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The homework myth

Original post made by Menlo mother, Menlo Park: Downtown, on Mar 7, 2007

I'm disappointed to see Menlo Park school officials backpedal on the District's homework "ban."

It seems to me they have a thoughtful and well-reasoned policy on limiting homework for young children.

As the mother of a future Oak Knoll kindergartner, I wasn't aware of the homework policy until I saw it on the news. After reading Principal Ackerman's letter Web Link
I am even more pleased to be sending my child to Oak Knoll.

I'm sure that the school gets plenty of grief about the policy from pushy parents with an eye to their first-grader's ivy league college applications, but personally, I am this close to sending Ackerman a fruit basket and a thank-you note.

By the way, I think the Alfie Kohn book he's quoting is "The Homework Myth." (Read about it here Web Link but buy it at Kepler's!)

Comments (10)

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Posted by Comments
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 7, 2007 at 4:55 pm

Principal Ackerman and the school district didn't "backpedal on the homework ban" because THERE NEVER WAS A HOMEWORK BAN. The specific directions that Principal Ackerman provided in his email to parents last fall about the future of homework (emphasize reading as the primary homework activity for young children, don't assign homework for homework's sake, don't go over the district time limits, etc.) are entirely consistent with the district's homework policy which has been in place for several years. The only news media that has actually gotten the story right is The Almanac.


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Posted by Mr. Man
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Mar 7, 2007 at 5:03 pm

This comment is neither here nor there, but is about homework in elementary school.

My chief memory from first grade is the smell of heated yellow paper with blue lines.

I never completed my arithmetic homework. Instead, I balled up the partially done assignments and stuffed them into my desk. Don't ask me why; I don't remember. I was just ornery.

The nun who was teaching the class eventually discovered this undone work and made take it home and complete it. My mother ironed every one of them and handed them off to me to finish. It was a rueful day for me. And I don't know if I learned anything.

I was never a good student and never liked school. I still can't stand entering a classroom as a student.


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Posted by anonymous person
a resident of another community
on Mar 8, 2007 at 11:04 am

Mr Man - I had to laugh at your story of balling up the homework in first grade as that was so reminiscent of my own experience. I remember thinking very clearly that all of the "make work" was just stupid and pointless.

That all worked out fine until my parents looked through my desk at teacher night parent conference. My dad came home and lost it yelling at me.

After that I learned to clean out my desk and remove my name from any assignments getting tossed in the trash prior to my parents coming to school.

I guess it worked out ok, I still graduated from college and grad school with high honors and went on to earn a reasonable eight digit net worth.


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Posted by Menlo mother
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 9, 2007 at 11:02 am

If you measure success in terms of net worth, I guess I'm an abject failure. However, thanks to spending three years at an early version of a charter school, where the homework only was assigned if you needed extra time to master a concept, the public school system never succeeded in squashing my love of learning. (although there were some close calls in junior high!)

I truly believe the world would be a better place if more kids grew up to be avid readers with a healthy sense of intellectual curiosity. That's not something that can be measured in dollars or test scores, but it's valuable nonetheless.


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Posted by commonsense
a resident of another community
on Mar 9, 2007 at 2:25 pm

Mr. Man, maybe your school should have assigned humility homework for you.


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Posted by Mr. Man
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Mar 9, 2007 at 3:48 pm

Humility homework? So not liking school is an indication of arrogance? Excuse me for having my own agenda for my own life. Maybe obedience is up there with humility in your pantheon of virtues, commonsense.


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Posted by anonymous person
a resident of another community
on Mar 9, 2007 at 4:10 pm

My guess is that the humility comment was directed at me for mentioning financial net worth.

Hey, really I wasn't trying to self aggrandizing. There are literally hundreds of thousands of wealthier people than myself in the country and I strongly suspect millions of people with higher IQ's. And probably 10's of millions of more strongly motivated individuals.

It seems to me that so many parents believe that it's healthy for their 9 year old to be doing 3 hours of homework so that he/she has a chance to get into an Ivy league school. And for what reward? To be top dog? To prove to the world that they are smarter, better looking, and more worthy of adulation? What is it that these parents want for their kids?

My only point is that I have absolutely zero belief that pushing too hard too early has absolutely zero correlation with academic success, and even less with financial success.

I certainly do NOT mean to equate financial success with life success. That excercise is left to the reader.


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Posted by anonymous person
a resident of another community
on Mar 9, 2007 at 4:13 pm

hmmm, just read what I wrote, and I have to add that I do believe that pushing too hard has a schooling correlation, I just don't think it's a positive one. etc, etc.


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Posted by Menlo mother
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 9, 2007 at 4:48 pm

I appreciate your comments, anonymous person. There's no shame in being financially successful, just as there's no shame in being something other than rich.


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Posted by a former oak knoll parent
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 6, 2007 at 7:39 pm

Too little to late for me. My sophmore and 8th graders were right in the middle of big homework days at Oak Knoll. If I had it to do over again, I would have been the one in charge of what my kids did after school, not the teachers. Instead of cooking, gardening, PLAYING, or doing household chores, homework always had to be done. Since my 8th grader took forever to get her homework done, the evening hours consisted of arguments, groans and sadness many nights. The homework by the way was the most uncreative boring work that should have been done in the classroom. If grade school homework is to be done, how about some creative, interesting tasks, like counting how many doorknobs and subtracting the amount of faucets for first graders. I messed up but for parents of new oak knoll students, be strong, you do have the power to call the shots. Keep your kids happy and stress free for as long as possible.


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