Thursday, September 22, 2011

Spelling Word Extension Activities

Sent home in second-grade Younger Daughter's backpack, stapled to the front cover of one of the composition books we bought her (from the list of school supplies -- when I was a kid the public schools weren't allowed to require parents to spend money! -- don't get me started.)

Spelling Word Extension Activities

Directions:  Each school night, Monday — Thursday, choose an activity and complete it on a new page of your spelling journal.  Start by writing the date at the top of the next new page.  For each activity, you must use all of your spelling words.


First, write each word in pencil.  Then trace over each word THREE times each, using a different colored pencil or crayon.  Trace neatly and you will see a rainbow.


Write silly sentences using at least one spelling word in each sentence.  Underline your spelling words.


Illustrate your spelling words.  Be sure to LABEL your pictures with your spelling words OR draw your favorite character saying your words.


Write your spelling words two times.  First write them in regular, NEAT letters.  Then write them in squiggly letters or bubble letters.


Write a story or message to someone using your spelling words.  Underline your spelling words in the story or message.


Find the letters of your words in a newspaper or Magazine.  Cut out the letters and spell your words OR stamp them if you have letter stamps.

7.  TYPE 'EM

Type your words two times each on the computer.  Make sure each word is in a different font and color.


First write your spelling words the way you normally do.  Then try writing the list with your other hand!


Write each spelling word, then try to find at least two words that can be made from the same letters inside the word.  Ex. Earth; the; hat; rat; rate; her


Write your words going down the page instead of across.  Write them TWO times each.

Next up:  my e-mail to the teacher explaining why we won't be doing this.  I think I'll simplify my life and just say we don't have time, which is true.  However, for my blog I will also say that this is a huge time-waster and typical of the madness that ensues when teachers try to make homework "fun".

I should explain that YD was given 12 spelling words, plus 2 challenge words, which, if I understand the labyrinthine directions correctly, she's also supposed to practice.  Think how much time a resistant 8-year-old would take to actually do any of the above activities!  Just choosing one out of the 10 methods could take any child skilled at procrastinating (either of my kids, for a start) at least a half-hour.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. I used to hate spelling in primary school. We had to pick our own words for our spelling lists, which was a problem for me because I was already a good speller and could spell all of the words which I would need to use. I would end up picking really obscure words like "antidisestablishmentarianism" just to fill up my spelling list. Occasionally, the teacher would make us write sentences with each of our words. I never could because of the obscurity of the words I chose- there were never enough examples of the words used in sentences for me to copy off. I would often get yelled at for "picking words that I wouldn't use."

    Ugh. So frustrating. I was lucky though- we only did spelling on Monday mornings when I was in Year 7, and I had clarinet.

    I'll have to say that some of those things are useful in learning how to spell or in learning grammar. One would be finding words within words, but I think that only works if you can find whole words and you're not just rearranging the letters. For example, noticing that "business" starts with "bus" might help you to remember the spelling. Making sentences can also be helpful for learning grammar and how to use that word in context- I have to do it all the time in learning Chinese- but it has its drawbacks, as I've alluded to previously.

  3. Hienuri, sure, maybe there's some context where some of these activities might be helpful. But in the evening after a school day, with 12 (or 14?) words, with an 8-yr-old child who is just barely starting to read accurately, is not the right situation.

  4. PsychMom adds:

    I'm with you FedUpMom, write a note back that says you're too busy. We're not doing it..end of story. My blood got a degree warmer with each item.

    If they would do these kinds of things in school, that would be bad enough. But to expect a 7 or 8 year old to do this kind of stuff at home, is beyond beyond.

    My daughter had to measure her room (for the umpteenth time) and objects in her room and put them on a grid. I just don't get it.

  5. I'd sure like to know whether teaching spelling has any demonstrable effect on someone's ability to spell as an adult. I could maybe see spending some time (probably at a later age) with learning common Latin roots, etc., so you could better guess at the meaning and spelling of unfamiliar words. But I really wonder about the technique of proceeding one by one through a series of words. Are they planning to go through all the words in the dictionary that way?

    Isn't it possible just that people who read a lot are going to spell better than people who don't? These word lists may get kids spelling certain common words correctly sooner than they otherwise would, but if the words really are common, wouldn't they figure them out soon enough just by encountering them so much when they read? And if they don't read, are any of these spelling lessons going to make a difference?

    On a similar topic: Here's an interesting (to some!) post that talks about the empirical research on the futility of teaching grammar.

  6. Chris -- I didn't have the patience to read the whole article, but this sentence jumped out at me:

    "We should remember that what can be taught and what can be learned are asymmetrical categories."

    That would be a good motto --

  7. Okay, just for contrast, here's what my daughter is doing in spelling:

    - She learned a rule about how to spell the /k/ sound at the end of a word.
    - She practiced applying the rule by spelling a set of ten words that end in the /k/ sound. She had a little trouble, so with each word we talked about how the rule applies.
    - She wrote some simple sentences from dictation that use words that end in the /k/ sound.

    The End.

    I let her do it on the whiteboard with markers, so there was some color involved, but, strangely enough, there wasn't a single squiggle letter or up-and-down word. And yet, now she knows how to spell words that end with the /k/ sound.

    (All of which is a long way of saying: it doesn't HAVE to be that way, damn it!)

  8. I used to have similar spelling homework and actually really loved doing it. The jury's still out on whether it actually helped me learn to spell the words, though. I would not want the job of forcing a kid who can't write very well to do this.

  9. Suburban Chicken FarmerSeptember 22, 2011 at 1:17 PM

    My eight year old is doing consistently better on spelling tests this year compared to a year ago. Getting a good score on the weekly test really bolsters his self-esteem. Spelling aloud for me really makes him proud. Though some of the improvement is surely due to his reading improving (he's read most of the words before) he still has to do some practice at home (homework) to get a good score.
    In the whole scheme of things, spelling tests and lists probably don't lead to great writing. But that weekly confirmation that he's "smart enough" is worth the time put in.

  10. I dunno, SCF -- couldn't we find a less laborious and time-consuming way to give kids something they can be good at?

  11. My grade 2 daughter is getting this same nonsense. I'm going to have to put a stop to it, too. I found that my daughter did fine just learning the words and spelling them aloud for me.

  12. In defense of teaching grammar....which I am currently doing...not teaching it is, as always predicated on the idea that kids are speaking and hearing Standard English outside of school, which an increasing proportion of public school kids in this country are not. If you speak dialect, learning SE grammar is like learning a new language's grammar-and you do have to teach it that way. I taught myself how to do diagramming, which I never learned in school, and am using it to teach grammar (I have to say that I think it's much underrated. The shift away from teaching grammar in schools in the 70s, like the shift toward/away from phonics, was also covertly political, and it sadly really devalued the art of diagramming, which my students and I all enjoy. And it does really work. The idea that grammar has a coherent structure, not just random sets of boring/annoying rules, is important and elegant-I'm not sure why people feel it can't be taught. It's like math).

  13. This comment has been removed by the author.

  14. Empirically, teaching grammar as an unrelated set of rules is ineffective. But I'm not sure that means it can't be taught differently. It just means the predominant way we do it is not very useful.

  15. Democracy's edge -- I'm a legal writing teacher, so I sympathize with the idea that grammar is worth knowing. But deBoer's point, at least, seems to be that the students you're talking about -- the ones who don't speak and hear Standard English outside of school -- are precisely the students who don't learn from grammar instruction. They may be the ones who most need it, but it doesn't necessarily follow that instructing them in it is actually effective. I'm just passing along deBoer's commentary because it does seem interesting; I don't have any independent knowledge of the empirical literature.

    Maybe different ways of teaching it could work. I just don't know if there's any data (and don't have a whole lot of faith in the ability of data ever to conclusively pin that down). I think I do agree with his larger point, though, which is that wishing doesn't make it so.

  16. Suburban Chicken FarmerSeptember 22, 2011 at 11:46 PM

    FedUpMom, yes! He's good at lots of things at home- which aren't on the test so who gives a shit?
    My son is just like everyone else I've ever known. He wants to be liked and he wants to be seen as smart. I can't control what's going on in his teacher's mind one bit, I do know she's been arbitrarily unfair and cold towards him- and she's physically got him for six hours a day. What I can do is help him with his goddamned spelling list.

  17. FedUpMom- As I alluded to earlier, I do think that one or two of these activities can have value, but what I forgot to say is that I think they shouldn't have to be done all the time. Having to do one of these activities every night Mon-Thurs is just overkill, not to mention that I really don't get the point of most of them. Learning how to type is useful, but being forced to put everything in a different font and colour detracts from the purpose. Who knows, these activities might actually be fun if they weren't mandatory. I believe that my main motivation to study comes from the pupil free days I had in year 8!

  18. I see this crap all the time. I think the biggest problem with this type of homework is that it is not differentiated to the needs of the kids.

    It may well help some kids--those who don't know the words already and learn from repetition. My kids, however, happened to never have any problems with spelling (one read extensively and the other has a nearly photographic memory) so this type of assignment was just a huge time sink.

    Even in high school we are still getting teachers who insist on grading on process and not on the end objective. Teachers are assigning homework to create flashcards and turn them in for a grade. That's not how my kids learn. Tell them what they need to learn for a test or paper and let kids fit that in with how they best learn and ask questions if they need to.

  19. I'm sure the different font size/colors part of the "type them" assignment was dreamed up by some teacher trying to make it "fun." It might be fun the first time, but changing colors/fonts 10 times gets old for anyone. Whoever dreams up these kinds of assignments seems to be quite skilled at taking something that might be fun and beating you over the head with it for an hour.

    If I were a teacher, I think I'd make these assignments optional. Same thing with math homework. Some kids need the practice and some don't. The ones who do need the practice might benefit most from just spelling the words out loud or writing them three times each. Why make them waste their time with all this?

  20. Keep in mind that this stuff is supposed to be done every day of the week, presumably every week until the end of the school year. If it's tedious the first time, think how tedious it would be by February. Yuck.

  21. "Think how much time a resistant 8-year-old would take to actually do any of the above activities! Just choosing one out of the 10 methods could take any child skilled at procrastinating (either of my kids, for a start) at least a half-hour."

    While I sympathize with the fact that a lot of homework is busywork and parents might find it pointless, I fail to see how the difficulty of getting your child to do her work should be a factor in the teacher's decision as to whether or not to assign said work.

    I see this argument crop up a lot amongst parents. "It takes forever just to wrangle my child into doing homework, and it eats up so much time in the evenings!!" This is usually paired with "the work is easy mind numbing busy work". So, if both of those things are true, it seems the problem is not that your child is having difficulty understanding the work, she just doesn't want to do it.

    I don't want to do a lot of things- reports at work, cleaning my toilets, memorizing theorems for geometry, etc. etc.- but just not wanting to do them is not excuse enough for me not to do them. If you have such an issue getting your child to do her own homework when it is a simple spelling exercise that it seems she understands how to do perfectly well, it doesn't seem that is the fault of the teacher.

    Many very well designed, useful homework assignments are probably also not going to be at the top of the list for "favorite activities" for kids. If we set the standard for rejection at "it would take forever to wrangle my child into doing this so she shouldn't have to" that has little to do with a concern for academic rigor and a lot to do with a selfish concern for not wanting to wrangle one's child.

    I'm actually a supporter of reducing homework load, and I well remember terrible busy work assignments. What frustrates me is the conflation of "useless homework" with "it takes forever to get my kid to do homework". To me, they are two very different issues. And, I'm sorry, but regardless of how engaging or relevant or meaningful or useful or thoughtful a homework assignment is, there will be times when kids just don't want to do it. So allowing "it takes forever to get my kid to do homework" to creep into the conversation is not relevant or helpful to the real issue of homework practices and how they should be changed.

    I hate for my first comment on your blog to be so disagreeable, so I want to end by saying that I found your blog when I googled "Whole Brain Teaching is demeaning", and I absolutely agree with you that those teaching techniques are atrocious. Unfortunately, I'm being asked to employ them as a student teacher (to clarify, I'm a 28 year old with a post graduate degree and I have teaching experience, I'm just getting my certification now because I've been an ESL teacher before) and I despise them with everything in my being.

  22. But anonymous -- isn't it possibly relevant to the issue of whether the homework is age-appropriate? And isn't it at least possibly related to the question of whether the homework is sufficiently engaging to make it worthwhile? And if the struggle to make the kid do homework does have a negative effect on family life, why shouldn't that cost play a role in the analysis of whether homework is beneficial overall? Why is caring about the homework's effect on family life a "selfish concern"?

    I do get a bit tired of the argument that "we all have to do things we don't like to do" as a justification for making kids do something they don't want to do. Adults in a democratic society at least have some say in the institutions that govern their lives, and kids have none. The fact that kids are disenfranchised is unavoidable, but I think that means we should be especially reflective about using coercion on them.

    Finally, why do you assume that it's the parents' job to force the kid to do homework? If the parent doesn't believe the homework is beneficial, and the parent has no say in the type and quantity of homework assigned, why should you expect the parent to help you get the child to do it?

  23. To your first point: The point I tried to make is that a concern with whether or not a child will willingly do their homework is different than a concern of whether or not the homework is age appropriate, worthwhile, and educational. Homework may meet all of those requirements and a child may still balk at doing it. At *that* point, it is a selfish concern. I absolutely agree that parents should have the right to say "my child is not going to do this". And they should have the right to refuse homework. However, saying "my child fights me on this and they refuse to do it" is not, in my opinion, relevant to that discussion. Many useful, brief, and well designed homework assignments may be met with refusal. I don't think the standard of "it's hard to get my kids to do it" should be the basis of doing/not doing homework. If refusal to do the homework is one of many concerns, including a belief on the parent's part that the homework is busywork, pointless, not educational, that's fine. But simply "it's hard to get my children to do this homework" is not, to me, a valid excuse.

    To your second point: We'll simply have to agree to disagree here. I do not believe in coercion or force or shaming or any other negative techniques with children. At the same time, everything cannot be a long drawn out negotiation of personal preferences. Again, I do wish to refer to the specificity with which I couched that statement- I said that even the most well designed, thoughtful, useful homework assignments may be things that children do not want to do. At *that* point, yes, it comes down to being responsible and doing one's work. I'm not saying busywork or pointless assignments. I'm saying that if the only basis upon which the homework is being rejected is "I just don't want to do it", that, to me, is not a worthwhile reason. Actually, I take that back. It is a worthwhile reason if the parent then allows the child to make the choice and deal with the consequences- namely, not getting a grade on the homework. Unfortunately, even allowing the child to experience a consequence for not completing useful homework is usually off the table, because most in the movement against homework are against such measures.

    To your last point: I don't believe that I ever said that parents shouldn't have the right to reject homework. I fear I'm getting really repetitive here, but this goes back to worthwhile homework assignments. I'm not saying that parents should be forced to police and enforce every single mundane and ridiculous homework assignment. I'm saying that if the homework assignment is well designed, age appropriate, and is useful, parents should help their children to do it.

    Most of my comment was a reaction to the fact that the last portion of the post seemed focused on "do you know how hard it is to get my kids to do homework??". In the absence of ridiculous busywork and in the presence of a worthwhile assignment, I still don't see how the difficulty of getting a child to do his or her work should factor in.

    I feel the need to close by stating again that I feel children have too much homework, and much of it is useless. I think busywork kills a love of learning. But I still think that conflating all of that with "yeah, and it's also sometimes just really hard to get my kid to do work" diminishes the conversation. If anything, it gives a weak point at which those who are pro-homework can say "oh, so your kid is just lazy and you don't want to push them". That's not true, and it's an unfair over simplification, but can you see how that looks to an outside observer?

    For what it's worth, I am an avid reader and fan of Kohn- I'm reading one of his books now, actually- and I have also read "The Case Against Homework". The former I thoroughly enjoyed, the latter I found to be unfortunately diminished by often over-emotional tirades.

  24. Well, I guess I think you're creating a straw man by suggesting that FedUpMom was saying that the mere fact that a child doesn't want to do homework is a stand-alone reason against it. It seems clear to me that she was talking about the burden homework is putting on family life.

    I can't take you literally when you say that you don't believe in coercion when working with children. Requiring them to do homework, and punishing them if they don't do it, is plainly using coercion, as is compulsory schooling generally. All I'm saying is that when you use that kind of coercion on people who have no say in the matter, you should be particularly reflective about it, and that you might want to err on the side of using a light hand -- in other words, that it is qualitatively different from the kind of coercion that enfranchised adults in a democratic society experience.

  25. My main point is that the inclusion of references to the difficulty with which one's child does homework does little to help the cause. It offers a great opportunity to diminish the argument into "oh, so you're just not a good disciplinarian", which is, unfairly, what many detractors of this movement think.

    Also in line with this, saying "The burden homework is putting on family life" is a bit vague. And in cases where homework is legitimately worthwhile, simply saying "my child's refusal to do homework stresses me out" is not, in my opinion, the responsibility or concern of the teacher. If the homework is deemed (by the parent) useful and educational, and if it is age appropriate, I just honestly don't think that "it's hard to get my kid to do homework" is a worthwhile reason.

    As to your point about coercion, this is where we part ways in general, I think. I read often on attachment parenting websites and in books on the subject about how unfair it is to "dictate" to children, how they should be given choices, etc. My objection to this is that a young child is very different from an adult, and while they should be respected as a person at the end of the day if my mother didn't "coerce" me into taking a bath or brushing my teeth or doing my chores I certainly would have done none of them. In the rush to give children choices and freedom and responsibility over their own lives, I think we have forgotten that they are still *children*. Parents have a responsibility to give them guidance, and yes, rules and expectations. Basic studies of their brains show just how very differently information is processed when one is young versus older, and this includes higher order reasoning.

    I honestly don't understand what parents want or expect from public school teachers most of the time. This blog, and others like it, are interesting to me because it at least helps to explain it in part. But to me it's still all rather arbitrary, and seems to amount to this- "I'm the parent, so I'll decide everything". At which point, what is the point of being an educated professional if the parents of the children are going to call the shots in the end? I'm being honest here, I'd really love to know your best case scenario. Because right now it seems like the best case is "I call the shots, the teacher does what I ask". And I would ask, how is that any different from what you feel the teachers are currently doing to your child? I imagine it's incredibly demeaning to a teacher to be an educated professional and be told you basically just do whatever Tommy's mom thinks you should because she read "The Case Against Homework". I'd also ask how you would suggest public school teachers go about not giving grades- when they are required- and not teaching certain standards- when they are required. Do you expect your child's teachers to acquiesce to your demands and just willingly sacrifice her job in the name of your child's needs? I'm being absolutely honest here. I'm really confused as to the answer to these questions, because right now the expectations seem very unfair and one sided.

  26. To put it another way- I don't like homework policies, or standardized tests, or even grading, honestly. But what frustrates me is that most of the "in the trenches" parents are fighting *teachers*. The very people who are every bit as much of a slave to expectations as the students are.

    I see very, very little about mobilizing against the school board, or lobbying to get laws passed, or doing things that help top down. I see a lot about sending strongly worded e-mails mama bear style to the teacher. Who, unfortunately, has very little power over the entrenched expectations of the system that give rise to the symptoms of homework and stupid grading policies.

    I feel like in my frustration with the above, I have felt like I need to go overboard in my defense of teachers, which results in my true opinion on the matter actually being skewed. In the end, however, I still feel that the relentless focus on teachers- instead of people who have actual power to change educational policy- is incredibly unfair and often demeaning to them.

  27. Wow, I walk away from the internet for an afternoon, and there's a flood of comments!

    Anonymous, I'm not trying to tell teachers what to do. I haven't even suggested that the teacher should do anything different in the classroom. I'm just exercising my right to make decisions about what I do in my own home with my own child.

    In this case, I think the homework is basically a waste of time, but even if I didn't think that, I don't think it's somehow irrelevant that my kids hate this kind of stuff.

    Education should be as pleasurable as possible. I don't see any reason for us to go out of our way to impose unpleasant, tedious tasks on our children. There's no shortage of such tasks in life, and I'm not worried that somehow my kids won't be exposed to enough of them. I'm much more concerned that my kids will grow to hate learning, and at a very young age, when they have many years of school ahead.

    If the work is really important to a child's learning, then it should be done during the school day, when young children are at their freshest. If the work isn't important, why do it at all?

  28. " I'm a 28 year old with a post graduate degree and I have teaching experience,"

    The most seminal sentence in your whole post. Aha! I get it. You are young yet and you don't have children. I respect some of your comments. But suffice it to say you really don't get families or children. You have a lot to learn, my dear. I suggest you start with a little humility.

    You blithely dismiss parental concerns about fatigue, busy work, repetitive work, useless work. You dismiss homework battles. After all, you assigned it, it must get done. No ifs, ands or buts. I invite you to begin your own homework doing some research on homework. Begin by looking into the futility of it. And then we can talk.

  29. Anonymous says:

    I'm saying that if the homework assignment is well designed, age appropriate, and is useful, parents should help their children to do it.

    I actually don't agree with this. I think homework should only be assigned when the child is old enough to do the work on her own, without the assistance of parents or anyone else.

  30. I agree with that, too, FedUpMom. When I say help the children to do it, I mean set up expectations that when they are asked to do meaningful, age appropriate work that supports their learning, they are expected to do that work. I don't mean help as in sit at the table and do it for them. I mean help as in let children know that they are expected to do it. Again, I'm referring to the issue of the problem of children simply not wanting to do it.

    HomeworkBlues- Please don't call me dear. It's disrespectful and demeaning, and we both know exactly why you're doing it. Having children or not having children does not an educational expert make, although to be fair I never called myself an educational expert. I also never did this- "you blithely dismiss parental concerns about fatigue, busy work, repetitive work, useless work. You dismiss homework battles." I never did anything of the sort. If you read past my admission of age that has somehow blinded you to anything else I said, I admitted in several different ways that I find homework often unnecessary, that I think teachers assign too much of it, that I think parents should have the right to opt out, and that I wish we didn't have to adhere to the system of grades and standardized tests. Honestly, did you even read my comments?

    Also, this- "After all, you assigned it, it must get done. No ifs, ands or buts." I also never said that. Again, I said that parents should have the right to refuse homework that they disagree with. I just don't think that the single argument of "it's hard to get my kids to do homework" should be allowed to form the entire basis.

    Lastly, this- " I invite you to begin your own homework doing some research on homework. Begin by looking into the futility of it. And then we can talk." is also patronizing and completely ignores my comments regarding how I have read the books that this blog author frequently cites- namely the Case Against Homework- and I have read several of Kohn's books as well. I spent all last summer, on my own time, researching and reading books on alternative and progressive topics in education- on my own time, because I was interested in it. I am shaking in anger and frustration right now because I spent upwards of 20 hours a week doing research on this topic, due to my own interest, and because I'm sincerely interested in being a good educator, and I have been pulling 12 hours days doing an unpaid internship since the beginning of the school year trying to do everything I can to help children in the Title I school in which I work. I care passionately about this, and you just tell me to "do my research"??? I can't even begin to tell you how demeaning that is.

    I understand you're a stranger on the internet, and you don't know me, and so I shouldn't let you upset me as much as you just did. But when I've been doing just that- research, on my own time, not for any class or a grade or any requirement, but because I'm interested in it- when I've read tens of books on the subject, when I devoted the last 6 years of my life to volunteering with organizations that address educational inequalities, I have to frankly say that it is demoralizing that you would just sniff at that, call me "dear" like I'm your GD daughter, and then snidely tell me I'll "get it when I'm not 28 and I have kids".

    I think we're done here. I have several more hours of homework to do and then I have to be at school from 7:30 in the morning until 8:00 p.m. at night, between patronizing the kids' coffee shop, teaching all day, typing up homework for a kid after school because I volunteered to help him because his wrist is broken, and then watching 3 games of volleyball because the kids begged me to.

    You don't know me. You made an assumption based on my age, and then condescended to give me advice to do something I've been doing for several years. Thanks, but I'm already working on it.

  31. And, quite frankly, if your litmus test for being a good teacher is a combination of not being young and having kids, then a lot of teachers are never going to meet your expectations.

    I'm sorry if I'm coming off harshly, but I have cried over students and worked so many hours overtime to help them and reach them, and to be told to "do my research" when I've been an educational activist for the last 6 years is just too much.

    I never said I had the answers, or that I was right. I'm looking for answers, and researching constantly. I'm trying. I spent several hours on Stop Homework when I found out about it, which is how I found this blog. I'm not just reading one side, or what I agree with. I'm trying to take it all in and figure out what I think.

    Overall, I sincerely do not understand why your first reaction to my having a differing opinion is that I didn't do my research on that opinion. Perhaps I have, and I came to a different conclusion? Why did that not cross your mind? Is it, again, because you were just focusing on my age and laughing in your sleeve about it? I moved out when I was 14 and have been on my own ever since, I worked full time and went to school full time all through undergraduate and graduate school, and I am far from some starry eyed, "naive young thing". Again, your assumptions are demeaning.

  32. For some reason the comment I posted before the one at 6:55 is now gone, so I'm sorry if that last comment seems disjointed.

  33. HomeworkBlues- Since the first comment didn't go through, I really want to reiterate this point- please don't call me dear. I get that you *really* want to drive home the point that I just don't understand since I don't have kids and I'm only 28, but it's disrespectful and we both know why you're doing it. People in debates on the internet don't call each other "dear" or "darling" without a snide tone to it. You may not mean it that way, but that's how it comes across and coupled with your unfounded accusations about how I haven't done research, and your gross over simplification of my stance, altogether it's just completely belittling.

    I've read all the books that are referenced by the anti-homework group, and I've also read the articles that those books base their opinions on. I've researched this, trust me. I have neither the time nor the energy to re-type the first lengthy response, but I just want to say that I am shaking in anger at your accusations of my ignorance, when I have been spending countless hours researching educational philosophies and I have read tens of books on the subject, in addition to my school work and in addition to the volunteering I've done over the past 6 years. I'm currently pouring my heart into a Title I school and pulling 12 hour days trying to reach these kids, and crying when I don't and feeling like a failure.

    Please don't tell me about humility. I am humbled and saddened every day when I think about our schools. I see it every day. I cry about it at night and it stresses me out and many times I can't sleep at night.

    But thanks for your thoughtful, heartfelt advice. I'm so glad you put me in my place- since I'm so young and haughty and don't research things, right?

  34. Anonymous, your comment didn't go through because it got caught in the spam filter run by Blogger. I have no idea why it was labeled "spam" -- the filter is a mystery. Anyway, I labeled it "not spam" and it has now been posted.

  35. FedUpMom- No worries, I figured it was a random blogger glitch, thank you.

    HomeworkBlues- I came back to apologize. My emotions got the better of me and I'm sorry. I'm just under a lot of stress and I pour a lot of energy into the kids and it felt like a slap in the face to be told to do my research when I've quite honestly been obsessing so much over doing the right thing over the past few years in education that my boyfriend has actually told me it's unhealthy how much I worry about this and read about it and watch videos/documentaries/read academic articles. And I felt talked down to with your references to my age, and calling me dear. I'm sorry. This is not about you or your comment, it's about my own frustrations and feeling overwhelmed with the burden of the fear that I'm not reaching these kids no matter what I try, and I'm fighting the administration every step of the way for the most basic of provisions to help them learn in more authentic and progressive ways.

  36. Anonymous -- You seem to be refuting an argument I never made. I didn't say we should never coerce children. I just said that forcing children to do things is qualitatively different from being forced to do things as an adult by a society in which you have some say. I was responding to the analogy that you were making when you said, "I don't want to do a lot of things."

    On another point: If your job requires you to do things that are harmful to the kids (and I don't doubt that it does, under NCLB), you can't possibly expect the kids' parents to react to that primarily by sympathizing with you. I don't actually see myself as fighting teachers; I do complain a lot about the need for change at the higher levels. (I think my blog bears me out on that.) It bothers me a lot that top-down educational reformers are pitting parents against teachers, when those are the two sets of people most likely to treat kids humanely if put in charge. But in the end, the "I was only following orders" defense only gets you so much sympathy. Schools aren't there to serve the teachers. Parents are rightly concerned about the effects of what you're doing to their kids; the fact that you're required to do them doesn't make them feel any better.

  37. Anonymous, I came back on today to soften my comments towards you but you got to me first. When I first posted my response, your follow up (original points, not your response to my comments) was not up yet. I'm not sure why. I was responding to the first one and hadn't seen the references to your research and the fact that you read Alfie Kohn's book yet. Just after my comment posted, your second entry popped up with an earlier time. I can't explain why I didn't see it the first time around. I'm usually pretty careful not to quickly react before reading someone's comments in their entirety. In fact, I began to respond to your very first point and then thought, no, I'd better read all of it first so I'm not responding purely out of reaction.

    I hate to do this to you. I have five deadlines on my desk and it's already almost six. I promise to respond tomorrow if you come back. I hope you do.

    I will say this. You do seem committed to your profession and you clearly work very hard. I'm appreciative of that. I won't attack you if you will at least allow me to explain my position. I didn't start out disliking teachers. I don't dislike teachers, actually, and there are some I adore. I only wish there'd been more. But if you only knew the condescending and patronizing comments I received as a parent over the years.

    One may think: Oh, but of course. You're such a rude and snarky parent. Remember, how I talk to teachers is not how I vent and plea here. And no, it's not veiled dislike. Many of my concerns were never taken seriously. Homework in our household didn't just bring on a headache. It caused real damage. And as parents, it got dumped in our laps and the attitude often was, you deal with it. In private school, I felt they at least listened and respected us as valued clients. Most of the time. Once we got to public school, teachers often acted as if they didn't need us. I have the emails to prove it. You're shaking? Try being the parent of a ten year old. You are stricken, you don't know what to do. I would dash off a response and then keep it. I'd simmer down and then...then what?

    What I began to notice is that the best teachers were not assigned to the GT kids. I suspect you and I might have been able to work out something amicable.

    And I'll leave you with this small tidbit. A friend, a skilled educator was listening to me vent about the last three weeks of my daughter's school career. I told her she'd been slammed with five huge projects in one week. Why, I asked? These kids worked so hard. They've all gotten into college. They are earnest. What was the point of "killing" them a week before high school graduation? She replied, I don't know, maybe they have an axe to grind?

    We don't grind axes when it comes to children, our most precious resource. This may not be your experience but it is certainly de rigueur in those "high achieving" schools.

  38. HomeworkBlues- No worries at all, it seems a lot of the comments were posting irregularly (Blogger sometimes just randomly does that, I'm not sure why!). Again, I'm sorry for letting my emotions get the better of me. I hope you met your deadlines and all went well!

    As a random aside- I know Anonymous commentators can sometimes be a bane to blogs with trollish behavior, but I'm posting anonymously because I don't want any of my comments to be linked to me in any way, because I'm talking about my students (however generally, I want to respect their privacy).

  39. Teachers and parents have been put into a necessarily difficult relationship by NCLB and by the lack of any real local control over education. Teachers don't have any authority over parents (though there are some who act like they do), so the only way they can expect parents to "partner" with them in anything (including in their use of homework) is through agreement. But agreements are reached through negotiation, not by dictating non-negotiable terms. Teachers have very limited freedom to accommodate parents' concerns, and parents have little to no say in what goes on in the schools. So it's not surprising how often that sense of partnership isn't there.

  40. Wow, I go away for a few days and I missed all this. I have to admit I've only skimmed the newer comments on this thread, but I'd like to add a few things based on what I did read.

    1. I've never had my kids refuse to do homework, but there have been many times where I have stepped in and stopped a piece of homework (either after they have bogged down in it or before if I catch it). Too many assignments are like the one in this blog post where the educational value-to-time consumed ratio is extremely low. Not only do I *not* tell my kids "there are things you just have to do", I encourage them to be skeptics. Question Everything.

    2. For what it's worth, I complain just as much about (and to) the administration in my school system as I do the teachers. Teachers are just the closest contact point between parents and schools so they see the most interaction, positive or negative.

    3. While I don't expect teachers to "do what I say" exactly, I am paying taxes for the purpose of educating children for their lives in the 21st century. When the schools repeatedly act in ways contradictory to this goal, I expect substantive responses to my complaints.