Last Updated April 7th, 2009

How Important is Homework?

Using StumbleUpon the other day, I came across an article on arguments against homework. The article’s a few years old, but schools still give so much homework I found it interesting.

In first grade, my daughter gets 4 nights of homework a week. She has a total of 3 pages of math plus 3 assignments to help her learn a spelling list of 9 words, plus 20 minutes of reading a night.

I have to admit, I like the 20 minutes of reading a night. So does she. We often go over on that one. She even reads on her own sometimes.

But I found it very interesting that there’s no evidence that homework in the early years has any benefit at all.

Just think about it. Kids spend about 7 hours at school, then have to do homework too. That’s a pretty tiring day for a kid. And very little time for play.

It’s not an easy thing for schools to admit that homework might not be worthwhile, especially when they’re under so much pressure to show great academic results. It’s a rather troubled system these days.

My own feelings on this topic are pretty mixed. There are some areas where my daughter definitely needs improvement, but the main one is penmanship. She’s a sloppy writer even for a first grader. Then again, I’m not that neat a writer either.

But I’m also starting to get this feeling that if I wanted to spend time helping my daughter learn, I may as well homeschool. It would take more of my day, but less of hers and let her be more of a kid. If that made for a better attitude toward learning, it would be worth it. Just now she feisty, to put it kindly, about a lot of topics, and work in class and at home can take her far longer than it should just because she’s bored.

The trouble comes from homework that is more or less busy work. In the lower grades it’s hard for teachers to assign anything else. It can be more effective, I gather, in high school.

At any rate, I’m thinking more teachers and school administrators need to read The Homework Myth: Why Our Kids Get Too Much of a Bad Thing. So do parents. It’s worth questioning the worth of most homework assigned.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated February 26th, 2009

Some Days I Really Feel for Working Moms

I’ve always had a lot of sympathy for moms who have to or prefer to work outside the home. It’s not an easy thing, even if it’s your preference. And in Florida they might just be making it worse.

They’re looking at the possibility of a 4 day school week to save money, making the days longer so the kids would be in school the same number of hours.

Can I just say how miserable that sounds all the way around?

Miserable for the kids, who need free time to play every day. Being stuck for extra time 4 days a week in a classroom doesn’t strike me as a good plan for most ages. I don’t see it as being good for the kids academically, emotionally, socially or any other way.

And of course it’s miserable for the parents with kids young enough to still need daycare. That’s more time they’d be paying for, or a rougher time working their work schedule around the kids’ school schedule.

Given the tight finances of many families, that’s a very real concern. Not all of us are fortunate enough to be able to work at home, have a flexible schedule or otherwise be able to cope with these changes, no matter how much we love our children.

One can argue that this is a point in favor of homeschooling, but that’s not a viable solution for all families. And I don’t believe in the bit about only having kids if you can raise them entirely yourself. There’s no need to judge other parents so harshly.

There have been other times I’ve really wondered how working moms do it. Not out of contempt, but admiration for their determination.

When my son had his craniosynostosis surgery, and then helmet therapy, for example. I know I had it far, far easier than parents who worked outside the home. I can’t imagine how one would keep up with the many appointments I had to deal with – sometimes three in one week, all different days.

That’s not to say I don’t admire my fellow at home moms. I do. We cope with tight budgets, lots of criticisms from people who think we’re wasting our talents, and the daily challenges kids love to present. I think I’m lucky to be in that crowd, but I won’t judge those who don’t choose it for one reason or another. We’re all just doing our best for the most part.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated January 1st, 2009

Skill Building for the New Year

Happy New Year!

I’ve been thinking on things I can do to help my readers in this new year, and one thing that came to mind is skill building. So many families are dealing with money problems, or facing the possibility of money problems, that now is a great time to really focus on coping.

For some, it’s time to really get serious about a home business. For others, it might be more about building job skills.

For me, it’s researching some of the best and most affordable ways to build these skills, so I can share the solutions I find.

And so I am of course curious as to what skills you would like to build up this year. Just leave a comment below.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated August 9th, 2008

Homeschooling in California Looking a Bit Better

I’m not the least bit surprised to be saying that the state appellate court in California has reversed the earlier decision requiring that parents be credentialed in order to homeschool. Given the fuss that created, with even the Governor disagreeing, I didn’t think the decision would hold.

I’m not a homeschool parent, and I probably never will be. I won’t say definitely because you never know, but it’s not something I want to do. But I do firmly believe in the right to do so.

Almost more interesting than the article were the comments, especially one from someone saying they were a Future School Teacher. New comments are added to the top of the list, and this was one of the first, so if you want to read it on the site go to the very last page of the comments and take a look:

I think home school should be taught by parents with a credentials because the education cirriclum is has changed since they have been in school.Also, what about those parents who want to home school thier child and didn’t make it pass middle school themselves? How is that suppose to ready their child to be a intellectual asset to society? I think they should be certified in order to teach thier child because educational standards have changed since they were in school and for their child to move foward to college they need the proper education and people interacting skills to move ahead.That’s just my opinion

Scary. Just plain scary. I really hope this future teacher is somewhere in elementary school, because his or her writing skills are simply dismal. Not someone I want to hear about teaching in any school anytime soon.

Sure, undereducated parents trying to teach can be a problem, but not near the one opponents like to claim, just as socialization isn’t the problem they like to claim it is. Most homeschool parents really are trying to do the best they can by their kids. An undereducated homeschooled child going into a public school is probably far more memorable to teachers than the well educated one. It’s a matter of which one takes the most effort from the teacher.

And so long as I’m talking about homeschooling, I thought I would share a resource I came across while using StumbleUpon. It’s a list of free homeschooling resources. Looked good to me, so I’m sharing it.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated August 4th, 2008

The Basic Problem with No Child Left Behind

This is one of the things I love about using StumbleUpon. Sometimes I find articles that I really want to write about, even when they’ve been out there for a while. And with school starting later this month, the No Child Left Behind program is quite relevant.


Too bad, as this study points out, its goals are unachievable.

But no goal can be both challenging to and achievable by all students across the achievement distribution. Standards can either be minimal and present little challenge to typical students, or challenging and unattainable by below-average students. No standard can simultaneously do both-‘”hence the oxymoron-‘”but that is what the No Child Left Behind law requires.

To illustrate the problem further, they go through the test scores from an international math test, in which Taiwanese students scored highest.

Know what? 60% of these students would have scored below proficient by the standards in which we want all of our students to become proficients. Sounds to me like a bar set much too high. Rather like expecting everyone to be above average.

Not to mention all the time teachers end up teaching to the test rather than really teaching.

Add to the problem a statistic I heard on the radio the other day. While schools tend to focus on building skills for kids to go to college, only 25% actually do so.

What are we doing for the remaining 75% who for one reason or another don’t go to college?

I’m all for encouraging children to do their best and excel. I’d love to see my own children choose to go to college. But what we have right now in education is pushing children to all fit into a single mold. It doesn’t work that way.

Some will struggle, some will excel.

Some want to go to college, others know early on that a skilled trade or other career is what they want from life.

I know it’s hard for schools to adapt to the different needs of children. But I do think that there has to be a better way to improve our children’s math and reading skills than by pressuring them with the tests required by No Child Left Behind. And I think schools need to be more open to the wide range of career paths students may take after graduation, so long as the full range of educational options are available to all students.

There are some basics all students should be taught. Reading, history, a good amount of math and science. Money management, running a household and basic home repair wouldn’t be bad either. I’m not trained as an educator, so I won’t go into details. But I can appreciate the need for everyone to have a broad foundation to their education no matter what they choose to do with their lives.

And perhaps most important is to give students the tools they need for learning on their own.

Education is a mess in many places in this country, but every year I become more and more convinced that NCLB is not the solution… that it is causing even more problems in fact.

What do you think?

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

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