Monday, February 28, 2011


So I was talking to another local Mom about choosing schools for our kids.  Part of the conversation went like this:

OtherMom: "I've never heard anything good about Natural Friends."

(Then she remembered that my younger daughter attends Natural Friends, and stopped, looking embarrassed.)

Me:  "Really? What do you hear about Natural Friends?  I want to know!"

OtherMom: "People say it's loosey-goosey, and the kids just do what they want."

There's a part of me that responds "I wish!", and another part that writes a blog post about it. 

On the one hand,  Natural Friends is loosey-goosey enough to hang in there with my sometimes difficult younger daughter, and that's a good thing for us. 

On the other hand, they apparently haven't gotten Alfie Kohn's memo on the subject of homework, which they start assigning nightly in the FIRST flippin' GRADE. 

On the third hand, the academics at Natural Friends can be pitiful, especially math.  Just today I started working Younger Daughter through Singapore Math 1B, and if she stays at Natural Friends I know I will have to do a great deal more.  So far she likes the Singapore Math workbook (knock wood.)

My dream school would be loosey-goosey and laissez-faire in re compliance issues (the classic triumvirate of "sit down, shut up and do what you're told"), but crystal-clear in re academic issues like content knowledge and procedural fluency. 

Is there such a school?  Probably not.  I think the reason is human psychology.  The kind of teacher who wants to provide nurturing and tolerance to children tends to be the kind of teacher who isn't very academic.  The kind of teacher who cares about academics is often also the kind of teacher who wants to see compliant, on-task kids.

It is a source of constant amazement to me how often schools get these issues exactly wrong; that is, they require unquestioning obedience and endless hours of work (from kids and parents both!) without actually delivering content knowledge.   That is the worst possible bargain.


  1. Love your post, FedUp. But on this, I'll give you yet another perspective:

    "The kind of teacher who wants to provide nurturing and tolerance to children tends to be the kind of teacher who isn't very academic." With one exception. Me! Okay, it wasn't a classroom, it was homeschooling. But I found a way to be "loosey-goosey" (unschooling) coupled with very high quality (Johns Hopkins University Center for Talented Youth for geometry and writing).

    I still chuckle at a particularly vicious comment we all received on StopHomework two years ago. The one where the teacher told you your kid's going to wind up in jail for not doing reading logs? She called us all lazy and irresponsible and proceeded to proclaim the virtues of homework.

    I wrote back that oh, yes, I supported homweork. For her! I admitted that I could barely get through her essay, so riddled was it with grammatical and mechanical errors. What little writing I could plow through was simply atrocious. This teacher also committed an unforgivable sin, composing her entire treatise in one large block paragraph. I told her that if my "lazy and irresponsible" homeschooled 13 year old dared to submit that kind of writing to me, there'd be hell to pay.

    Am I Amy Chua? Ha! Is the Pope not Catholic? Amy would have regurgitated her breakfast upon learning of our "classroom." I doubt she would have approved of our two hour walks to dissect the finer points of Shakespeare. Wait a minute, you said Shakespeare? Um, okay, now we're talking!

    It is possible to combine nurturing with strong academics. They did when I was a kid. They call that the Golden Age of Teaching now. An unintended consequence of feminism is that the best and brightest women no longer went into education. Well, not all; many did, I hope. And I wouldn't want it any other way. Viva la feminism.!But somewhere along the way, teaching changed drastically. And not for the better.

    And watch. Some astute eye will catch a typo. Lob those grenades, I'm ducking for cover :).

  2. I found it first! "I wrote back that oh, yes, I supported homweork"

    HOMEWORK. I typoed right on that word. Freudian slip? I can blame anything on sleep deprivation.

  3. Yea, yea, one more. No space after feminism. Typo. Another Freudian slip? :).

  4. I'd better stop while I'm still ahead. Feminism. The period and then the exclamation mark. I tried to delete one to insert the other and both came along for the ride.

    I better go now and stop talking to myself here. I leave it to the rest of your to catch all other mistakes. After all, I can't criticize poor writing if I don't cough up better.

  5. Good to hear from you, HWB! You're giving me flashbacks to the glory days of Stophomework.

    I don't blame Sara Bennett at all for giving up the site. It is beyond frustrating to make these arguments year after year, with all the evidence to back you up, and get nowhere.

  6. I don't blame her but I lament it all the same. We had great fun on that site. More aptly, our family was in the thick of Homework Hell. Relentless. Glad I had that site, it kept me sane. I'm really sorry it died.

  7. PsychMom chimes in..

    Me too. I wish I had the time to oversee a blog...

  8. PsychMom, I'm always interested in guest posts!

    Also, if any of you have ideas about how to improve this site, let me know. I'd like this site to be the heir of Stophomework (sounds like a Harry Potter movie) ...

  9. You know, I really do miss that site. This is MY sabbatical year, homeschooling just for me, since my daughter finally graduated high school and the Daily Grind is done. At least this year. She'll have homework in college but it won't be on my watch! So I stopped commenting on StopHomework. It's there and not there.

    But I miss it. I miss you guys. You are here but I am glad we had a blog solely devoted to homework. Is it getting better out there? I don't think so but you be the judge.

  10. HWB, I don't see anything getting better. It is very frustrating. If my kids were done with K-12 I would be thrilled to never have to think about it again.