Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Homework Guidelines and Reflection

Are you ready for a new vision on homework?

Today the “Race to Nowhere" Team, as well as education and homework experts Alfie Kohn, Sara Bennett and Etta Kralovec will be presenting new Healthy Homework Guidelines to the National PTA in hopes of gaining their endorsement.

To see a sneak peek of a video they’ll be playing for the PTA promoting a new vision for homework, go here.

I am on the Advisory Board for the film "Race to Nowhere" and I support Vicki Abeles' efforts to bring homework to the agenda of the National PTA.

As Alfie Kohn says in the video, "Homework may be the greatest single extinguisher of children's curiosity that we have yet invented."

I read Kohn's book "The Homework Myth" in 2007 when my oldest son was in 7th grade. A typically happy, fun kid who loved life and liked school, he became depressed and seriously stressed out in 7th grade. Much of that was due to a bad experience with a teacher, with a subject (math), and with homework that year. It isn't an exaggeration to say he hated school that year and he will tell you even today how horrible middle school was for him particularly in 7th grade.

That was the year I got together with another parent and we took our homework concerns to the district. It ultimately ended with a creation of a homework task force (which I was on) and a revision of the district's homework policy.

Are things better now in my son's school district with regard to homework quality and quantity? Hmmm...every teacher and every child and every situation is different, so there is no gross generalization I can make about this.

The main point I try to make to parents is: don't stress out about your children's homework and grades. Their homework is THEIR homework, not YOURS. If they don't understand an assignment, they need to ask the teacher. They need to advocate for themselves. It is not your job to teach your children their assignments or do their homework for them. You can offer assistance when they ask you, but only be on the sidelines. Don't take over their work.

I'm speaking to an educated group of parents that read this blog, who are very involved in their children's lives. Perhaps we need to be a bit less involved, and let them take more ownership of their own activities and school work? Perhaps it's time to NOT stress about our children's academics and performance, but instead reflect on their spirit, goodness, character and playfulness- to enjoy their childhood before it is gone.


  1. I agree with Kerry that as parents we shouldn't be doing our kids homework. But what we can and should do is advocate for healthy, appropriate, beneficial homework policies.

    If you haven't signed the petition and/or contacted PTA (if you are a PTA member) I recommend you do - I believe you can find the links above in Kerry's post.

  2. If you don't stress out about your child's homework, the teacher will make sure you do with the notes home and parent/teacher conferences. Have the homework guidelines been used at WCI? I think not. My straight A student is up until midnight on some evenings. I hope this pettion actually helps, that the "guidelines" didn't. I want my children to love shcool not hate it.

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  4. It seems to me that there are two homework debates, one dealing with policy as a whole, and one dealing with what the parent of an individual child does. Depending on how damaging homework is for the specific child (I call these children and their parents homework-trapped), one cannot wait for task forces and global policy changes. Rather, one needs to have a clear recognition that parents are the ones in charge of their homes and have the ultimate say about what happens.

    Anyway, I like your blog and support the good work you and Vicki are doing. If you are interested, my website is, and my blog is

  5. Hi Kerry, I just found you and your blog. I have a 2nd grader in the SRVUSD and I am stressed already about homework this year. I am absolutely against homework in elementary school knowing what we do about how there is no correlation between success level.

    I am a pretty active parent and my daughter benefits from several resources funded by our donations. (Barton, Touch Math and others.) I feel as if they have her for 6.5 hours a day. I want her to come home and be a kid. To play and do art and watch a little TV is she wants to.

    My husband and I both work full time and I pick up our daughter at 4:30 or so from aftercare. She is fried by then. To begin homework at that time of nights is nearly worthless. The quality of the homework done during "homework time" at aftercare has not been great either.

    So, here we go into another year of the homework battle. I just want to opt out. I don't see links to any district info or PTA petition but would love to jump on board with you. Happy to support any way we can!

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