October 19, 2006

My Opinion on Homework

Very seldom do I voice my opinion here on politics or other items. They are my opinions and not up for debate (geeze, I sound like Bou). I am open to hearing (or reading) others opinions as long as it stays civil. Want to be nasty to someone, do it via email and stay off my blog. Or be banned.

Since this involves my children and their education... I am getting ready for the battle that is coming up. It seems that in the public Florida education in Palm Beach county that giving 6 year olds up to 3 nights of homework is acceptable. From writing 12 sentences that involve the spelling words they will be tested on once a week to history to math. This is n.o.t acceptable to me. Exactly when is my child suppose to go out and play. They need to build all of their skills at this age... physical, mental, emotional. Not just the mental part.

This seems to be an issue that is not mine alone. From an MSNBC story:

A bright child with twinkling eyes, Ashlyn was eager to learn, and the neighborhood school had a great reputation. But by November, Ashlyn, then 5, wasn't measuring up. No matter how many times she was tested, she couldn't read the 130-word list her teacher gave her: words like "our," "house" and "there." She became so exhausted and distraught over homework—including a weekly essay on "my favorite animal" or "my family vacation"—that she would put her head down on the dining-room table and sob.

And while doing more research, I found this piece out of THIS ARTICLE:

For elementary-school students, Cooper found that "the average correlation between time spent on homework and achievement … hovered around zero." In Kohn's book, he highlights a 1998 study that Cooper and his colleagues did with second- through 12th-graders. For younger students, the amount of homework completed had no effect on test scores and bore a negative relationship to grades.

If you didn't catch it, it said for "younger students". I have no issue with my kids getting homework... say in the 5th grade... but 3 nights of homework in 1st grade?

Yes, I read the articles on why they should have homework. I have no found reasons that have made me change my mind. Particularly when I read something like THIS ARTICLE's data:

The researchers analyzed data from the Third International Study of Mathematics and Sciences (TIMSS), which in 1994 collected a large amount of data from schools in 41 nations across the fourth, eighth and 12th grades. For some analyses, they employed figures from the TIMSS 99, an identical study carried out in 1999 with 50 nations.

Their findings indicated a frequent lack of positive correlation between the average amount of homework assigned in a nation and corresponding level of academic achievement. For example, many countries with the highest scoring students, such as Japan, the Czech Republic and Denmark, have teachers who give little homework. "At the other end of the spectrum, countries with very low average scores -- Thailand, Greece, Iran -- have teachers who assign a great deal of homework," Baker noted.

If that wasn't enough, Tink sent me an article similar to THIS ONE found at Lee Ann's. It's going to be an interesting couple of years...

Posted by vw bug at October 19, 2006 05:43 AM | TrackBack

Boy, I don't remember having "homework" in those early grades, that's for sure!! Read 130 words by November??!! Sheesh!

Posted by: Marie at October 19, 2006 08:41 AM

Yaa, and that example of writing 12 sentences and all... my friend has a 6 year old in the same school my boys are going to go to in the next year or two. It scares me to hear all the work she has to do with her 6 year old. It is overwhelming for the little guy.

Posted by: vw bug at October 19, 2006 10:19 AM

And strangely enough, overall rates of knowledge and intelligence are DOWN. So not only are teachers giving more homework, which has zero effect on learning, students today are learning LESS than ever before in history! So quick, let's make it 7 nights a week of homework since that won't do anything at all!

If you understand the government education system for what it is, then everything will make sense. The government education system has absolutely nothing to do with education. Seriously. They honestly have no desire to educate students. I'm not saying the teacher's don't, but that the education system itself does not. They want to have bodies in classrooms and earn money. Literally. That's it.

If you understand their point of view and realize that this whole "education" thing doesn't concern them, then the system makes perfect sense.

Posted by: Ogre at October 19, 2006 01:31 PM

VW, I feel for that poor little girl, I've sort have been there. You are absolutely right, different children have different learning styles and different rates of learning and to try to fit them into a cookie cutter mold is to crush there innate love of learning.

My sisters and I always went to the same schools and they learned and read quickly, but hated sitting down and studying. I learned and read slowly (because of my dyslexia) but had a photographic memory so once I read it I never had to study. My mom and teachers always compared us which was unfair to them and me. Me they were always rushing and them they were always nagging to study.

In first grade I got suspended 3 times for displays like Ashlyn the little girl you talk about and for talking back to the teacher. You see I found first grade painfully boring and told my teacher so each time she asked what was wrong. Then I was tested and I was skipped to 2nd grade. After 6 months I encountered the same frustrating problems and I was skipped again. After 3 months I was sent back due to knowledge gaps. It was only when I went overseas and was in school 6 days a week from 8 to 5 that I began to enjoy education. because teachers could take the time with all of us or give supplemental homework to kids like me to learn more or fill in the gaps when they were missing.

Now, during that day we all got art,music, gym, study hall & a foreign language every day + math, reading and social science to round out the 8 classes. we also got recess twice a day, so we had fun too. If you were on a team sport then you practiced from 4:00 to 6:00pm. Japanese and Denmark school children have a similar schedule as I did back then. Needless to say with such a long school day we had very little homework other than to review what we learned.

My son began to exhibit the same frustrations I did in pre-k because he was bored. In kindergarden he was so fed up with school he walked out of school 2 times because he said he couldn't take the bordem. I worked with his teacher to develop a special advanced program for 3 of the kids in her class that supplemented her teaching and I went in 2x per week in kinder to teach my son and those 2 other kids. They did so well all 3 got into elite schools. Unfortunately my son went to a school from 7:30am - 6:00 which included an afterschool program. Your probably gasping at that huh. I had no choice back then I had a really demanding job and as the sole bread winner I was working on my options. After 3 months of 3hrs of homework a night (2 at school and 1 w/me) he and I re-assessed and we planned on switching. We did so to a great public school where he got 2hrs of homework a day. it was a bit much but he enjoyed it, while I was the tired one. If I ever suggested we should just get up early to finish he'd say "no mom, I want to finish tonight." NOw I have to say that he's also dyslexic and shows ADD tendencies so it would take almost 3hrs to finish homework. Other kids in his class found the homework too easy, and others too hard. There's a teacher's assistant in the classroom that helps with the kids that are learning at a slower pace. and there's computers and a library in the classroom for those kids who finish quickly.

So I guess the moral is: kids will show us what their learning style and pace is... we just have to observe and honor that so they will have a pleasurable educational experience in school, because those are the kids that will hang in there good times and bad and will do well.

Posted by: michele at October 19, 2006 02:43 PM

The problem??? Standardized test scores. The educational system has "pushed" scores as the ONLY means to measure achievement. First grade used to be where you learned numbers and colors and related BASICS. And our country was tops in student achievement then. Now, No Child Left Behind means pushing ALL children to meet the SAME standards. By 2014, NCLB expects 100% of ALL kids to be performing on grade level. Sounds good, right? What if a child has a learning disability? Or is in special ed? Too bad, so sad, they ALL must perform on grade level. Or it's the teacher's fault. Just as you parents are frustrated, we teachers are frustrated, too. The increased workload you see being sent home is just a fraction of what is being pushed on teachers to push on students. More is being expected of the students to learn, without any more time being given in which to teach.

I have a teaching day from 8:00 - 2:00. Subtract 25 minutes for lunch, 15 for a mandatory recess (which they need...to play TAG!! oops, can't do that anymore!); 25-50 minutes for other areas (music, pe, art) and that leaves about 5 hours for other subjects. There is a 90 minute mandatory period that must be uninterrupted for Reading, and you CANNOT teach any other subjects during this time. So now you have 3 1/2 hours left to teach Language Arts, Writing (essay type), Handwriting, Math, Science, and Social Studies. And you must give them time to go to the library and take AR tests (comprehension tests on library books), as well as get to the Computer Lab to do other tests in Reading and Math that should help them do better on the standardized tests!!!

We will soon see an exodus from the teaching field. I work with some special needs students. They are making progress, but they won't perform on the same grade level standard as everyone else. But kids with an IQ in the low 70's are expected, thru NCLB, to perform the same as kids with 100 or higher IQs.

There is a line from the movie "The Incredibles" that sums up the problems:

Dash: But dad always said our powers were nothing to be ashamed of, our powers made us special.
Helen (Dash's Mom): Everyone's special Dash.
Dash: [muttering] Which is another way of saying no one is.

That's what is going on. Everyone is made special by having to meet exactly the same standards of everyone else. Welcome to the world of Harrison Bergeron.

(Sorry for the long rant...forgive me?)

Posted by: Mrs_Who at October 19, 2006 03:49 PM

No need to be forgiven. I feel bad for the teachers. I understand that is the education system and not the teachers. It is politics and people who do not truly understand what they are voting for. Sad but it is reality. It just sucks. Particularly when I see what is happening with my friends kids. Sigh.

Posted by: vw bug at October 19, 2006 04:14 PM

Wish they had something like project child for you.

Posted by: Tink at October 19, 2006 05:57 PM

You know where I send my kids to school. Nothing for gifted, nothing for kids who struggle. Just straight plain old education.

1st grade homework: Once a week 1 page of math in the last half of the school year. Every day they ask the child to read the story to the parents. One spelling test at the end of the week.

2nd grade: Read on Mondays, spelling with sentences (15 words, write each and write 4 senetences) on Tuesday, Wednesday one page of math, Thursday religion.

It really ramps up in 3rd grade... but its all totally doable. Kids are more self sufficient.

the end.

Posted by: Bou at October 19, 2006 09:22 PM

BTW, in 2nd grade, that's 4 total sentences. Our homework NEVER takes more than a 1/2 hour. NEVER.

Posted by: Bou at October 19, 2006 09:23 PM

I thought of you this morning when I read this education related article about choices NYC parent's of 5 & 6 year olds are making re: schools and grade levels.

I thought you might find the article interesting.

In my previous comment I pointed how it mostly has a lot to do with the developmental rate, style and abilities. Yes, I agree education has been politicized and it is a travesty, but unfortunately we all share responsibility by not becoming more involved in the labyrinthian process of "how we educate our children." So instead of parents and educators saying how they learn now it's our government.

Posted by: michele at October 20, 2006 09:23 AM

What concerns me in addition to that much homework in the 1st grade, is some of the parents that won't be there for the kids to help and ruin the kids self esteem.

Posted by: Sissy at October 20, 2006 09:59 AM

Thanks to all of you for your insite and information. Every little bit helps.

Posted by: vw bug at October 20, 2006 04:41 PM

My 1st grade has reading homework every night, but only 2 pages. Easy ones. We also practice for her spelling test.

My Kindergardener has reading about twice a week.

I have no problem with this, since we read together as a family. We even have my youngest help with the spelling test practice, so she is learning also.

If they had more than that, then I would have to protest also!

Posted by: Amy at October 21, 2006 02:02 PM