Don’t Sign Your Kid’s Reading Log!

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This post comes to us from early childhood writer/speaker/wise woman Heather Shumaker, author of It’s kzdresekei
OK Not to Share
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Tomorrow her new book comes out: It’s OK to Go Up the Slide , which includes Free-Rangey chapters like Safety Second, It’s OK to Talk to Strangers, and Ban Elementary Homework. It even offers sample scripts and ideas for how to opt out of the homework-heavy culture,  along with her renegade views on technology, kindergarten, princesses and more. Her books, blog and podcast are at: www.heathershumaker.com.

What I appreciate so much about Heather is how she sees that the more we parents are expected and required to do for our kids, the less they see that we trust and believe in them. Resist that culture and everyone gets more freedom and respect. – L.

Sign your kid’s homework? Forget it! by Heather Shumaker

“You have to sign my spelling list.”

I looked at my first-grade son blankly. A parent signature for spelling words? I peered at the prominent blank line. This tiny act collided with everything I believed about supporting a child’s learning.

Before this, I’d never heard of parents signing anything except field trip permission slips and report cards. Welcome to the new world of jailer time for parents and kids.

Requiring a parent signature on homework papers – anything from reading logs, spelling, daily planners and online portals to music practice sheets – sends a clear message to kids: We don’t trust you. We don’t trust you really did the work. We don’t trust you care about your own learning. What’s more: Your parent is your Homework Patrol Cop.

The signature mindset sets up this relationship: “It’s my parents’ job to see I do my work.” You can see where this goes. The child slides into the role of Chief Grumbler, a kid who learns not to start assignments until she has been thoroughly nagged. The parent becomes the Homework Patrol Cop, and likely stays that way until the child is through high school.

This is a role I knew I never wanted to start. Our family supports learning but bans homework for kids in the elementary school years. When kids are old enough to get homework, they are old enough to handle it themselves and take charge of their learning.

If parent signatures bother you, try explaining your concerns to the teacher. This got our family out of signatures successfully for many years. “We’re involved. Trust us. We’ll read his daily planner. Signing it goes against the values of responsibility we’re trying to instill in our family.” Some teachers even stop insisting on signatures for the whole class when one family speaks up. If schools insist on a signature, suggest the right one. The child should be the one who signs her own reading log, not the adult.

Watch out, though. The punishment for a parent not signing papers might be that the child has to miss recess. Kids know enough to say “that’s not fair!” but it may take longer for adults to see the logic.

Whether it’s “sign here” lines or other issues like recess policies or homework in kindergarten (yes, and even homework given in Extended Day after-school care!), decide what kind of relationships you want. If you don’t want to become Homework Patrol Cop, don’t sign up for the job.

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What a crazy world that would tell kids they can only go one direction!

What a crazy world that would tell kids they can only go one direction!

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138 Responses to Don’t Sign Your Kid’s Reading Log!

  1. dmg March 7, 2016 at 9:15 am #

    I find requiring kids to read for x amount a minutes a night annoying. I see so many kids ask their parents to set the timer and then quit when the time is up. Takes away the getting lost in the book for hours.

  2. Angela March 7, 2016 at 9:20 am #

    🙂 This sounds like Hubby and Step-son. When my three were going through school, I just did as I was told. Only one was a big reader, so requiring me to sign off on it nightly was a good reminder for me. When I began to disagree with the school, I began homeschooling.

    My step-son, however, is younger than the others. He is also an avid reader, reading well above his grade level with keen recall and comprehension, all supported by testing and evaluations. For a while he pushed Hubby to sign his reading calendar (only required once a month) so he could get a free pizza, but the agreement was always that he kept track of the day-to-day. Hubby’s explained this to the various teachers throughout the years and didn’t receive any pushback that I’ve heard of. Several months ago the step-son must have decided the pizza wasn’t such a big deal. There are now 3 months worth of empty calendars hanging on the fridge and books are still moving from the ‘to read’ pile to the ‘read’ pile (and I get to listen to long, drawn out stories about characters I don’t know in situations I don’t understand, but at least he’s reading. 🙂 )

  3. m March 7, 2016 at 9:29 am #

    Guess what? I homeschooled my kids, and NEVER TAUGHT SPELLING. Why? because I realized I knew how to spell hundreds of words that were never “taught” to me. I learned to spell them by reading them, using them, and by understanding language.

    My 18 yr old son has an excellent vocabulary, spells quite well, ranked very high on the ACT, and has been accepted into every college where he has applied.

    Signing your kid’s spelling list, or reading log, or anything else will NOT improve the child’s education. It has nothing to do with education whatsoever. And frankly, signing it doesn’t mean a parent even glanced at the paper at all.

    Stop the insanity!

  4. BL March 7, 2016 at 9:31 am #

    @dmg
    “I see so many kids ask their parents to set the timer and then quit when the time is up. Takes away the getting lost in the book for hours.”

    Sounds like a good way to get kids to hate reading.

    If I were a cynical person, I might even think this was intentional.

  5. Jessica March 7, 2016 at 9:36 am #

    Just read this article this morning:

    http://www.salon.com/2016/03/05/homework_is_wrecking_our_kids_the_research_is_clear_lets_ban_elementary_homework/

    I’ve never been a fan of homework, and it was the deciding factor for keeping my now-6-year-old out of school. Homework in kindergarten? No, thank you. Best teacher I ever had was when I was in the GATE program in 5th and 6th grade (it was a split class). All work was done in class, and the homework he sent home with us (never on the weekend or for a holiday) was a puzzle that wasn’t graded. Wednesdays were logic problems and by far my favorite. Plus, we always had downtime during the class and could use that to finish our math, or read, or play computer games. At least once a week we would go outside as a class and play kickball. No reading logs, no crazy amounts of homework, just room to explore and grow.

  6. andy March 7, 2016 at 9:37 am #

    What is the difference between signed and unsigned word list? What is signature supposed to prove? Isn’t done homework sufficient proof of homework being done?

  7. andy March 7, 2016 at 9:38 am #

    @m Just reading does not work on everybody. I read a lot, but my spelling was very bad. I was reading for the story and focused on story, so I simply did not remembered how words were spelled. Some people can learn correct spelling just by reading, but definitely not all.

  8. LisaS March 7, 2016 at 9:45 am #

    A licensed professional and business owner, I spent about 4 years feeling like a complete failure over reading logs, planners, homework assignments, and sticker charts. Then, one parent conference day after a 4-hour liability insurance seminar, where I was reminded that a signature implies responsibility and liability, I started asking teachers what my signature on the planner/reading log/homework sheet was supposed to represent. If they said anything resembling “accountability”I asked whose responsibility homework was, and that I don’t sign things that I’m not responsible for. I also asked if children’s grades should reflect the failure of others (their parents). The orchestra teacher who said I was “certifying” that the practice minutes were accurate and properly done got an earful, let me tell you …

    i didn’t win many of these conversations, and my kids’ grades have not always been terrific, but I did make a lot of people think for a minute.

  9. BL March 7, 2016 at 9:53 am #

    @Jessica
    “Best teacher I ever had was when I was in the GATE program in 5th and 6th grade (it was a split class).”

    Best “class” I ever had was a the same age. While our classmates were, I guess, still seeing Spot run, three or four of us qualified for “advanced reading”, which meant we trotted over to the high school next door, went to the library, found a book to read, got it approved by our “teacher” (the HS principal), went back next week with a book report and got another book.

    I remember reading several of Mario Pei’s popular books on linguistics and some books on space travel, among other things.

    They just razed that old high school in January. 🙁

  10. Kerry March 7, 2016 at 9:54 am #

    I’m definitely going to read this book. My son is in kindergarten, so these are issues I’m just starting to deal with and have been wondering about. Glad to hear the different perspectives here. I do think if I chose not to sign a reading log I would send a note to the teacher explaining why, and perhaps suggest to my son that he sign his own.

  11. K March 7, 2016 at 9:54 am #

    I don’t care for reading logs. My kids have always been big readers but once it was required in my son’s fourth grade class, he started resisting and would definitely quit once the time was up. His teacher this year doesn’t like them either and he’s back to reading for fun on his own.

    My daughter is an even bigger book worm and usually continues to read after the time is up. Many of her classmates parents have said that their children would not read at all if it wasn’t for the reading log.

    I guess the signature is supposed to force parents to be involved with the homework? I told my kids’ teachers that I’m very hands off with homework. They ask for help if they need it, but I don’t ride them to make sure it gets done.

  12. Workshop March 7, 2016 at 9:55 am #

    Perfect timing.

    We got an email from my son’s kindergarten teacher telling us that he will occasionally not turn in his homework, or that it’s wrong. I had a hard time responding because my reaction was “So what?”

    I haven’t signed his reading log since the first week of school, when it was clear that the reading assignments were meant for the bottom performers. Nothing wrong with being at the bottom, but my son is already an advanced reader, and will do it on his own without an issue.

  13. Linda March 7, 2016 at 9:59 am #

    “If parent signatures bother you, try explaining your concerns to the teacher. This got our family out of signatures successfully for many years.”

    I like this, and it has worked for us. I noticed that my first grader who LOVED to read was now dreading it, because she had to fill out her nightly reading log and summary. I told the teacher that I did not want to spoil her love of reading, and that we would read every night but not fill out the log. She had no problem with it.

    She’s in 8th grade now and still reads voraciously.

  14. K March 7, 2016 at 10:06 am #

    @workshop

    Two weeks before school was out last year, I got an email from his teacher that said he wasn’t doing his homework regularly or that it was wrong. I emailed back that I don’t correct homework. That’s her job (although I didn’t say that.). I had to bite my tongue because I wanted to say that with two weeks left in the school year, I didn’t give a crap if he did his homework or not. What I did say was that I have to live with him and I’d rather send him outside to play than keep him indoors on a beautiful day to complete what I felt was a pointless waste of time.

  15. pentamom March 7, 2016 at 10:18 am #

    Andy, agreed. I homeschooled five kids. They all read a ton. Two are terrible spellers, one is fair, and two are great.

    I used to think the same as m, because that’s how it worked for me. Then I found out different with my kids.

  16. bob magee March 7, 2016 at 10:18 am #

    whenever my kids (or grandchild now) complained about their homework I always did (and still do) tell to go ahead and skip doing it. Just remember to tell the teacher that you chose not to do it. I tell them I didn’t assign it, so it is of no difference to me.

    They didn’t like that answer, but it at least established our roles. Willing to help, but will not engage in a “war” over getting it done.

    Talking lower grades here where homework assignments can be disruptive to whole family.

  17. Holly March 7, 2016 at 10:19 am #

    It also raises accountability in the child. I had one kid that was a voracious reader and one that hated reading (much to her 2 English-major parents’ chagrin). She would throw temper tantrums and fight EVERY night when she was supposed to read. I said, “Fine, I refuse to fight with you about this but, don’t think I’m going to sign your log saying you did your reading, when you didn’t do it.” At the end of the year the permission slip came home to go on a pool party trip for the completed reading logs…guess who was shocked she wasn’t going? The teacher actually gave her extra work after school and some makeup work to do because she felt bad my daughter was the only one not going but, I wish she would have just let her learn her lesson about responsibility-even as a 2nd grader.

  18. BMS March 7, 2016 at 10:20 am #

    Oh God, the homework. (Pause for large amounts of antidepressants)

    I have one child who does most of his homework with minimal grumbling and turns it in on time for the most park. His brother is, and always has been, an utter demon about all homework. He is in 9th grade now, and is in danger of repeating 9th grade primarily because he hasn’t turned in work. We have nagged, had teacher conferences, made sure he had a desk and a laptop – we did all the right stuff. And now, he’s on his own. If he asks for help, resources, whatever, I will gladly provide same. But I refuse too take responsibility for this kid’s work. If he flunks 9th grade, he is going to have a miserable time next year. That’s on him.

    Frankly, I would have given up years ago, if the teachers would stop bugging me and my husband about his work. I know he’s on an IEP, due to executive function issues and dyslexia. But the not doing homework is just stubbornness and defiance. The schools have turned to this model of ‘it’s the parents’ problem’ and all that has done is make our home life miserable as we fight and nag rather than just letting the chips fall where they may. No more. I quit. I’ll love the kid regardless, but if he hangs himself with his lack of homework, he’ll have to live with the consequences. And I think if we hadn’t spent the whole grade school experience fighting tooth and nail over homework, he probably wouldn’t be digging his heels in so far now. Sigh.

  19. BMS March 7, 2016 at 10:26 am #

    I also have to add that reading logs have done more to kill my kids’ love of reading than anything.

    My husband and I are ridiculously voracious readers. Our house is full of books, we have about 5 kindles/nooks in the house, we started reading to the kids when they were infants, etc. Both of our kids loved reading until they had to start tracking it. Then it became work, and they started hating it. Now it’s like pulling teeth to get either of them to read anything. We did all the ‘right’ things, and our kids still hate to read. Thank you reading logs.

  20. Another Katie March 7, 2016 at 10:27 am #

    Our older child is in kindergarten. We are supposed to initial the following:
    Daily – behavior log, indicating that we spoke to her either about making “better” choices or praising her for making “good” choices
    Weekly – nightly reading log from her reading bag materials
    Monthly – daily overall reading log and homework completion

    Our daughter is a bright child and a voracious reader who’s been working at a 1st or 2nd grade level since the beginning of the school year and is often bored in class. Her teacher makes an effort to provide her with more challenging materials, but in a class with such a wide variety of abilities there’s only so much she can do for one kid (especially since that kid is already meeting all of the kindergarten requirements).

    The way this logging actually happens is that on the rare occasion she doesn’t have green (good) behavior I initial that day. Her only behavioral issue is talking too much in class – which happens because she’s bored – and frankly she gets so distressed at getting a yellow that we don’t want to make it worse by punishing her at home when she’s already been punished at school. I don’t log her weekly reading bag log at all; why should I have to fill out what amounts to two reading logs? Her reading bag work gets done and IMO that should be proof enough. And frankly, I sign her monthly reading and homework log without a second thought because I’m not going to make her do homework that’s too simplistic and easy for her, and she reads way more than the minimum expectation of 10-15 minutes a day.

    She attends the before/after school program and after school the students spend the first 45 minutes having a snack and doing their homework. She was helping her 1st grade friend with homework and now she reads quietly or plays a board game with one of the staff members.

    She attends a Title 1 elementary school, and some of her classmates are from disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds and do not have an involved/engaged parent at home (much less two). That’s sad and unfortunate that there are parents out there who need to be asked to initial a log in order to have any awareness of their child’s education. But that’s not our kid and we don’t see a need to log what she does every freaking day like we’re the homework police.

  21. Dienne March 7, 2016 at 10:33 am #

    “Watch out, though. The punishment for a parent not signing papers might be that the child has to miss recess.”

    So what’s the answer for that? Make your kid miss recess for your principles? Which would, itself, conflict with my principles because I believe kids need recess (and most schools, when kids have to miss recess, make them “stand on the line”, so that’s additional public humiliation which is unacceptable). Fortunately, my kids are currently in a private progressive school that doesn’t give homework and doesn’t require parental signatures. But it’s expensive. And if and when we can no longer afford it, what then? Homeschooling isn’t an option – my husband and I both work full time (and need to).

  22. Emily March 7, 2016 at 10:34 am #

    We did reading logs in early elementary school as well, and I never really thought anything of it, because I liked to read, but my brother cheated on his in grade two, and won all the prizes. He also liked to read; he just exaggerated on how much he’d read. Anyway, I agree that just having the parent sign off and hand it to the teacher sends the wrong message–it takes responsibility and ownership away from the child, and puts it on the parent, and a lot of kids just rush through to be finished, so they can finish their reading logs, and get their grade/prize/reward/whatever the incentive is, so comprehension is lost. However, having to do book reports or long analytical essays can take the fun out of reading, so that’s a problem too. When I was in grade ten English, I was in a split Advanced/Enriched class. The Advanced people had to read 1500 pages of “free reading” that year (at an appropriate grade ten level), and the rest of us in Enriched had to read 1800. We didn’t have to write reports or essays or anything about our free reading–instead, we’d tell the teacher individually what we’d read, and she’d ask us questions about it. The whole process took maybe five minutes per student each time, and it was always done during “seat work” time, so it didn’t take time away from the lessons. I think this approach was a good compromise.

  23. Lihtox March 7, 2016 at 10:34 am #

    Consider getting a stamp made up of your signature, and giving it to your kid. 😀

    Ok ok, rather dangerous.

  24. Joshua Sargent March 7, 2016 at 10:46 am #

    Editing note: The first two links are set to “Mail to”, not “ahref”, so if one clicks on them it tries to send an email to a website.

  25. Richard March 7, 2016 at 10:46 am #

    @Dienne, very true. I’m not at all a fan of this approach, but most people who read this column would agree that one of our primary jobs as parents is to allow our kids to grow up into their own selves, let them make their own decisions (and mistakes, of course). Enlisting a 5-year-old who’s totally dependent on you into your plans to protest the school system at the cost of their own recess doesn’t seem particularly enlightened or fair to me. By all means, make a stand, make a fuss, protest to the teacher (who probably didn’t choose that anyway), the PTA, the principal, but don’t make your kindergartener pay the price for it.

  26. Gina March 7, 2016 at 10:50 am #

    I LOVE Heather Shumaker. She is my hero. I think I’ll take a copy of this book with me when I take the kiddos to the park.
    As for signing things, I have always told my kids’ teachers, “If they said they did it, then it’s done”. How infantalizing and insulting to our children to require our signatures. Also, I already went to school. I didn’t help with homework (unless asked a specific question) or supervise it. Not my responsibility.
    Great story: I volunteered at my daughter’s 4th grade Valentine Party. The talk among all the parents was a giant project that they had stayed up all night to finish. Me? I had a vague idea a project was due. I assumed my daughter had done it. (She had). That was 15 years ago. I can only assume it’s gotten worse.
    OY!

  27. Jennifer March 7, 2016 at 11:20 am #

    Somewhere along the line this discussion thread gravitated towards whether or not nightly reading should be required. This is one of those things that I believe has to be individualized. I have three very different children, two whom are very advanced, gifted learners and one with a developmental disability. My oldest son had a hard time learning to read because he only wanted to have me read him books that were intellectually stimulating for him, but that which he could not read himself. He had no interest in simplistic “kid’s books” and balked at reading, which led him to be unable to learn the basic principles of reading. He simply could not pick up a ninth grade level science book and read it, even if he really wanted to. Until his first grade teacher assigned mandatory nightly reading, he never read at all. However, because she required that reading log he did read and realized, “Oh yes, if I start with ‘kid’s books’ and learn the basics of reading, I can start to read better and read books I like!” He now reads at a ninth grade level in second grade. My second son needed no such motivation and would read for hours, with or without the log, so it’s presence was superfluous. He is in first grade and reads at a high school level as well. My third son, however, with the developmental disability has yet to be presented with a log and I fear the moment that he is that reading, already a struggle, will become even more hated.

    I guess what we have to remember is that all of our kids are different, we know them best and we want what’s best for them. We have to vocalize our opinions to that purpose!

  28. Diane Pratt March 7, 2016 at 11:27 am #

    i am so sick of signing things for my kids! Last week it was a permission slip for my eighth grade daughter to have Oreo cookies at a school function. I have a recurring nightmare that they will come home from college every week and insist that I sign their “Tuesday Folder”.

  29. Backroads March 7, 2016 at 11:30 am #

    I am a 2nd grade teacher. We lost a teacher on our team earlier this year in large part because of reading signatures. When I joined this school a couple of years ago, we had these big, complicated reading journals for tracking reading minutes and parent signatures and half the grade lost them by the end of the year. This school year, we were trying for some different goal programs and such, and my grade lead decided to nix the stupid reading journal requirement. This lost teacher flipped his lid. He demanded to know how the kids would be held accountable, how we would know if parents were supporting their kids’ reading, how we would encourage kids to read, etc. Anywho, one thing lead to another and he was out of that school. I for one was thrilled the stupid reading journal was no longer required.

    Unfortunately, my school still tracks reading minutes and homework as a school. So… I did the best I could do and made my homework and reading the same thing. It is far from ideal, especially when I was all for getting rid of homework this year, but it’s something. And no, I don’t require parent signatures. Could kids be lying about their minutes? Sure, but they could just as well be lying with their parents’ signature. They’ll either improve in reading or they won’t.

  30. MichaelF March 7, 2016 at 11:43 am #

    @dmg
    “I see so many kids ask their parents to set the timer and then quit when the time is up. Takes away the getting lost in the book for hours.”

    This happens to my son, he likes to read but its hard due to his dyslexia, he will read the “school book” he chose for the teacher ONLY when the timer is going. Outside of that he goes through many other books, or sits with an audio book, even when the teacher and I have both told him that he can read outside of the log times. I was excited when he finally started getting into a series and devouring books, but I think this nags on him and is turning him off slightly.

  31. Silver Fang March 7, 2016 at 12:03 pm #

    Let kids ride their bikes without helmets too.

  32. Ann in L.A. March 7, 2016 at 12:30 pm #

    This heavily depends on the school. I would guess that when most people on this site think of a school they picture a middle-class school, in a safe neighborhood, with involved parents, and more good teachers than bad. That isn’t the reality for many in this country.

    This:

    >> Requiring a parent signature on homework papers – anything from reading logs, spelling, daily planners and online portals to music practice sheets – sends a clear message to kids: We don’t trust you.<<

    Could mean something very different: not that the school doesn't trust the student, but that the school is trying everything it can to reach out to parents to become more involved in their kids' education. For many middle-class parents, this isn't an issue. Questioning our kids about how much homework they have, if they've gotten it done, and making sure they have a quiet time and place to do it are a natural part of our homes. That is far from being universally true, and schools have to find ways to deal with it.

  33. Linda March 7, 2016 at 12:36 pm #

    From Ann in L.A. “Could mean something very different: not that the school doesn’t trust the student, but that the school is trying everything it can to reach out to parents to become more involved in their kids’ education. ”

    This is a very good point. Which is why discussing with the teacher is a better initial approach than just refusing to sign. In many cases, they are very happy to waive the requirements if they know that reading is happening in the home.

  34. mrg March 7, 2016 at 12:51 pm #

    My son never asked me to sign it even though it was required because he quickly figured out that if it wasn’t signed, he got to read during recess. He enjoyed reading instead of dealing with some of the bullying that was happening, so he figured out how to get his preferred activity.

  35. Susan March 7, 2016 at 12:51 pm #

    I don’t get this whole protest thing. The teacher asks you to sign a form, so sign it. My son is a straight A honor student & athlete (now in high school.) When he was young, our best times were spent together reading. Every night, we would relax on the bed & he would read me a story for 15-30 minutes. As he got older, we would still meet every evening before bed & read together (side by side, he would read his book & I would read mine.) Now he’s 15 & occasionally goes to bed later than me. At least once a week, he’ll arrive in my bedroom, plop down on the bed & read a war book (his choice) while I read a best seller. It’s amazing bonding time with your kids. Don’t waste the time complaining about signing off on a reading log.

  36. Betsy in Michigan March 7, 2016 at 12:58 pm #

    Thank goodness my daughter was at a small private school for elementary! The requirement of filling out reading logs (no signature needed) made her so anxious. Luckily when we told her teacher that our high school level reader didn’t care about free pizza, it was fine. They knew our main challenge was to get her nose OUT of a book! I joke that the good thing about younger son’s IEP is that he doesn’t have to finish his homework (because we, too, support learning but hate the dubious value of homework)!

  37. Frustrated High School Teacher March 7, 2016 at 1:16 pm #

    All, I have very mixed emotions on this subject. My daughter went through all this when she was in elementary school, and is now in law school. So, from a perspective perspective, are we much ado about nothing here? I know, I know, every kid is different.

    But not only am I a parent, I am also teacher. I teach algebra II, primarily to juniors, but a have a few sophomore, and far too many seniors. I’m seeing this argument at the other end of the primary-secondary school system. I’ll also add that I’m in my mid-50’s and have been teaching for only four years. I also teach three engineering classes, but we generally don’t give much homework. What I see on a daily basis leaves me dumbfounded and concerned. How did we get to the state that we are in?

    On one hand, I understand the holding off on homework until it’s really required. I agree kindergarten is too soon, especially considering that kindergarten is the new 1st grade, and shouldn’t be. On the other hand, the “no homework-ever” parents drive me crazy. The argument that gets under my skin the most is “well, you should be teaching everything in class time”. This misses the point of homework entirely. Education/learning consists of two things, knowledge and skills. Knowledge takes time to move from short-term to long-term memory. Many brain science studies have shown that reviewing facts, figures, concepts, etc. presented in class, a few hours (and a few days, and a few weeks) later, helps in this process. So, right there homework is important in making the knowledge stick. As for skills, nothing builds skills like practice. And, there is only so much time in class to get in practice. Granted some students need less practice to build the skill than others, but it’s still needed. I ask my students, if I were make a lecture, complete with PowerPoint slides, that showed them how to dance a waltz, how many of them think they could do the dance, at all, much less perfectly, at the end of lecture – no practice. Works the same with algebra. They get the analogy. It makes no impression on them. Less than 10% of my students do homework consistently. Maybe another 10% do it occasionally.

    I do have to fight with socioeconomic issues. Some of my parents need their students to be working to help the family budget – I get that. It shouldn’t be that way, but it’s the reality. Some parents don’t see the value of a high school education, much less college, etc. But, the students who come from economically stable, generally education supportive families are also ones who don’t do homework. It interferes with sports, or band, or, or, or. Or, the parents just don’t see the value in homework, or something. I don’t know.

    What I do know is something has broken down going very far back in the school cycle. Students haven’t gotten the message that getting a high school diploma IS their job. The message that they need to be doing everything in their power to get one. If that means giving up a little soccer practice, OK. If that means not watching TV or playing video games, OK. I walk around campus asking myself, when did we start mollycoddling the students so much. It certainly wasn’t that way when Lenore and I were in high school.

    So, back to the subject at hand, yes, parents signing off for homework, reading, etc. really is ridiculous. And, while the teachers who first started asking for it, were only trying to find a way to get kids to do their homework and it got out of control, what are teachers supposed to do? I know that all of you who follow Lenore’s blog get the importance of homework. But what do we as teachers do to get the kids, who really NEED to do the homework, to do so. Especially when we don’t have parental support, or even parental resistance? If we agree kindergarten is too soon to start homework, then when is the right time to get students into the habit of doing homework? And, how do we get them into that habit, so when they get to be juniors and seniors, I don’t need to be sending homework home in a brown envelope for parents to counter sign?????

  38. Backroads March 7, 2016 at 1:24 pm #

    In my experience, the socioeconomic issue almost doesn’t matter. Now, this could just be my school, where a good percentage of the parents do not speak fluent English. So one could argue that that having parents sign something ensures the parents are being made aware of what’s going on. However, various things over my time teaching at this school has made me think that the same parents we’re trying to reach with these signature-stuff are just seeing a piece of paper from the school and signing it without knowing what it’s about.

    So… for me, the argument is rather lost.

  39. E March 7, 2016 at 1:30 pm #

    I went to elementary school in the early 70s. I had to get my parents to sign my practice log for band (which was completely optional — practice was before or after school). I survived.

  40. lollipoplover March 7, 2016 at 1:35 pm #

    “What’s more: Your parent is your Homework Patrol Cop.”

    These homework logs and organizational tools started out with good intentions (writing down assignments to ensure work gets completed) but somewhere along the way the burden of responsibility shifted from the most important person, the student, and off to the parents. Sorry, wrong person.

    I have not signed a blessed reading log in many moons. My daughter has one (and it has a signature and comment section) that I never sign. She knows how to write my initials.
    She also knows these books/logs are a good resource to stay organized. Her biggest flaw is not having the right books and materials to do the assignments. She’s been able to get back up worksheets online and call friends, but this is her work. It’s on her and has been since she started school. She has one job as a 9 year-old and that is her school work. I am happy to help, but she is ultimately the responsible party. Not the signer.

    Reading requirements and parent signatures. Way to kill the love of reading!
    How about reading in school, outside under a tree, and let them doodle some deep thoughts for their parents instead of another box for mom to check?

  41. Jana March 7, 2016 at 1:35 pm #

    Interesting idea. It has actually never occurred to me that I do not have to sign homework papers, reading logs or checked tests… I must admit that I am not sure if I would rebel against it, since we are already labelled as “troublemakers” in my son’s school – but would definitely read the book! I also wonder what would other parents say – but I guess they would probably “go with the flow”.

  42. Dee March 7, 2016 at 1:44 pm #

    Don’t get my started. I *hate* the signing. It means nothing. Signing agendas, especially. Yes, I saw my son has homework.And the fact that he can get points off because, oh, Wednesday was crazy and I didn’t do it.

    To Frustrated High School Teacher. I see where you are coming from but my son now has LESS homework in middle school than he did in 3rd grade. MUCH less. Third through fifth was crazy for homework. K-2 wasn’t great either. I honestly feel he could do with a little more homework now, but at least the homework really relates to school work and is appropriate the the subject. Much of K-5 was busy work, which an ADHD kid who was burnt from 8 hours at school including aftercare just could not focus on. Elementary was hell. Which is a crazy thing to say!

  43. Diana Auerhammer March 7, 2016 at 1:46 pm #

    Yes!

  44. andy March 7, 2016 at 1:50 pm #

    Generally speaking, when school asks me to sign something I sign it. Whether I would actually stand behind kids shoulder with timer during reading depends on whether I trust the kid, whether I actually care about that concrete homework and on similar factors. If the kid reads a lot on its own, I would sign the log based on reading the kid done anyway without any fuss or timers. I would probably get into habit of signing it without reading or thinking if it would come every week or more often.

    Our equivalent of reading logs was supposed to be returned by end of semester and short description of a list of books we were supposed to read. Most kids wrote it a day before and content had nothing to do with what who read. So, I do not get offended if teacher worry kids did not done work when work is not checked. Some would, many or even most would not.

    I strongly dislike if whenever school is asking me to do is actually trying to manipulate me through. Parent who don’t care wont start to care after he signed a piece of paper. And no, reading for homework is not bonding time nor pleasure reading time, it is reading for homework.

    Pleasure reading is when you can stop whenever you feel like and can choose book without worrying what teacher or other kids will think about that book, whether they will mock your choice. Bonding is when we both feel fine and do what we like. When I have work to do and have to check on kids reading of book I do not care about, that is not bonding. Stop organizing it for me. I truly hate when someone adds me a chore and then manipulates me with “it is great occasion for bonding”. Like I could not bond without you organizing me occasions.

  45. Beth March 7, 2016 at 1:50 pm #

    @Susan, no one is saying that reading isn’t good for kids, or that they didn’t read to their kids, or share reading with them when they got older, or don’t read together. No one. Your rant against the parents commenting here was really unnecessary.

  46. Jana March 7, 2016 at 1:53 pm #

    [email protected], I can see your point! I have the same experience with both my kids – my daughter, now at college, simply hated elementary school altogether, and the same goes for my son, soon at the middle school. They are responsible, critical thinking, and open-minded, but elementary school just had been suffocated them… And, common, what are they doing for 7 hours at school?! Is it really so impossible to set off some time for homework during school hours?

  47. lollipoplover March 7, 2016 at 1:54 pm #

    @Jana-

    My daughter’s teacher has not enforced the log and doesn’t check it unless the child isn’t doing their assignments or has organizational problems. Every kid is different and sometimes a nightly check might be what they need but at the age of 9, most kids are expected to have developed executive function and complex thinking to keep track of their school assignments. If we don’t at least start to expect them to shoulder the load at this age and accept consequences, not their PARENTS, for missed assignments and work.

    I don’t *inspect* her work unless she needs help on an assignment. I do like having a heads up that she has to dress up as a remote historical figure or bring in a rare foreign food for Pioneer day and school events with a little notice. She reads for pleasure frequently. I’d rather be enforcing “lights out” when she’s really into a book than running timers for required minutes. I can’t imagine how that would be a positive strategy.

  48. Renee Anne March 7, 2016 at 1:55 pm #

    There are two sides of this argument (well, probably more than two) and I can come at it from both sides.

    Why do teachers want you to sign paperwork (tests, spelling lists, reading logs, etc.)? Because they want you to be aware of what’s going on with your child at school and they want your child to be successful. When you ask your child, “what did you do at school today?” and they reply with the standard answer of, “nothing,” this gives you a way to have some idea what they’re learning in school (or not learning, depending on the type of paperwork you’re signing). Yes, good parents will be well aware of what their children are doing in school, either by communication with their child, other children, other parents, or the teacher. Other parents need a little push to give a damn.

    As a parent, I see how this can be annoying (we’re not at the “homework” stage yet – my oldest is going into kinder in the fall). We don’t want to become the enforcement behind finishing homework, following through on projects, making sure reading happens, and the consequences (however eventual) for not doing those things. We want to know what’s going on but things like completed homework should be an indication that homework is, you know, getting done! Yes, we want to be involved and know what’s going on but we should not have to micormanage our children into doing their work. It’s going to teach them very little about the real world.

  49. andy March 7, 2016 at 2:01 pm #

    @Frustrated High School Teacher What personally annoys me at little ones homework is that it is colossal waste of time and 98% amounts to coloring something. They are not spending time doing math exercises (comparing or adding), they spend it coloring pictures. Why cant they just cross the biggest apple? It is ridiculous.

    “And, how do we get them into that habit, so when they get to be juniors and seniors”

    If you ask them to do homework and check it, grade it and have authority (which depends on parents and other teachers a lot I know), then they acquire a habit quickly. However, even if they had homework every day since age of three, if you stop checking on it they will slip away from habit quickly too.

    The real problem is when they do not want to learn and don’t care about grades. No amount of homework will help there unfortunately.

  50. sexhysteria March 7, 2016 at 2:15 pm #

    In some schools (e.g. in Germany) kids do their “homework” in school with the teacher. When they walk out the school door they’re finished studying for the day!

  51. Kathy of the HavinsNest March 7, 2016 at 2:22 pm #

    This is nothing new.

    I have high school reports cards of a relative from 1908-1911. The parent is required to sign off on the number of hours the student spent on homework each week of each grade report time (6 weeks period).

  52. Jennifer March 7, 2016 at 2:28 pm #

    As a parent, I hate the signing of agendas and tests. As a teacher, I understand why teachers ask parents to sign tests. Often parents receive report cards and are shocked and outraged that their child is not achieving the grades they thought they were. It could be an B student, now receiving C’s, or an A student now receiving A-‘s. Having parents sign tests lets the teacher know that Bobby or Susie’s parents know how their child is doing and won’t be surprised come report card time.

  53. Frustrated High School Teacher March 7, 2016 at 3:01 pm #

    @Andy – Oy! “How not to teach kids that homework is important 101”. Homework should NEVER be about “doing work at home”. If I’ve learned anything being at a teacher is, the kids aren’t stupid. They may not have the highest scores on their cognitive ability, etc. but they figure things out very fast. Even the youngest ones can see “what’s fair”. So, homework for the sake of homework only teaches that teachers can mess with their home time. No, homework needs to have a purpose that relates back to what has been done in class. And, the younger the students it needs to relate to what happened THAT day. High school students can understand questions from the last unit, etc. And, if the homework is applicable, but it’s hard to see that it is, the teacher needs to make sure the students understand that. “Yes, it is important you do this homework because it relates to . . .” While I understand that giving students a paper full of 20 math problems to do is not the most exciting thing to do (although I believe “modern” educators, other than music teachers and coaches, poo-poo the importance of some “rote” learning), sometimes that’s just what they need – like batting practice. Most of the time, however, I don’t mind making the homework fun, too. Indeed, even with my high school students, I look forward to the few times we have (or had, our curriculum changed this year and we haven’t built everything back into it again) for the scissors and glue sticks to come out. The students like the more relaxed day, for kids facing the unknown of graduation they get to experience a little elementary school innocence one more time, and I get to not lecture for a day. Some of our old homework sheets required them to complete algebra problems to “decode” a message, and they were all really bad puns, which fit well with my classroom. So, for your little ones, coloring is fine, but not just for the sake of doing work at home. How about, color a group of two apples then a group of three apples, then color a group of all the apples together? There, coloring fun, and addition at the same time. That would work for me at an elementary level. Now, if I could figure out how to have them color a problem in logarithms. Hmmm . . .

  54. SanityAnyone? March 7, 2016 at 3:21 pm #

    Watching parents tell their kids not to go up the slide is one of my pet peeves. When there are no waiting kids, it’s just control-freakish and excessively conforming. When there are waiting kids, just say that or else let the kids argue it out.

    This is refreshing all the way ’round.

  55. Sophie March 7, 2016 at 3:22 pm #

    We pulled our oldest out to begin homeschooling two weeks ago. We were tired of seeing the love of learning being drained by things like reading logs and test prep. He’s in fourth grade.

    On the other side, my husband teaches high school seniors. He is available for tutorials after school and is willing to work with students to fit their schedule. He assigns little to no homework. So many students just don’t turn in work at all, but if he hasn’t called home or had meetings with their parents, he can’t give them failing grades on their report card. More often than not, he is pressured to take weeks worth of late work, or work out something to get the student to passing by the principals, parents or both. Again, these are SENIORS, so practically adults from a legal standpoint. I find it terrifying that seventeen and eighteen year olds can’t be expected to turn in their own assignments and accept the consequences for not doing the work.

    It makes me wonder if helpless teenagers are the result of micromanaging elementary schoolers, or are teachers having to require everything to be signed as a cya move if they have a student fail?

  56. andy March 7, 2016 at 3:35 pm #

    @Frustrated High School Teacher The problem is that coloring is not that fun for many kids. There is general assumption that all kids wants to color all the time and that is just not true for many. Many would be much happier if them could just cross group of three apples and be done in 30 seconds then doing exactly same math exercise plus 15 minutes of coloring. At least, that was problem of multiple kids around us.

    I think that homework yes/no is false binary. The right questions are when to start with it, how much of it for given school system (if they end classes later they should have less homework as school system that have them play afternoon) and what.

    A bit unrelated, I don’t thing that every math sheet of 20 exercises counts as rote learning. It is rote learning if all exercises are exactly the same. If they are a bit different and kids need to think while applying formula or apply different formula to each, then it should not count as rote. It is impossible to learn math without solving exercises.

    I used to like puzzles and had luck on teachers that taught us to approach math as series of puzzles. So for me, math itself was fun. Maybe it those who don’t like puzzles wont have that much fun with it, but it served me well later at college.

  57. andy March 7, 2016 at 3:45 pm #

    @sexhysteria Small German kids end classes at 12:00 and then go either home or to school organized day care. Sometimes they do homework in that daycare, but not always. Those who went home do them at home.

    Incidentally, ok amount of homework is much different when if classes end at 12:00 and when they end few hours later.

  58. Cassie March 7, 2016 at 3:58 pm #

    Oh gosh, how have I never heard of this blog? Sign me up for the book.

    I am an absolute advocate of kids going up the slide!!! I want to sneak into playgrounds during the night and paint big yellow circles around the playground and post “parents not allowed” signs.

    Let the kids reign, let them make up all the rules… and if that means running up the slide then let them!!

  59. Cassie March 7, 2016 at 4:01 pm #

    @Sophie

    Me too! We started homeschooling last week and I am a high school teacher too!

  60. John March 7, 2016 at 4:01 pm #

    My daughter is in first grade and has to fill out a reading log for her 20-minutes reading homework.every day which I’m supposed to initial. I don’t sign it anymore, my daughter takes pride in forging my signature and her mom’s very well. I don’t have a problem with fist graders having some homework. Recently though the teacher sent out two days homework on one day by mistake and the parents freaked out and complained.

    Much worse than homework though is those parents who “home school,” that’s a crime against children, undersocializing them and the ultimate in helicopter parenting.

  61. Jessica March 7, 2016 at 4:04 pm #

    I’ve always enjoyed and been good at math myself, but I still hated doing math homework. Every year in High School I had the same conversation with my math teachers: “If you would just do the homework, you would be acing this class” and I would reply, “If I’m acing the tests and quizzes, why do I need to do the homework?” John Holt in one of his books mentions a study that shows that only five math problems are needed to show proficiency at a certain concept. If you get it, any more than that becomes tedious. If you don’t get it, more than that only reinforces bad understanding and creates frustration. That’s the problem with most homework is that it is boring and repetitive and takes away from family time. Taking away or minimizing homework also tends to even the playing field between socioeconomic groups, because those who have the time won’t have an advantage over those who quite literally don’t have the time because they’re working or taking care of younger siblings. The focus should not be on teaching responsibility, it should be on quality homework that reinforces concepts taught in class. I don’t feel it should be graded, simply to encourage kids who may not understand to at least try and then ask their questions about it in class. This also takes the perceived necessity off of the parents to correct their kids’ work or even do it for them, allowing the teacher to see what they really understand. If I had only had five-ten math problems instead of between 50-100 each night, I may have been more inclined to bust it out, but as it was, everything seemed like something better to do than that.

  62. Jessica March 7, 2016 at 4:08 pm #

    @John, how is sticking your kid in a 7-8 hour class with only people his or her own age, with minimal time for free play, socializing? Homeschooled children are shown time and time again to be better socialized than other kids, largely due to their ability to converse with anyone, not just kids their own age. There are families that almost never let their kids leave the house and you’re right, that’s a problem, but that’s also the exception, not the rule.

  63. andy March 7, 2016 at 4:17 pm #

    @Jessica If you can ace test after 5 exercises only, then it means the test was too easy :). I remember having to go through hundreds of exercises even at the college level until I learned to recognize situations and solve them fluently. And I was good at math.

  64. ezym March 7, 2016 at 4:20 pm #

    When I was in my early school years in the day, it was so different that what it is today. You were lucky sometimes when you did get homework. I am talking about from grade 1-6. Then, school curriculum was quite different. Also, there was a Jr. High from grades 7-9. Today it is called middle school. Same thing I guess. Homework was given but when I took it home, I was always hounded by my father, did you do your homework? This was constant and so annoying and eventually, I got so tired of my father asking this every single night, that I detested homework. I didn’t do my homework and my grades suffered because i wasn’t learning. The trust between us waned. Not doing my homework caused the teacher to have my father sign the paper that I didn’t do my assignment. Whether all students in the class had to do this, I don’t know. What I believe is that students should not be forced to do homework and there is no way you can instill that behavior. It has to come naturally and a good teacher should make the means to want their students to achieve and to learn by taking the initiative to have each student learn by their own accord. There should be cooperation between teacher, student and parents. It is called behavior modification and rewards should be given for the good ones and restrictions given for bad ones. So I do believe in homework assignments and students should have the means not only to do it but try to enjoy it as well. I hope what I mentioned is meaningful.

  65. E March 7, 2016 at 5:02 pm #

    @Jessica “@John, how is sticking your kid in a 7-8 hour class with only people his or her own age, with minimal time for free play, socializing? Homeschooled children are shown time and time again to be better socialized than other kids, largely due to their ability to converse with anyone, not just kids their own age. There are families that almost never let their kids leave the house and you’re right, that’s a problem, but that’s also the exception, not the rule.”

    I think this forum is pretty good about not casting generalities on home school vs. not.

    So please don’t say something like “Homeschooled children are shown time and time again to be better socialized than other kids”.

    Please don’t write these kind of things here. I’m glad people who can and do home school are happy with their decision. Don’t cast some general judgement on kids whose parent don’t home school.

  66. sigh March 7, 2016 at 6:27 pm #

    Oh, Jeez, now I can’t decide who is my BFF, Lenore or Heather.

  67. julie5050 March 7, 2016 at 6:35 pm #

    AH— to have your child grow into an independent learner and person. My first battle of this was Miss Maggie….the first week of kinder she kept getting moved from “green “for “poor choices” apparently when it was circle time she was going over to the sand table “Because the best time to play at it is when no one was there” To her iit it wasn’t a poor choice at all, It was apparently a wrong choice, But you see the teacher never used the words right and wrong… giving Maggie the impression she actually had a choice when she didnt. She was dubious of authority from then on.
    But we have allowed her to sail the waters as captain of her own ship. We got a letter saying she was going to flunk due to absences ( she had gone a trip and had administrative approval). We asked her about it. She said she took care of it. Her dad called to check. The upper dean said oh those letters are automatically generated . Maggie came and discussed it with me a few days ago..I must admit it is the first time I have ever had a student come by and check, usually i am hearing from hysterical parents.

  68. Joanne March 7, 2016 at 7:12 pm #

    This School Year, we refused to sign Reading Logs for my 1st Grader – after they were returned with red pen circles on empty signature spaces, we spoke up to no avail – fed up with the stress they were putting on her (not to mention the snarky red pen circles directed at us), we removed the burden from our daughter by taking the Binder, putting it in a kitchen cabinet and telling her we were holding onto it and that she could let her teacher know to call us when she wants us to return the Binder – after a few weeks of Manila folders with logs kept coming home in place of the Binder and the teacher realized she wasn’t getting signatures or her Binder back, a way was found to incorporate the work into our daughter’s school day without interfering with Recess – after a few weeks of this show of good faith, we returned the Binder in our daughter’s school bag one day never to see it again – it now stays in school where it belongs – she is no longer stressed about the work and has made phenomenal progress in Reading

    Kids today are growing up to be insecure adolescents and young adults because they are conditioned not to rely on themselves or trust their own judgment – very sad

  69. Molly S March 7, 2016 at 7:31 pm #

    I love this! So true! I guess I am not the only one annoyed by the signature police.

  70. Donald March 7, 2016 at 9:48 pm #

    I love it! Micromanagement is in everything. Litigation prevention is in everything. (We need to get the parent’s signature or else they may sue us for not teaching properly)

    However in this pursuit they forgot that the main goal is to prepare children to become adults. This points out that signing their spelling homework is counteractive to that goal. We don’t give them an opportunity to learn responsibility. We then throw them into the deep end when they are out of school. They suddenly get a crash course in repressibility. This is more about crashing than it is about learning responsibility.

    “…..sends a clear message to kids: We don’t trust you. We don’t trust you really did the work. We don’t trust you care about your own learning. What’s more: Your parent is your Homework Patrol Cop”.

  71. pentamom March 7, 2016 at 10:02 pm #

    E, Jessica’s statement was a bit broad, but it’s actually been proven as a generality (as opposed to a “true in every case” statement.)

    Besides, consider what she was responding to. John’s statement about homeschooling was both hostile and ignorant.

  72. Adam Kampia March 7, 2016 at 10:07 pm #

    I’m not going to be too popular, so I’ll start with the disclaimer that I’m a hardcore free range single parent and a huge fan of Lenore’s work.
    That said, I’m also a lifelong educator who is aware of something the sensible parents who post here are missing.
    The signatures are not to hold kids accountable. They are to hold the lying, enabling, helicopter parents accountable.
    This probably sounds unthinkable to most parents posting here, but you have no idea how many parent-teacher conferences devolve into the parent arguing that a child’s grade should not be so low because, “I was never notified.” Parents who know full well their kids have no sense of responsibility (because that’s the way they reared them) will stop at nothing to try place blame on the teacher. A parent signature proving that parent knew about a problem long before goes a long way. I’ve been threatened with lawsuits (and even with having the Pope called on me once or twice – LOL). Education in the helicopter generation has become like House of Cards meets Law & Order.
    It sucks, but this is the world we live in. Are reading logs going a bit too far? Maybe. However, serious assessment grades become ammo for the blame-shifting parent. Educators have to protect themselves and their standards from ridiculous enablers who expect accountability from everyone else but their own kids. If you can’t stand your kids being part of that world, I’m a huge advocate of homeschooling – if you are physically able to do it.

  73. Cassie March 7, 2016 at 11:37 pm #

    @John “Much worse than homework though is those parents who “home school,” that’s a crime against children, undersocializing them and the ultimate in helicopter parenting.”

    Lol, I am going to opt for not feeding the trolls on this one.

  74. Stef Coulombe March 8, 2016 at 12:45 am #

    There’s a pretty major void in some of the reasoning, here: as soon as it’s “parents vs. teachers” the children are going to lose. “It’s not my job to check my kid’s homework.” No, it’s your job to raise your kids–NOT the teacher’s. When the parents don’t raise the kids, the teachers have to step in. Yes, often matters like this can be *discussed* with the teacher, and often the teacher can come to an accomodation with *that* parent. However, it’s horribly selfish to want the teacher to start treating all the students differently just because *you* don’t agree with something she’s doing. The truth is that *many* parents do not get involved in their kids’ education at all–and for those kids, reading logs and homework signatures often do make some difference. Are they perfect solutions for every child? Of course not. However, the teacher’s job is to help as many as she can, and parents bickering about how she does her job is rarely helpful.

    Frankly, encouraging rebellion against the system is the *worst* way to deal with problems. Sensational titles like “Don’t sign…” and “[Break the rules]” get a lot of attention–like tabloid magazines do–but at best, they encourage otherwise good parents to question their parenting, and at worst, they undermine teachers and schools (and end up encouraging future law-breakers and anarchists).

    We check our kids’ homework. For one thing, it keeps us up-to-date on what they’re learning in school. It makes it easier for them to ask us questions when they don’t understand something. It may not actively teach the message “we trust you” but you know what? we’re good parents and we find plenty of other ways to teach them that–and it most certainly does NOT tell them “we don’t trust you” *because* we consistently teach them otherwise. For another thing, it teaches respect for authority–one thing that is almost completely lacking in Western schools today. Also, it supports the teachers who are (in most cases) doing their best to help not just our kids, but also the kids of parents who *don’t* otherwise get involved in their kids’ education. Your kids love reading, and hate reading journals? Great. They can go on loving reading and hating journals until they flunk out of university because “research is no fun”. My kids love reading too, and they complain about the journals (and other homework) too–but they do it anyway, and they STILL love reading… and in the meantime, we’re supporting a system that encourages all the *other* kids to read as well.

    It’s easy to blame the system and blame the teachers, and it’s easy to point out the problems and advocate breaking the rules (because hey, it sells books). It’s not so easy to actually work *with* the teachers and promote *positive* change. Guess that explains why people do what they do, eh?

  75. lele March 8, 2016 at 2:02 am #

    Ugh. My Childs teacher has a system that if the parent doesn’t sign the planner (reading, vocab, math) than the whole class doesn’t get to participate in some huge class prize.

    My child and her friend were doing homework over at our house and the friends mom came in and grilled her child about the math she was doing, insisting it was wrong, and her kid didnt know what she was doing. Funny because She did know what she was doing, by the way. My kid asked me why I dont hover and grill her, I told her because I trust her. Her friends response was” you are so lucky”

    I have seen her friends panic over homework. I have seen my daughter panic over not doing one problem on a math sheet. Or hell, if I forget to sign the planner the night before! Its sad. 5th graders with panic attacks! I sign the damn planner. I refuse to watch my daughter (who loves to read for hours in her own time) read and set a timer and make it work. I refuse to ruin her imagination & joy of getting lost in a book and read to me some great book she found that she wants to share…..gotta love all these rules….

  76. lele March 8, 2016 at 2:10 am #

    Oops- Point is, I sign the damn thing. I dont enforce the rules of it.

  77. Donald March 8, 2016 at 2:42 am #

    @Adam

    I understand. It sickens me that parents pin the blame on teachers at the drop of a hat. There is no easy answer. This is the results of not allowing children to be responsible. They grow up and become parents that try to blame everybody else except themselves. They in turn teach their children a similar attitude.

    I still think that we need to give children so responsibility.

  78. WeezaFish March 8, 2016 at 4:50 am #

    Gee I hate what homework does to my homelife. My boys are eight and five and already I have become the family Homework Monitor. They both rely on me to tell them what and when, all under the pretence that the school is teaching them to be responsible for their work when in fact, they of course totally depend on me to keep track. And THEY lose their play time if MUMMY should forget. Such a farce. SMH

  79. common sense March 8, 2016 at 6:04 am #

    adam..you make a good point, but if that’s the problem, then send home a note stating that which the parents must sign and return, not torture the kids. all of mine are grown and out on their own,late 20’s to early 30’s, and I never had to sign a log or time their reading. if they had a problem the teacher called or sent home a note.
    to stef..show me where making kids read so many minutes a day and keeping a log starting in kindergarten for heaven’s sake has any bearing on doing so in college research. young children need time to move and play[especially after being made to sit for hours in school] not more sitting and stressing over work they should be able to do at school. I teach kids riding and you would not believe the about of homework my students get and tell me about and STRESS about. is there really any need other than proving you’re tough on education to send an 8 year old home with 20 pages to read ,a 5 page report on what they read and 5 pages each with 20 math problems. when do they get a chance to relax and socialize? or do things as a family? more hours of this does not make a better student or one that learns more, it makes an unhappy, anxious overweight stress eater who can’t handle things on their own because that’s what they’re taught and told.

  80. andy March 8, 2016 at 6:54 am #

    @Stef Coulombe A parent who don’t give a damm about school wont start giving damm just because he sight something. That parent will sign it regardless of what kid did most likely without reading it much.What it does is that serious rule following parents will stand with timers behind children backs. Those parents gave damm even before.

    Also what teachers tend to underestimate is that kids are tired in the afternoon. It is true even during weekend when there are no classes and even worst during week. They focus is much worst. What takes 5 minutes Monday morning takes 35 in the evening. Parents role amounts to cop keeping the child on task. Because the child is much easier to distract afternoon after classes. There is no bonding, no healthy interest or caring about schools. It is just stress, arguing and keeping the child via bribes or negative consequences.

    Supposedly fun tasks (cutting, coloring, etc) are no fun when you are not in mood for them. Or when kid is distracted ever 5 minutes. Parents would fuss about it much less if homework was actually within kids abilities, whether focus or technical (projects amount to homework for parents). Instead, it is unpleasant time you have to organize time around.

    20 minutes of reading a day afternoon is awfully lot of 6 years old. Add to it 15 of something from math and coloring from something else and you got over hour of activities assuming kid that is distracted only a little.

    When homework makes parents and childrens life more stressful every day, then of course they will have negative opinion of school and maybe even rebel. Adding me pointless stressful tasks to do wont make me like you.

    Yes, parental involvement and whether parents respect teachers sends kids message about how important school is and they react on it. It just so happen that when you ask parent to do daily tasks that clearly has nothing to do with anything learning or are just pure stress, parent wont be able to pretend “school is important” attitude daily. Instead, kids will learn parents actual facts based attitude and observation that school is making them do pointless stressful tasks daily.

  81. E March 8, 2016 at 8:47 am #

    @Pentamom — like I said, this forum has been pretty good about not pitting what’s better, regular or home school. It does nothing for the conversation to talk about what kids are “better” at anything. It actually perpetuates the thing that Lenore tries to battle. Making parents wonder, second guess, change behaviors because [gasp] they might not be doing the “thing” that their kid needs to make them the “better” socialized kid.

    I admit that I missed the post she was responding to.

    I have 2 kids — one an introvert, one an extravert. They both had the same schooling (public schools). One would certainly be deemed “better” socially. Whatever that’s worth.

  82. Donna March 8, 2016 at 8:55 am #

    Sometimes I think this blog is as guilty of way over thinking and over dramatizing everything about childhood as helicopter parents.

    I have a kid who likes to read, so reading homework never worried me. I’ve never timed her or kept up with it. She reads regularly on her own and at several grades ahead. As long as that maintains, we will continue to ignore reading homework. I think she had to do a reading log in A. Samoa. She put down whatever she read that day. I can’t remember if I had to sign it or not (that is how much impact this had on our life).

    If I had a child who hated to read and never did so willingly, she would be required to do whatever was required by school and I would keep up with it. Not because I think this is likely to develop a love of reading. It isn’t, but it is completely ridiculous to believe that there is ever going to be something that EVERYONE on the planet enjoys doing, even reading. I am willing to accept that a person can not like to read for pleasure, but reading at an adult level is a necessary life skill and the only way to get there is to practice. Waiting around for some extrovert who hates to read (as many extroverts do) to change their personality and decide that they love to read is not likely to get you there.

    I also think some here are practicing revisionist history. I remember having homework in elementary school. I remember spelling word practice, math problems, book reports, various projects in shoe boxes, science fairs, etc.. The difference is that most of us had plenty of time to play AND do homework. Most of our mothers didn’t work outside the home and those whose did were latch-key kids. We came home from school, played outside for a couple hours and then came in ate dinner, did homework and watched TV. While kids didn’t always particularly like homework, nobody was stressed out about it.

    Today, the vast majority of kids today come from households were all the adults work and they are shuffled off to some organized activity until the end of the workday. They come home at dinner time exhausted and still needing to do homework. The parents are tired after working all day and still have to get dinner cooked, homework done and kids off to bed, often so that they can do more work themselves. The parents are stressed about the homework. The kids are stressed about the homework. It is generally a miserable process for everyone.

    Schools need to realize that life has changed and adjust. Homework as I knew it is just not possible in current life unless we are going to somehow add hours to the day. My kid’s school does seem to have adjusted somewhat. While she has always had a small amount of homework that generally takes her 10 minutes, she’s never had a large amount or any non-voluntary projects. No spelling words outside of what you wanted to do to study for the school spelling bee. No book reports. And we have yet to build a single thing in a shoe box.

  83. andy March 8, 2016 at 9:07 am #

    @Donna “Most of our mothers didn’t work outside the home and those whose did were latch-key kids.”

    I agree with a lot of what you wrote, but this striked me. Was it really like that wherever you was growing up? I don’t remember anyone whose mom would not work except those who had baby siblings. I took it as standard that moms work when kids are in school age.

  84. DrTorch March 8, 2016 at 9:36 am #

    Withholding recess was one of the big reasons we started homeschooling.

    Teachers and school administrators are cruel despots, who delight in subjugating their tiny charges.

  85. CrazyCatLady March 8, 2016 at 9:59 am #

    I didn’t have homework until 4th grade, yet somehow I went to college and graduated. I actually had reading issues, probably dyslexia, which the school worked with me at school. A reading log would have been HORRIBLE, just more proof that I couldn’t read. The relaxed way my school did things, meant that I could catch up, and by 3rd grade, surpass the other kids. No logs, no homework.

    It really annoyed the heck out of me last year that my son’s school speech therapist had me sign his practice sheets. He practiced every day in the car when I drove him to the school for his one class. (We homeschool most of his work.) Yet, she would sometimes give him the same work again if it wasn’t signed, even if he was able to say them perfectly. That was a total waste of both of our time and I let her know. Having him do the same ones because he couldn’t do it yet, that was fine.

    He also had an IEP for writing. So last year the school started a class for kids who could read at or above grade level, but couldn’t write at grade level. As it was a special ed class, it had no homework. He would take his time…which really annoyed the teacher. This year, I enrolled him in a grade level class for LA, and despite the doom and gloom that last year’s teacher said would result, he is doing just fine. And has homework and is motivated to get done. At 7th and 8th grade, I feel it IS appropriate for him to have some homework, to prepare him for the expectations of the high school that he would like to attend.

    My youngest has dyslexia. I panicked and had him tested by the school and was going to enroll him for reading services the following fall. He would have no homework. But he WAS supposed to read for 30 minutes a day. Okay, we could do that. I asked if I would know what he was working on so we could reinforce those sounds at home. Nope. Wait, I thought they wanted me to be a partner in this…nope, not really. I found out what program they would use, (only parent to ever question, I think) and we did it over the summer. By fall he was almost grade level. I continued to work with him at home with occasional meetings with them because what I was doing was working. But that reading thing without knowing what he would have been working on…not such a great use of time.

  86. JulieH March 8, 2016 at 10:29 am #

    Both of my daughters found daily reading logs frustrating and discouraging, and I found them a pain in my side. The alternative we were able to work out with the teachers was just a slight adjustment. The girls sat with the teacher and came up with a reasonable number of pages to read for the month as a goal. The girls just logged the books they read and page count. At the end of the month, the girls and their teacher did a quick review and set a new goal up or down for the next month.

    No signing for me. A few minutes once a month for the teacher. Much less painful for the girls – and they practiced goal setting…which is a very effective tool even if you aren’t able to reach your goal. Eventually the teachers started moving more of their students to this style of log when it better fit the child’s temperament.

    It is actually fun for some kids at the end of the year to see the list of books that they read and how many pages it came to.

  87. pentamom March 8, 2016 at 10:48 am #

    E, I’m certainly not saying that schooling is determinative of socialization. But there have been studies done that entirely debunk the “homeschooled kids have no social skills” thing. People notice the homeschooled kids with no social skills. And people with a chip on their shoulder about it tend to gloss over the fact that tons of schooled kids have no social skills.

    But I think it’s possible to cite an opinion that one method has a better track record in a particular area than another, without suggesting that everyone who does the opposite is failing. I agree we shouldn’t pit one against the other, but not every fact about something is an attack or a judgment on the opposite.

    And as I said, what Jessica was responding to was highly provocative. It’s not fair to go after her for a fairly mild, positive, and general statement, while ignoring the hostile and ignorant thing she was responding to.

  88. Mother Goose March 8, 2016 at 11:37 am #

    I think required reading, homework and required signatures on everything is BS!! When I found out that my children were being “punished” because I didn’t sign one of their stupid “parent sign here lines” I threw a shit fit!!! Threatened to go over the teachers head to the superintendent. When I got to the super he told me that teachers and schools can set their own rules. He totally supported the teacher until I threatened to go to the media when got off the phone with him. Not even 5 minutes later I had a call from the teacher saying that she had received a call from the super and they would no longer punish my child. We have to not only stand up for our children’s rights to be kids but also our rights as parents to have not only time with our kids but not be told to spend the few hours we have with our children doing something the teachers should of done in school teaching our children!!!

  89. Mother Goose March 8, 2016 at 11:44 am #

    I think required reading, homework and required signatures on everything is BS!! When I found out that my children were being “punished” because I didn’t sign one of their stupid “parent sign here lines” I threw a shit fit!!! Threatened to go over the teachers head to the superintendent. When I got to the super he told me that teachters and schools can set their own rules. He totally supported the teacher until I threatened to go to the media when got off the phone with him. Not even 5 minutes later I had a call from the teacher saying that she had received a call from the super and they would no longer punish my child. We have to not only stand up for our children’s rights to be kids but also our rights as parents to have not only time with our kids but not be told to spend the few hours we have with our children doing something the teachers should of done in school teaching our children!!! BTW I started reading when I was 3. My daughter and son when they were 4. My adopted kids were a little behind as they had birth defects. They were almost 6. Never did I tell my kids they “had” to read. They all developed a joy for reading on their own. I actually had to take the books away sometimes to get them to play.

  90. Donna March 8, 2016 at 11:49 am #

    “Was it really like that wherever you was growing up? I don’t remember anyone whose mom would not work except those who had baby siblings. I took it as standard that moms work when kids are in school age.”

    If I remember correctly, you are a good bit younger than me.

    I went to elementary school in the 70s. In elementary school, I can only recall one friend whose mother worked outside the home and that was in a family business. And, like me, she was a latch-key kid from a young age. On the days her mother wasn’t home after school, she either stayed home by herself or walked to the family grocery store and hung out there. By high school most of my friends’ mothers worked, but that was a slow trickle that started after the youngest kid went to middle school.

    Contrast that to my brother went to elementary school in the 90s. None of his friends had stay at home mothers. Several didn’t work full time or worked flexible schedules, but all worked.

  91. Donna March 8, 2016 at 12:35 pm #

    Pentamom –

    While I agree that jumping on one commenter without addressing the other is wrong, stating that one way is the better way of doing something always carries with it the implication that the other ways of doing it is wrong or at least less good.

    Nor do I think that either person made an accurate statement. Socialization involves a very wide band of social skills, and kids can be found at every level of the band in both homeschooling and traditional schooling. You will find homeschooled kids with great social skills and traditionally schooled kids completely lacking in social skills and vice versa. Socialization is developed both in school and out and no kid is limited to school in learning their socialization skills. Some of it is also family/kid specific. My guess is that the vast majority of kids will do just fine socially either way, but some kids will fair better one way or the other. For example, kids of parents with very limited interest in socializing would learn far more social skills in traditional schools as their parents may not think to seek out opportunities for their kids to socialize with their peers as it is unimportant to them. And kids who are very introverted would probably would learn better social skills in the smaller environment of homeschooling.

  92. E March 8, 2016 at 1:08 pm #

    @Pentamom: “And as I said, what Jessica was responding to was highly provocative. It’s not fair to go after her for a fairly mild, positive, and general statement, while ignoring the hostile and ignorant thing she was responding to.”

    Which is why I wrote that I had missed that post.

  93. E March 8, 2016 at 1:18 pm #

    In regard to Moms at home — I concur with what Donna wrote. I grew up and when to school in the 70s. I don’t recall a single elem school classmate that I knew having a Mom that worked. My Mom and her friend both took a little part time job at a small printer where they stuffed envelopes and worked a folding machine, etc (this was after each of their youngest went to school). But it was probably as much social as it was anything else and she was always home before us.

  94. Beth March 8, 2016 at 2:16 pm #

    I went to school in the late 60’s-70’s (graduated from high school in 1977) and, like the others, no mom worked outside the home when I was in school (even in high school I can’t remember one friend whose mom worked). In elementary school, we went home for lunch, and there wasn’t even an option – no lunchboxes, no hot lunch- until middle school of staying at school for lunch. I had a friend whose parents were divorced and dad had full custody (very odd for the time), and he had a housekeeper during the day partially so his elementary-aged daughters didn’t have to go to a friend or neighbor’s house every day for lunch.

    Different times, indeed.

  95. hineata March 8, 2016 at 2:59 pm #

    Sorry Lenore , IMHO you’re way over thinking things here. Just sign the log! 🙂

  96. Papilio March 8, 2016 at 3:00 pm #

    I’m surprised no one has mentioned studies showing that homework before grade 6 or so is pointless. Unless, I suppose, the kid lags behind for whatever reason and really does need some extra practice – but why would you bother the whole class with work that only benefits a few?

    “in the meantime, we’re supporting a system that encourages all the *other* kids to read as well.”
    I’m not so sure about that… Do reading logs and timers really “encourage” kids to read? From what I read here and from what I remember about similar situations in my own school days (having to work my way through boring literature instead of devouring thrillers), I doubt it.

  97. Jen March 8, 2016 at 3:57 pm #

    My daughter sadly began to only read the required amount of time because she didn’t want to break the rules — a big deal for the elementary school set. And, as a parent, how do you explain that sometimes it’s ok to break the rules when you are trying to support the teachers and back the school to have their rules followed and authority respected. It’s a lot to teach young kids that sometimes you need to follow the rules even when you don’t agree with them. But there are just too many rules and things like homework logs that are not rules but requirements and the nuance is just too much for the average elementary school kid to understand.

    We also had a meltdown over spelling words…the assignment was to spend 10 minutes a night reviewing the words — which is ludicrous if the child already knows how to spell them. Once, she had to stay in for recess for not doing her homework because we wrote “2 minutes” and I signed it. That was all it took to go through the list — turns out that the school is more interested in teaching my child to lie out of self-interest than actually giving her more challenging spelling words.

  98. andy March 8, 2016 at 4:23 pm #

    @Papilio Reading is not fun until you are really good at it, so I guess some amount of reading where it is not a fun is necessary just to get there.

    The other thing is, kids don’t read for pleasure as much as they used nor do adults. It boils down to better entertainment being available while it being hard to recognize fun book in store. When people used to read a lot it was when cheap fun to read books with nothing deeper in it were available. That sort of fun was replaced by movies and then games.

    So I dunno, even if they don’t read for fun, they still need to acquire reading skills for life and work. I think that is where logs come from.

  99. MichelleB March 8, 2016 at 4:46 pm #

    @Frustrated High School Teacher “…if I were make a lecture, complete with PowerPoint slides, that showed them how to dance a waltz, how many of them think they could do the dance, at all, much less perfectly, at the end of lecture – no practice….” If your students had never done a waltz before, sure. But what if they’d come into your class already knowing how to waltz?

    If a kid already knows how to spell the words on the spelling list, or what the vocabulary words mean, the homework really is just busy work. That’s time that could be better used actually learning something new. Or napping. Or playing video games or visiting the grandparents or just about anything except for homework for the sake of homework.

    In 8th grade social studies (30 years ago), we learned the countries by coloring maps of the world. The ONLY thing I remember about that year long class was the teacher’s obsession with having all of our pencil strokes going the same direction and within the lines. I wish I had those papers now — it would be interesting to know how many of those little countries still have the same names or even exist at all.

    My kids are homeschooled so that they can learn to spell the words they don’t already know, do the math at their own pace, and not see learning at something that only happens in a classroom. And so teachers don’t have to deal with me.

  100. David (Dhewco) March 8, 2016 at 4:53 pm #

    I don’t really remember those early year reading. (K-4) I recall vaguely reading workbooks but I don’t remember being told to read at home. I could have been, but I was doing that anyway. I loved reading.

    However, and I believe this has come up on this blog before…I got low grades on various reading assignments in middle and high school. Why? Every time I was assigned a book it was always a lousy ‘classic’ book. Nothing from the 70s or 80s. I realize there’s supposed to be a reason for it, but if it’s not something I enjoy reading…I couldn’t force myself to do it. I just couldn’t. The only reason I passed those English classes is that I didn’t have a problem reading textbooks and I was great at guessing the right answers on tests. Those grades made up for not completing the assigned books. If they’d asked me to dissect The Shining or IT, I’d have been there. Wuthering Heights, not so much.

    I think the only book I really enjoyed in that time period, that was also assigned, was A Tale of Two Cities. I felt a connection to the Sidney character.

    I think Heaven that I wasn’t forced to get signatures for everything.

    David

  101. Donna March 8, 2016 at 4:57 pm #

    “Do reading logs and timers really “encourage” kids to read? From what I read here and from what I remember about similar situations in my own school days (having to work my way through boring literature instead of devouring thrillers), I doubt it.”

    You are confusing encouraging kids to read something each day and encouraging kids to enjoy reading. They are two totally different things.

    I highly doubt that reading logs and timers encourage kids who don’t enjoy reading to enjoy reading. However, it is a complete fallacy to believe that all people everywhere must enjoy reading. Just like every single other thing that exists in this world, some people will enjoy it and some people won’t. Regardless of whether they want to read for pleasure or not, everyone does need to know how to read at an advanced level to succeed in the western world in the 21st century. Learning to read fluently takes practice. Reading logs and timers mandate practice for kids who would otherwise read nothing. Is it a perfect method? No, some kids still will not read and lie on reading logs or not turn them in and will graduate high school with a 4th grade reading level. But some portion of the reading haters will read because they have to and will improve in their skill level. Some may even improve to a level that will allow them to read things that actually interest them and will then enjoy reading for pleasure, but that is just a bonus because the sole goal should be to teach the ability to read at that level since enjoyment is innate and cannot be taught.

  102. Barry Lederman March 8, 2016 at 9:30 pm #

    I believe the purpose of signing the kids work has nothing to do with the kids learning or integrity. It is all about the school ‘advertising’ to the parents how much they do and what a great school they are. It is all about P.R.

    Nevertheless it sends that bad nontrusting message the article decries. Not to mention it is a pain in the neck to have to sign everything. I taught my kids to forge my signature so they could sign all this stuff themselves and the school wouldn’t be on our backs.

  103. Barry Lederman March 8, 2016 at 9:47 pm #

    I forgot to mention; my kids forged my signature because they were in a horrible school that cared only about itself and not the kids or the parents. For numerous reasons we eventually switched our kids to a fabulous school that listened and cared and we were able to communicate openly and honestly and come to a mutual respectful agreement on this and all other issues. I won’t say the name of the hideous school, but the good school is Julian Charter School.

  104. andy March 9, 2016 at 2:32 am #

    @David (Dhewco) I think that English literature lessons are meant to teach you specifics of English literature and its history. The reading for story and fun is more of a hobby thing schools care about only lately.

  105. David (Dhewco) March 9, 2016 at 7:19 am #

    Andy,

    I think I’d rather read about Eng. Lit. history from a textbook rather than reading Wuthering Heights and Rebecca. I mean, Rebecca? It’s a rare high school boy that enjoys Rebecca. It was torture. I’m 42 and all I remember is being unable to get beyond about 30 pages into it. ,
    Of course, I’m not dumb. I know they had to pick a book that everyone could read. They couldn’t allow students to pick books of their own because it’d be rare that the teachers would have read that many books. It would be a confusing mix that teachers wouldn’t be trained to discuss and well, dissect.

    However, the books chosen were the same ones the teachers’ learned when they were in high school. The books never were current. Like I mentioned, you can learn about the books without being forced to read them.

    Anyway, that’s my not so humble opinion.

  106. Donna March 9, 2016 at 8:31 am #

    “you can learn about the books without being forced to read them.”

    No you really can’t. You can’t do that anymore than you can read a description of the Sistine Chapel and fully appreciate its beauty. All you learn are basic facts and those are mostly meaningless when it comes to literature. Reading current American literature doesn’t actually teach you anything about 19th century British literature. And The Shining and It aren’t even current American literature. It isn’t even Stephen King’s best writing.

    I am not sure where we got this notion that the only things we need to learn are things we enjoy learning. I don’t think Wuthering Heights and Rebecca specifically are required life knowledge (although they do both usually make the list of books you should read before you die), but literature more meaningful than The Shining and It certainly is. Some of it you may have to struggle through and some you may downright hate, but that doesn’t make it lack of importance to know in order to be a well-educated person.

  107. E March 9, 2016 at 9:01 am #

    Coming a family with 3 educators, I really hate to read the broad generalities:

    ” It is all about the school ‘advertising’ to the parents how much they do and what a great school they are. It is all about P.R.”

    Do we *really* think so poorly of people who have chosen education as a career that they don’t really think reading X minutes per school night is a good thing? Is everything that teachers do, that *your* child won’t benefit from, inherently bad and unworthy?

    Donna has spelled it out clearly. Not every child is going to be drawn to every subject. But there is an expectation that they are at least proficient at the skills to manage in life and give them options for *further* education based on these foundations.

    I often wonder what it would be like for people to apply these (unfounded) motivations on my own career. I guess it’s not as fun to say “IT people only have rules for source code management because they are control freaks” as it is to question teachers.

  108. SKL March 9, 2016 at 11:05 am #

    I don’t remember if I ever had to sign about the reading my kids, but at least in 3rd grade, we were supposed to sign their assignment book every day. Seems like there was something I had to sign before that too, weekly, about math facts?

    Problem here is, if you don’t sign, the kids lose recess and then, for repeat offenses, they get discipline cards etc. I don’t know how far that would go if a parent decided to rebel. I decided it wasn’t a hill to die on. I wasn’t going to make my kids miss recess nor have a big fight with their teacher over that.

    In 4th grade they don’t have anything I have to sign, other than certain tests and discipline slips. Magically, the kids do their work anyway.

  109. SKL March 9, 2016 at 11:22 am #

    I assume that the Accelerated Reader (“AR”) program (where kids have to test on books they have read and accumulate a minimum # of points) takes the place of home-made reading logs in many schools.

    I never had to ask my younger to read. My elder does not love reading, and this year I have not required her to read fiction every day. She does read, just not “fun” books every day. She does enjoy audiobooks and read-alouds. For free reading, I would like to give her space to find what she likes.

    Nobody ever forced me to do “free reading.” It’s kind of hard to get comfortable with the idea, especially as kids get older and form their own interests. And the books they need to read in order to get credit become more of an investment, as they may take a week or more to read. If they spend 2 days on a book and set it aside because it isn’t their thing, then they are back to square one. I just refuse to fuss about it any more. I sometimes assign nonfiction re something they need to learn.

  110. andy March 9, 2016 at 11:48 am #

    I hated some of the assigned books and loved others. There is no single book in world all students would be guaranteed to like. I don’t think literature lessons in school should focus only on what is fun. It is ok to have students read various styles from various periods and countries. If you really hated all assigned books older then 30 years, then maybe you never gave them honest chance.

    The teacher who recommends Stephen King’s or Charlaine Harris or Harry Potter to child is great teacher. Literature lessons focused primary on contemporary entertainment after kids already have good reading skills are not so great.

  111. David (Dhewco) March 9, 2016 at 12:59 pm #

    Eh, I think I’m in danger of shifting the chat away from the blog post. Donna, I disagree but I’ll leave it at that. Thanks for responding to me,

  112. David (Dhewco) March 9, 2016 at 1:09 pm #

    Andy, I said I loved A Tale of Two cities, and that’s older. I loved Shakespeare, and that’s way older. Rebecca is a story about a woman who impetuously marries a widower and has to live in the house with the previous wife’s memory weighing on everyone. That’s not a good story for 15yo me. Who cares, she married a rich guy…whatevs.

    I don’t remember the plot to Wuthering Heights and I’m feeling too lazy to look.

    There was a sequel to The Fall of the House of Usher that someone wrote a while back that I tried to get a teacher to let me do a report on…but she told me that it wasn’t possible because she hadn’t ‘cleared’ it.

  113. David (Dhewco) March 9, 2016 at 1:11 pm #

    by ‘a while back’ I mean at least the early 90s.

    Oh for an edit

  114. andy March 9, 2016 at 2:08 pm #

    @David (Dhewco) Ok, but then it makes it a book that sold a ton originally, but you did not liked. Everyone will have a book that was mandatory and he did not liked. That does not mean school failed big time for assigning it. Al least I do not think it is huge failure if mandatory reading contains less fun books if they have place in literature.

  115. leanne March 9, 2016 at 3:17 pm #

    I have never signed a reading or homework log for exactly the reasons the author has – my daughter needs to have her own developing sense of responsibility for her work, it is not my job to make her do it! It’s my job to provide her with a good bedtime, meals, medical care, etc – what she does with those opportunities is up to her.
    With the advent of spelling homework we started a great system – cleared by her teacher – I would give her a pre-test every Monday and then she would do homework only for the words she missed. Instead of copying/writing sentences for ten words she would usually only have to do two or three, and get an A on the Friday spelling test every time!
    As for the reading log – reading is a privilege for after other homework and chores are done, never had to push it as we have no tv/video games and watch one movie a week – reading is the entertainment of choice!

  116. E March 9, 2016 at 3:31 pm #

    @leanne — that’s the same system that some of my kids teacher’s used: pretest and then go from there. They also had different spelling groups to keep kids at the right level of challenge.

    And it’s wonderful that your kids embrace reading and your home is structured such. The issue is that teachers have to educate all students. Students that do have many distractions or parents night not encourage reading naturally (or didn’t have time to take the kids to the library when they were little or who they themselves don’t like to read). There is nothing saying that a child can’t take the initiative and do the reading on their own and get the parents to sign off. Not every household has a love of reading (as much as I read, I’m really the only one who does it for pleasure aside from vacations) and maybe just maybe being reminded that reading is skill that needs practice actually *helps* some kids. Maybe not yours, but others.

  117. Papilio March 9, 2016 at 5:37 pm #

    I’m not talking about making reading a hobby in and of itself for every single person. I’m thinking more along the lines of finding every kid something that they (at least a little bit) want to read, rather than give them a book that is supposedly “good” and tell them to read that for 10 minutes every day.
    I’ve always liked reading for pleasure and would happily read fiction for hours, but Little Brother was and is not a reader in that hobby sense of the word. He was however interested in the ancient Romans & Greek, so while I read Goosebumps and Nancy Drew and Elizabeth George, he’d read about the Roman empire and the daily life of the Spartans and the construction of floor heating in Roman buildings (or whatever).
    Point is, he wanted to know what it said, and it seems to me that is (far) more important than whether the book is a good story or the exact right level for his age or whatever.
    But maybe those reading logs don’t require a certain type of reading material, in which case you can ignore my comment 🙂

  118. Beth2 March 9, 2016 at 5:49 pm #

    Homework would work a lot better as a teaching tool if it were pre-work instead of post-work. By which I mean, give an assignment on something that has not been taught yet, to introduce the lesson *before* it is discussed in class. It would prepare kids far better for college and grad school, not to mention the real world, where this is how things operate: You do your reading and research *before* coming to the lecture, discussion group, red wine book club, pitch meeting, deal closing, courthouse, debate floor, etc., and everyone has a much more productive gathering, where questions can be resolved and consensus reached, because everyone did their preliminary “homework.”

    Homework in high school did not prepare me well for college. My typical high school day would involve coming to class to learn a “new” concept, that I’d already picked up on my own years ago through my independent reading or just living in the world. I would then be “taught” what I already knew, for roughly one day or one week, and conditioned to give the “credited” response when asked, instead of a more complicated, nuanced, or equally accurate answer that didn’t lend itself as well to a fill-in-the-blank worksheet. Then I would be sent home with the fill-in-the-blank worksheet, to “reinforce” the concepts that I already knew in the first place. Nowhere in the process did anyone ever check to see how many of us were bored out of our minds because we were learning things we already knew. The whole time I was thinking, heaven forbid someone in this class *didn’t* already know what was just “taught” to us this past week! What if they were sent home with these worksheets, and were still utterly incapable of filling them out? Is that their “fault”? So the only people who could successfully complete homework every single day were those of us who didn’t need the reinforcement in the first place — those of us who hadn’t really “learned” anything in the past week, those for whom it came easy, because we already knew it. Those for whom the concepts were indeed novel, those who could actually benefit from more instruction on the concepts, were just “bad” students because they couldn’t finish the damned worksheets after-the-fact.

    But preliminary “homework” — homework that introduces a chapter or segment — woo-hoo what a game-changer that could be! The teacher would know where the kids stood before the lesson began, the kids would come in prepared to have a conversation and lesson about the same thing, and “faulting” someone for not “doing” their homework would seem more fair. “Johnny, you were supposed to write half a page on things you’ve always wondered about outer space. Why didn’t you do it?” “Um, because I don’t know anything about outer space.” “Okay, well, then, you shouldn’t have any trouble filling half a page with things you don’t know then, should you?” “Susie, where is your list of ‘rights’ that you think should be in our constitution?” Okay, bad off the cuff examples, but you get the idea….

  119. Donna March 9, 2016 at 6:45 pm #

    Papilio – Reading logs, etc. generally just require that you read, not that you read anything specific. The point is simply to practice the act of reading, not to enhance learning in any other way.

  120. Puzzled March 9, 2016 at 7:25 pm #

    We study literature for many reasons, and the good reasons all cannot be reproduced by doing other things; that’s what makes them good reasons for studying literature. Of course we don’t expect that in your working life you’ll be called upon often to know the plot of the classics. We expect that in your life as a thinking, feeling human being you’ll engage with the questions behind the themes of these works, and that your approach to those questions ought to be informed by having struggled through them with the help of great thinkers over the ages. I realize that parts of the world have developed the idea that any uninformed opinion is just as good as an informed opinion, that learning philosophy is nothing more than a bull-session, etc., but that doesn’t make it true.

    We also study literature as part of our rite of passage in our culture. Studying the literature that shaped your culture allows you to understand your common inheritance. It allows us to communicate better if we all understand a common set of allusions, and we don’t do kids any favors by allowing them to exempt themselves from this process.

    Donna – what do you consider King’s best writing? I think I’d go with The Dark Tower, although the books that reflect on the writing process also stand out, as do a couple psychological thrillers.

    Beth2 – Unfortunately, the movement seems to be in the opposite direction. My students are always shocked (and angry) that I give assignments (reading assignments, by the way) on material we haven’t covered in class. They’re shocked when I say “send me questions while you read and I will construct my lecture on that basis” because they expect me to lecture on everything that they will be “responsible” for. They are shocked that my tests don’t look like carbon-copies of the study guide, even though I write on the syllabus that this will be the case. Most of the faculty are giving them what they were conditioned to expect in high school, and those who don’t get destroyed on faculty rating websites and on student evaluations of faculty.

  121. Donna March 9, 2016 at 9:50 pm #

    Puzzled – I’m afraid that I have to go with the somewhat predictable choice for Stephen King – The Stand, even if the end was anticlimactic. I do have admit, though, that I have not extensively read King. I went through a phase in high school where I read a bunch of his blockbusters, but haven’t read much of his since. I would be interested in reading works where he reflects on the writing process though.

  122. andy March 10, 2016 at 3:55 am #

    @Puzzled “They’re shocked when I say “send me questions while you read and I will construct my lecture on that basis””

    Heh, no way I would be sending questions, especially at college level. Sending question would felt like admission that I did not figured it out by myself. I valued figuring out and plus the pride cost would be hard to stomach. I even disliked classes where teachers wanted us to ask questions in class, because most questions clearly shown whoever is asking did not put 3 seconds into thinking about the solution. I disliked asking such forced questions.

    We also had that weird competitive culture where you would even lie about how much you studied – e.g. telling lesser number of days for fear of looking like someone who got things slowly. It took me a while to understand many people are lying and that my real hours are actually not too long at all.

  123. Puzzled March 10, 2016 at 9:59 am #

    The difference between sending questions before lecture and asking questions in class is that the former can be done anonymously. If you can figure it out, that’s fine. I’m not seeing a pride in figuring it out independently, though – instead, I see a desire to come to class and have all the content spoon-fed.

  124. Puzzled March 10, 2016 at 10:01 am #

    Donna – I actually haven’t read The Stand, which I know is weird for a King fan. For books about the writing process, I’d suggest Dance Macabre, On Writing, and The Dark Half. There’s also a short story called “Secret Window, Secret Garden” which appears in Four Past Midnight.

  125. lollipoplover March 10, 2016 at 11:45 am #

    @David- My middle school daughter just finished reading The Outsiders. I loved that book (she did too) and it’s an interesting dynamic to see how a book that I remembered doing a report on over 30 years ago interpreted by my now 13 year-old daughter. She also read Where the Red Fern Grows this year (I read that too and was not fond of the dead dog books- Old Yeller, either) and she will soon be reading To Kill A Mockingbird, another of my favorites. She reads a lot of dystopian teen literature (too much, in my opinion) so I like the choices of books for her English classes.

  126. Andi March 10, 2016 at 2:02 pm #

    We actually have a different take on this. We are at an urban elementary school with kids from all socioeconomic backgrounds. Our school is working hard to close the achievement gap, and we have learned that the more parents are involved in their kids education, usually the better kids do. So, having parents sign homework and reading logs is less about having parents micromanaging their kids, and more about getting more parents involved in their kids’ educations to close the achievement gap. I’m about as free range as they come, but this makes sense to me. Individual parents can always talk with teachers and come to an agreement about not signing if they want to teach their kids responsibility, etc. Overall, this is to get the parents who aren’t involved with their kids’ educations involved, and to make them aware that kids should read at night, etc. It’s sad, but some parents don’t read to their kids or make space and time available to their kids for reading.

  127. andy March 11, 2016 at 3:14 am #

    “Our school is working hard to close the achievement gap, and we have learned that the more parents are involved in their kids education, usually the better kids do. So, having parents sign homework and reading logs is less about having parents micromanaging their kids, and more about getting more parents involved in their kids’ educations to close the achievement gap.”

    I love magical thinking behind this. Parents who care about education and know what to do have children who do better in school. Therefore, we will force parents who don’t care as much or don’t know what to do to sign logs, assuming that signing log will have same impact as whatever former group of parents did.

    The logic is that since both “signing log” and “whatever former parents did” both falls into general “involved in education” category, both will have the same impact. Priceless logic.

  128. E March 11, 2016 at 10:30 am #

    @andy — I understand what you are saying and we kind of went thru this with the “carpool sign” about the “don’t be a crutch for your kid’s stuff”. It’s as if you believe the no parent can ever be influenced by communications from the school. Sure – working one on one with parents probably have the biggest benefit, and schools do that as well.

    Raising awareness with parents and the kids in regard to expectations isn’t always “magical thinking”. Sometimes efforts do shift behaviors.

    I believe there’s a difference between saying “I’d like you to read 20 minutes a night” to the kids and then leaving it there vs “I’d like you to read 20 minutes a night and log it on this sheet – get a parent to sign it”. Even if that encouraged the KID to take ownership and have the parent sign off. Some kids do want to please teachers and get positive feedback. Some parents do too. Some kids and parents don’t need the logs for ANY reason.

    Are there extremes at both ends? Kids/parents that this is just a formality and unnecessary? Yes. Kids/Parents that aren’t going to follow the suggestion and read 20 minutes just because they’ve been asked? Yes. Are there a bunch of kids/parents in the middle that will emphasize this because it’s part of their “homework”? Yes.

    Isn’t it possible that some kids will practice reading because a log is part of their homework? Or are you suggesting that the log is completely worthless? Because I’d love to know how that’s known.

  129. E March 11, 2016 at 10:37 am #

    @Andy — I’m not sure I’m following about “former parents”. Is that just saying that logs didn’t exist a few generations ago?

    You know what else didn’t exist former generations ago? Hundreds of TV stations. Both parents working. Electronic games (consoles, tablets, phones). Social Media.

    When I was in elementary school, we didn’t even have a TV on our main floor. It was down in the basement and got about 5 OTA channels. My Mom was home every minute I wasn’t in school. I had plenty of time and not a fraction of the distractions. My school was made up of very white middle class kids who were way more alike than they were different.

    We can keep holding up “we didn’t do this in my day” as some sort of proof of whatever, but is it that surprising that school/methods change when the daily life is vastly different too?

  130. Eevee March 14, 2016 at 1:08 pm #

    Coming at this from the perspective of an educator: the parent signature bit is not (or at least, not solely) because the teacher don’t trust that the kids did the work. It is a way for the teacher to gauge the level of support at home. Time and again, studies and anecdotal incidents have shown that when students have strong support at home for their learning at school they are more successful, particularly in academics. Let me be clear: this isn’t teachers trying to “police” parents by inspecting their level of involvement in their child’s education, they’re not going to call CPS if a parent won’t practice spelling words with little Sam, but rather it helps a good teacher know what resources are and aren’t available at home and helps them differentiate their teaching based on that. If a good teacher sends out spelling lists to be studied and signed and students come back without them signed, it’s probably a good indication that parents don’t have the time to spare to help their child practice, so the teacher should send the students home with a different kind of practice that the student can check on their own. If a student was consistently having everything signed but suddenly it drops off, a good teacher takes that as a red flag that something is going on at home and they should reach out to see if the learning support structure at home has changed so they can make any necessary adjustments. Or, sudden dropping off of parent follow-up could be an indication that a student is experiencing some internal conflict or drama and can prompt the teacher to further check in with their student and see if they need help in other ways, such as academic support or talking to a counselor. From an outside perspective, I can see how the parent signature requirement seems like saying that teachers don’t think students are responsible, but in reality parent signature requests give teachers a lot of important information to inform their teaching, information that families might not volunteer in other ways.

  131. E March 14, 2016 at 2:12 pm #

    Thanks Eevee, I’m glad to see someone chime in and validate that teachers (and schools) are not as 1 dimensional as people like to portray them.

  132. andy March 15, 2016 at 5:07 am #

    @E “I’m not sure I’m following about “former parents”. Is that just saying that logs didn’t exist a few generations ago?”

    I meant the group of parents that gives a damm about school. The argument I reacted to was about children of parents who give a damm doing better then those who don’t give a damm about school. A parents who care about school and whose children did good in school were not signing logs, their children simply learned same attitude from them. Plus, those parents were more educated on average and better able to recognize when child needs more help/tutoring and when child needs to grind it out a bit more. Signing logs will do zero for parents who don’t give a damm attitude or inability to know when help is needed and how to help.

    In this context, having parents sign logs has even less meaning in it then cargo cults.

  133. andy March 15, 2016 at 5:18 am #

    @E If you want me to do what you say, I need to trust you. If I trust you that homework is meant to exercise my child skills and is needed for child to learn, I will fully cooperate. Teacher should says “20 minutes reading a day” when he or she thinks it is needed at this time. Teacher should have parents to sign logs when “20 minutes reading a day” is super important or teacher thinks some children are cheating on it.

    However, if teacher creates homework because she wants force parents to “be involved” as people in discussion suggested, I can not trust that teacher anymore. I will not cooperate automatically. Instead, I will use my own knowledge and brain to determine whether we are in the “helps the child” situation or “adds work to me to make me involved” situation.

    That is what I object to.

    As for sign, the author was exaggerating a lot. Author was either knowingly lying/manipulating or is the easy to panics type of person. Either way, he is not someone to be trusted. I wont follow instructions automatically nor fully trust him in further suggestions about parenting.

    Yes, you can get cooperation by manipulating or lying or peer pressure. You wont get my trust nor respect and don’t deserve it.

  134. E March 15, 2016 at 9:39 am #

    @Andy — I guess I just don’t operate in black/white (parents either really care about education/learning or don’t care at all). I believe, like most things, there’s a huge spectrum.

    I get that we all want to be able to ‘trust’ our teachers, but I’m not going to use every small decision, among the 100s they make as a litmus test. Again, the teacher has the goal/responsibility for educating all kids in her classroom.

    I won’t go on because I think Eevee has said more from an educator’s perspective than anything I could.

  135. andy March 15, 2016 at 12:58 pm #

    @E Evee described some kind of rosy Hollywood fantasy about teachers which has nothing to do with how real world teachers operate. At minimum, teachers don’t have time for such detailed family evaluation and help. They can not provide help to family nor know how. Making sweeping conclusions from missing signature like that is nice for Sherlock Holmes like story, but you will be more likely to do bad conclusions then right ones. Parents can sign everything from school without signature having any relationship to anything and especially parents who don’t support schooling will do that.

    I could go on, but really, teachers have enough work as it is without trying to divine home situation from spellword signatures. That is absurd.

    I am ok with teachers making mistakes. The trust is not about me thinking they are always right, it is about me thinking they are communicating honestly. I am not ok with institutions trying to manipulate me, trying to exaggerate or lying and being condescending in the process.

  136. E March 16, 2016 at 8:36 am #

    @Andy — I guess we’ve strung this out as long as possible. But you’ve basically called an educator a liar, so it’s pointless anyway.

    I have 3 educators as sisters, one as a career, 2 that became teachers a little later in life (one in special ed) and their experiences and stories continually illustrate why/how and how serious they take their roles. Were the perfect? I’m sure not. Did they use methods that they truly thought were going to help them an their students? 100%.

    My personal experience as a parent with kids that went to school indicates that most teachers (sure, not all, but in what profession is everyone the same with the same proficiencies) really DO want to see each of their students thrive. I have 1 child that is very smart, but was also the kid that was a class clown (probably somewhere in the ADHD world) and we had teachers that DID have time to recognize and craft strategies to get that situation more manageable for all of us (mostly her obviously). Some of the things she suggested and allowed in her classroom were amazing to us.

    I’m sorry your experience with educators has left you so skeptical.

  137. andy March 16, 2016 at 10:54 am #

    @E This is getting ridiculous. I am not arguing against teachers in general, I am arguing against people in this discussion, content of one sign and against the idea that teacher is super human able to divine change in home conditions from spellwords list signature.

    People in both this discussion and discussion about sign argued that it is ok to lie or exaggerate to parents when it meant to push them into more freerange parenting style. That is defending lie. If you do that, of course I wont trust you. No one should.

    You keep extending it to trust towards all teachers everywhere. No, all teachers don’t assign homework or chores for parents in order to check home situation as *people in this discussion* claimed and defended. Majority of teachers don’t do that.

    “I have 3 educators as sisters, one as a career, 2 that became teachers a little later in life (one in special ed) and their experiences and stories continually illustrate why/how and how serious they take their roles. Were the perfect? I’m sure not. Did they use methods that they truly thought were going to help them an their students? 100%.”

    Can your sisters divine that home situation from reading logs, but somehow cant from suddenly missing homework? That was assumption in Evee comment. Teachers are humans. You both seem to expect super human abilities from them – ability to miraculously fix broken home when parent stop signing whatever paper is in front of them definitely qualifies.

    Many teachers are overworked just from grading, classes, exams and consultations they have to do. Are you really your expecting teachers to fix social problems around too?

    “My personal experience as a parent with kids that went to school indicates that most teachers (sure, not all, but in what profession is everyone the same with the same proficiencies) really DO want to see each of their students thrive. I have 1 child that is very smart, but was also the kid that was a class clown (probably somewhere in the ADHD world) and we had teachers that DID have time to recognize and craft strategies to get that situation more manageable for all of us (mostly her obviously). Some of the things she suggested and allowed in her classroom were amazing to us.”

    None of it has any impact on sign in previous discussion, whether using signatures to check on home situation makes sense. None of it implies that my son will be more independent if I don’t bring him forgotten item when I caused it to be missing. None of it implies that using social pressure is somehow noble tactic and I have strong suspicion that those teachers did not treated you condescendingly.

    I also guess that those good teachers did told you what they want to do and why openly, instead of inventing indirect moves like “we will assign something that looks like homework but actually we want him to spend more time with child or check brokenness of home” – which is something *people in this discussion* defended.

  138. E March 16, 2016 at 1:03 pm #

    @andy: “Can your sisters divine that home situation from reading logs, but somehow cant from suddenly missing homework? That was assumption in Evee comment. Teachers are humans. You both seem to expect super human abilities from them – ability to miraculously fix broken home when parent stop signing whatever paper is in front of them definitely qualifies. ”

    Where does anyone suggest they can miraculously fix broken homes? I took Eevee’s comments as an example of the kind of tools teachers might use. Is it the only tool? Surely not. Is it *a* tool? Presumably so because she’s deployed it.

    “None of it has any impact on sign in previous discussion, whether using signatures to check on home situation makes sense.”

    No it doesn’t. It means my experience with teachers is that they DO use systems/tools/methods that make sense to them in their efforts to help their class succeed. Did a signed sheet help *my* kid? Not sure. Did some of the other methods she deployed help my kid? Yup. She did have my trust so I’m not going to get bent over the request to do a rather small thing.

    By all means, every parent should do what they really feel strongly about — don’t sign the sheets if you think it’s worthless or counter productive.

    The reality is, we can all sit here and make a presumption about a log/signature. But it’s all pointless – they should ask the teacher themselves. Sure, it takes more time from the teacher’s time (and yours) to have that discussion, but that’s the only point at which a parent can decide if it’s worthwhile.

    Thanks for the discussion. I admit that I was misguided on some of the things you were trying to say and arrived at the wrong conclusion.