Thursday, September 9, 2010

Summer Homework Debate (Comment Repost)

I came across the title My son’s new teacher may hate me already while going through my blogroll. I don't want to misquote so please read how Selfish Mom prefers that her son enjoy his summer vacation without having to do any summer homework for school (I think that's a fair summary). Here is our discussion after I posted a comment:

Chocolate Mom on September 8th, 2010 11:25 pm

I’m a teacher and a mother. In my high school all grades are required to do some form of reading assignment over the summer vacation. I think in light of this being the digital era, it’s important that our children know that, well, “reading is fundamental”. We are teaching our kids to continue learning in all areas of their lives, including summer vacation. I don’t think that is asking too much at all, and was not in the least surprised when my daughter was given a book for her summer reading assignment and will be given a writing test during these first few weeks of school. It teaches them responsibility also, I think you did your son’s teacher a huge disservice by ignoring a class requirement. Once a teacher loses a student’s respect it is nearly impossible to get it back, and then he can only look at you and say, “Well, you said it wasn’t important and pointless.” I don’t see how wanting our students more prepared for their futures is pointless. Again on the high school level I see what happens to those kids that grow up thinking “I’m smart, what do I need school for?” and then when they get out into the real world they are ill prepared because their parents didn’t think reading one book over the course of their summer wasn’t important. This is how it starts.

Sorry. I feel so strongly about this because I see it first hand how these turn out. Just my opinion.

Amy Reply:

@Chocolate Mom, I hear you, but I’m definitely not teaching him that school itself is pointless or that he’s too smart to need school. Just summer homework. The more I think about this, the more I think that my big mistake was in basically making the decision for him, tucking the homework away.

There’s something to be said for consciously refusing to do something on principal and then suffering the consequences. I don’t want him to suffer consequences for something I did, and based on his first day he won’t be – he said the summer homework wasn’t mentioned at all (further convincing me that it’s just given out to satisfy those parents who clamor for more homework during the school year too). So maybe next summer I’ll make sure that he’s a willing conspirator if the homework gets skipped again.

He works hard during the school year. He gets summer off. That’s his reward for getting amazing scores on those stupid high-stakes tests I also think are pointless.

I’m surprised nobody has sued about this. Maybe they have, I should check. Again, I don’t like actively ignoring something the school sends home, but I don’t like blindly following stupid requests either. And making a comment like “I don’t see how wanted [sic] our students more prepared for their futures as [sic] pointless” is commenting on something that I didn’t say. Being prepared for the future is important. I just don’t think summer homework gets my son there.

Chocolate Mom Reply:

Fair enough. I wasn’t quoting you per se, I was talking in general about many parents thinking that not just summer assignments but those state tests or certain subject areas are pointless (I couldn’t agree with you more about the state tests). I was coming from an English teacher’s point of view of not being supportive of your son’s teacher. Reading is a huge deal, and while some kids will say that they’re going to read over the summer, the majority of them don’t. That’s one of the main reasons most educational departments started summer reading projects in the first place. While you may think it’s just a pointless summer assignment, it starts a kid’s thought process of “if my parents don’t think I need it, then I don’t”, you know? Thus the huge drop off in respect for education and teachers in general. We have the responsibility of shaping our future lawyers, doctors, teachers, artists, etc., but how can we if we can’t get our parents to support us for something as simple as a summer reading assignment?

Parents? Teachers? What are your thoughts on this?


Radha said...

I couldn't agree more with you. The approach I've seen in terms of execution from schools can be frustrating (where some teachers emphasize this in there classrooms and others let it get brushed under the rug). It's bad enough teachers and the field of teaching is constantly undermined.

And frankly, summer vacations weren't designed historically as a break for children. They were designed to provide the sons and daughters of farmers more time to work the fields before the harvest. Now that a majority of students attending public schools are not children of farmers, I think our society needs to reevaluate the purpose of a summer.

This is not some kind of absolute right of man--it's a summer holiday that was created for the purpose of work and now is extended for the purpose of play. So while a child has their time to play during the summer, give them a damn book to read because summers are certainly not as difficult and laborious as they once were in the past.

On the flip side, however, perhaps schools should look into how they package and present their summer reading projects. Should there be an assignment attached to the reading? Can we keep things interactive and have students posting their ideas on a community blog? If we make it an assignment that is worth the attention of parents--but don't get me wrong, I already think it is.

Chocolate Mom aka Blupoetres said...

Thank you, Radha, my lovely teacher in training for bringing up the history behind summer vacation. Today's children, tweens, and teenagers take for granted how easy they have it. They don't work nearly as hard as their great-grandparents, or even, dare I say, their own parents. This kind of behavior just perpetuates this feeling they have of self-entitlement.

I love the idea of making the summer reading assignment more of an assignment than just the reading, however, many would just turn to the internet for their answers. Remember the thesis? You did your research and reading on your own, but all writing, i.e. cognitive thinking, was done in the classroom.

Elizabeth @ My Life, Such as it is... said...

What I originally wrote was brilliant but Blogger gave me an error message.

Seriously??? Your kid can't find the time to read a book in a 3 month time period? Or you don't want to "make him"? That is part of being a parent. Granted it's the icky part but it is still your job.

Studies have repeatedly shown that kids lose a large portion of their schooling over the summer and teachers have to spend the first month re-teaching.

Summer vacation is not a Right, it is a Privilege and Radha is correct. It was created solely for the purpose of work, not fun. Times have changed. Kids don't run around playing in the backyard anymore or the local park/playground. They aren't working the harvest either.They are in front of the TV, Wii, Computer, in daycare, working, summer camps, etc. Yes, that all can be considered educational but that is not the point. You are teaching your child he is not required to do what the teacher says or assigns if he doesn't want to or objects.

Homework has a purpose, regardless of what parents seem to think nowadays. It reinforces what concept was taught that day. Some kids get it right away; others don't. Is it fair? No. Life isn't fair, get over it. You can disagree with the teacher all you want but at the end of the day, teaching your child to ignore required work is wrong. Period.

Chocolate Mom aka Blupoetres said...

Thank you Liz! Glad to see, I'm not alone here, and even better that your posting as a mother!!

Mommyhood Mayhem said...

I vote with Chocolate Mom!! As a teacher, I know the ONLY thing that make's a difference in a student's performance is parental involvement and concern. Having parents involved and supportive breaks down all socioeconomic/race/gender barriers and facilitates the student's progress.

To have a parent undermine a teacher shows the student that the teacher isn't worth respecting. This mother doesn't understand that the example she is setting is more than just about summer homework. Her son will NOT be a better person for this.