Summer Is No Time for Homework

I’ve got some pretty strong opinions about education, after 17 years of having kids in school–and they’ve attended several, so I’ve got comparative data–plus my own years “in the system.”  I am very fond of proclaiming what would and would not happen in the hypothetical school that I would run.  (I need to write that post some time!) [edit: I did!]
And I’ve got a new item to add to that list:  there would be NO SUMMER HOMEWORK.
When I was little I remember a year when we were supposed to keep track of all the books we read over the summer, and draw a picture representing our favorite one.  I was a voracious reader and I also loved to draw; I ended up drawing a picture to go with every book I read (probably 30 or more) and had a great time doing it!  But this wasn’t a requirement; there wasn’t a list.   Forcing grade school kids to read certain books or kinds of books for a grade over the summer is a recent phenomenon in my experience.  I don’t remember my big kids having to do it, but Lorelei was issued a reading list even before kindergarten!
Still, reading is one thing.  Everyone should be reading anyway, right? But what no one should be doing in the summer time is MATH WORKSHEETS.
Yes, at the end of first grade Lorelei’s school announced that summer math workbooks would be available for purchase.  This was suggested, not required, and I ignored it, even when they went ahead and sent the book home anyway.  But this summer the books were issued and we were told that every child must complete them for a grade.
Lorelei is rule-driven and slightly compulsive when it comes to school, so she opened up her book on the first day of summer and did a few pages.  Quickly she became frustrated by questions she could not answer and by the thought of having to do work every day in the summer time.  So I told her she didn’t have to do it.  Yes, I did.
I hate homework, and y’all know that already.  And I’ve seen plenty of educational fads come and go (that’s another post I need to write).  I know why they want kids to do math in the summer.  It’s the same reason some push for year round school:  to keep kids from forgetting what they’ve learned.  But we all managed pretty well, didn’t we, even with the slightly longer summer breaks of yesteryear?  And if they think they are going to encourage a love of math by doing this, no.
School started, and I still wasn’t sure how we were going to handle the problem of the math book.  It ended up being due only days into the first week.  I originally had some idea that maybe I would just tell Lorelei all the answers and have her write them in, or that I would do them all myself in little girl handwriting.  Why rock the boat and make the teacher decide I’m crazy with the year just beginning?  Lorelei is the only child we’ve had at this school, and I’ve kept a low profile so far.  But I decided that would set a bad example for Lorelei and that I needed to stand up for my principles.
So I wrote her teacher an email.
I told him that the math book was stressful for Lorelei and for me.  I told him that I do not believe in summer homework.  That summer in my opinion is a time for decompressing and relaxing and playing and being a kid, and the stress of a looming assignment has no place in that.  I told him how I thought about doing the math myself and why I was being honest instead, and that I felt my decision was the right one for Lorelei and for our family.  I acknowledged that I knew Lorelei’s math grade would be affected, but that grades interest me only insofar as they provide evidence of learning anyway. And I asked him to make sure Lorelei did not feel he was upset with her.

I didn’t get a response for a whole day, and I was nervous every time I checked my email!  When he did respond, it was fine.  He thanked me for being honest and explained the reasons for summer math.  He said there would be plenty of time for Lorelei to improve her grade, and that of course his interaction with her and with me would not be affected.

I feel really good that I resisted the further intrusion of school into family life, that I was brave about standing up for my decision, and that it all turned out okay as I had assured Lorelei it would.

first day of third grade

 Update:  Lorelei received a C that first quarter in Math because she failed to turn in the summer homework.  She would have received an A otherwise.  In other words, she was penalized for failing to do homework meant to keep her from falling behind over the summer, EVEN THOUGH THE VERY FACT THAT SHE DID NOT NEED TO DO IT WAS PROVEN BY THE GRADE SHE EARNED.  And now we homeschool. 🙂
I’m sharing this oldie-but-goodie post at the #worthrevisit linkup today!  This weekly look back at old posts is hosted by Reconciled to You and Theology is a Verb.


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25 thoughts on “Summer Is No Time for Homework

  1. My mom was always adamant that summer was not for school work. I can hear her saying it now, “You have to work hard during the school year, and I expect you to do your best, but I am not going to force you to open up a book during the summer.” I did have Celestina do her math, and she read because she wanted to, easily covering the required genres. It wasn’t a huge burden, but it was something else to think about… Still I think she had plenty of fun and freedom to do her own thing despite the extra work.

    1. Lorelei needs to read more. She is drawn to the t.v. and yet she enjoys reading when she does it. We are going to work harder on that next summer. Working at home, I let things get away from me.

  2. Excellent decision. There was no such thing as a reading list up here in Canada. There was absolutely no expectation that we were going to do homework too! I do not ask my kids to do anything all summer! I even GASP left them to their own devices for online time, and out door time,

  3. Two thumbs up for you, Leslie! I argued in the school parents forum against the mandatory homework assigned by the 5th/6th grade school to the incoming kids. They had to read an assigned book and fill in a packet. It took Jessica a day to read the book – she loves to read, detested the book in question – and another 1/2 day to complete the packet of busy work. Did she learn anything? Absolutely not. She is a voracious reader, we spend plenty of time at the library, and check a lot of books out. She loves math, and does Mathblasters (on line). I found very little support and a lot of parents telling me that kids “needed to be accountable”. Huh? Accountable for what, exactly?
    I offered a comparison – school is a child’s job. Summer vacation is exactly that – a vacation. I asked how they would like to have their vacation booked and their boss dumped a bunch of work on them to be done while they were on vacation? They said, “That’s different.” I don’t see how it is different.
    The other comment I got was that my child needed to learn that she was going to have to do things in life that she doesn’t like. I responded that she does this all school year, so her summer should be her own.
    I talked to her about it, and J decided to do it the first week of summer and throw it in her backpack and not look at it again.

    1. I agree with every last word. And additionally, if kids are going to have to spend their lives doing things they don’t want, why start so soon? That sounds like the “toughening them up to face the cruel world” argument, which I am not a fan of either.

  4. Anne

    We had a non-mandatory packet for my 1st going into 2nd grade son. He enjoyed it but it was fun stuff to do to give him a bit more exposure to math, reading and writing… I appreciated this. We thankfully had no mandatory things for any of the kids (well there was a book that my going into 11th grade daughter had to read but she wanted to read it)… Yes I agree. Learning is daily but homework is a dirty word around our house even during the school year when it’s excessive and painful.

    1. Yes! And non-mandatory is fine because it puts the power in the hands of the parents. Frankly I think it’s presumptuous of the school to try to tell us what do when technically the kids aren’t even enrolled!

  5. efloraross

    I could not agree more, Leslie, and love this post! Good for you for standing up and speaking your mind. It feels like we are stealing childhood away from our kids. More and more is expected of them at such an early age. Nowadays, they give five year olds homework. FIVE YEAR OLDS! It’s insane. More work does not equal more learning. The state of our educational system is disgraceful, and this kind of stuff is not going to fix it. I did have assigned reading during the summer in high school. I attended a very competitive college prep school, and we were tested at the beginning of the year on the material. But I loved reading, so it didn’t feel like a chore. But summer was still summer. I was allowed to relax and enjoy what was left of my childhood…

    1. My h.s. kids in AP classes had a LOT of work–not just reading but essays and packets to do. But they were older, and it was their choice to take those classes. Lorelei had a huge amount of work in the second grade–things to get signed, math facts to practice, something to do with her spelling words–all that was every night and lots of nights there were extra things as well. We did get a note this year saying that homework should not take more than 30 minutes and if it does we are supposed to let them know and they will make an adjustment, which I was very happy about. (I am not above making my own adjustments, obviously!)

  6. I have struggled with having Lola practice math or not over the summer for just the reason you suggested- the lowered grade as result..but don’t have her do it, for just the reasons you suggested. 🙂

  7. Anne

    Good for you Leslie for standing up for Lorelei and yourself. I hated homework in the summer and most of my children didn’t have that type but always had the assigned reading list. Most were very good readers but even then they rebelled against ‘having’ to read a certain book. Seems to me that does more harm than good.
    This is Kris’s first journey into kindergarten. She is stunned at the academic work they expect the kindergarten children to already know. Not the kindergarten of yesterday by any stretch. Enjoyed seeing you a week or so ago.

    1. It was great to see you! I hope Andrew is not overwhelmed by the demands of modern kindergarten. It really is ridiculous. However, I know that Kris and Colin are not afraid to push back when it comes to their kids and school.

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  9. Ci don believe in summer homework, and I’m an ducat or. Do grieve in lots and lots of reading, and trips to museums and practical math like doubling a recipe or figuring out sales tax on things you buy. Good for you for standing up for your principles!

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