I hated that the schools pushed homework on kids at such a young age. Even in preK there was the “fun”work sent home and I balked at it big time. Whenever there was an event at school and I expressed my displeasure about homework to other parents I was always meet with odd looks and many parents disagreed with me. Kids need to be kids! A six year old does not need to write a paper on a president or a 9 year old does not need to make a poster about the way modern cars are better then ones from the 30′s. I am so glad there are other parents out there that know children are suppose to learn to be kids and not mini adults.

  88. Pamela says:

    It’s interesting that in our school district our kids’ elementary school and middle school have completely opposite homework cultures. The elementary schools buries them in homework from day one while the middle school is adamant that homework should be limited. The amount is minimal and it isn’t heavily weighted in the final grades.

    When my daughter, a straight A kid, was in fifth grade, she had 2-3 hours per night of homework! When she entered middle school, it dropped down to about 30 minutes + about a half hour of trombone practice because she was in band – so an hour tops. She still aced all of her subjects without the massive homework drain on her time. She’s also much more pleasant (imagine that).

    My son’s in first grade at the same elementary school and I cut him off after 30 minutes regardless of whether he’s done or not. That’s all I’m willing to invest at his age and anything more is just ridiculous. I will not tolerate 2-3 hours in elementary school ever again.

    I believe that each school has a homework culture, likely set by its administrators plus all the state and federal mandates. Teachers also have some leeway despite whatever culture has been established.

    My daughter’s second grade teacher was extremely open to letting her turn in optional assignments. For example, my daughter hated homework and it was a major battle. Meanwhile, in her spare time, she loved learning about countries and drawing their flags. She’d make entire illustrated books about individual countries! When I showed her teacher these notebooks and explained that homework was crushing her love of learning, she totally agreed and said she’d accept any creative works in lieu of homework. Amazing. So, start with the teacher and work your way up the chain if necessary.

  89. Lori says:

    Very compelling article! I just posted a link on my FB page and am curious what the response will be. Thanks!

  90. Patti says:

    I think it was in the 70′s that parents wanted homework for their children. Now days I hear from almost every parent that Homework is not worth it, it takes too long, cuts out family time, the parent ends up doing it, etc. I wish that the clock could be turned back to how it was before it changed in the 70′s! I think kids learn better when the subjects are liked not pressured on them, and there is time to explore them. Instead they are rushed through just to get scores/ grades. Homework is usually dreaded by the student and parent. I totally agree 6 hours of school should be enough time for structured learning, actually home educators can teach all subjects in about 4 hours. It makes you wonder about the public schools hua? Maybe the schools really feel they have to give out homework because they can’t teach all they need to in those 6 hours because of the big classes they have, and they feel inadequate. Who knows. I wonder how we all as citizens/ parents could change this homework policy nation wide? Frankly I hate how schools are slowly becoming the parents of our kids, When are they going to let us parents be the parents of our children?!?!?! Yay for the ones who have already put the no homework policy in their families to work, and hooray for those teachers/ schools who let them!

  91. Janet says:

    As a mother, I welcomed homework for my children. My children came home from school, had a snack, played outside and did their homework after dinner.

    I monitored their homework assignments but did not help them unless they didn’t understand a subject and were perplexed. At times one on one was needed for them to understand a concept. Many times I was able to nip a potential problem in the bud so my children would be able to succeed in a particular subject. It also gave me an idea of their progress of learning the subject matter.

    After their homework was completed (20-30 minutes) they would continue their playtime.

    Completing their homework assignments taught them a sense of responsibility, seeing an assigned task completed and gave them a sense of accomplishment.

    Too many parents today use the excuse that “children have to explore and find themselves” so that they don’t have to spend 20-30 minutes of their time overseeing their children do homework. It’s much easier to just send the children out of the house than to spend time with their children while they do a homework assignment.

    Twenty minutes of my children’s time to complete their homework did not restrict them from having enough playtime to explore their surroundings and expand their curiosity.

    When my children were in high school they would come home, grab a snack and proceed to do their homework. Their sense of responsibility that started in elementary school, served them well through college.

    My children are now grown and successful in their careers and thank me today for their wonderful childhood memories.

  92. Janet says:

    Very interesting. My daughter just started kindergarten. I have another daughter who has graduated. I will tell you as a full time working parent – I do NOT like home work even a little bit. Not to mention by 3rd or 4th grade – I can’t remember 1/2 the stuff they are learning without reading it for myself or re-learning it. I also hear there are some “new ways” math is being taught that is quite confusing for the parents, although I have not yet had the pleasure of experiencing this yet. I do not personally agree there should be NO home work. I do absolutely agree that there should not be homework assigned every night and lots of it. Some teachers – some schools assign a home work packet on Friday which is due the following Friday or Monday that is due the following Monday. This allows the student and parent to work on it as their schedule permits. This I am 100% for. This way you plan the home work based on your schedule for that week. If you know you have dance class one night or a soccer game or going away for the weekend -you can plan your week accordingly. This way you are still spending time with your children and being participating in what they are learning and taking an active interest – but you are not forced to do it each and every night when you may get home from work – run to dance class come home eat dinner – do baths, clean up and then fit in home work. Makes for a better experience for both the kids and the parents. In kindergarten there isn’t a bunch of homework – but so far September we were assigned math for a month and in October we have do do 8 stories (3 sentences each) – and draw pictures for each story. Worked on it tonight – but tomorrow night I know I have no time. I like being able to do as the schedule permits instead of trying to figure out how to get it done each & every night. That’s my vote. Unfortunately some teachers will assign homework every night – I will probably be one of those parents who write a note and ask for it on a weekly basis instead of a daily one…….

  93. Tina P. says:

    After reading your post, I was taken back that I wan’t the only person who thought homework doesn’t have place in my home. Thank you for speaking up.

    I heard about this book on the radio and it reminded me of your post and I wanted to share it. It’s called The Homework Myth.
    http://www.alfiekohn.org/books/hm.htm

  94. Amee stork says:

    Instead of banning homework, everyone who disagrees with the homework practices in this country should get together and ban standardized testing and work to raise awareness about child poverty. That is what has created the homework craze in this country. Parents who cannot or do not support their children’s learning and have abdicated parental responsibility to the public school system need to step up.

  95. nancy says:

    i have tears in my eyes as i write this. my son and i are barely speaking because i feel he is too hard on my 9 year old grandson with his homework. my son is under a lot of stress and i get that but last night my grandson got here at three oclock and they started right in on homework. i walked away, went outside and just tried to stay away.we ate an early supper because my other grandson had a football game and we were going to it. so aaron finished hi hw at 415. then my son got a call from his exwife that they had sent a whole sheet of paper for aaron to do and to study for a test the next day. we took the sheet with us and his book and the WHOLE ball game he had to do hw. well even tho i never said a word my son was frustrated and took it out on me and i responded back so as i said we are not getting along and he said he wasnt even going to do his hw around me anymore which is ok with me. but my grandson spent from seven thirty in the morning until eight thirty at night doing hw. how much do you think he likes school?

  96. Deidra Gorgos says:

    I actually just wrote the letter to my son’s first grade teacher letting her know my thoughts about homework as there was a very condescending letter to families in our folder about the benefits of homework. My son is already freaked out that he will be unsucessful in school if he does not complete his homework. (he is still only 5! He turns 6 in November). she has managed to sway him to her opinion and now I have to unsway him to mine! =(

  97. BRILLIANT!!! BRAVE! INSPIRING!

    THANK U!

  98. Lisa says:

    I love this post! I also loved your book, which was by far the most useful parenting book I’ve ever read. You actually provided tools and effective words to use — wonderful!

    I’m a former high school teacher, and I assigned plenty of homework. If I did it over again, I would assign much less after all the reading I’ve done on education and unschooling. I pulled my son out of preschool because they did too much academic work and not enough free play, and yes, they had homework. He had just turned three! I plan on homeschooling him for this and many other reasons. I think this letter is wonderful, and if for some reason I do end up sending my son to school, I might have to copy it word for word!

  99. my life says:

    I see the pros and cons to having and not having homework. My husband is a teacher. I am a retired RN who has done a bit of teaching myself. We have a two year old little girl that I now stay home with. Having said that, I help my husband grade tests occasionally. (I grade the multiple choice questions and he grades the open response.) They always upset my husband to have to grade because he knows what a lot of the tests will tell him…the students failed. It makes him feel horrible and like a failure as a teacher, but I have to remind him it has nothing to do with his teaching ability, and everything to do with the laws and regulations. He teaches upper level high school science classes. You would think, teaching upper level classes, he would have students who were more advanced, but that isn’t the case. I remember one student, from years ago, that broke my heart. She was taking anatomy and physiology…but couldn’t even spell her own name. Why in the world would you put a student, with such a profound disability, in an anatomy and physiology class? It makes no sense!!! But, with the NCLB Act, she had the right to take that class because every child should have equal opportunity. But yet, what does that do to the other students? They have to repeat lessons over again in different ways so that the students who have learning disabilities can try to catch up. Yet, will they ever even start to catch up? If someone can’t even spell their own name, can they ever truly understand the concept of cells, and genetics? With that said, he always has TONS of homework to grade and class work. The reason for all of this homework and class work isn’t necessarily to enforce and encourage learning at home. It’s much more simple that than, because he doesn’t even grade the homework. If the student does the homework and turns it in, they get full credit for it. The homework then gets put in OUR trash can. So why does he do all of this homework? So more children can pass the class. He has them do all of this homework so he can pass children he knows would never pass the class otherwise. Do I fault his teaching for this? No. He has one biology class that half of the students are special needs students. His special needs students range from profoundly limited IQs (some have an IQ as low as 30), to autistic students, to ADHD students whose parents don’t think they need medications. He even had a blind student one year. Once he got in trouble by the superintendent for allowing a student to hide under his desk during class. (think lab tables) He did his best to explain to the super that the reason for this was autism and the student was severely overstimulated. Then there are the children that won’t sit still due to ADHD. Those sit at the back of the class and get up to move around as needed, which in turn disrupts the other ADHD students who need to do something. But you can’t space them out in the class room because it would disrupt everyone. To top it off, due to where he teaches, you have frequent fights/disputes between students. He once had his fish tank shattered because someone with a defiant personality put his fist through his tank trying to beat up someone else. But oh, he couldn’t break up the fight because, as a teacher where we live, he isn’t allowed to use any form of physical contact. To break up the fight, he has to get the campus police involved to help. Now, with all of that going on, he has to teach a class of students and teach on a level that encourages those with a lower level of understanding to continue and believe they can achieve the same as the other students, and has has to teach on a level that encourages those with a higher level of understanding to reach to their highest potential. I’m sorry, my rant is over.

  100. Aurora says:

    My son has been homeschooled his entire life. In the early grades (prior to about grade 7) we were able to complete his day’s schoolwork in a little under an hour a day. Every year, he tested at several grade levels ahead of where his peers were in every subject, so we know that he was not missing anything. When not working on school work, he was exploring his own interests – playing with other children, playing games with me, doing artwork, practicing guitar and recorder, and playing on the computer.

    Even when he reached grade 7 level, and even now in 11th grade, he does not spend more than 4-5 hours a day on schoolwork, and continues to at minimum keep pace with his peers. So much of his life, and his opportunity to explore his own interests would have been taken away had he had 7 hours in school, and then to come home to homework after that.

    I definitely agree with the writer of this article in that children need time to explore life outside of homework.

  101. Michele says:

    I am curious as to what the blogger and other commenters think about kids who like to do homework. My daughter loves to do homework and is excited when she brings something home to do. She is in first grade. She can’t wait for spelling tests to start so she can bring spelling words home to practice. She has me make up spelling words for her to practice until then. Should I not allow her to do something she enjoys?

  102. wondering... says:

    As a mother of two, and a first grade teacher, I can absolutely see both sides of this. Here’s my question. The only “homework” I ask of my kids is to practice their spelling words for a few minutes each night, and two nights a week they take home their reading book to read the story to their parents. I send home a list of spelling words and suggested that the parents just ask a few words while setting the table, driving to practice, taking a bath, etc… I don’t want them sitting at a table reciting like little robots…. The story takes MAYBE five minutes for my slowest readers… my higher level readers it takes maybe 2… The reason I want them to read what I’m sending is because it goes along with the skill we are learning. *Plus many of the kids in my district have no access to books at all* And I really suggested that they use this in conjunction with bedtime stories… just throw it in there! Parents can read right along with the kids.. What are your thoughts on this? I’m honestly wanting constructive criticism here lol!

    • wondering... says:

      by kids I mean my students… lol… I call them my day shift kids… and my own children are my evening shift kids ha!

  103. Marisa says:

    Sorry not read all the other comments too many of them. I’m wondering if you’ve ever considered removing your kids from school and unschooling them? Unschooling is basically your kids doing what you believe they should be doing outside of school, but the get to do it all the time. It’s what we are doing and the kids are thriving.

  104. Lu says:

    It is possible to teach the children what they need. In a Montessori classroom there is again 1 teacher for every 24-30 children. The kids never get homework. There are public montessori schools also. I think they teachers also have to look for new ways to teach the children. It makes no sense that they know the system doesn’t work so they keep using the same approach. Where we live we have a horrible public school system, but we do have teachers working to change it and they have made a real difference in some of our local schools. My son is attending a Montessori classroom and is in kindergarten. Most of his work is between a 1st and 2nd grade level. He is smart, but not extraordinary. He just has amazing teachers.

  105. Sian says:

    As a teacher I totally agree with this. I too believe that the only homework a child should have to is read every day and spend time with their family. Unfortunately my school does not have the same view as me and I am required to send home as much homework as the rest of the grade.

  106. lynn says:

    I just read almost all of the comments and as a mother of three children all in elem school 10 years and younger, I have to say I am compleatly overwhelmed each and every night with the amount of homework we have to do. I do not feel absolutly no homework is a good idea because like my 2nd grader he has a spelling test every Friday so every Monday the list comes home and (12 words) every night he has to do something to practice these words like say the word, cover the word, write the word, or write the word out-lining in different colors etc. This seems good he has yet to get less than an A on his tests and is a great speller. But I feel this should be the extent of his homework per night. Instead on top of that he has two two-sided math sheets, reading log, and a worksheet to fill in a period, question mark etc. to me this is crazy! he is only 7 years old it is easy for him but the bottom line he gets upset because he just does’nt want to do ANY MORE school work. He wants to play now. Now X that by three and we are up to three hours a night going from one child to the next. Now as a parent and telling my child he does’nt have to do ALL this homework I feel will be more harmful than good because he will be “that kid” who never turns in his homework, or behind in the class because he was’nt prepared. I would be interested to know what states everyone are from that they send their children to schools who have the no homework policy. I live in NY and this would never fly. I tried speaking to the teachers saying when the child gets burnt out I will not make him compleat she said she understood. I have done it twice and both times my son came home with a paper for me to sign due to incompleat homework. Also for me as a mom doing three hours a night 15 hours a week not including weekends feel that any homework should be a recap of what they have learned, not me spending another 20 min on the computer looking up what the heck the teacher sent home because now adays I am not smarter than my 5th grader…….and he has no idea what the heck he’s doing because it was not covered during class because they ran out of time, and I have no idea because half the things I have forgot and the other is all new, back in my day we said borrow today its regroup do everything the really long diffacult way and on top of it don’t just show your work, write a sentance explaining what you did. One question takes 10 min to answer. The schools up in arms with parents who don’t take interest in their child with homework may consider the teacher takes classes on the new teaching way! us parents are lost half the time I also don’t have that extra 20 or so min to teach myself then go back and teach my child! I just may be busy making sure he has clean clothes to wear to school, their lunches made, spend time with my child reading to him because I want to not because I have to, maybe even just watching a show together. I wish there was some balance

  107. Steve says:

    I’m totally in agreement with this. I am terrified of what lays ahead for my child…. how the little flicker of genuine interest will be dimmed by terrible schools systems, and I can’t afford to send my kids to private school.

    The argument that 30 kids to 1 student is valid, but it is not the reason there is homework. I see many private and smaller schools model this and start giving homework in Kindergarten. It’s about what they value. They may SAY that it’s important in life to be a good person, to be happy, to be content, to know thyself…. but how much of their days is spent learning this vs learning endless (often useless) content. I actually think it is more important for my child to know himself than to know the three ships columbus sailed on or half the other stuff most of us forget. I am perfectly content with my children knowing less, reading later, and catching up in the long run.

  108. Get so sad when I read on Facebook from friends with elementary-age children, statuses like this one: “Jess has been doing homework for over 4 hours and is no where close to done. Beyond ridiculous.” This child is in the 5th grade, not graduate school.

  109. lolwut says:

    in britain you only get homework in secondary school.
    you start secondary school at 11.

  110. Pingback: Say NO to Homework: The other take to it | The Grape Vine

  111. Margaret Bell says:

    At last someone gets it. I am a senate candidate for an Australian Political party. Australia is in the process of trying to change the way children learn and teachers teach.
    I am finding that more and more school work is being off loaded in the guise of homework and less is being taught during school hours. A perfect example of this is the last week of school -because exams are over the children are sitting around in classrooms watching movies and writing about The Big Bang Theory and writing songs about rocks!!! Why can they not in this time work on studies and assignments in school time. The comeback of this is that children do not have the time or energy to pursue outside activities and have the opportunity to excel at their specialised choice of interest. I know first hand as I run a dance school and find as the children reach an age where serious practice and class time in dance are absolutely necessary they can not give this due to homework committements-bearing in mind they already spend forty hours a week at school. Having written to the education department not surprisingly the courtesy of a reply. I will be using this letter as an example of a policy I wish to persue within the Australian government to support this theory. This is not just an American issue but a universal one and I am grateful that you have had the courage to stand up and fight this as I intend to do.

  112. I don’t believe in homework for ANY child, including children ages 12 to 19. If you unschool your child, you don’t need to ask permission from a school to allow your child’s needs to be met. If you unschool your child, he can do all of the wonderful things nature intended children to do in order to learn organically, but ALL day. So while I applaud you for standing up to the school, you will find that as he gets older, they will make it impossible. They already have you convinced that magically at age 12 children would somehow benefit from having one to five more hours of sedentary mind control thrust upon them after school. Rescue yourself and your child now from the public school prison.

  113. Cece says:

    After being a teacher for 15 years, a homeschool teacher and a stay at home mom of 5, I see all points on this. I have to agree with the article. By the time my kids get home at almost 4:30-5, sometimes we have what is called a LIFE. Baseball, church, basketball, violin lessons, lunch at the table (EVERY night), and play/bed times. My middle schooler had triple the amount of homework both of the high schoolers had. There were times when he would just break down at night. He was up far longer than my 15 year old and now 19 year old. The use of homework is supposed to be practice. But if they already know what is being taught in school (because it is so watered down), then why do they have to practice? My youngest is my issue now-he has a disability and can not read well at all. So homework becomes a battle. Getting him to do anything after being at school from 7:10-4:30 (if you count bus ride there and home) is almost impossible. His brain is TIRED. My middle schooler and high schooler get up at 5 to catch the bus at 6 am!!! Homework becomes more paperwork. With my 15 year old-she needs the math practice but I don’t think homework is accomplishing that. If she doesn’t know it in class, she isn’t going to know it out of class. We have had to hire tutors to help with math. Don’t even get me started on lack of recess time with little ones-that adds to the problem.

  114. Kristi says:

    How about ONLY three hours of “home” work a day? If you would really like to see your child succeed and exceed your’s and their expectation’s, try HOMESCHOOLING!! Then, you can have one-on-one time with your child…… him/her learning from and with you, finish in about three hours, and see what a great time you have with all that free time!! The benefits are literally innumerable!!

  115. Heather, I totally agree with you about kids and homework. I wish I had approached my own kids’ teachers about this issue when they were in school. Life with them goes by so quickly, and I agree that they need “home learning” far more than homework! I shared this on my social media accounts. Such an important post!

  116. deidra says:

    Re-read the article and sent my “we don’t do homework” letter to his teacher. I also had the lovely task of letting her know, I wouldn’t be signing off on the behavior calendar that was being sent home each night. A star for good behavior. If your child was talked to several times over the course of the day, a number was written in the box as to which rule they were not following. It was demoralizing to me to have to see that, I can’t imagine how it would feel to a child. Our school is supposed to be the “responsive” classroom type. =(

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      Good for you! It is tough to be an advocate for your child. See if you can find some like-minded souls in your local area.

  117. Rona says:

    Great article. Our kids’ school (k-8) has a no homework policy up to grade 5, so we wholeheartedly agree!

  118. ashley maire says:

    The only way your child or children are going to learn is by doing homework. Dancing in the forest isn’t going to help your child/children learn at all i would have to say I’m 100% yes on homework.

  119. Paula says:

    My son is in 1st grade and he has math and spelling homework each night. He brings the new packet home every Monday and we work on a page of math each afternoon and practice our spelling. He gets home from school at 4. He has snack and watches about 30 minutes of one of his favorite shows and we sit down to do the homework. It takes maybe 15 to 20 minutes at the most. He still has time to go to soccer practice one day a week and cub scouts one day a week. He also has time to play outside and pursue his own fun activities at home. I come from a family where responsibility is taught early on. I value hard work and I am teaching my son to do so as well.

  120. Emily says:

    I disagree. Homework in elementary school is practice for the future. If kids do not develop the study skills early it will be hard for them to adjust later. Homework in high school and college is vital to success. In fact once you get to college the actual amount of “homework” is quite small. You are expected to force yourself to spend many hours a week studying for every class. This is hard for many kids, but because they are used to working outside of class it doesn’t come as a total shock.
    Letting kids be kids and have imaginations is very important, but you also can not tell them that it is okay to not do homework. They could take this attitude with them later in school and run into some real problems. As soon as they get out of elementary school teachers aren’t going to care about a letter from their mom saying “we don’t believe in homework”. Your kids are going to have to go from 0 to 60 way too fast. They will reach middle school and have all of this homework all the sudden and won’t have developed the study skills or patience needed to do it.

  121. Micky says:

    Nope, I don’t agree with you. 20 minutes of homework max plus 25 minutes of reading does NOT prevent my elementary aged kids from also getting outside, doing a few activities, doing a few chores, eating dinner, having down time, and having books read aloud after school. I think the belief that the little bit of homework assigned to younger kids prevents them from play is quite a stretch.

    I love homework. Everyone benefits from practice, and it also gives me a way of checking in/ knowing what they’re learning at school. Do what you want, but I hope schools don’t cower to the vocal no homework crowd. I see a lot of value in it.

    • Sarah says:

      My experience is very different from yours. I watched my daughter go form being so enthusiastic about school and the opportunity to learn, to really resenting having so much of her grade being based on how much she could tolerate busy work that did not add to her learning experience in any way. Not all homework is created equal. The Saxon math we’ve seen in elementary school is well designed to reinforce concepts and practice critical thinking in a short amount of time, but really the only value to doing it at home is so parents can give individual instruction if a child is struggling. On the other hand, requiring a child to write her spelling words three times after she has already completed a perfect test of the list (making up a homework assignment that she clearly didn’t need to do to master the standard) is not only a waste of time, but teaches children that “learning” (I mean what else is school for?) is boring, mindless repetition. So for us its more a balancing act. We have to ask the teacher “Why are you assigning this homework? Show us how it contributes to learning.” If they can’t justify it, I don’t allow it. I feel I have to do this so my daughter isn’t completely put off school before she finishes elementary.

  122. Kay says:

    This is ridiculous. Your child isn’t any more or less special than any other child in the class. Why do you get special treatment because you don’t like it? What are you really teaching your child? That when every other student has to turn in homework or face consequences, your child just gets to sit there and smile because you don’t believe in it. I doubt your child is doing what you listed. Instead, I picture them sitting on a computer, watching television, or more than likely participating in eight million extra curricular activities. Really, you don’t want homework because it interferes with your plan for the evening. Enthusiasm for learning isn’t ruined by homework. It is ruined by parents who constantly tell their children how wrong their teachers are. If you hate homework, then home school. Don’t put it on the teacher. The real problem is that in this day an age every parent thinks their child is the only child in the classroom and the only parent the teacher has to deal with. They aren’t and you aren’t. There are often thirty other students and thirty other “parents who care” in a classroom. The teacher doesn’t want to hear your ideas about homework. If she did, she’d ask.

    • Rachel says:

      If parents don’t stand up for their beliefs and their children than who will! Of course it is her job to speak up to the teacher, and hopefully the teacher will take her feeling into consideration not only for her child but for the teacher’s entire class!

  123. Holly says:

    You’re awesome!!! I wish you were my mum. I hated school and homework always stressed me out even more. I agree that young kids should have freedom. Childhood is getting shorter and shorter as it is and adults always regret not doing things in their youth.

  124. Jocelyn Torres says:

    Heather,
    I agree with all your points. And I’m happy to know there are people like you in this world, you are brave and I admire that. I’m trying hard to reduce homework loads in my kid’s school with little success . I have think about doing exactly what you did, but I’m not sure of the school reaction and how that could affect my child. What I want to know is, what happened after you submitted your letter to the school?

    Thanks

    Jocelyn

  125. Rachel says:

    I am a mother of two, and I am a school teacher. I think homework should not only be limited in elementary school but also in high school. My high school age student wakes up at 6 am, goes to school at 8am, gets out at 3pm and does homework till 9pm. She only takes a brake to eat with the family. She is not able to play sports, join clubs, or go out for the school play because she has too much homework. Her homework extends into the weekend and pushes her to tears regularly. She had homework throughout her school career and it didn’t prepare her for not having any down time, not having time to socialize, not having time for fun! She is still a kid and needs time to enjoy her life. My high school daughter has actually said to me, “If I didn’t have so much homework, I would have time to study.” Homework is more harmful than helpful!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  126. ashley says:

    im a homework mom.

    playing is great and should be encouraged!! But great habits are harder to learn as an adult!! my son takes half hour to do his homework and what I find is education is a positive thing in our home. He is a knowledge seeker and there is nothing wrong with a little homework

    if your child has a hard time or cries it is probably because they don’t understand I have had and still have that problem it is not a negative it requires solution. when he is on a new thing he will tend to get emotional but threw guidance with it is normal he overcomes

    my son learns better when he understands! much like me much like you. Get them to sit for couple mins each evening if we as parents show them importance of knowledge, understanding, asking questions, education etc. they will grow to appreciate it and sky is they limits :) yes at elementary age ;)

  127. Yasmeen Koser says:

    Just like to as do al 5 / 6 year olds get some kind of homework ?

    • Heather Shumaker says:

      Not all, but the practice is increasingly common. Most US schools now have homework for kids starting in Kindergarten.

  128. Destoryer256 says:

    Yeah one more people agreeing
    And I think that we, teens, (I’m 13) need homework even less!
    I hate random people saying No to the ban of homework.

  129. Danielle says:

    I tend to just implement any “homework” as family time. We do it together and that’s what the school promotes. I like the window it gives me into seeing what they are learning anyhow. But maybe we’ve just lucked out with a school where I find the assignments are reasonable.

  130. DLS says:

    I agree with you 100 percent. In my kids’ school, they start giving out homework in 1st grade. My youngest daughter has an 1 hour to 2 hours of homework every night except Fridays. It is incredibly stressful and we can’t do anything on the weekdays because of it. When my older daughter was in that school in first grade, all the parents each wrote a letter to the teacher saying that we banned homework in our homes. Unfortunately, we got a letter back from the teacher saying that we weren’t allowed to ban homework and if our kids didn’t do it, she would fail all of them and have every one of them repeat 1st grade. It’s frustrating but short of pulling my youngest out of school (I want to, but husband is 100 percent against it.) there’s nothing I can do about it. My oldest daughter now goes to Junior High and they only give out 15 minutes of homework a night. It’s pretty sad when a 12 year old has less homework than a 8 year old!

  131. Jess says:

    I’m curious at this point in your children’s educational careers, in I’m assuming a public school system, the affect of your no-homework policy stance. It seems you posted this a few years back? I don’t mean academically I mean how has taking this stance against an authoritative figure in their lives, panned out for them in the school setting and in other settings? More specifically has your decision taught your children that when we disagree with something we take a stand, prove why we don’t want to do it and then just don’t do it? I don’t like every aspect of my job but I don’t tell my boss I’m not doing it (even if I try to say it nicely or back it up with logic). I feel like a better solution to your issue is to choose a private school that has a no homework policy or to homeschool. Homework is the way of the public school system, right or wrong, it’s the public school system way!!! (which personally I tend to agree with you. Homework is overrated! I feel it should only be used in moderation and for areas that need to be an extension of the school day). However, teaching your children avoidance as a way to achieve your means seems like a task that might have other repercussions. Fighting a homework policy is a much bigger issue than your child’s classroom teacher. Every public school system follows state standards, most standards are taught within the confines of the school day but some may have to be reinforced at home. To each his own, but when I made the decision to allow the public school system to educate my children; I taught my own children to be obedient and follow the rules because isn’t that a valuable lesson in life? It’s my job to teach my child how to respect authority just as much as it is my job to balance their free time!

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