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Posted on Fri, Nov 20, 2009 : 4:30 p.m.

Family negotiates no-homework deal with school

By Jen Eyer

After two years of battling with their kids' school over what they felt was too much homework, a couple in Calgary, Alberta recently hammered out a deal with the school effectively banning homework for their children.

ABC News reports that the Milley family's two school-aged children, Spencer, 11 and Brittany, 10, will no longer receive the roughly hours-worth of homework they had been getting each night. (The school's current guidelines call for 10 additional minutes of homework per grade, per night).

The contract spells out the responsibilities of both the teacher and the student. Brittany and Spencer will not have work sent home, and must be graded on what they do in class. For their part, the two tweens must read daily and complete all work assigned in class. And they must practice a musical instrument at home.

In this article in the Vancouver Sun, the family is quoted as saying instead of doing busywork, the children now have time to focus on their weaknesses.

I think this seems reasonable, though considering our oldest child is only in first grade, my experience with homework as a parent is pretty limited. In kindergarten, homework was occasional. Now, in first grade, our daughter gets a homework sheet plus a leveled reading book most nights. She usually enjoys the work, so it hasn't been a hassle. And if we're too busy — which has happened a few times so far this year — it's not a big deal if she waits a day to complete it.

What has your experience with homework been so far? Take our poll below, or leave a comment.



Mon, Nov 23, 2009 : 8:46 p.m.

For elementary students, homework is not positively correlated with student achievement, and there is no educational reason to assign the amount of homework described in the article. Or any homework at all for that matter. Many kids should be encouraged to play games (pencil and paper, computer, or dice-based) to practice their math facts in the primary grades, until they automatically know the answers. Also, students should be encouraged to spend some time reading (or for the younger ones) being read to each day. But reading logs, math and language work sheets, etc. for elementary students are an unreasonable imposition on family life as far as I'm concerned, and rarely help the students learn or the parents to understand what goes on in the classroom. In middle and high schools, there should be much less homework assigned than is now the case. Only homework assignments which will be critiqued / graded by the teacher should be allowed. No students correcting each others' papers, and certainly not just a check mark if the assignment was done as seems to be very common for middle and high school math classes. Students in college prep programs need to learn to write essays, but this can and should be done primarily in class, with 1-3 paragraphs written (or critiqued and re-written) during each class period. A certain amount of out of class reading is probably preferable for some class discussions, but since in non-AP classes, less than half of the class actually does the reading now, why not stop pretending?


Sun, Nov 22, 2009 : 11:30 a.m.

I hate to say it, but the Canadian who had his input here? Is 100% correct. When we stayed in Ontario and in Quebec for a month we noticed one thing. Quebec had thin people. Ontario? Same thing. They have outdoor sports and do keep their children busy. Ours? Does have homework but does the homework during homeroom. Our child wants to have fun after school so the homework is done during school. Ours is busy with after school skating, dancing and whatever else our child wants to do. I much prefer to have too much homework, then not enough.

Michael K.

Sat, Nov 21, 2009 : 5:45 p.m.

Some exerpts from an article in "PRINCIPAL" magazine. Alfie Kohn also has a book on the subject: Rethinking Homework By Alfie Kohn "After spending most of the day in school, children are typically given additional assignments to be completed at home. This is a rather curious fact when you stop to think about it It becomes even more curious, for that matter, in light of three other facts: 1. The negative effects of homework are well known. They include childrens frustration and exhaustion, lack of time for other activities, and possible loss of interest in learning. Many parents lament the impact of homework on their relationship with their children.... 2. The positive effects of homework are largely mythical.... For starters, there is absolutely no evidence of any academic benefit from assigning homework in elementary or middle school. For younger students, in fact, there isnt even a correlation between whether children do homework (or how much they do) and any meaningful measure of achievement.... 3. More homework is being piled on children despite the absence of its value. Over the last quarter-century the burden has increased most for the youngest children, for whom the evidence of positive effects isnt just dubious; its nonexistent." Have you folks not heard of piano lessons, violin lessons, karate classes, ice skating, cross country, swim team, or exercise? Oh yeah, this is Michigan.... never mind. " Michigan now has one of the highest obesity/overweight rates in the country at 60.4%"


Sat, Nov 21, 2009 : 5:42 p.m.

@BornNRaised -- As a Canadian who has transplanted to Ann Arbor, I find your comment completely obnoxious. You are just lending more evidence to my belief that Americans know very little about their neighbors to the North. Do some research of your own to move beyond your ignorance and learn what Canadians have truly contributed to the world. Oh, and while I am at it, why not spend some time thinking about why Canadian kids consistently outperform American kids on achievement tests? And while you're at it, how about learning that spanking is negatively correlated with intelligence and achievement? The American Psychological Association and American Academy of Pediatrics have clear anti-spanking position papers, and what I have mentioned is one of the reasons. I think YOU are the one who needs to spend more time in school--your ignorance is showing too clearly!

Woman in Ypsilanti

Sat, Nov 21, 2009 : 10:48 a.m.

Children have a natural love of learning. They want to learn things. Homework, when it consists of boring, monotonous tasks that dont interest them is one good way to kill off that natural love of learning. Not to mention that no one needs to do *hours* of homework a night in addition to whatever extracurricular activities they might want to do. The alternative to homework doesnt have to be letting them sit around playing Xbox or watching TV although allowing kids some time in their day to relax is good too. Alternatives to homework can be things like reading for fun (that means the kid gets to choose the book) and going to museums or even just taking a walk in nature with a handy plant guide.


Sat, Nov 21, 2009 : 9:41 a.m.

I remember the tremendous amount of homework my kids had when they were in middle school... at least 2-3 hours worth every night (weekends, holiday breaks too) And then the high school homework came! On the other hand all four were more than ready to handle college and each one has told me that they've come across a lot of kids unprepared for the university course loads. Ann Arbor does its job when it comes to the education of our kids (as long as there is solid parent support). So, I'm a bit on the fence with a family who manages to excuse their kids from homework assigned by teachers who are trying to prepare them for the real world.


Sat, Nov 21, 2009 : 7:23 a.m.

As a teacher and a parent, I was struck by the parents' complaint about too much 'busy work'. It seems that is their concern, not homework in general. I get the impression that these are parents who simply want the time their children spend working at home on academics to be meaningful.


Fri, Nov 20, 2009 : 8:25 p.m.

10 and 11 and they have hours worth of homework per night...oh those poor kids. Shame on the school. This is a great example as to why all schools should be closed. Clearly kids are better off playing on the xbox or watching TV than doing school work. What is going to happen in eight years when the kids have to join the workforce? People having to work is just wrong as well.


Fri, Nov 20, 2009 : 8:03 p.m.

Perhaps we could get rid of the stressful grading system, too. The kids should just be asked what grade they think they deserved. As long as they think they tried real hard, they should all get A's.


Fri, Nov 20, 2009 : 6:22 p.m.

Can't believe this hasn't happened more often. If they can't get most of this stuff done in school, is it really necessary to take so much home?