Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Ranting about homework

So we're all fine and all, just haven't been inspired lately. But today, I'm inspired to rant about stupid, pointless homework that makes me crazy and costs my daughters sleep. And my sanity.

Last night, we had the PTA meeting so we didn't get home until after 8 pm, and while they'd both done some homework at the Club, they had more to do. Riley had 5 pages (!) of Math homework. She was on the last page at 10 pm, and was starting to nod off, so I sent her to bed.

In the meantime, Sylvia was in the middle of the most insipid homework assignment I've ever seen. For each of her 25 vocabulary words, she had to do what I think they call step-ladders. Here's an example of what she had to write.


It took her nearly two hours (or, as she put it, the entire cast recording of In the Heights). And the last thing she wanted to do were the two extra-credit "bonus" words. I just wanted her to go to bed already. Neither of them were excited to get up and go back to school this morning.

This happened to take place on the same day that I received's email on homework. I should not have been stunned (but I was) to learn that the 10-minute per grade rule comes from absolutely nowhere.
“The source [of that figure] was a teacher who walked up to me after a workshop I did about 25 years ago,” says [Harris] Cooper. “I’d put up a chart showing middle school kids who reported doing an hour to an hour and a half were doing just as well as high schoolers doing two hours a night. The teacher said, ‘That sounds like the 10-minute rule.’" He adds with a laugh, "I stole the idea.”

He adds with a laugh?!? Well, thank you so much for taking this topic seriously, Mr. Cooper. It must puff your self-importance up sufficiently to read all the painstaking efforts that teachers and parents have been agonizing over to ensure that our students live up to your little joke.

I'm getting ready to throw in the towel, people. Clearly, nobody knows anything on how to educate our children in a manner that will best suit their needs, or our country's needs. Teachers' unions just want to protect their unions. Politicians only care about test scores. Parents are supposed to care just enough to make their teacher's copies, and sit back quietly, thank you. And students? Well, your life's destiny was pre-determined back in pre-school. You either went to the right school or you didn't. Welcome to the ranks of community college, then transfer to your state's university, then get an average job, and spend the next 15 years paying off your student loans. Oh, and it doesn't matter what you study or what you think you know. You'll do the position the way that you're trained to do the position because everything is on-the-job training and all the academics was just to make sure your resume didn't get thrown away.

I'm really starting to wonder why I care so much. Even if I do want them to think critically and for themselves, what will it get them in life? After all, it is their lives, not mine.

The night before last, I'd been helping Sylvia with her Algebra homework. I was doing fine keeping her on track until it came to some stupid word problem that she was to convert into an algebraic equation. I had no clue how to do it. She had to fly solo. So of course, I felt inadequate at that point. At the same time, I struggled through math throughout my academic career, and managed to find work that doesn't require me to do math.

Math has been Riley's strong suit, but this year, she's doubting herself more. It's harder, and she feels like all the other students in her class are better at it than she is. I did the whole, "all you have to do is your best, it doesn't matter how anyone else is doing." Didn't really help her feel any better, though.

What's the point of all this homework, all this time and energy we're all spending on it, if it just leaves us feeling inadequate, irritated and tired? Do I really care if either of them don't go onto a career in science or medicine? And why should I care when it's going to be up to them in the end?

The PTA meeting was great. But by the time I went to bed at midnight, I just wanted it to be the weekend again and the last thing I want to ask the girls about today is their homework!


MindyMom said...

The homework issue has always been a sore spot for me too. Just last night my sophomore told me her teacher said he was going to have the parents grade their 9 page assigment on photosenthesis. I told her to tell him he's on crack if he thinks that's happening. What the hell does he think he's getting paid for? Not only that but apparently he copied the whole lesson directly from the internet. WTF?

Meg said...

I'm with you--and I'm a teacher. My son had to read 25 poems and answer 15 questions about each one, such as "How does the use of imagery enhance the author's purpose?"

The only thing he learned was to hate poetry.

Tara R. said...

Just thinking about the insanity that can be homework makes me all twitchy. Very little of it has ever seemed like more than busy work.

April said...

Big Little Wolf sent this comment via email:

This homework assignment looks pointless. Is there a teacher out there who can explain its value?

I can't tell you how many times I saw my kids (understandably) resist assignments that were clearly busy work or served no learning or reinforcing process I could see.

We also struggled with the sheer volume of homework - at much too early an age. How are kids supposed to be kids - which ought to be a joyful time of life?

Jen said...

I echo Fantasy - and we've both had ed. discussions, too.

To modify a quotation by Gertrude Stein:

Stupid is stupid is stupid.

You were RIGHT on, April.

Cat said...

Agree with all- I would love to find a school that goes against the pointless homework trend. Maybe I'll get lucky and it'll start reversing before Boy starts school.

Anonymous said...

That looks like the most inane assignment I've ever seen. What does it even have to do with vocabulary?

My daughter is still in Elementary so I haven't come across large amounts of Homework. What I did discover is that my county DOESN'T GRADE HOMEWORK in grade school. Apparently it's not fair because some students get more help at home than others. This is ridiculous to me. There has been times when Lady H didn't do her HW and I said fine, figuring she'd be punished at school. They dont' care! There are no repurcussions! Great Lesson for our kids, right?

Unknown said...

Math was never my strong suit either and I remember sitting there for hours upon hours refusing to look at the answer key at the back of the text and figuring out a problem myself.

Ugh, it was a constant struggle and I barely passed and what do you know?

My entire career was accounting based but I don't believed I used a single math skill at that job besides the very basics :)

won said...

Homework makes me crazy.

My son gets up at 6:30, goes to school, comes home at 3 o'clock (sounds like a full enough "work day" for a twelve year old, right?) and then has more work to do.

I'd rather he have ample opportunities to do the other kind of work at that point - working on social skills and friendships.

After all, it's all about balance, right?

William said...

I have A+ students - but, Homework is an interesting method used to torture children and parents alike.
I remember helping my daughter do some algrebra homework a week ago - it's something I haven't done in a while. But I couldn't figure it out and so - I went online. I did a search for the exact math problem and can you beleive everyone I encountered said the same thing - this question was rediculouse.
But finally I found someone who explained it and even though the answer they gave was wrong - I corrected it, I sent a long letter to her teacher (no reply yet).