She wouldn't get more out of organizing a game of hopscotch with her friends? Social skills, focus, movement, and whatever it takes to wait your turn?

Less Homework = More Learning

My kids’ public school released kids from homework a few years ago — a move met with some pushback. As the NY Daily News put it: Parents Outraged After Principal Dumps Homework for more Playtime.
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As if only the time spent bending over worksheets is learning! Prof. Peter Gray, author of Free to Learn, explains on the site Aeon:
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Learning, according to that almost automatic view, is what children do in school and, maybe, in other adult-directed activities. Playing is, at best, a refreshing break from learning. From that view, summer vacation is just a long recess, perhaps longer than necessary. But here’s an alternative view, which should be obvious but apparently is not: playing is learning. At play, children learn the most important of life’s lessons, the ones that cannot be taught in school. To learn these lessons well, children need lots of play — lots and lots of it, without interference from adults.
So I thank Lynn Collins, M.Ed., ET/P, for sending us the essay below. Lynn has spent the past 20 years in education, as a teacher, an educational therapist, and a home school mom. She currently works as an education consultant.

Why Homework Is Not the Answer, and What Is 

by Lynn Collins

I once believed that, through homework, my child would learn more and, therefore, achieve more academically. If he became a high achiever, he would later gain admission to a great college. He would be set up for a successful and happy life. 
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Over the course of my 20 years as a teacher and parent of two, I have come to see things very differently 
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Homework does not lead to greater achievement, in school or in life. 
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Why Homework is Not the Answer 
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First, homework kills that natural desire to learn that kids are born with. Our children spend 6-7 hours in school every day where they engage in multiple lessons and assignments, and then we give them take-home work. We want our kids to work hard and achieve, yet we overload them with work until they no longer enjoy school, and learning becomes “lame,” or overwhelming. This school burn-out is the antithesis to curiosity. And burn-out does not lead to school success. 
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Alfie Kohn, a widely popular writer and lecturer on education, summed it up by saying, “Homework may be the greatest extinguisher of curiosity ever invented.”  
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Second, hundreds of research studies, hundreds, do not support homework. According to Denise Pope, senior lecturer at the Stanford University Graduate School of Education and author of Overloaded and Underprepared: Strategies for Stronger Schools and Healthy, Successful Kids, “The research clearly shows [at the elementary level] that there is no correlation between academic achievement and homework, especially in the lower grades.” A small correlation exists between homework and achievement in middle school, and only two hours is supported by research at the high school level. 
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Interestingly, a study from Penn State University, conducted by researchers Gerald LeTendre and David Baker, showed that students in high performing countries like Japan, Denmark, and the Czech Republic are given less homework than students in the United States. Students with the lowest scores came from countries like Iran, Greece, and Thailand, where large amounts of homework were given. 
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The research condemning homework goes on and on.  
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Homework often impacts sleep. After a long school day, an activity, and dinner, children often take longer to finish their work than they do in school, as they’re tired from the long day; thus, they go to bed later, losing precious sleep, which is backed up by research as a necessary component to learning. 
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When we are sleep deprived, our focus, attention, and vigilance drift, making it more difficult to receive information,” wrote the researchers at the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School. “Without adequate sleep and rest, over-worked neurons can no longer function to coordinate information properly, and we lose our ability to access previously learned information.” 
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Additionally, families often disagree and argue over homework, leading to great stress at home. The parent becomes the teacher (without credentials) and is expected to know the methods the teacher used in class, an unfair burden to place on parents. Children deal with the burden of their parents’ disappointment when they don’t understand a concept. Evenings should not be a stressful time for families but, rather, a chance to bond. 
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Finally, kids who struggle in school spend so much time simply getting through the homework that there is no time left to work on the basic skills they needHow are these kids expected to achieve if they have no time to master the basics?  
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What IS the Answer? 
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How about learning in other ways? Learning from a teacher who is credentialed and knowledgeable is wonderful, and worksheets can help students work toward mastering the material, but traditional schooling shouldn’t be the only way our kids learn. How about an activity that is backed up by research: nightly reading. Kids can also learn by watching interesting documentaries, doing math through cooking and grocery shopping with a parent, playing Scrabble, going to museums, and so on. By learning in other ways, our children will use their brain in new ways, and they will see that learning is not just something that happens inside a classroom.  
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How about giving them some down-time after school, or after their activity, so they can recover mentally from the long day? If our kids go to school refreshed rather than stressed every day, their natural curiosity will return and they will have more mental energy to learn. By protecting that down-time for your kids, you’re also giving them time to think for themselves and discover who they are, rather than being robots who do as they are told from morning until night.  
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How about having them do chores? According to the Harvard Grant Study, the longest longitudinal study of humans ever conducted, the number one predictor of professional success in life is having done chores as a child. By helping out around the house, children feel that they are contributing to their family. This translates to an attitude of, “How can I contribute to the group,” as an adult rather than an attitude of, “What can I do for myself?”   
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How about changing what homework looks like to reignite that natural desire to learn? Professionals on both sides of the issue agree on the importance of nightly reading. With a reading-only homework policy, kids would actually have time to do the reading and would enjoy it rather than squeezing their mandatory minutes into a packed schedule. A reading-only homework policy would also allow time for kids who struggle to work on their basic skills.  
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Vicki Abeles, education advocate and creator of, “Race to Nowhere,” a powerful documentary on our high-pressure education system and what it is doing to our children, created guidelines, with her team (a lawyer, a professor, and an education advocate), for what homework should be, if assigned at all. Their guidelines include: project-based, student-led work within the student’s interests, experiences “that cannot be had within the confines of the school setting or school day,” and assignments that “advance a spirit of learning, curiosity, and inquiry among students.” 
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Many educators and entire schools across the country have abolished homework with great success. Others are hesitant, often because the parents still demand homework without understanding the issue. If we don’t make a change now, our children will pay the price later. Please go to your child’s teachers and principal and share your thoughts on this crucial issue 
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Freedom in learning, rather than traditional homework, will bring back our kids’ natural desire to learn, setting them up for greater achievement and fulfillment, both in school and later in life. 

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She wouldn’t get more out of organizing a game of hopscotch with her friends? Social skills, focus, movement? Executive function? Joy? 

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64 Responses to Less Homework = More Learning

  1. Art August 22, 2017 at 10:18 am #

    Agree,

    Homework should be used as a tool, not a requirement. If the child DOES need extra practice then yes, give THAT child homework.

  2. Theresa Hall August 22, 2017 at 10:55 am #

    Well there would be more learning if they didn’t drag girls out of class. Oh but we can’t let boys be distracted even when they make inappropriate comments. They say boys only a few styles compared to girls so that makes okay to mess up the girls education. And that look professional isn’t going to do anyone any good if they don’t the brains to go with the job. Plus the whole college ready doesn’t work because no student dress code in college.

    Do they want points from the government for good grades which can’t happen if you drag the kid out of class all the time? More points means more money.

  3. James Pollock August 22, 2017 at 10:56 am #

    I share the concern over too much homework. I am not, however, ready to condemn homework outright.

    Some learning requires repetition and practice. These subjects need homework. Music and foreign languages, for example, would be “poster children” for this idea. Bi-lingual children get that way because they hear (and use) multiple languages in their daily life… not just in school.

    Another good use of homework is those topics where some children grasp things right away, and others need much more work. By moving that “much more work” to the child’s home, rather than the classroom, you avoid wasting the time of the kids who already got it. In high-school and college level, you can do this by putting some kids in the “we move quick, so keep up” class and others in the “we’ll slow down so you can get it, but it means we won’t have time to even see some of the stuff those other kids get.”

    Finally, I worked in education for adults. We expected students to read an assignment and thus be at least familiar with terminology and concepts before coming to class. We also had adult students… we expect that students can and do make their own judgment about how they spend their time, and if preparation for school wasn’t at the top of the list, there’s probably a good reason for that. Adults have adult responsibilities. If you don’t come to class prepared, you won’t get the full value of the education you are paying for… this is choice for you to make, not for me. You have a textbook for a reason, and no, we are NOT going to spend our time in class reading from the textbook. It’s the value proposition… if you could learn everything you need to know about the subject by reading a book, you should go read a book instead of paying ten or twelve times as much for a class.

    Some homework is useful. Among other things, it leads to the student learning to estimate time requirements and budget time properly. Some (most) skills benefit from repetition, and the benefits from repetition grow if the repeated incidences are separate in time and context (because we remember things by association, so the more associations we have with something, the easier it is to recall it when we need it. I can have full confidence in my ability to drive a car because I repeat this task frequently. I have somewhat less confidence in my ability to solve an equation involving finding the area under a complex curve, because this isn’t something I repeat.

    I had to learn the value of homework the hard way. As a youngster, I was able to learn quickly and retain most of what I learned. This made me believe that homework was a waste of my time. Eventually, however, I started running into academic topics that I couldn’t just absorb by being in the room while they were talked about… My undergraduate GPA shows the effects of learning to value the homework… and it took me an extra year to finish, too.

    The application to real life: When my daughter was in school, the school district switched to a grading policy that valued testing… and only testing… in grading, with few exceptions. This effectively made homework 100% optional. As a result, my kid had the same challenge I did, only at the high-school level rather than the college level, because of trying to do the minimum necessary effort, and occasionally (increasingly frequently) underestimating what the minimum required level of effort actually was. So I took her out of high-school, and into college, as soon as the college would take her… in part because they graded homework (but had a better understanding of when homework was required to learn something.)

    One final note:
    While I agree that cooperative play gives valuable learning to children, it does not necessarily follow that less homework means more of that valuable cooperative play. It can just as likely mean more screen time, and there’s a danger to having children learn about the real world from what they see on TV.

  4. Stacey August 22, 2017 at 11:14 am #

    This is relevant for you…

    http://thefederalist.com/2017/08/22/schools-failures-gifted-children-drive-test-prep-industry/

    Remember… Who benefits from more and more testing, more and more sports leagues? Free time and free play does not put money in anyone’s pockets.

  5. SKL August 22, 2017 at 11:35 am #

    Most of those would involve giving parents more responsibility / flexibility, and we just aren’t trusted with that nowadays.

    I have to say that if my kids got little homework, I’d give them more work to do myself, because we have a need for it. I don’t care what others do. When I was a kid, I had no problem remembering stuff; I felt the school did too much review as it was. My own kids are different. One of them forgets stuff and flat out needs the practice. The other does not need much outside practice, but she loves to read and do science projects anyway, so that’s what she would do regardless. While it might be nice for the home to have total control over this, it’s also nice to be able to blame the school, vs. having kids resentful at their parents over practice work. 😉

    But I do wish they would give more flexibility re *when* the homework gets done. It is stupid to randomly have several hours one night and none the next. Why not give the assignments (or at least some of them) well in advance so the kids can learn how to plan and pace themselves? But that’s a personal rant I suppose ….

  6. Anna August 22, 2017 at 11:56 am #

    @James Pollock: “Another good use of homework is those topics where some children grasp things right away, and others need much more work. By moving that “much more work” to the child’s home, rather than the classroom, you avoid wasting the time of the kids who already got it.”

    But that’s not how homework is actually done anywhere that I’ve ever experienced. Instead everybody is given the work – which unfortunately, is all too often pointless busy-work. As the article points out, this ironically often means kids who are truly struggling don’t have time to work on the basic skills they actually need to work on, because they’re already too busy doing the busy-work handouts. Giving a struggling student work specially targeted to his needs is not what anybody normally means by “homework” in contemporary schooling.

    As for your point about repetition, yes there are subjects that require it. That’s why teachers should structure that into the many hours of the day they are given to teach kids those subjects.

  7. Art August 22, 2017 at 12:05 pm #

    Well there would be more learning if they didn’t drag girls out of class. Oh but we can’t let boys be distracted even when they make inappropriate comments. They say boys only a few styles compared to girls so that makes okay to mess up the girls education. And that look professional isn’t going to do anyone any good if they don’t the brains to go with the job. Plus the whole college ready doesn’t work because no student dress code in college.

    Do they want points from the government for good grades which can’t happen if you drag the kid out of class all the time? More points means more money.

    ^Are you high?

    Okay, girls don’t generally get dragged out of class. There are pull out programs for special ed, and Gifted/Talented and in some cases, enrichment. The only college level schools that might even possibly entertain a uniform/dress code style of sorts would be religious Universities. However, there’s no plausible link between public schools forcing kids to wear uniforms while in elementary and performance later in life.

    It’s not based on points, it’s based on attendance.

    What does this have to do with homework?

  8. Christopher Byrne August 22, 2017 at 12:07 pm #

    Read “Hard Times” by Dickens. It’s all about the triumph of imagination and humanity over being “crammed with facts.”

  9. Theresa Hall August 22, 2017 at 12:17 pm #

    Ok art what do you think happens when they dress code girls? Homework is filling those brains with as much information as possible so the tests will have great scores and the government seeing those great scores will give more money. But if kid is dragged out class because the horror they have a collar bone they will more trouble doing any of the work. When kids are dress coded they have to wait till their parents show with something that the school likes in the office which means no learning going on while they wait.

  10. John B. August 22, 2017 at 12:41 pm #

    Well, some homework is important. Kids increase their math skills by working out the problems they learned in class that day. BUT I see no need for teachers to assign homework on Friday afternoon to be due on Monday morning. Goodness, weekends should be family time for the kids and school s/b the last thing on their minds till Monday morning!

  11. Rae Pica August 22, 2017 at 12:48 pm #

    SO good! When will people start paying attention to the research? There are now lots of studies showing that homework in elementary school has NO benefit. But it does have plenty of downsides.

    Really upsetting that parents got up in arms when it was eliminated in favor of more playtime — which has PLENTY of benefit.

  12. Steve N August 22, 2017 at 12:57 pm #

    This country of ours creates lots of Ph.D.’s in science and engineering, and we have all sorts of advanced technology to show for it — super fast computers, cars that practically drive themselves, and ATM’s that allow me to just stick in a check and it actually reads the amount of the check and deposits it in my account. That still blows my mind.

    This country of ours creates lots of Ph.D.’s in the health and wellness fields, and we have all sorts of life-saving medical advancements to show for it. (We can’t afford most of them, but that’s for another blog.)

    This country of ours churns out Ph.D. after Ph.D. in education, and what do we have to show for it? Almost nothing, as far as I can tell.

  13. JulieH August 22, 2017 at 1:01 pm #

    I get so frustrated by “busywork” homework.

    I could get behind the teacher having the kids type their spelling words into a “word search generator” – practicing spelling and typing.

    I disliked when a teacher handed out a spelling word search she generated and made the kids solve it. If the kid knew how to spell the word, it was worthless busywork. If the kid didn’t know how to spell the words, it was pure torture for them and didn’t really help them learn the spelling.

    My high school daughter had an interesting setup in her biology class. Homework didn’t count toward the grade – kids could do what they needed. So my kid did the homework in her head (she hates physically writing things out) and had the memory to remember her answer when they checked the work in class. Then for the tests, it was standards based – as long as the kids followed the prescribed process requesting retakes, they could retake tests as many times as they wished to – and each time the test was different. The point was to iteratively go back over what they didn’t understand and keep trying until they had a fluent understanding. Later tests would revisit earlier standards at random to ensure retention.

  14. Art August 22, 2017 at 1:09 pm #

    Ok art what do you think happens when they dress code girls? Homework is filling those brains with as much information as possible so the tests will have great scores and the government seeing those great scores will give more money. But if kid is dragged out class because the horror they have a collar bone they will more trouble doing any of the work. When kids are dress coded they have to wait till their parents show with something that the school likes in the office which means no learning going on while they wait.

    ^Strict/nonsensical dress codes usually come about because of the idiocy of the Administration of that school. Under most circumstances, a common sense guideline is set. Such as no flip flops for safety reasons, or forbidding skirts so high they show their panties when they sit. Common sense guidelines. At the high school level, if the girl breaks a dress code,it’s generally caught at or before first period,she’s sent home to change. To be blunt, the girl generally knows the dress code, and if she breaks it, it’s her own fault.

    Same thing for boys.

    Schools are graded not on points, but on accountability. That’s what the whole testing thing is about. If an entire school fails too much of the standardized test, that school can be taken over BY the government, usually at the state level. If a school is taken over by the government, it’s given a certain amount of time to fix their problem, or face closure.

    One more time, Schools for the most part, DO NOT get money from the government for test scores, it’s based on attendance, and to some extent,Title IX, and Special Ed. In Texas, schools are primarily paid for by local taxes, and rich districts sending money to poor districts. New buildings, etc, are dealt with through bond elections.

  15. Theresa Hall August 22, 2017 at 1:36 pm #

    When it comes to test art we can easily grade the kids doing it the old fashion way. You either learn the lesson being taught or you got left behind when your classmates who did learn move up. I would love a simple dress code in schools but anything the school deems a distraction is one. It doesn’t have be in the rules the school opinion is what counts. Tell me when was the last time a collar bone distracted you? Yes a no breasts or butts and no underclothes dress code would be perfect but something so simple will never be.

  16. Dan August 22, 2017 at 2:22 pm #

    The teacher who set this homework over the summer holidays has the right idea
    http://blog.pobble.com/the-best-homework-ever/

  17. BMS August 22, 2017 at 2:22 pm #

    Homework is the bane of my existence. My teens hate it and either don’t do it, and fail classes, or fight with us about it, or if they do actually do it, it takes literally all the time there is. I get home at 5:30 or so. If we finish dinner at 6:30, I don’t see the kids again for the rest of the night. They’re in their rooms doing homework until bedtime. I leave before they get up, so during school days we see each other for about 45 minutes tops. Day after day after day. If they want to do sports, or scouts, or anything else that isn’t school, then they’re sleep deprived on top of it. Of course everyone says they should just do homework right after school. But they need time to decompress, to chat with friends, to shoot a few hockey goals in the backyard – all that stuff that keeps them sane. There is no time to watch a movie together, chat about anything, play a game together, anything. Another school year is starting in a week and I am literally having panic attacks about homework, and the fighting and arguing, and the emails from teachers, and all that. If I could homeschool my kids I would, but we need two full time working parents to pay the bills, and I don’t think I have the patience to homeschool (know thyself !). So I will just keep chugging the antidepressants and resign myself to another year of hell.

  18. BMS August 22, 2017 at 2:28 pm #

    I do have to add that I agree that some homework is useful. I’m a professor. I give homework that makes students prepare for lab and learn to do research. However, I literally give all of the homework on the first day. In fact, it is up on my website before class starts. My students know everything they need to do, for the whole year, on day one, so they can plan their lives. But I also do a ton of problems in class, so they can practice and get feedback right away. It does no good for them to practice on homework, and then not get the graded feedback for days or weeks. They collaborate and teach each other, and that is much more effective than sheets and sheets of busywork.

  19. Dean August 22, 2017 at 2:35 pm #

    It appears, at least in the districts with which I am familiar, that homework is eithe
    r busywork or making up for lack of teaching. In these districts, children are actually in class only about four hours a day (‘way back in the “olden days” when I was in school it was 6+ hours). This doesn’t take into account that amlost every week the class time is reduced to allow teachers to “attend conferences”, and each time there’s a three-day government holiday–Sat-Sun-Mon–there’s no school on Friday because that’s a “preparation day”.
    Maybe this explains why our kids know so little about our nearest neighbors, Canada and México; one simply cannot learn much about either of these nations in a couple of weeks. I’m always dismayed when “educated” adults are surprised to learn that these countries have states/provinces, even TV!
    The kids do seem to spend a lot of time outside. Waiting for the bus or mom to take them those three or four blocks home because “everyone know” walking in a residential or rural neighborhood is so dangerous >sarcasm off<.

  20. Vera August 22, 2017 at 2:51 pm #

    Absolutely agree! How can you make the teachers listen? I am tired of hearing “this is the way we have always done it”.

  21. Abigail August 22, 2017 at 2:55 pm #

    Art – you sound like a mansplainer. I’m a young woman who has first hand experience with the arbitrary nature of school dress codes and their sexist approach. And my observations are repeatedly backed up when these dress codes are subjected to scrutiny. We’re super off topic at this point, but I grabbed the concept presented when this tangent first appeared – we are losing sight of what is best for kids.

    It’s not just reducing or eliminating homework that accounts for the dramatic differences in the listed countries and ours. We can change course in how we teach and promote learning – by following the examples of others who have changed their perspective rather than by doubling down on inefficient methods.

    Children are extraordinary, their ability to think dynamically decreases with traditional schooling in the US. It is time to stop looking at adult education methods and applying them to children. We need to embrace all their potential!! So, let them play. Let them grow.

    And yeah, say no to the consumer based education & sports complex.

  22. SKL August 22, 2017 at 3:43 pm #

    Oh gimme a break about the dress codes. I’m a woman raising two daughters. Every time I see an example of “those horrible rape apologists picking on me for dress code,” it’s always a trashy outfit designed to show off what ought to be covered. It’s always a case where the dress code was published and ignored. Ignored because someone thought they were too good to follow the rules. School is not the beach. It’s not that hard to find clothes that meet dress code. Just do it and stop the attention seeking.

  23. Theresa Hall August 22, 2017 at 4:29 pm #

    So skl you know where to find shorts that touch the knee. Plus with gangs today it becomes twice as hard to find something the school likes. Plus not all schools have air-conditioning which means the school isn’t the place you want to wear pants and long sleeves. You want to wear shorts and no sleeves but that considered not modest. And while they are dragging girls out for the crime of having shoulders the girls aren’t getting an education. Schools says teenager who are boys can’t resist the site of a girl’s skin so go nuts . So when they act like animals no one in school tells them off.

  24. Donald August 22, 2017 at 4:37 pm #

    “Academia is to knowledge what prostitution is to love; close enough on the surface but, to the nonsucker, not exactly the same thing”

    ― Nassim Nicholas Taleb, The Bed of Procrustes: Philosophical and Practical Aphorisms

  25. Workshop August 22, 2017 at 4:38 pm #

    I’m confused.

    The post was about homework.

    Perhaps the discussion can continue about the evils (or benefits) of homework, and whether schools should assign shoulder-breaking amounts of paperwork to children when research indicates children do better without that level of homework.

    Or, you know, you could continue the tirade about dress codes and drive off commenters who want nothing to do the topic.

  26. Theresa Hall August 22, 2017 at 4:43 pm #

    Workshop how many kids do you think can do the homework if they are stuck in the office with the fashion police?

  27. Workshop August 22, 2017 at 5:03 pm #

    Theresa,
    Homework, being defined as “work done at home,” means that your question is oxymoronic.

  28. Theresa Hall August 22, 2017 at 5:08 pm #

    Exactly where will they get the knowledge to do the homework if they are never in class because the fashion police keep dragging them out of class?

  29. Emily August 22, 2017 at 5:10 pm #

    >>Theresa,
    Homework, being defined as “work done at home,” means that your question is oxymoronic.<<

    No, it isn't. Let's say Susie gets kicked out of math class and sent to the principal's office because her collarbone is showing, or whatever (and yes, a lot of dress codes these days ARE too strict, arbitrary, and tend to disproportionately target girls). She then has to wait for one of her parents to bring her a different shirt, and she misses the rest of the class period. During math class, the teacher explains the concept of the day, and then assigns homework. Let's say that the teacher wrote the homework on the board at the beginning of class, so Susie managed to at least copy that down before she got sent to the office. So, Susie goes home, and attempts to do the homework, but she doesn't understand it, because she missed most of math class, because her collarbone was showing. So, Workshop, that's what Theresa meant by dress codes interfering with students being able to do their homework (or classwork, for that matter), so her question isn't oxymoronic.

  30. lollipoplover August 22, 2017 at 5:22 pm #

    How did a homework discussion get hijacked by *fashion police*? Why do certain posters (Theresa Hall) insist on inserting sex in every thread??

    On homework: Our district believes in 10 minutes of homework per grade level, so my 6th grader can expect to do 60 minutes each night, which is too much, imo. Often my elementary child has more homework than the high schooler- he gets a free period during the school day to get his assignments done. I wish the elementary kids had the chance to get things done during the school day.

    Also, the *everyday math* being taught now has caused more breakdowns for my daughter and for me (need to pour a glass of wine to understand some of these word problems!) I show her the way I learned and it makes so much more sense to her! I do get that different approaches work for students, but holy hell who are these people making math so confusing and frustrating for young learners?!

  31. SKL August 22, 2017 at 5:28 pm #

    I managed to survive to the age of 50 without ever once going sleeveless or wearing shorts in school. And no, we did not have air conditioning.

    Yes, you can find long enough shorts and skirts if you look for them.

    If you have that much trouble following the dress code, perhaps home schooling is a better fit for you.

  32. Backroads August 22, 2017 at 5:28 pm #

    I am a 2nd grade teacher. The last few years I’ve been culling homework as much as possible. Last year, I was able to cull it down to the spelling list and tracking of reading minutes, a school-wide requirement. That requirement is gone this year…

    So now they got a copy of their spelling words and only if they want to bring it home to study.

    Yup, I am attempting to build “wild reading” this year. In my experience, kids are going to read or not and a little box to check off doesn’t change that. Instead I plan to chat up the assumption they’re all reading.

  33. Theresa Hall August 22, 2017 at 5:31 pm #

    Exactly! I glad you get it Emily. And if you are a black kid watch out for the hair police. No poofy hair no braids no extensions even if they are good for hair.
    We need less dress codes so kids can devote more time to learning. And oh no you don’t look like what a boy or girl are supposed to look like. Time for a dress code.

  34. Papilio August 22, 2017 at 5:40 pm #

    Theresa… yes, I understand it’s a problem, but stop it. This post is about homework, stick to that.

    I was reading this thinking, ‘At what age? Give us an age!’, knowing that homework is only ineffective up to a certain age that I thought was ~12 and someone else thought was 14-15 or so (last week?). Only thing I found was “[at the elementary level]”, which is up to age… ?
    Though of course teens, too, would do better if they didn’t have so much homework that it affected their sleep.

    Also… if ‘elementary’ children seem to need homework to practice their maths, it always makes me wonder if they’re reaaly old enough to grasp the concept in the first place… Could be a wrong impression of the USA school system though.

  35. Papilio August 22, 2017 at 6:05 pm #

    What?? Terribly sorry to bring it up again, but if even “sleeveless or wearing shorts in school” is a problem (wtf!??), plenty of my female TEACHERS would have been in trouble as well…!!!

  36. SKL August 22, 2017 at 6:55 pm #

    Today my kids’ vision doctor said (in front of said kid) that homework is statistically ineffective. I didn’t really appreciate that, because statistics have nothing to do with the specific child sitting in front of her, who wants to do well in school but WILL NOT if she doesn’t practice at home.

    My kids’ school didn’t really overdo homework at least through 4th grade. They could have done a better job of spreading it out, but it was a reasonable amount and it was not just busy work. Those kids who were so smart that they didn’t need the practice were also smart enough to get the work done very quickly and then go play (most days). I would not have complained if they had not given homework, but again, I would have supplemented at home anyway.

    I’ve heard that middle school is where statistically homework is helpful on average. For those outside of the US, middle school here usually means grades 5-8 or 6-8.

    As a kid, 40+ years ago, I started getting a little bit of homework in the 3rd grade. Again, I was a person who learned quickly and retained easily, so I didn’t need the review. Some other kids struggled. It was not unusual to have a couple kids in our classroom fail the grade. Some kids got extra help outside of school. Many parents used corporal punishment thinking that it would make the kids try harder. Also, the public school standards had taken a dip around that time. So I’m not prepared to say that the “no homework in primary” days were the golden age of childhood.

    I think we have to be realistic about what teachers can accomplish during the school day, and also what kids are capable of, i.e., most kids will not be harmed by doing a half hour of homework. For those who cannot do it, there is a process to go through to get an exception.

  37. Art August 22, 2017 at 7:03 pm #

    Art – you sound like a mansplainer. I’m a young woman who has first hand experience with the arbitrary nature of school dress codes and their sexist approach. And my observations are repeatedly backed up when these dress codes are subjected to scrutiny. We’re super off topic at this point, but I grabbed the concept presented when this tangent first appeared – we are losing sight of what is best for kids.

    ^Abigail, I sub teach in Elementary, my Dad was a high school teacher for 45 years. In fact, in my hometown, this exact situation about dress codes is going on as we speak. It’s a small of 4,000. Parents are up in arms because Administration threatened to highly restrict what the kids wore right before school started. This was after the parents had gone clothes shopping.

    My mom actually owns a small clothing boutique. She sells nice perfectly reasonable clothes that teens would wear, However, too many times, she’ll stock but then half of the stuff she stocks suddenly can’t be worn by the kids because of some arbitrary rule. It’s beyond frustrating.

    And yes, kids can be unbelievable sometimes in what they can do. I once taught basic electronics to a group of 5th graders in the 90’s. I was also a mobile DJ using vintage amplifiers. I had a gig and I knew one of them had a problem but kept putting it off. I tested the amp before the gig based on a gut feeling, and found it had died. This 5th grade girl saved my butt. She pulled the amp apart, removed the old part, put the new one in, and the amp was good to go.

    It’s not just reducing or eliminating homework that accounts for the dramatic differences in the listed countries and ours. We can change course in how we teach and promote learning – by following the examples of others who have changed their perspective rather than by doubling down on inefficient methods.

    ^ we are on the same page here, the current way of teaching is creating a stressed out generation who cannot think for themselves, where creativity is frowned up. The new way of teaching math is pure bullshiat. We have 3rd Graders who can’t even make change or can barely read clocks.

    When it comes to test art we can easily grade the kids doing it the old fashion way. You either learn the lesson being taught or you got left behind when your classmates who did learn move up. I would love a simple dress code in schools but anything the school deems a distraction is one. It doesn’t have be in the rules the school opinion is what counts. Tell me when was the last time a collar bone distracted you? Yes a no breasts or butts and no underclothes dress code would be perfect but something so simple will never be.

    ^What the hell?

    Theresa, even the 70’s, there was standardized testing, but it wasn’t as high stakes as today. Blame No Child Left Behind for that one. Social promotion happened in the 70’s., but it was not real prevalent. As for the collar bone statement, considering my students are under ten years old, and your point is?

    Uniforms, can up to an extent, improve behavior, but that is the only difference.

    Exactly! I glad you get it Emily. And if you are a black kid watch out for the hair police. No poofy hair no braids no extensions even if they are good for hair.
    We need less dress codes so kids can devote more time to learning. And oh no you don’t look like what a boy or girl are supposed to look like. Time for a dress code.

    ^everything you say is a contradiction. Black kids are definitely allowed to wear their hair they want to. Even white blonde girls will sometimes do cornrows. However, Mohawks are generally frowned upon.

  38. Octavio Gonzalez August 22, 2017 at 7:55 pm #

    Great job. I say let parents help interpret the world! Do it through Math, Social Science, History an other subjects.

  39. Theresa Hall August 22, 2017 at 10:05 pm #

    Art maybe you should search dress code before you insist that I’m wrong about dress codes. Elementary school kids are rarely called out probably because their bodies are similar shapes. It when they start turning into teens that the biggest coding happen. Telling girls that they are a distraction and mustn’t distract the boys. This will not give a good education to them.

  40. Art August 22, 2017 at 11:38 pm #

    Art maybe you should search dress code before you insist that I’m wrong about dress codes. Elementary school kids are rarely called out probably because their bodies are similar shapes. It when they start turning into teens that the biggest coding happen. Telling girls that they are a distraction and mustn’t distract the boys. This will not give a good education to them.

    ^did you not read what I said? My dad was a high school teacher. My nephew just finished 8th grade and I asked him about this tonight at supper. He said that the girl is usually given something to wear from the lost and found or told to turn the shirt inside out. Or if the shirt has a bad word, they cover with a sticky note. THEY DON’T GET PULLED OUT at any great length for this. The time dealt with this is minimal. 10 to 15 min at best, and it doesn’t happen enough to be a real problem. They’ll spend more time than that IN THE BATHROOM.

    As I mentioned before, each school is different, with different dress codes. Strict/too conservative dress codes usually come from idiot Administration.

    As for Elementary, yes there are dress codes, for instance, girls can’t show up in bathing suits (though field days are an exception) or a nightgown (though I have seen a combo of a nightgown and jeans) or if the shirt they are wearing is too loose. Again, its about common sense.

    In High School, don’t be naive about girls. They will purposely dress to attract boys if given the chance. They will dress nice to go party or on dates. They most definitely know what they are doing.

    Checkmate.

  41. Renee Anderson August 22, 2017 at 11:40 pm #

    I love the article!! I give very very little homework. I teach 3-5 self contained Emotional Behavior Disorder. I’m really trying to wean the parents – they are the ones that want the homework. I assign 20 minutes reading- student choice, Your article inspired other types of homework I could assign – like playing a board game with parent. Great article!

  42. James Pollock August 23, 2017 at 1:43 am #

    “Art maybe you should search dress code before you insist that I’m wrong about dress codes. ”
    I’ll do it.
    Here is the actual policy for the local school district. I found it at
    https://www.beaverton.k12.or.us/schools/cedar-park/for-parents/Documents/BSDMiddleSchoolDressCode.pdf

    With which element(s) of this dress code, specifically, do you object?

    I raised a daughter. She occasionally wore skirts that were too short to school. This happened because she had favorites that STAYED favorites even as she grew taller, and they stayed the same length. So a skirt that was long enough because one that was barely long enough became one that was not long enough, without the skirt changing at all. What would usually happen is she’d get dressed for school, I’d see that another skirt was due for retirement, and when it came in for laundry it didn’t go back again. When she got a bit older, we had one of those talks about clothes that are appropriate for some places, of which school is not one. Yes, because those poor boys will be distracted. They can’t help it, the poor dummies.

  43. Katie G August 23, 2017 at 6:11 am #

    As a homeschool mom, my viewpoint is largely theoretical and a small percentage concerned for my nephews and niece! I think much of the homework ought to go, but not necessarily 100%. Studying spelling words, larger projects (especially hands-on type) and anything to be memorized such as poetry (if any schools still do that), math facts, or lines for a play, are all right.

    I can remember plenty of interesting projects, mostly from 4th grade and from high school Latin!

  44. Jessica August 23, 2017 at 7:18 am #

    I have a question (this is a real question, not a “point”): For little kids, what happens if the family never does the homework? My son just finished kindergarten, so I’m looking ahead. In high school, of course, you could fail the class, but young students don’t have a pass-fail system. What happens when a parent goes to the 2nd-grade teacher and respectfully explains that your family is opting out of homework?

  45. Workshop August 23, 2017 at 8:49 am #

    Jessica, I really have no idea.

    However, my second grade son has homework, and I will be going to the parent-teacher conference to ask specifically why, given the data that indicates homework isn’t effective for 2nd graders, she assigns homework.

    My son also happens to be one of the older kids in class since his birthday fell the way it did, and so he gets good scores when he wants to (the fact that he likes to write slowly is a different issue, and easily corrected).

    My younger son is the youngest in his class, again due to the weird rules regarding birthday cut-offs. I am interested in seeing how he does with regards to grades and work, given their genetics and home-situation are about as similar as can be.

    If I have an interesting story to tell, I’ll be sure to share it.

  46. Theresa Hall August 23, 2017 at 9:02 am #

    When I said to search dress code I didn’t mean the rules I meant those who have live with these rules. Yes they are those who will next to nothing but that doesn’t mean boys can’t control themselves. And is really going to make a difference whether your shirt straps are 3 fingers wide or two fingers? Yikes she has a collar bone. Yikes she has legs. Yikes she has shoulders. Come on we can be better than this.

  47. BB8 August 23, 2017 at 12:21 pm #

    @Jessica – I did exactly that. Trying to get my girl to do homework was roughly as easy as convincing the Pope to convert to satanism. I was NOT going to spend the little time I got to spend with her after work in pitched battles every night. So we just didn’t do it. Ever. My kid scored in the 95th percentile on all the standardized tests, so they really couldn’t say it was affecting her learning. Really, if they’re learning, there isn’t much they can do. They tried taking away recess before they figured out that was a reward for her (she’d much rather stay in and read).

  48. JulieH August 23, 2017 at 12:42 pm #

    Last year, one of the most effective homework scenarios I saw for my hs freshman was the online math textbook and homework (yes, the school had an adequate plan for kids that could not access the internet at home). The online homework had a variety of problem types (multiple choice, free response, etc.), and once the kids answered the questions, they could “submit” and see right away if they got the question wrong. If wrong, they could try again multiple times. Links were provided back to the relevant section of the textbook.

    So kids didn’t run into the problem of doing the whole series of questions wrong (actually practicing the WRONG way to do it) and not knowing for a few days. It kept kids better caught up.

    Also, the teacher had a report in the morning as to which problems had multiple attempts or lots of people with no correct answer – customized by class period. So she was able to spend a few minutes at the start of class to allow questions or cover a needed topic and then move on. She said it was really working well. The students agreed.

    Dress code – the basics of ours is simple enough: school is your place of “work” and one should dress professionally – polo tucked in (in one of two colors), khakis, and a belt required. On Fridays, one may wear a tshirt (clubs, sports, etc that include the school logo – all approved by school before printing) with the khakis and belt. Similar rules for teachers.

  49. Theresa Hall August 23, 2017 at 12:59 pm #

    Julie I wish all schools could keep simple. So many seem to be encouraging boys to be future rapists. And being afraid of collar bones and shoulders only messes up girls. Truth be told I don’t think the boys are noticing those things. Just the idiots in charge.

  50. JulieH August 23, 2017 at 1:18 pm #

    Yes, keeping it simple works well – keep the focus on the positive reasons.

    So many kids and adults argue that dress codes inhibit self-expression. I don’t remember why, but one of the students was sharing her thoughts on the dress code. She commented that by having a uniform way of dressing, it challenged her to express herself in other ways that were more based in her character and personal choices. She felt it had inspired tremendous self-growth.

  51. Nicole R. August 23, 2017 at 1:50 pm #

    “But I do wish they would give more flexibility re *when* the homework gets done. It is stupid to randomly have several hours one night and none the next. Why not give the assignments (or at least some of them) well in advance so the kids can learn how to plan and pace themselves? But that’s a personal rant I suppose ….”

    – Oh, that’s not just you at all, SKL – I definitely feel the same way! My son’s homework schedule last year was a mess. Some nights he would have nothing and others I’d have to insist that he go to bed even though it wasn’t all done.

    “I do have to add that I agree that some homework is useful. I’m a professor. I give homework that makes students prepare for lab and learn to do research. However, I literally give all of the homework on the first day. In fact, it is up on my website before class starts. My students know everything they need to do, for the whole year, on day one, so they can plan their lives. But I also do a ton of problems in class, so they can practice and get feedback right away. It does no good for them to practice on homework, and then not get the graded feedback for days or weeks. They collaborate and teach each other, and that is much more effective than sheets and sheets of busywork.”

    – I love this, BMS!

    As a parent, I would definitely like to see less homework. I have a son who says he’d actually like high school if it didn’t follow him home! And I can see the difference in his curiosity in the summer when he has time to breathe and can learn about whatever interests him, at his own pace.

    As a substitute teacher, I’ve seen a lot of different homework policies come and go. If I ever started my own school, I’d encourage homework to be optional, individualized, and limited!

  52. Andrea Drummond August 23, 2017 at 2:01 pm #

    My daughter is about to start kindergarten. She will be six in October. She missed our state’s cut-off day (Virginia, five by Sept 30) by 12 days. When she was a baby and showed signs of being very intelligent we wondered if it would have been better for her to have been born so she could start kindergarten a year earlier. Since then I have become much more educated about the issue and am not only glad she missed the date, but if she had been born in time I still would have kept her back another year not to “red shirt” her but to give her more time to enjoy playing a lot every day and being allowed to learn at her own pace. I have educated her well I think by taking her to parks and teaching her to love animals and bugs. She will learn other things in time but this has been her to time to learn solely from life. I am sad it is at an end and have some trepidation about how she will do in an institutionalized environment. It may be time to start trying harder to pray.

  53. Mya Greene August 23, 2017 at 3:54 pm #

    Andrea Drummond,

    Redshirting ( or whatever you want to call it )has been shown to be a pretty bad idea across the board. While redshirted students have an initial gain, this is reversed later on, with the students who were the youngest in their class outperforming them. Additionally, such children often lose a year in the labor force. And as far as homework is concerned, with this continued upward drift in the school starting age, this makes the kindergartens even less play-based.
    This goes especially if you have a gifted child. You may find that your child will need to skip grades ( or have some sort of advanced work ) at some point, and that despite what people tell you about grade skipping, all of the myths about social development have been debunked, and it has been shown to be a very positive experience for most who do it, since grade skippers are with their intellectual peers rather than just age peers.
    I think that the cutoff system should be much more flexible than it already is.

  54. Mya Greene August 23, 2017 at 4:42 pm #

    I think you are correct that different studies in this area seem to produce different results. Here is one report I looked at:

    https://www.noodle.com/articles/new-data-suggest-redshirting-in-kindergarten-doesnt-help138

    I think that what I was referencing may have compared same age children, one grade level apart- redshirted children, and non-redshirts in the grade above.

    But someone has to be the youngest right?

    But regardless, I think that the decision should be based on intellectual and social capabilities, rather than birthdays, and that laws should contain assessment procedures for anyone who doesn’t want to start on time, be that early or late. A required assessment for redshirting and early entrance would provide a little bit more objectivity than a parent’s desire to compete, to hothouse, or to shelter, though it would need some funding.

  55. Mya Greene August 23, 2017 at 4:56 pm #

    Also, here is an anecdotal perspective: I started kindergarten on time, and it was not a good fit. My parents had considered an early start, but decided not to get tangled up in the legality of it. I was constantly getting pulled out, as I was already reading all sorts of fiction, and working several-digit artithmetic, while my classmates were learning to count to 10, and spell their names. I also didn’t particularly get along with these classmates of mine. 1st or 2nd grade would have definitely been a more natural fit. I ended up skipping two grades later on, and wish I had skipped even more.

    While of course, everyone’s situation is different, just know that later isn’t better for everyone.

  56. RW August 23, 2017 at 5:50 pm #

    I love no homework policies and I love dress codes. My kids had very little homework last year and are doing fine. They had time to rest and play and do chores at home. Only had to bring work home if they didn’t finish in class.

    I love dress codes and uniforms because I was once the poor kid who never had the right clothes. I was very distracted by trying and failing to keep up with fashion and being left out socially because I didn’t look right. The problem is not girls, it is the fashion industry constantly promoting styles that are not appropriate for the life kids lead. Form should follow function – kids should learn to dress for the occasion and audience. I have a son and a daughters so yes, I’ve considered both sides of that coin.

  57. SKL August 23, 2017 at 10:56 pm #

    Yeah I wouldn’t hold a kid back just to delay the inevitable.

    My kids were 4yo entering [full-time] KG. They got homework in KG and every year after that. In KG they were fully able to do their own homework in aftercare, which is what I required them to do. So it did not cut into our evenings. Anyway it was the type of thing they would have done for fun if they didn’t have homework – cutting, coloring, copying.

    There is so much drama around homework these days. I know it’s rough for some kids, who genuinely run out of mental steam by 3pm. I don’t think most kids have that problem though. I think sometimes it’s the parents who set the tone to be negative and anxious about homework. Making a mountain out of a molehill.

  58. Melissa August 25, 2017 at 1:00 am #

    My kids’ school tried a new policy last year of little to no homework every night. My kids’ grades were unchanged from the year before when there was homework (both get straight A’s, with maybe one B per year). They had a lot more free time at home and we all spent more time as a family. They played outside more, and also practiced piano more. On the flip side, I was not as connected to what they were doing in class. I’m hoping the school keeps this policy, but perhaps amends it to 10 minutes of homework per night, maybe a different subject each night, just so we can see firsthand how they are doing in each subject and give any help if needed. The kids are going into 3rd and 5th grades.

  59. Skip August 25, 2017 at 8:54 pm #

    BMS says “They’re in their rooms doing homework until bedtime.”

    BMS, I wonder how long their homework would take if they did it at the kitchen table? Do they take their cell phones to the bedroom with them? How sure are you that they are actually doing homework all that time? I know from personal experience that the less I want to do something, the more distractions I can find, and the longer that odious task will take.

  60. Skip August 25, 2017 at 8:56 pm #

    How is it that homework (educational practice at home) is seen as having little value, but music practice (scales, arpeggios, practicing a piece over and over again) and sports skills drills (soccer dribbling, basketball free throws, etc.) are absolutely crucial to being the best at music or sports?

  61. Skip August 25, 2017 at 8:58 pm #

    I’ll agree that homework has little value if it is busywork and/or it repeats what the child has already learned.

    But kids that haven’t learned the material may benefit from more practice. However, perhaps supervised practice would be more helpful, which I guess rules out homework in cases where there’s no one home who can help.

  62. Mya Greene August 25, 2017 at 10:03 pm #

    Skip, I think that the reason that sports and music require so much drill and kill, is because they are physical activities in which one must build a very specialized set of fine motor skills. You can mentally grasp what a 3-octave C major scale, or penalty kick is long before your brain can signal your body to execute it with ease. And when you stop practicing, even for a few days, things start to get rusty.

    As far as I am concerned, once you know how to do long division, it sticks for many years, if not a whole lifetime, and doesn’t start to deteriorate after as little as a week of non-use.

  63. Emily August 26, 2017 at 1:35 am #

    Skip–music and sports practice are valuable up to a certain point, but you wouldn’t send a child to a music day camp, or a sports day camp, for six, seven, eight hours each day, and then require them to do hours of additional practice at home, so that they have little or no time for anything else, right? Even a child who LOVES, say, basketball, or orchestra, or choir, is going to get burned out on that. Now, imagine if this “camp” ran from September through June each year, except during breaks, when there might still be copious amounts of mandatory home practice assigned. Most people would say that such a schedule would be excessive, and ultimately harmful to children. However, that’s how it is (or at least how it feels to a young person) when it comes to “academic practice.”

    For example, you may have a five-year-old child who starts kindergarten genuinely wanting to make new friends and learn–learn about the three R’s, about making handprint-turkeys for Thanksgiving, and handprint wreaths at Christmas, and handprint Valentines for Valentine’s Day (seriously, ECE teachers, why all the handprints?), and about the world around them, but gosh darn it, learning is HARD, and it takes the better part of the daylight hours–when Five gets home, it’s time to eat a snack, play outside, or even just rest and decompress for a bit, even if there’s a screen involved. But that can’t happen if poor Five is inundated with tons of worksheets and readers and “reinforcement” assignments. See Dick run, see Jane jump, see Five develop premature ulcers, because it’s Five who should be running and jumping around after a full day of school. Now, see this pattern play itself out year after year, from kindergarten through grade twelve, with the content becoming more difficult. Now, fast-forward to high school–the subject matter might actually be quite interesting (even if it is harder to grasp), but it’s much harder to reach a young person who’s been turned off of learning, than it is to try to prevent that disengagement from happening in the early years. So, now let’s say that Dick and Jane have been replaced by Romeo and Juliet, but now Five (who might actually be fifteen or sixteen by now) is checked out, and is paradoxically missing out on some really great literature, because it’s just another step in the endless parade of required reading and mandatory schoolwork that extends into home hours. Five will memorize just enough to pass the test (maybe with the help of Coles’ Notes/Cliff’s Notes/SparkNotes.Com/whatever), but probably won’t really enjoy it. Even if Five finds it interesting, there’s no time to really get into it, because after that, there’s calculus to tackle, French verbs to conjugate, and so on, and so forth. With things like sports and music, we can usually recognize when a young person has had “too much of a good thing” (usually around the time when frustration and repeated injuries happen, or when that activity monopolizes the child’s or the family’s schedule, or when the child is just plain miserable), and so, we adjust things at that point. However, it’s not really possible to do that with school–at least in a public school setting, everyone attends full-time, or not at all, in the absence of a doctor’s note or an IEP that allows for part-time hours.

    @Melissa–You say that homework keeps you up to speed with regards to what your children are learning in school. What about just asking them? You might not get as many specific details as you would by checking a child’s homework, but asking out of interest would probably procure more enthusiastic answers, such as, “today we learned about dinosaurs,” or “I scored a goal in soccer during gym class.” I don’t have kids, but my dad got really awful about me and math when I was in high school. He’d go into my room, into my backpack, and look through my books, to see what I was doing, and make me redo everything that wasn’t perfect, no matter how long ago it was. It would take hours, sometimes days, and there’d be fights and tears, and I wasn’t a slacker; I just wasn’t great at math, even though I tried. My parents required me to take advanced math in grade ten and eleven (grade nine was destreamed), even though I didn’t have the aptitude for it, and I was miserable. I was finally allowed to drop math after grade eleven–the teacher gave me a mercy 50% (minimum passing mark in Canada) because he saw I wasn’t enrolled in math for grade twelve, because my parents finally saw how miserable it made me. Other than that, I liked school–I had friends, and I did band, student government, and various other activities, like newspaper and theatre, and I was a good student in my other subjects; I just struggled with math. Even if someone was visiting the family, like my uncle, and they asked me how school was, within earshot of my dad, he’d always “override” my positive answer with, “Oh, that’s a sore subject; Emily doesn’t try hard enough in math,” and he’d make a whole big deal of it and completely embarrass me. If I’d been allowed to take general math instead of advanced, or if I wasn’t inundated with tons of math work to do at home when I hadn’t understood the material at school (one teacher in particular would brush me off when I said I didn’t understand, saying I “shouldn’t have had problems with that question” if he thought it was too easy), then I might have done better. A no-homework policy would have been amazing for me, if it meant actually teaching the material thoroughly at school instead.