Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Random Ponderances

I am back from a week with Foody, his mate Cakes and my new grandson Jupiter.  I went solo a few days so Cakes could start a new job.  Let's just say I am exhausted and leave it at that.  I am hopelessly in love with Jupiter and believe him to be quite gifted at the age of 8 weeks.  I secretly did all the 'autism checks' and thus far see no signs of him facing what his Uncle Superman has to.

When I got home, I found myself truly frustrated... no angry... about a school related issue.  You know how you can leave a situation that you have accepted as normal and when you return you realize how just plain wrong it is?  Well, I am in that space now.

I have long been interested in the issue of homework.  I have read many different scholars on the issue including Marzano and Kohn.  I have experienced homework as a student, a parent and a teacher, so I figure I have a certain level of expertise here.  So, I am compelled to share.

What I remember as an elementary student was not having homework until 5th grade and it was minimal.  We were supposed to work on our math facts, but rarely, if ever, had specific homework assignments.   I do not remember reading 20 minutes every day.  I am a prolific reader as an adult .... but only since early high school.  I hated to read when young because it was just too hard... and I now believe it was too hard because I was not developmentally ready to learn to read.

As a special education teacher, even though I feel a sense of urgency for my students who are losing ground every minute due to various learning and behavioral difficulties, I never assign homework to my K-5 grade elementary kiddos.  It doesn't seem humane to me.  These kiddos expend so much more energy than others just to get through a day of school, why rub their noses in how behind they are by making them revisit what they didn't understand earlier in the day? And many times without support or misdirected parents.

Many schools have already taken recesses away for the sake of cramming more reading minutes in the school day.  This disregards all the beautiful research done on the benefits of movement and pretend play.  So, let's take away recess and add more homework. Boys in particular are suffering here, people!  Just read The Trouble with Boys by Peg Tyre.  That will be another post entirely.  Stay tuned.

As a parent, I am frustrated beyond belief at the amount of paper my kids bring home.  The amount of worksheet bullshit homework they are assigned and the lack of real instruction happening during the school day to provide meaningful background in preparation for homework is disappointing to say the least.  And I consider my kids' teachers to be good.  One relies a bit too much on the text book-worksheet relationship, but her heart is in the right place, she really knows my kid and she makes meaningful accommodations for his learning disability.

I resent how many evenings are spent re-teaching my kids concepts that should have been taught and internalized to a certain depth before homework is assigned.  As a teacher I NEVER EVER assign homework to my students that I am not positively sure they can do independently and that will benefit them by helping to solidify the concept.  And you know what?  I have plenty of other life lessons to teach my kids.  I would like the time to do that.  Instead, I find myself re-teaching academics.

And I am always aware of what my students need in a holistic sense.... and for the most part, homework ain't it.

Most of us are in professions where we work our 8-5 work days and try to leave work at work.  Our elementary kids should do school from 8-3 and be allowed to be kids, to spend time unencumbered by that dreadful heavy cloud of homework over their heads.  It negatively impacts lots of kids and families.  There is a developmental time and place for homework and I argue that it is not in elementary school.


  1. Hi! I just found your blog about a week ago and am so happy I did! I teach inner-city 5th graders who are Emotionally Disturbed in L.A. I used to teach a "mild/mod" SDC class in a similar demographic, but in Orange County, CA.

    I TOTALLY relate to what your are saying. I had a similar issue at the school where I used to work (for three years). The lack of awareness is shocking. It also proof to me that many parents of typical-to-high functioning children are blind to the problems of students like ours. More offensively, their attitude is also evidence that these parents see no real value to their lives.

    If only these types of parents, all too common in most areas of primarily Republican, affluent Orange County, could see the value of our students lives. If only they could understand that keeping the dignity of our students intact is just as important as keeping the dignity of their children intact. If only they could understand that students like ours are the least of our society. As Jesus said, " you treat the least of us is how you treat me...", (paraphrased, but accurate).

    I hope that someday our students, the least of society, will be treated with the same value and dignity of those children blessed with typical to high levels of ability and intelligence, blessed with access to resources and opportunities, blessed with parents who are able to help them with their homework, blessed with nutritious meals on a consistent basis, blessed with all of what our students are not.

    And bless you for what you do.


  2. Would you believe (of course you would) I've been criticized for not assigning enough homework? Classroom teachers really can't win on this issue. If the homework doesn't have value, don't assign it. Period.


Although I am dangerously opinionated, I am a flexible thinker and welcome your thoughts.