Montclair Parent Starts Petition, Says "Stop The Homework Overload!"

My oldest started 3rd grade this year and she has between an hour and 90 minutes of homework a night. It’s too much in my opinion. I’ve been told it just gets worse, and according to Roma Lopez, a Montclair mom, it does. Lopez started an online petition titled, Stop the Homework Overload, stating:

Montclair public schools do an excellent job of preparing students for college and we’re proud of our students’ accomplishments.  But for many, success comes at a steep price, particularly at the more advanced levels of study.  The amount of homework being assigned in each of the higher  level classes is excessive when combined each day.  Students taking multiple AP courses are doing upwards of two hours per class and its led to late nights, diminished sleep and multitudes of stress.

The petition goes on to quote the ill effects that too much work has on students, such as, “an increased risk of physical and mental health issues, like sleep deprivation, ulcers and headaches.” Our kids are stressed out.

I agree, but I don’t believe all the blame should be placed on the teachers, however. I believe it’s a vicious cycle of anxious, competitive parents, government mandated testing, and schools and teachers who feel the need to keep up. When parents are signing up their preschoolers at tutoring/enrichment centers because they aren’t reading at four and preschools boast that they use kindergarten curriculum in Pre-K and assign pages of homework, despite it all being developmentally inappropriate, it’s no wonder how bad it gets by the time these kids are in high school.

I believe that education is important. I believe that homework with value is wonderful and important to reinforce lessons taught, But throwing busy work at kids only kills the love of learning. There is no good that can come when there is no time to just “be a kid.”

What are your thoughts on homework and the amount our children are getting?

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20 COMMENTS

  1. I’ve put a few kids through the Montclair School system and our third graders never had 60-90 minutes PER NIGHT of homework. Sounds like a total exaggeration to me.

    No homework means even less involvement of the parent in the child’s education.

  2. Not an exaggeration Right of Center. My 3rd grader has been getting a mandatory 30 minutes of reading, about 10-15 minutes spelling homework, and 2 math worksheets and 1-2 science worksheets per night, except for Fridays.

  3. My suggestion is to operate with a nuanced definition of “mandatory”, communicate this to the teachers and administrators and accept the consequences.

  4. Where AP classes are concerned, that’s on the student and the parents. As someone who has taught several AP classes, I don’t think any student should be taking more than two a year. It’s supposed to be college level (which it hardly ever is), so treat it like something you might want to major in. It’s the rare student who majors in English Literature, Physics, French, and European History in one year. I know that’s not how people see it, but I for one would refuse to water down the curriculum any further to accomodate an overzealous student.

    As for 3rd grade homework, 90 minutes a night is too much. And since it’s usually just one teacher for that year, there’s not reason s/he couldn’t spread it out over the week. That said, a teacher could also provide an “average time” needed for the homework. If a child has truly been working on it for that amount of time and isn’t finished, put it away. If they have the tv on or are dawdling in other ways, it will take a lot longer. (But I know *you* would never let the tv be on, GG!)

  5. No TV Kristin! In fact, since my kids get home from school at 4 pm, after snack, homework, and dinner, they only get about 30 – 45 minutes of free time before bed. My daughter is at Hillside, so she has two teachers for her 4 main subjects.

  6. We had about 90 minutes of homework last night for my 4th grader and about 15 minutes for my kindergartener. It is too much and the hot topic all of the parents were discussing during our Back to School night.

    I have talked to at least 30 parents about this issue and everyone feels the same-too much homework.

    The big problem I have is it cuts down on family time which I find super important. If there we have after school activities it turns into a mad rush to cram it all in. Nice lessons we are teaching our kids. Hurry up and eat so we can rush through the rest of our night.

    Kristen we have two main teachers and then other teachers for other subjects so we get homework all over the place.

    Other districts have gone to 10 minutes per grade. 1st grade 10 minutes and so on.
    Find me evidence that all of this homework helps the kids later on in life and maybe I would change my mind.

  7. My son is a 3rd grader at Bullock School. He gets one sheet of math homework and 20 minutes of reading each night. I think that’s a good amount!

  8. I’ve also heard the 10 mins/grade guideline. I find homework a total burden for the child and the family – I hate after my kids were inside and still all day to have to deny outdoor time and physical activity when they’re home so they can do more worksheets. GAH!

  9. That’s way too much homework. It doesn’t leave any time for play, practicing an instrument or sports.

    30 minutes/night is the max.

  10. balancing school work and extracurricular activities is part of the life lesson growing up. it’s not going to get any easier as a kid progresses. AP courses are electives, not mandatory. If you want to take 4 study halls, 2 gyms and a pottery class i’m sure there’s a petition for that, unless you can’t take gym anymore because jumping jacks might might hurt someone’s feelings…anywho, good luck handing in the petition to your kid’s college professor when workload gets tougher.

  11. No one ever promised my child a rose garden. Neither my daughter or I like the hour of homework she is assigned nightly for 3rd grade but that doesn’t mean Im going to complain about it. I view this hour as one of many opportunities for a “life lesson”. Lesson to be learned here? Sometimes life is difficult, not fun, not easy or entertaining. I am irked that our society wants “more/better/ different” from the world but also wants “less/ easier/convenient” when it comes to their end of the deal. In creating a petition to lessen the homework load we are teaching our children that if you are unhappy enough you can get what you want. Perhaps instead of signing a petition a parent can go to the classroom and stomp their feet and cry until the teacher caves. I think I’ll try that when I want the town to lower my taxes. See how far it will get me.

  12. My take on this is apparently different.

    I’ve 2nd and 5th graders. At BTSN for the 5th grader, I was shocked to learn how much homework he’s been having assigned. I immediately feared that he’d been doing none of it. But his teachers claimed that he’d been handing it in (and done well). It turns out that he does it during lunch and on the bus.

    My 2nd grader isn’t quite up to this, so he ends up having more work that actually requires completion at home. My solution to this: give the 5th grader even more homework. This actual suits me anyway; the core subjects move pretty slowly in school.

    We’ve yet to really get into a schedule this year as my work schedule is more busy than it has been recently (damn Obama and his economic recovery; I might have to vote for Romney to get more free time after he pushes us back into a recession). Ideally, though, HW time is family time.

    …Andrew

  13. I should add that, having looked at the homework being assigned this year (now that I know to ask for my 5th grader’s completed work {8^), I don’t see any of it as “make work”. It all appears to be either legitimate exploration or practice.

    …Andrew

  14. My son is also in 4th grade at Hillside (in the same class as someone above criticizing too much homework) and I don’t get all the gripes on homework. In case you haven’t noticed, Montclair continues to decline in standardized testing compared to other schools in NJ. Our kids need to be better prepared. I agree they need to have time to be kids and for family, but the purpose of school is to learn. If you think it’s bad here, go to a country where they don’t get summers off! Having said all that, there are ways to make it all work. For instance, we don’t start school until 9:20 – that leaves a lot of time in the morning when my kids generally read their “30 minutes” over breakfast and we still find time for after school activities and family time most days. Also, different kids work at differnt speeds and it generally takes no more than 30 minutes for their school assignmnets each day. Since they only get homework four days a week (putting aside special projects), it doesn’t seem too much to me. In fact, I question if they do enough.

  15. herb jr. had 4 AP classes last year and didn’t have that much homework. The thing that bugs me is the amount of summer work they get. A 3rd grader getting that much home work is absurd, they don’t have any time left for X-Box. Let the kids enjoy their summer.

  16. I agree that kids get too much homework these days. last year my second-grader had an average of 1.5 hours mon-thurs. this year it’s more like an hour, though can be more some nights. i feel like 30 min. would be plenty. she’s already dreading fifth grade, because they also get homework on fridays. what a drag!

    what i do now is set the alarm for an hour, and take her homework away after that. she hated it at first because she doesn’t want to disappoint her teachers. but now she’s used to it. it’s not a perfect solution, but it’s a start. i’m going to try and wean her down to 45 minutes.
    by the way–i’ve checked, and there’s NO research that shows homework in elementary school benefits the child.

  17. from the center for public ed study:
    “…there are indications that for high school students, 1½ to 2½ hours per night is optimum. Middle school students appear to benefit from…less than 1 hour per night. When students spend more time than this on homework, the positive relationship with student achievement diminishes.”

    this sounds reasonable to me. and makes me ask WHY are our ELEMENTARY children assigned more than that???

  18. I was told last year by my (then) 1st grader’s teacher that the district has upped the standards as far as reading. I would guess that some of this extra homework is in response. Being at Hillside, since it starts late, I like the suggestion that it be broken down into 2 parts. Doing the science and math sheets after school for the night, then doing the eeading 30 minutes before school. Sounds like a great idea and teaches study discipline.

    I agree with Herb about giving too much over the summer. My friend’s 16-year-old honor kid in Dumont had to read 3 college level books (The Iliad, etc.) plus do 90 pages of math. Not my idea of a summer-off.

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