Anais Nin said, “We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.” That is why I love to write! I need the chance to review and reflect. Yet part of this blog needs to be feeling, checked by fact, at least as far as certain subjects go. One of these subjects is this week’s reaction to my third grade daughter’s homework load.
To say that my daughter gets a lot of homework feels like an understatement. Four regular math sheets; plus two extra math exercises; plus new reading fluency sheets; plus a regular spelling test and a vocabulary test, are typical homework for this girl. She also is expected to read 80 minutes a week, which is fine for my book loving daughter. Yet I am not sure this is abnormal. Perhaps this is the normal progression from 2nd grade. Perhaps this is one of those “new normal” situations. Yet, I do not remember much homework at all, until I was considerably older. I know times have changed. There are the demands of “No Child Left Behind” and New York State’s Core Standards. It has all seemed okay, until the night she seemed to come undone by it. That is when I got concerned; a little upset; and a whole lot of weary! When my girl’s tears start, my concern and examination of this issue grows.
What is the proper amount of homework for a third grader or any grader? Liberty Mutual’s website, “The Responsibility Project,” asks this question in their piece “The Homework Revolt,” by Andrea Bennett. In the article, Bennet reacts to a “New York Times” piece that looked at this issue. Dr. Harris Cooper, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke University, states in the article titled “New Recruit in Homework Revolt: The Principal” that the ten minutes per grade has generally been found effective for students and teachers. At this point, lessons and good study habits are being reinforced. But Dr. Cooper cautions against a point of diminishing returns, once ten minutes per grade level is passed. The Times article states there is little research showing a lot of homework increases learning or improves grades. The article then examines various school district reactions to homework. Many administrators and teachers are listening to parents and reducing the homework load. Yet other critics are saying such policies are breeding the “wimpy factor” in our children, and leave them unprepared and lagging behind.
In talking to parents of other third graders, I know homework can vary by teacher and by school. I know reactions can vary with students. My daughter is a very intense, small little girl. She wants to excel! The jury is still out for me about what I feel on this situation. Thing is that you don’t get a second chance to educate your child. Looking at the history of USA education since the 1950’s there is a definite ‘knee-jerk’ reaction to perceived threats that we are falling behind other countries in respect to education. Problem is we and our children pay the price for these massive swings in education policy.