Montclair: Are Your Kids Getting Too Much Homework?

rp_homework-300x220.jpgDeirdre Birmingham, a Montclair mom, shared this letter to the editor with the Montclair Times, entitled Too Many Homework Headaches.

Birmngham describes how homework time has been increasing and how she knows “a fifth-grader who dropped most afterschool activities because she has too much homework.”

My kids are teens, and for them, it’s often hard to balance after school commitments and activities with the amount of homework they take home some nights (as evidenced by my kids sometimes bringing their homework to the dinner table or staying up long after I’ve gone to bed). But what about parents of younger kids — are you seeing an increase of homework in elementary school and in the younger grades? Or do you like the structure and academic time your child spends doing homework?

The letter has been circulating on social media and is striking a chord. So we ask you readers — what do you think about the state of homework in Montclair. Take our poll:

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13 COMMENTS

  1. From the perspective of a Bloomfield Parent, we’ve been talking about the high level of homework for our middle school kid for months, and it’s a hot topic at meetings. Same issues for us – upwards of two hours per night, sometimes three or four hours, staying up late to complete assignments well past even my usual midnight bedtime, homework over breaks and long weekends, extracurriculars falling by the wayside, stress headaches from the volume, which leads to bouts of crying and acting out, and a general feeling of school sucking. I credit the teachers and principal for recognizing the issue and doing what they can, but the level of work is really dictated by the standards.

    From my view, the NCLB/Race to the Top/Common Core framework tries to pack ten pounds of learning into the old five pound bag. Homework was once the vehicle to review and reinforce what was taught in the classroom, but now homework is also used to introduce new topics and cover ground that teachers don’t have time to cover in class. Now my kids get to teach themselves a language at home with Rosetta Stone, and new math lessons at Khan Academy, and teachers track their minute by minute progress, which leads to the kids feeling like they’re always on the clock. Something is very wrong here.

  2. I believe my kids will best compete in the global economy once the trifecta of no standardized tests, no homework, and full day recess is achieved. I’m thankful that we are working toward this goal.

  3. I really don’t understand our education system at all. The new math, the lack of cursive writing and the lack of arts programs are short changing kids. I agree with you justbob that we need to provide a more rounded version of an education verse a curriculum based on prepping for standardize tests. I know I am not a parent but this concerns me as these kids will be running our nation one day and I want them to excel in their futures. We can’t be a global power if all our kids have learned is how to pass a test verse critical thinking and an open mind toward the world around them.

  4. Its not the amount or substance of the homework. Some children are slower than others and public school is not really equipped to help. I’d suggest private school. If not, then more parent on child instruction time at home. If not, then hire a tutor.

    We can’t really count on public education anymore, its actually broken beyond repair, should refocus on other alternatives.

  5. I have a 5th grader and two younger kids in Montclair public schools – I just don’t see the same huge amount of homework that is being described. My 5th grader does most of it on the bus and when I see the worksheets and assignments for all of the kids, it’s like a 10-20 minute time commitment which is not every night, rarely on weekends and (so far) never over holiday breaks. Maybe in HS it’s high, but maybe that’s because all these kids are taking AP classes trying to get into competitive colleges. At the grammar school level, at least as far as our experience, it isn’t an issue. If a 5th grader can’t manage their after school activities and their homework, maybe they have too many scheduled after school activities?

    The people complaining about issues in the school is neverending in this town. Too many tests, not enough recess, too much homework, not enough paraprofessionals in the classroom. I did middle school tours this week (it’s rush week) and was amazed at what each of these schools has. It makes where I grew up look like a 1-room schoolhouse! The three schools all seem to have multiple teachers in dance, drama, chorus, music and art. There are TV studios, 3D printers, robotics equipment, Glenfield has its own planetarium, and a giant auditorium along with a dedicated rock climbing and rope course activity center in addition to a workout room with interactive video games! While Glenfield outpaces Mt. Hebron in amenities, Hebron isn’t too shabby either. Renaissance lags behind in the other two, but apparently you have half day Fridays and lot of trips in addition to a much smaller school envionmnet. The elective opportunities in each school seem more exhaustive than what I had access to…..in college!

    I thought I paid huge taxes to have bulk pickup every 2 weeks, but I can now really see what we are paying for – it’s not evident as much on the grammar school level. It makes me wonder why anyone without kids in the district would own a home in Montclair?

  6. “the lack of cursive writing”

    –Personally, i think it’s all been downhill since they removed Butter Churning from the curriculum…

  7. HR also said “I really don’t understand our education system at all” and cited “lack of arts programs are short changing kids”

    See my prior post on the middle schools – I can’t understand how anyone in Montclair can make this statement. Maybe in some other district where they have the art teacher with the cart traveling to classrooms, but that doesn’t apply to our schools unless all those rooms, all those teachers and all that equipment I was proudly shown is just for show.

  8. My elementary level kids bring home appropriate homework in both time and level. I don’t like to estimate how many minutes homework should take because every child has different strengths and challenges. However, if it’s taking an inordinate amount of time after sincere effort, a parent can always write a note explaining what the problem was so the teacher can help the student achieve success in the skills.

    I like to see what my kids have been learning in school, and and homework (when parents/caregivers don’t help too much) provides a chance for teachers to see what a child is able to do on their own. There is absolutely a difference in completing problems in class, with guidance (and neighbors), and completing review from the day.

    Obviously, the amount and type of homework should be appropriate and meaningful to classroom learning. In my experience, it has been.

    PS: My older child is learning cursive in school.

  9. I’m the parent of four children in the school district. They are in three different schools, in 3rd, 4th, 5th and 8th grade.

    I think my elementary school kids are getting the appropriate amount of homework. Each night a little bit of language arts and a little bit of math, with some projects layered in throughout the year. Most of the time I think the homework is meaningful. Not much busy work, and sometimes homework that ends up being too challenging. But instead of getting too frustrated, we try and talk it through and sometimes just put it aside or write a note to the teacher saying that its just too challenging for them at this point in time. I’ve never found that to be a problem.

    I find the amount of homework in middle school to vary greatly, depending on what house the student is in. Honestly, I’m disappointed that my 8th grader doesn’t have a little more homework, although she is very happy that she doesn’t have more! But some of her friends in other houses definitely feel like they get too much.

    I do not feel like any of them they spend an inordinate amount of time prepping for standardized tests.

    I agree with cspn55 that as a community, it seems that we are always finding fault in our schools. There are certainly improvements that can be made, and we’ve had some disappointments along the way. But so far my kids have had good teachers, and strong exposure to music and the arts. Although they’d never admit it, I think they all love school and their learning experiences. Despite some weaknesses, our public school system is responsible for their positive feeling about school.

  10. I very much agree with what teamlacey said. Wish my middle schooler had a little more homework in and I’m a little disappointed that the houses seem to differ so much. Happy the kid loves school, but wishing the academics were a little stronger. It is public school though, and I do realize the teachers have a very large difference from their top students to those who struggle. The realities of that makes Public School hard to take sometimes. Many think it should be this way, and many think it should be that way. The reality is, as parents we need to pick up the slack where the school’s can’t please us. If there isn’t enough recess, then we need to make sure they get their outside time done when they get home. If there isn’t enough homework, let’s look for work we can assign or even do together with our child(ren). If there is too much Homewirk, let’s discuss that with the teacher and figure out a solution for our child. I don’t believe we need to fight and discuss every little issue. Let’s be our children’s advocate and remember that most of the time schools are doing the best they can with the laws they have to abide by. If we want to really help education we should be looking further than Montclair, that’s for sure. The real problems start far away from here.

  11. The ‘jc bot’ seems to defend and advocate for everything that is wrong and antithetical to the advancement of mankind. Thankfully, Montclair Public Schools teach cursive, ethics, latin and offer nurturing environments and a collegiate lineup of electives. But, the common core math with its poorly written word problems for students who are still learning reading comprehension will be the death of us if it is not purged soon. There’s also way too much homework in the Elementary schools.

  12. “The ‘jc bot’ seems to defend and advocate for everything that is wrong and antithetical to the advancement of mankind”

    —Recent studies show that children raised in humorless households are 67% more likely to become anonymous, boring online scolds. The other 33% hate their parents…

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