Monday, October 22, 2007

Excuse Me While I Rant

So, what has my pantyhose in a twist?

There was a column in yesterday's Patriot-News reprinted from the Wall Street Journal by a columnist named Jeff Opdyke. Apparently, he wrote a piece a few weeks ago on what he believes is an excessive amount of homework his kids have and how it interferes with family time. He received thousands of letters from parents, teachers and others who agreed.

Let me just say that after I read Mr. Opdyke's column yesterday I was fuming. The parents think that homework has become so excessive that their kids have no time to be kids.

"What is meaningful," says one mother, is "free time after school playing outside, family dinners free from stress and pressure, lazy Saturday mornings filled with tickle fights, cartoons and a big pancake breakfast, Sunday evenings spent relaxing rather than dreading school or cramming for a test."

Another parent chimed in saying, "There's barely time for dinner and no quality family time with our children that isn't controlled by upcoming tests and papers due." Homework also has interfered with church, vacation, movies and visits from friends and family. "The weekends are so jammed with studying and writing," Ms. Brooks says, "that we've reached a point where we've actually told our girls not to worry if they don't get that almighty A."

Hey, I'm all for lazy weekend mornings and pancakes, and I love family dinners and visits with friends. But the problem isn't the homework, it is the 64 other activties that these parents have their kids involved in after school and throughout the weekend. It's because as soon as the school bell rings they are jetting off to ballet, karate, piano, gymnastics, soccer, baseball, Boy Scouts, football and a host of other activities that have taken over the after school lives of our kids.

You want your kid to climb trees? Great! Then re-evaluate all the activities that are taking the place of that free time. I don't believe homework is the variable that needs to be fixed.

Back in the WSJ article, another mom says she and her husband are:

"big believers in formal education," but that the amount of homework was so absurd that she decided her son did not need to do his homework any more.

As long as he knew the material, "I was fine, and he could skip the assignment," she says. "If he messed up on a test, but knew the material, I was fine. I told him no one ever was going to care what grade he got on a second-grade math test, and I made it clear that as his parent, I was making the decision to override the teachers because I believe the school system has some fundamental problems."

Ms. Woods told her son's teacher of her decision as well. "If you maintain regular communication with a teacher, explaining that you are on top of your child's progress and that the stress is too much, most teachers will be OK with it," she says. "The ones who aren't should be ignored anyway." (my emphasis)

TEACHERS SHOULD BE IGNORED?? What are we teaching our kids with that kind of behavior? How about, 'Be lazy and if your boss gives you a hard time just ignore him?' or 'Don't try and tell me what to do?'


Okay, I must go now before I pound my keyboard to shreds. However, tomorrow, after much deep breathing, I'm going to post some reasons why homework is a good thing...even lots of homework.

And, hey, you may not agree with my outrage and think homework is out of control. Please don't be afraid to comment---I would like to hear any other opinions. I promise to be kind.


Hands-Free Heart said...

I think homework is good. In our case a lot of homework would not be a good thing... and we don't have the kids in any weekday activities.

My 4yo son has regular homework and extra sporadic assignments for his Pre-K class in a school that goes up to 8th grade. He goes all day Tue/Thur. He rarely has any time to do homework the evening he gets home... it's always completed on non-school-days. He does have one hour of playtime at a careperson's home before riding home with Dad. When they get home, it's suppertime and then bath and pjs, then snack, brush teeth and off to bed by 7:00 (he has to get up by 6:15).

Once he gets to first grade (and is going to school every day) how will we fit in the homework? I think an active growing boy will need some physical activity after sitting in school all day. Will I have to take away his one hour of playtime and have the caregiver supervise his homework? Will he need less sleep by then?

Melissa said...

Wow! I am a fan of homework, minimal homework, but I would NEVER dream of dictating my child's assignments to her teacher! That's called HOMESCHOOLING. Unless they are asked to participate in something that goes against our values, we do what the teacher tells us to do. You're right, our homework stress is on nights where there is soccer or piano lessons. We're learning how to handle this reasonably and we TURN OFF THE TV!

Why do they always find extremists to interview about this stuff...oh, I know! Because my answer of "homework is good for kids" would be such a boring, in-the-majority answer. And, that is just not thought-provoking enough to sell papers!


On Fire For Jesus said...

Personally, its just another sign of the laziness and foolishness of this society.

Ugh, I am reading Proverbs right now and I'm feeling the judgemental part of me is rising up and wanting others to step up to what we are supposed to be.

Maybe I should go pray about my judgement!!!

TCC said...

Ok...I'm going to weigh in here. Homework is not a bad thing. It's purpose is to reinforce what is being taught in the classroom or it is in preparation of what will be taught the next day in class. However I will also say that 5 math problems on a concept is fine - there is no need for a child to do 20+ problems.

Regarding the parents concern about papers being due. It is likely that these papers were assigned with days/weeks (depending on the size of the paper) before the due date and if the parents were truly on top of the child's learning then they would be working on this assignment over that period of time instead of cramming the night before. This too applies to preparation for tests. I wonder how much of the anxiety that they detest is brought on by the fact that their child has procrastinated?

It is a matter of teaching our children responsibility and instilling a good work ethic.

My son is only in first grade but he knows the rules. After school he has a small snack, completes his homework and then he is able to have "free time" which may be filled with soccer practice or some other chosen activity.

Ok...I'm done.

Classic MaMa said...

Preach it! Homework is good. Ignore teachers? Yeah great solution there, like teachers don't already have a problem with respect in their classrooms.

Activities Coordinator said...

You should see the amount of work my kiddos get. Their teacher needs to get a grip. It's outrageous!

Oh, wait. I homeschool. Sorry, my bad.

pissed off parent said...

Just wait til your kids are older. My daughter is in 8th grade, and has been an A student her whole academic career, and continues to do well. However, 4-6 hours of homework per night 6-7 days of week is not going over well with me. No, she doesn't have "extracuricular" activites. When would she have time for that? She barely sees her friends at school as it is. She will have a few months of a sport coming up, which she has participated in for several years now. But our nights & weekends are dictated by how much homework she has. And no, she's not waiting til the last minute on a project, cramming the night before a test. This is her daily routine since hitting 8th grade in September. How many hours a night do you think would be appropriate? Yeah, get back to me on that one....