Thursday, May 3, 2012

Radio Interview about Homework Overload

I met Torri Chappell several years ago at a talk given by Wendy Mogel, author of Blessing of a Skinned Knee and Blessing of a B Minus

Torri is a very passionate educator and advocate for students.

She recently gave an interview on a radio show called "Transforming Reality."

Torri Chappell, an educator for almost 30 years, describes the dilemma of constant homework overload that is all too common in our school systems today, and how it affects our children academically, emotionally, and psychologically.

Torri holds a BA in International Studies from Emory University and an MBA from the American Graduate School for International Management. She has worked as a teacher, parent educator and consultant, private tutor, and educational workshop facilitator.

This interview can be heard here.

Please feel free to pass this on to others, ESPECIALLY those who have school age children in their lives.

You can contact Torri Chappell directly at

Enjoy the interview!


  1. FINALLY!!!!! Someone who shares my crazy belief that this homework nonsense is so completely pointless!!! My daughter, a 7 year old 1st grader has about 90-120 minutes of homework Mon-Thurs. Every Monday, that awful homework binder comes home. Inside contains the stuff of nightmares, headaches, and binge drinking, or, the "Homework Menu." This asinine piece of paper has been the bane of my existence since Kindergarten (yes- we had about 60-90 minutes of homework in Kindergarten!). This "menu" contains 4 categories: Communications, Math, Social Studies/Science, and Spelling. Each category contains 3-5 assignments. The students are required to complete at least 2 assignments from Communications and Math, 1 from Social Studies/Science, and 3 from spelling regarding the 5 spelling words they test on every Friday. In addition to the "remove every ounce of fun from learning" menu, she has another piece of paper with 10 additional spelling words. On this paper, she must copy the spelling words, circle the "skill sound" and write at least 3 sentences containing as many spelling words as possible. Tonight's sentence was, "I HOPE I can HOP over the MOP before I fall down the SLOPE covered in SLOP to PUT the ROBE on YOUR POT." Yes- Mommy is kind of an a-hole and tries to be as snarky about these STUPID sentences as she possibly can!
    And, look, don't even get me started on the "assignments" on the menu. Here's the one I find to be most educational and productive (that's sarcasm): Pyramids! Here's how a pyramid looks:
    Say your word is MOP. You would write it like so:
    Do you even know how long it takes a LEFT-HANDED, tired, hungry, stubborn, headstrong 7 year old to write 15 words like this? Well, if you guessed a long time, add a half a bottle of wine to account for all the "I know it's stupid, but you have to do it. Come on, let's just hurry up and do it so we can actually do something important."
    Oh- and the left-handed thing.... I'm right-handed. So is my ex-husband. So is pretty much everyone I know. So, I asked the teachers for help in teaching my child to write left-handed. I GOT NOTHING! You mean to tell me in the 14 years you've supposedly been teaching the 1st grade you've never come across a lefty???
    At the end of the day, I'm exhausted, she's exhausted, and we hate each other. So, I do what any good mom would do, I lie. I lie to the teacher and write some BS note about how I "modified x assignment" or I forgot to put x assignment in the homework binder. Now, I have no problem doing this, but I have taught my child that lying a really crappy thing to do. But the %$#^ING homework MAKES me do it!
    Anyway- this is getting way too long. I'm just a very frustrated mom who is being turned into a crazy, grumpy, part-time alcoholic because of the stupid and pointless homework war I endure 4 nights a week.
    Any advice or anything anyone can give me will be welcomed and GREATLY appreciated!
    And one last thing- reading. Now I'm a voracious reader. I was a lit major in college and will read just about anything I can get my hands on. I've been reading to my daughter every day since before she was born. It was always the highlight of my night. Now- I effing HATE it! She's too tired to pay attention. I'm too tired to read. I'm too hungry because I didn't get a chance to sit down and eat as I was too busy doing homework!
    Something's got to give!
    Tomorrow night, we have to write word problems that have at least 4 sentences and illustrate them, write 10 past and present tense verbs and illustrate at least 5 of those, circle skill sounds in 10 words, and write a Venn diagram comparing and contrasting Veteran's Day and Memorial Day. I think that one will be "done" in "sidewalk chalk!"

  2. I hear and feel your pain. I have been there with my kids. I'd like to suggest you send your child's administrators and teachers this link:
    It is a definitive research paper on homework.
    And remember that there are no grades in elementary school. It is perfectly acceptable for you to tell the teachers you value family time more than homework time and/or stick to the NEA's guidelines of 10 minutes/grade of homework per night M-Th. This means a 1st grader should do only 10 minutes of homework, as a general guideline. And READING is the BEST work a child can do. Read with your child everyday, make it a special time, with no pressure. Just read and enjoy the books with him or her.

  3. Wait- there ARE grades now! In fact, in the middle of the FIRST QUARTER, we were actually told by our daughter's teacher that our daughter was "failing the first grade." Those were her EXACT words! She gave our daughter a D in spelling. I asked her why, a) I was JUST hearing about this now, b) why is she getting a D when all the tests they send home are all above 85%, and c) what are THEY doing about it? The explanation she gave was confusing. This is where I first heard about Dolch words. Apparently, my daughter was supposed to know x amount of these Dolch words by the time 1st grade began, but was only taught about 1/2 of the words while in kindergarten. No one indicated we needed to teach her words during the summer. My ex-husband and I are very active and involved in her life. We WANT her to be successful in school.
    Now- here's what happened today:
    My daughter came home and told me her teachers make her feel like her work is "ridiculous' and she's not "clever enough" to have her work displayed in the hall with her classmates.
    I tried to pull more information out of her, but she just shut down and continued to change the subject. It seems my daughter is suffering from low self-esteem (which I feel is the absolute WORST thing for a child to go through and is virtually impossible to overcome)!
    I need help. My ex-husband, while a great dad and everything, seems to be in denial about what is going on with our daughter. I'm literally in tears right now because I just don't know how to help my baby. I know for a fact I do not ever give her ANY reasons to doubt herself or feel badly. I'm not trying to say I'm some perfect, awesome mom, but, sadly, I know all too well how it feels to have your parents make you feel crappy and, well, you know what I'm trying to say. If anything, I have given my daughter an inflated ego or something! I am not an authoritarian type parent, nor am I a permissive type. I just don't know what to do.

    1. The same advice I gave above applies to you, too, but I would also go to the administration and tell them your worries about your child's self esteem issues at this very early age. I would not worry about grades in elementary school since they are no indication whatsoever of her future success in school or life. Keep her feeling loved and appreciated because that is more indicative of her future successes.

      Write notes at the top of the homework papers that say she worked on it for a certain amount of time (no more than 10 minutes in 1st grade as a general guideline) and then write that family time took over because it was more valuable.