um, how does “never” work for you

5/3/09

I’d like to welcome you to a discussion that takes place between Tessa and me on a bi-weekly basis: my crazy notions about education. I would like to pitch a few ideas to the world at large and see where they land, if you don’t mind.

1. Assigning homework to kindergartners is bullshit. If you want to see how to turn your child’s insane wide-eyed imagination into total drudgery and automaton-like conformity, just take a look at this graph:

KindergartenGraph.jpg

I’m sorry, kindergarten is for EATING CRAYONS. It is for finger painting, then putting your finger in your butt. It is for spilling shit all over creation, laughing so hard you wet your pants, and thinking boys are doo-doo heads. As stated in this excellent article in today’s NYT, “a flotilla of research shows homework confers no benefit — enhancing neither retention nor study habits — until middle school.” Did you hear that? MIDDLE SCHOOL.

2. Assigning homework AT ALL is bullshit. Yes, this is where I sound like crazy “I wanna raise the drinking age” guy, but I’m serious. When I was in high school, our day started at 7:30am, and if we did anything artistic or sports-related, we got home at 8pm. Then we had an AIRCRAFT CARRIER load of homework for each class, doled out by teachers who didn’t think any other teacher gave out homework. There were actually not enough hours in the day to be attending school, and even if there were, that’s all you did with your fucking life: you attended school.

I loathed it. I didn’t have one millisecond to pursue any interest in the world I once had. All those weird skills I tell you about, like ham radio, calligraphy, odd languages, composing, carpentry? All begun in junior high, when I still had time to breathe. In the real world, you might have a suck-ass job, but if you’re smart, you leave the job at 5 and come home to do whatever you want. You’re at school from early in the morning to late afternoon… why the fuck do you have to bring it home with you?

Don’t give me that line – used above – about improving “retention and study habits”. All that means is that you’re temporarily retaining knowledge to be vomited out at test time, then promptly forgotten. As for study habits, why can’t you learn that at school itself? Take a class in “using your time wisely” or some shit, so when you come home, you can get on your bike or just lie back and daydream. That’s where most money-making ideas come from anyway.

3. School should start no earlier than 9:30am. Show me a high-schooler, and I’ll show you a fucking somnambulist. Teens have drastic chemical changes in their nervous system that force them to stay up later, while also making them need nine hours or more sleep. Personally, I slept-walked from 1981 to 1985, and only partially woke up for UNC. Story after story shows how later starts would benefit attendance, test scores, academic achievement and sports. Yet there’s always some asinine Puritan moral high ground that accompanies early risers – traditions no doubt handed down from our farming ancestors, you know, like whipping kids with a leather pitchfork strap – that’ll keep our school fettered to the godawful early morning.

I don’t know, I hated school, almost every minute of it. I hated the inefficiency of those vast hours spent doing busywork, the arbitrariness of testing, and the gargantuan slabs of homework for homework’s sake. Don’t get me wrong, I would have loved to have engaged in endless projects that taxed my imagination and my deductive skills, something that forced me to break something down and rebuild it. Hell, I could have even dealt with boring-ass trigonometry and backwater poli-sci if I weren’t so damn tired and didn’t have to take it home.

LucySeedlingsMarkers3(bl).jpg

maybe I just wish it was all like this

27 thoughts on “um, how does “never” work for you

  1. Anne

    I’m with you on homework. I think there should be NO HOMEWORK, period, until at least 7th grade. And from grades 7-12 any homework should be in the form of research papers, with lots of coaching and instructions in class.
    The school day should be extended by an hour to accommodate more work done *in* class, not at home.
    IME homework is the cause of more school burnout among kids by the time they hit adolescence, and more ugly scenes at home, and more stress and lost sleep for families, than almost any other element of learning. BAN IT! Poster backboards can be constructed in special sessions in class, with ongoing input from the teacher. I think (crossing fingers) we are finally done with those massive three-panel hinged backboard projects that take over my dining room table and cause massive amounts of mess and headache — the printer cartridge runs out of ink at the last moment, etc. (Now watch, our son will get one of those his senior year of h.s. Scream!)
    Also, a researcher at my own alma mater has proven beyond any doubt that teens function on an entirely different clock. They can’t get to sleep early and can’t get up and jump-started until 9 am or so.
    Thanks, Ian. I’m totally with you on this.

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  2. LFMD

    So. . . . when does the Blake-Williams Homeschooling start?
    I hear you. I feel as though I am going through 4th Grade a second time. Helen’s school requires parents’ signatures on nearly all the homework papers, to show that I have reviewed and/or helped her with it all. This is a good thing, I suppose, but I feel as though after my full-time day at the Insurance Job, I start my second full-time job as a 4th Grade Tutor. Helen is smart as a whip, and she does the work well . . but the reviewing/signing/sorting of busywork wears on me and is very time-consuming.
    I could talk about this topic all day, but I riddle you this. . . what kind of school will you place Lucy in for kindergarten? Do tell! Will it be in NY or CA? I am very curious. . .

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  3. scruggs

    I hated we moved away from Atlanta before our son could go to K at his preschool there. It was a Reggio Emilia school and the experience for him was incredible.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reggio_Emilia_approach
    He is in K now and does have homework, but it doesn’t bother me. He gets a little packet at the beginning of every month. It is up to us and our schedule as to when we want to give him any of it. An assignment takes maybe 5min are there are roughly 2 a week. So, no problems with that. What I do have a problem with are the pep rallys they have for the 3rd-5th graders before the end of grade tests…yay test?! Do they wear jerseys with scantron bubbles on them? Another problem with my free public education is that our son has 1350 kids at his K-5 school.
    But, the elementary school does start at 9:15. I don’t know how we would function otherwise.
    Middle school is at 8:30 and high school at 7:45 (ungodly!). The reason, at least in our area, is simple…buses. They have to stagger the starts to use the same buses and drivers. Efficient, but sucks.
    I am an old-school mathematician. I say pour that homework on!

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  4. josie

    I agree on the whole K homework concept. I think we as a society are too hung up on using our kids as pawns in some strangely competitive board game that is meant to measure our OWN success. Do you think the K homework exists to appease the parents who want to see some progress in their children’s learning from the comfort of their dining room table? I wonder.
    I don’t know about the rest of the grades; I’ve formed no opinion on this subject. Was that stuff really so hard? I don’t recall homework being anything to sniff at until high school…well, ok; maybe 8th grade algebra was angst-inspiring.
    NA sounds as if it was a meat grinder back then…wonder what it’s like now…how their philosophy has evolved, if at all.
    On another note, what do you do with a K kid that is BEGGING for homework? My kindergartner is preternaturally programmed for school. She cannot wait to get homework…it is a rite of passage she is jonesing to achieve (that and losing some teeth). I am guilty of assigning it just to appease her sense of accomplishment.

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  5. jason savage

    i thoroughly enjoyed the NY Times piece yesterday. I tend to lean towards the kindergarten-is-for-eating-glue school of thought, but have no clue as to the larger benefits or negative influences of homework. very interesting to hear the various viewpoints. i hated school from about 9th grade on, but mainly because I was (am) lazy and hated doing work at night. I’m not sure it was the system’s fault.

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  6. Jennifer M

    I totally agree with everything you wrote, Ian. I have a seventh grader and a third grader, and homework has been a thorn in my side since the oldest went to kindergarten. You know what else sucks? Summer books reports! That’s right, SUMMER book reports that are due the first week of school. This year, I’m temped to write “Bite Me” across the book report packets. Unfortunately, the summer book reports count as part of the seventh grader’s language arts grade for the first quarter.
    Here’s one of my favorite websites: stophomework.com You should definitely check out the quick facts about homework section.

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  7. Anne

    Jennifer, thank you for that link.
    Here’s the meat of it:
    “…A flotilla of research shows homework confers no benefit — enhancing neither retention nor study habits — until middle school.”
    It’s fun and, well, “cute” when tiny elementary school kids do their first homework. But just you wait, new parents; just you wait. As Laurie said above, homework monitoring, helping, signing etc. will be your new second job – for years. And just wait for the annual science/ history/ geography/ whatever fairs required in most schools by middle and high school. Gahhhh!

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  8. LFMD

    I have been thinking about all this a little more. . . and I have to say that my big beef is SPORTS. Disclaimer: I LOVED school. Loved homework, did my projects the same day they were assigned, could not get enough of the homework. My parents did not know what to think of me. Graduated valedictorian and was sad to leave my high school because I loved the classes. On the other hand, hated sports. Hated gym. Hated the President Physical Fitness Tests each year. Always the Last One Picked.
    Anyway, my daughter is an interesting mix. She loves school and loves sports. She loves sports so much that she is playing two sports this season – lacrosse and soccer. I put my foot down and tried to limit it all to one sport, but I was vetoed in our family of 3 voting process.
    Sports is out of control. The parents are pushy, the coaches schedule 2 practices a week each (some practices at 4pm), and I literally sit with my iPod on during the games so that I don’t have to hear the coaches and parents. One girl got hit in the head during a soccer game on a really hot day recently, and her parents not only DID NOT ask that the girl be excused from the game, but yelled at her from the sidelines to “play through” her injury. WTF??? I was so mad that I asked the mother, “Do you really think that Emma should be playing??” She and her husband gave me the stink eye and ignored me. If it were Helen who got hit in the head, I would have been on that field so fast. . .
    I have seen screaming matches between refs and coaches, and the only ones who show good sportsmanship are the girls — and I don’t know how they manage to with all the screaming and shouting going on. We live in a fairly affluent area, and I am afraid that the competitiveness that goes with it is ruining sports for everyone.
    Unfortunately or fortunately, Helen is really good and I think I have a lot of years of attending games with my iPod. I tell her every game that the most important thing is to have fun. I am rambling. . . what is my point? Oh yeah. I am not a fan of a lot of homework, but I am really NOT a fan of organized sports among kids nowadays. I know all the statistics showing that team sports is good for girls’ confidence, keeping them out of trouble, etc., but there should be a balance somewhere. And to all those parents who are living and competing vicariously through these poor little girls: SHUT THE F UP.

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  9. Piglet

    I’m with LFMD on phys ed.
    I spent 12 years of school hating sports and gym with a hot purple hatred, going to great lengths to avoid it and hiding in my house when there was a big game. I was in music and theater, which got zero attention from the school budget or the general public compared to the jocks.
    the clicker: My freshman year in college, I discovered the fitness center and found that I loved getting in shape. A year later I was into bodybuilding and running. I would have developed an interest in health and fitness all on my own or given any encouragement other than the sorry-ass system the school used to kick any atheltic interest out of me.

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  10. T.J.

    My son is in 7th grade. He did so well in 6th grade (straight As) that he was allowed to participate in the Duke (ugh!) Talent Identification Program. He took the SAT in January, with several other 7th graders. He did really well, including a 680 in Critical Reading. This will give him the opportunity over the next several years to participate in some weekend programs, and he goes to Cameron Indoor (ugh!) for a Grand Recognition Ceremony in a couple weeks.
    He has some issues, though. He’s Asperger’s (an autism spectrum disorder) and has real difficulty in social situations and tightly structured environments. Unfortunately, this is exacerbated by the whole middle school environment/social and physical changes thing. Most of his teachers had no clue how to deal with him. In particular, his math teacher refused to work with him, and he simply locked down. He wouldn’t do any of his homework, which resulted in many, many, wars at home. He wouldn’t participate in class; instead, he’d read a chapter ahead, which meant he was constantly bored in class. He actually flunked math the second nine weeks, didn’t do particularly well in the others, and got several in-school suspensions.
    Eventually, we removed him from the regular classroom. He’s no longer with his peers, nor is he being taught by his teachers. He’s in the “special” class, and doing much better. His grades have come back around, he’s not as stressed out, and… he finishes his homework in school, so he doesn’t have any at home!
    We have decided, and the school system has (pretty much) agreed to have him skip 8th and go on to a technology-based high school next year. He wasn’t gaining anything socially with his peers, and maybe he’ll be challenged academically and not so bored that he gets himself into trouble.
    Government schools generally suck, especially if you’re an exceptional (either especially high or especially low) student.
    [soapbox] This probably won’t be very popular here, but I’m in favor of full school choice, with 100% tax credits for education, whether you’re paying for your own kid to go to school, homeschooling, or giving money for someone else’s kid. This would apply to corporations that want to sponsor scholarships for kids, too. You’d be able to choose a school that allowed prayer, or not; one that requires homework, or not; one that starts at 9:30, or not, etc. I know everyone assumes that all the poor kids would fall through the cracks, but I believe the tax savings (no “No Child Left Behind” crap, no DOE on the federal or state level, no school board, no more layers for bureaucrats) and resulting efficiencies from competition would result in better, cheaper education for everyone.[/soapbox]

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  11. Emma's Big sis

    One thing I’ve learned about homework is that parents will never agree on what amount is right for their own kid. In Portland, the trend is to convert elementary schools to K-8. As a result, you are with the same kids and parents for a very long time. You get to know these families. The range for what is the right amount of homework for these 7th graders is all over the board. Earlier this year, a parent sent out an email stating that he thought the 7th graders had far to little homework. I happened to agree and thought it would be a unified message that we would send to the principal. It turns out that most of the class disagreed, saying their kids were doing over 2 hours of homework a night. Every kid has the exact same amount of homework, and I can tell you that my kid averages about 15 minutes a night. Kids approach homework differently…
    About a later start time, I have a 13 year old who is horrified at the idea of being in school til 4PM. He sees it as a waste of daylight. He would much rather get there earlier and get home earlier.
    I think homework in elementary school is to teach kids how to do homework when it counts – which I think is high school. My daughter started high school this year and had no problem with the transition, partly because she knew how to come home and get her homework done. Kindergartners having homework is crazy. 3rd graders reinforcing math skills and learning to do a book project doesn’t seem so out-of-line. Homework as busy work for the sake of having homework is a waste of time. If they are going to be doing work at home, make it meaningful and something that will help them when they are in high school.

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  12. Sean

    Our friend Nina went to “Crossroads School” there in LA, and it sounds like they did a really good job of letting her do her own shit. Plus, she got into Sarah Laurence and is probably one of the best educated, smartest people I’ve ever known.

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  13. Njal Brennman

    Home-school the little maggots. :) Our boy, who’s a bit Aspergersy, had a wretched K and 1st grade in the public schools, a good second and third in a Montessori school, and has been homeschooled now for the last two years.
    If school is a full-time time job—and who of us wouldn’t quit a job as wretched as that of being an eighth-grader—then to expect our kids to come home and do another few hours of work just really stinks.
    The idea of free public education is a wonderful thing. The reality is that most of our educational methodology is ineffective and obsolete, failing entirely to develop in our kids a life-long love of learning.

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  14. chm

    I agree with every word of this. High school was an absolute slog through bullshit assignments and extracurriculars. What it taught me was how to discern shortcuts and get the best possible result for the least amount of work. This is, I admit, a useful skill in many ways, but it is not approach that is likely to help one achieve lasting success. At the very least, it was something like the opposite of what I was supposed to be learning.

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  15. Big Scott

    TJ, I’m glad that your son seems to be getting to a place where he’s having success in school.
    I am, however, interested to know how you think that a 100% tax credit would be a panacea for education. What you’re proposing might be interesting in areas where you have a mix of good and bad schools. Sort of like a survival of the fittest thing — a free market economy of the mind, if you will. Kind of like our economy, which also needs no oversight . . .
    I don’t have statistics readily at hand to make the argument for a nationalized education system (and I don’t even like the idea of making that argument), but I have stood in schools in the Mississippi Delta where 99.5% of the students qualify for free or reduced price lunches and I fail to see how a 100% tax credit helps families that are so poor they don’t have to pay taxes in the first place. These are honest, hard-working people who live in a place where there is no school choice now and there won’t be any school choice if you pile up tax credits to the heights of the levies because there’s no money in it. Corporations aren’t going to provide scholarships, because there aren’t enough corporations that are willing to locate plants/offices in these areas because there’s no money there.
    Is the current system perfect? Absolutely not. Are tax credits and free school choice going to cure all of the woes of education in this country? I’ll bet most of the residents of the Delta don’t think so.
    And, yeah, I rose to the bait.

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  16. kjf

    I would take a look at Montessori schools in your area. I remember picking up my kids at school and asking them what they did that day and they would say they were polishing shoes and planting flowers and washing dishes and playing with puzzles. The focus as I recall is that the child’s play is actually how they learn and that the projects the kids do during the day are instructional. I also recall there was a heavy emphasis on kids working together and it was just unlike any school I ever saw. And there was never any homework.
    I used to be able to sing all the virtues of Montessori schools but that was 25 plus years ago but I know both of my kids say they will send their kids to Montessori schools when the time comes.

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  17. Neva

    Okay, I can’t help it. I’m going to play devil’s advocate here. Not because I disagree with you Ian, because I don’t really, for the most part.. but just because it’s kind of fun.. But, I do disagree with TJ quite a bit.
    I went to public school and I turned out pretty okay I think. Having choices for your kid is good if your kid doesn’t thrive in the public school environment and I don’t fault parents for sometimes wanting something different. But, as Big Scott says better than I can, there just aren’t going to be a lot of choices for folks in the great majority of rural America so the whole school choice argument to me is just a more PC way to ask for a tax credit for your “country club” private school. I know there are some unique and interesting private schools around and I know that not all are simply locations for white flight however I say “country club” school because of my experience as a kid in a small southern town. In the south at least the great majority of private schools were created in response to segregation in the 60s and remain heavily segregated. I heard someone recently mention she was taking her kids out of public schools because they were “too diverse”. These private schools aren’t necessarily better education. Many have few certified teachers or follow any well studied curriculum. Throw things at me if you like but I think that going to a school with people who look and think like you do can create adults who know nothing else, who see different colors and backgrounds as “other” and want to remain in their gated community and their isolated existences. I’d trade more homework and EOG testing if it meant my kid was better prepared for the real world of all sizes, shapes, colors and ability levels.
    Wouldn’t we all be better off if we were able to find the best practices in schools (be they Montessori or whatever) and incorporate them into the schools we provide to everyone? We have an interest in the education of all the children in this country not just our own after all.
    As far as homework – I would side with Emma’s Big Sis. There is some role for it. Every kid is different and it shouldn’t take over your whole evening. If it does, you need to have a conference with the kid’s teacher and principal and look at how to do better time management or homework should be pared down.
    I also have to add that I guess I’m just too used to the mainstream ideas of education to risk sending my kid to one of these more alternative schools that don’t teach reading until 2nd grade or don’t give grades in high school. Not sure it’s based in reality but I’m afraid that it might encourage too much ambivalence and lack of discipline. I guess I kind of thrive on structure and feel like it’s necessary for me to function in life and in the world. Having rules, homework, grades, etc. provided that for me and I see some value in it still.

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  18. Amy

    In theory I agree that homework in Kindergarten is unnecessary, and last year I would have been jumping up and down in agreement. But this year I am an aide in a K room (in LAUSD) and I can tell you that there are several kids in my class who have really benefitted from homework. In fact, I have sent home extra homework with some of them, because they really needed the practice. And the practice has really worked for them. So I do see a reason for it. Of course, not all the kids need the homework, and it is a bit of a waste of time for those kids to do it. But here’s the thing: the homework is very simple– it takes between 5-15 minutes. My son is also in Kindergarten this year (different room) and he finishes his homework in less than 5 minutes every day. It’s no big deal. Maybe next year, or as the years progress, it gets more difficult and out of control but from what I’ve seen so far, it’s completely do-able.
    Also, LAUSD starts at 8:03am, which works really well for our family since I have a couple of early risers who rarely sleep past 6:30. I would hate waiting around till 9 for school to start. Though I have also read that highschoolers do better with a later start time and would not be opposed to it.
    By the way, that graph you posted is not at all accurate for the kindergarten class I am in.
    I never minded school (or p.e.) so maybe that’s why it’s so easy for me to accept what our local elementary school has to offer. My son has truly loved kindergarten, and learned an amazing amount of stuff. I’ve always been pretty confident that he would adapt and do well in whatever school environment he ended up in, and one year in, that’s been true. We’ll just have to wait and see what the next years bring.
    Overall, I am just of the opinion that parents stress out way too much about school. I know this is a very unpopular opinion. (Eduction! Its THE MOST IMPORTANT thing! One bad teacher and your child is ruined!) Unless you have a child who needs extra special attention–be that on the low or high end–whatever school you go to will work, as long as you have faith in your child and you are involved. Volunteer at the school, attend the fund-raisers, talk with the teachers, bring them extra paper towels and kleenex or whatever else they need. YOu will see pretty quickly if there is a problem. Lots of time the problem is not necessarily the school or the system, but the fit. Maybe your child needs something different. That doesn’t mean every child needs something different.
    In any event, I’m sure Lucy will do fine. Maybe you’ll have end up with a kid who LOVES school.

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  19. Caitlin

    When I was 12 I came across a book in the public library called “Summerhill” about a progressive boarding school in England with basically no formal structure or rules, other than that you were not allowed to hurt anyone else by your actions. I was fascinated by the concept and the groovy ’60s era B&W photos. The school was, and I guess still is, run by the whole community. Everyone from the 6 year olds(! but I guess some Brits do send their offspring to boarding school young) to the adults had an equal vote in the school meeting. Kids were welcome to skip class and spend the whole day running around the woods or making stuff in the art studio.
    So at first I thought this would be amazing. And maybe for the first few grades it would be, and is more sensible than pointless worksheets for 5 year olds.
    But then: I think there’s merit in learning things that you don’t immediately see the point in, or don’t come easily, especially in the older grades (I never would have stuck with Latin if it wasn’t mandatory — and it turned out that then I loved it). It would be possible to graduate from a school like Summerhill with minimal formal instruction in reading, math, or foreign languages. And that would limit a lot of other choices, or force some painful catching up.

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  20. emma

    Wouldn’t it be great if we could have IEPs for all kids? I think that there are some kids who thrive under the Montessori education – play, go at your own pace, no homework – I’ll bet Lucy would be one of those kids. But I think a majority of children need structure and homework and schedules. IMO, my third grader would never have done as well in Montessori as he has done in public school, but there is a kid down the street who I think is brilliant and free thinking and he has done great at montessori. If we could all get IEPs to tell us what kind of education is best for our kids, then those who are suited for Montessori could be placed there (Montessori is a public school here – you have to win a lottery to be accepted) and those who aren’t would go to regular old public school.
    My kindergartener has “homework” if you can call it that. She usually has to read a take home book. She loves it. If that is all that homework is in kindergarten – then I have no problem with it.
    With the high school education that I received, I was ill prepared to handle the curriculum thrown at me as a freshman in college. Would having more homework in high school have helped? Maybe, I don’t know. I had no idea how to study when I reached Chapel Hill. No one there took the time to teach me – a high school teacher would have been better suited with knowledge about me to give me assignments to teach me to learn and study.

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  21. T.J.

    Normally I love these sorts of discussions, but I’ve been away-my son with Asperger’s broke his arm last night!- and I think this thread has moved on. I’ll be glad to continue it here if anyone will post.

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  22. Neva

    Sorry about the broken arm TJ.
    I hope the new school works out for him.
    Here’s more detail on my perspective as regards to this..
    Our daughter Meg will be starting in public kindergarten next fall. She’ll be in a self contained classroom for special needs kids because of her severe delays (no speech yet, not toilet trained, needs help feeding herself). I am immensely grateful for the public schools and their dedication to offering education to all children. Without that (even if it is because it’s legally required) it is unlikely she would be able to go to school at all as no private school would take her on.

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  23. FreshPaul

    To me, structured HW for kindergarten kids (or indeed anyone under grade 4) per se is counterproductive. That being said, basic practice on reading, spelling words, basic math skills, is crucial at that age. It’s hard to overestimate the vaule of those things–especially reading–for younger kids. Call that “homework” if you like, but it’s awfully hard to discount it in the long run. Some music education at that age is irreplacable too…sing and clap and bang on stuff.
    I think the difficulty of this conversation is the tension between “what’s right for my kid” and “what’s right for kids at large”. Parents who are active in their child’s education are going to have relatively successful children regardless of the curricula and pedagogy at their school. Those parents also have a hard time fathoming that other parents often aren’t as concerned/interested/involved as they are, and thus don’t realise that plenty of other kids are getting zilch (or worse) at home. For those kids, school needs to be something more than playtime after a certain age. That underscores a fundamental dilemma of public education–what’s best for the most number of students is by definition not going to serve everyone equally well at large.
    Regarding HW in HS, you’re damn straight they need it. Allow me:
    I teach at a large public HS in an urban district, where I have a phenomenal diversity in my classes. I teach juniors, and I have the very brightest students in the school, and I also teach the weakest students who aren’t full-time special education. All of them have HW every night, except on breaks, where I don’t assign anything. The HW is vastly different, and it’s never “busy work”. (the definition of which, by the way, is “homework I don’t want to do”). For my advanced students, they have to read or write something every night–primary sources, document analysis, history commentaries, something–and their assessments are all essays and critical thinking writing. They have an original research paper to write every quarter and are required to do archival primary research for each one.
    For my basic/standard/(insert euphemism here) students, they also have work every night–it’s generally some less demanding reading and study questions to keep them on track and narrow down what’s important for their focus; I’m trying to get them to ask good questions.
    Is this about “developing reliable work habits”? I guess, but it’s also moreso about them actually learning history, and the vast differences in their motivation, intellects, and literacy demand different assessments. Also, I only see each class every other day, so they have at minimum 48 hours to get help from me and do the HW.
    Is this ideal? Probably not for every kid, but it is a way for me to reinforce/prepare students so that our time together can be most beneficial. If I had an appropriate amount of contact and instructional time with each class and school could drop all of its non-academic duties, then HW would be much farther between and more sparse for the standard class.
    Regarding starting times for HS, that “research” is generally bullshit, though well-intentioned. Our classes start at 8 and end at 3. Pushing them back is only going to have students going to bed an hour or two later; they’re not going to get any more sleep net. HS students will get enough sleep if they want to, regardless of when school starts and ends. Not playing on facebook and texting until 3am is generally an impediment to sleep, and teenagers know it. If school starts 90 minutes later, then the rest of their lives will push back 90 minutes later, including their bedtimes. HS students will get more sleep when they (and their parents) stop spreading them so thinly with countless activities and we do stuff like pare down and streamline the grad requirements, get rid of weighted GPA credits (who the hell do kids think they’re fooling over in Jackson hall anyway? 5.6 GPA? right.), and make assessments authentic, complex, and legitimate across the board.
    Of course standardised testing is bullshit…OF COURSE it is. Racism’s bad too and so is Greg Paulus’ ability not to absorb scrotal antioxidants from DFG. None of those things are going to change…the best thing to do for your kid is be actively involved in his or her education, and that will outweigh any of the bureaucratic inanities at your local school.
    I gotta get going and busy stultifying the next generation…

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  24. Jody

    Homework has been responsible for the most amount of strife between me and my kid for the first 13 years…sorry, no detailed analysis-

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