less -homework revolution
How fed-up parents are changing the way sehools think—and how you can, too By Nancy Kallsh Photographs by Brooke Slezak
used to be extremely pro-homework. In fact, I once wrote an article for this very magazine telling readers how to get kids to stop whining and knuckle down to work. Back then, I could afford to be smug; My second-grader was happily zooming through her ten minutes a night. But a few years later, Allison started coming home with four hours of homework each night, and everything changed. Now there was not only whining but also begging, yelling, and crying—sometimes from both of us. The worst part: hearing my previously enthusiastic learner repeatedly swear how much she hated school. I'd always assumed homework was essential. But when I finally looked into the research about it, I was floored to fmd there's little to support homework—especially in vast quantities. While not every child gets too much, many kids are now overloaded as early as kindergarten. I was appalled (I even cowrote a book about it, The Case Against Homework), so you can bet tbat this time around, you won't be getting any "bow to be a good homework cop" tips from me. Instead, I'm here to call you to action. You can change tbings for your child—even for tbe whole scbool. There are more and more frustrated parents and wised-up schools around the country, so why should your child keep suffering through hours of work? A less-bomework revolution is brewing, and you can join it.
taking back family time
Like me, Christine Hendricks, a mother of three in Glenrock, WY, had always believed in homework. Then her daughter, Maddie. entered elementary scbool. "By the fourth grade, she bad so much, there was no time for after-scbool activities, playing, or simply enjoying our evenings together. We were
parenting.com february 2009
always stressed, and I knew many other families were also miserable." Hendricks decided things had to change—and she had a unique advantage: She's the principal of Glenrock's Grant Elementary School. Together with her teachers, she looked into the research and found what I did; Homework's not what it's cracked up to be. "We decided to do an experiment and eliminate most homework," she says. The one exception: occasional studying for a test. "This is only our second year without it, hut there have heen no backslides in the classroom or in test scores," says Hendricks. "Parents say their kids enjoy reading again because there's no pressure. seven hours, especially at schools that have cut gym, recess, art, and music to cram in more instructional time. If you add on two hours of homework each night, these children are working a 45-hour week. Some argue that we need to toughen kids up for high school, college, and the workforce. But there are other ways to teach responsibility, such as the chores that parents often have to let slide because of studying. And too much homework is actually sapping our children's strength, natural curiosity, and love of learning. "Kids are developing more school-related stomachaches, headaches, sleep problems, and depression than ever before," says William Crain, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at the City College of New York and author of Reclaiming Childhood: Letting Children Be Children in Our AchievementOriented Society. "We're seeing kids who are burned out by fourth grade. Soon, it will be by second grade." Too much homework also means that kids miss out on active playtime, essential for learning social skills, proper brain development, and warding off childhood obesity. All this work doesn't even make educational sense. "It's counterintuitive, but more practice or the wrong kind of practice doesn't necessarily make perfect," says Kylene Beers, president ofthe National Council of Teachers of English and author of When Kids Can't Read, What Teachers Can Do. For example, children are able to memorize long lists of spelling words—but many...
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