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Summer break is winding down – only a few more days until a new school year begins for my kids.  I meant to write a post summing up the end of last school year, and just never got around to it.

In a nutshell, we never were able to effect change in the homework policy at the district level.  I did finally tell my daughter’s first grade teacher – around February or March, I think – that I was just no longer going to make my daughter do homework, since the negative effects were undeniable (crying, not wanting to go to school – she was a stressed out little girl).  Her teacher was less than enthusiastic about this, and told me that she would have to reflect undone homework on my daughter’s report card.  I told her I couldn’t care less – “Mark her whole report card up with Us [U = unsatisfactory],” I said.  “It’s first grade!  It’s not like it’s going to affect her ability to get into college.”

Well, my relationship with that teacher – with whom I was actually friends – did not survive the whole homework saga.  Lesson learned: it’s just not a good idea to be personal friends with your child’s teacher; too many lines get blurred and crossed and it complicates things way too much if you find yourself at odds with policies that teachers supports.

Anyway, my daughter did very little homework for the rest of the school year.  I left it up to her; if she wanted to do her homework, or some of it, she was welcome to, but I was done making her do it.  Most of the time, she didn’t do it.  And she was much happier for it – no surprise there.  And guess what – she continued to work at or above grade level in every subject, which just goes to show how necessary all that homework was, right?  In the end, on her final report card, her teacher gave her a “S” (Satisfactory) under “Homework.”  I have no idea why – we were perfectly willing to accept a U.

And here we are on the brink of starting another school year.  I will now have a junior in high school, a sixth grader, two fourth graders, and a second grader.  As for the elementary school kids, I am going to start the year off by addressing the homework issue directly with each of the kids’ teachers.  I’ve drafted this letter, which I may still tweak a little, but wanted to share it here.  Feel free to utilize for your own kids.

Dear _________________:

We are looking forward to a successful school year with you as ____________________’s teacher.

We feel it is important to let you know where we stand on homework as another school year gets off the ground.

Last year we tried, with little success, to lobby for a clearer, more reasonable homework policy than the ambiguous policy that is currently in place at the district level.  Since our efforts were largely met with opposition despite voluminous research that disproves the supposed correlation between homework and academic achievement, especially at the elementary school level, and actually shows many negative affects on children, we feel it necessary to address the issue of homework directly with our children’s teachers this year.

In a nutshell, we are reclaiming family time.  Our kids spend six and half hours in school every day, and we have too many other commitments and priorities as a family to be slaves to excessive homework.  As such, we will enforce homework in accordance with the healthy guidelines set forth by the National PTA and the National Education Association: ten minutes of homework per day per grade level, including mandatory reading time.  Accordingly, we will enforce no more than _____ minutes of homework time for ___________________ each day this year.  We also ask that you not assign homework over school breaks, since a break is supposed to be just that – a break – a time to rest and regroup, not an opportunity to squeeze in more work.

We understand that this may not be well received, but we hope that you will consider it from our point of view.  We also understand that  _______________________’s grades may reflect unfinished homework in the event he/she is not able to complete all homework assigned within the time we are willing to devote to homework.  We are willing to accept that, but do ask that he/she not be penalized in any other manner, such as having recess withheld.

Please feel free to get in touch with us if you would like to discuss this further, or have any questions.

Thank you!

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