kitchen table math, the sequel: Saving the hard stuff for home

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Saving the hard stuff for home

Auntie Anne writes:
This has been our experience as well. Teachers are always trying to make "learning fun!", which means no boring stuff like worksheets and drills, but lots of group chatting/working, lots of craft work, lots of "exploration" in the classroom.

Still, the hard stuff has to happen, so they just send it home at night. Instead of school being where kids work, and home being where they can play and relax, the opposite is now true.

Meanwhile, the people who have the burden of getting kids through the not-fun part of their education end up being the parents who have to get their kids to get their homework done.
That's what suddenly hit me, the other day, talking to the mother of a second grade child who is melting down over her homework.

What is her child doing during the day?

I also realized that one aspect of Morningside Academy I haven't stressed is the fact that students there don't do homework.

Interestingly, I don't recall Kent Johnson telling us that Morningside kids don't do homework. I found out later, when I visited a precision teaching school in CT, where the kids did lots of homework. The principal told me that Kent's philosophy was that Morningside students worked hard during the day and should be free to play after school. She may have been wrong, of course, but in fact I don't think I saw children take homework home during the two weeks I attended the Summer Institute.

I definitely didn't see teachers collect homework.

So think about that.

Morningside teaches children in grades K through 8.

It guarantees that each students will make two years' progress in one year's time, in their subject of greatest difficulty, or tuition will be refunded. Most or all students are there because they're having difficulty in their regular schools.

And they make two years of progress in just one year without doing homework.

I know I've told this story before, but by the time we finally pulled C. out of our schools here, I had recurring images of the school scooping up heaping armloads of his childhood and tossing them in the trash.

(Does anyone remember Carolyn J. setting up the "FWOT" category on the old ktm? I sure do. Had never encountered the acronym before.)

More from Anonymous:
Yup. This was our experience as well. Soft, touchy feely classroom activities, and the hard stuff came home. Not only did it come home, it came home with a child who hadn't received any instruction about how to do whatever it was (and this was middle school).

Why can't they get it all done in the 6-7 hours the kids are in school? There should be no homework in K-8. Frankly, I don't think there should be homework in high school either unless they go over to a university model and drastically reduce the amount of time in class. K-8ers need time to be kids, and high school students need time to learn who they are beyond their schoolwork.
And chemprof:
The whole idea of homework with kids this age does mean that you are asking them to do the most intense academic work when they are totally wiped out.

That said, by second grade she needs to know her addition and subtraction facts (and if she doesn't, that's something they should be working on at home). They are starting to do multi-digit addition and subtraction, and that's tough without knowing the facts. That's where we are right now (2A Singapore Math), and without those math facts, we'd have lots of tears.

Since we are homeschooling, we do a lot of our heavy work in the morning or early afternoon. Sometimes we do work in the evenings, but only if she's in the mood. But we are also working on a checklist, so she's got a lot of control over what she does on a given day.

This is a great example of how FedUpMom says our educational system is neither traditional or progressive, but the worst of both. A real traditional system would have them doing the hard work all day, with a little homework to reinforce it at night. In a real progressive system, students would do projects and group work all day in school, with a lot more choice of activity, but then not have homework. Instead, they do the projects but follow up with homework that they aren't prepared to do.
And--ding! ding! ding!--lgm's district takes the cake yet again:
Well, the hard stuff didnt come home here. The tears come during prep for the state math test...when the district tries to cram the top kids into earning a 3. Most of the year is spent in remediation to benefit the included and poverty. The parent of the lad needs to afterschool like everyone else that is serious.
My conclusion: things have gotten worse.

C. didn't have lots of onerous homework to do--and I did start taking his math homework away from him & doing it myself at one point, as education realist advises.

Taking homework away from a conscientious child, by the way, is easier said than done. I took C's math homework away because I was trying to accelerate him so he could take algebra in 8th grade, which meant that he needed to do math practice well ahead of the homework being sent home. But C., only in 5th grade at that point, absolutely could not stand the idea that we were lying to the teacher and doing things wrong. So I didn't do it often.

Anyway, C. didn't have lots of onerous homework, so our time was taken up with reteaching, as opposed to reteaching and beaucoup homework, which may be where things stand today.


Anonymous said...

We have the opposite experience. The drills are done in class (Mad Minute, for example) and the touchy feely art projects, the ones that can't possibly be done by a second grader on his or her own, come home. Meaning that us parents get stuck buying supplies and building the diorama, or wasting expensive printer ink printing out a bunch of carefully resized photos (again, parent has to do the resizing since most little kids do not know how) for a collage with "touchables" embedded. I would be so much happier if the drills came home

lgm said...

My district is in a tough spot. Not wealthy, no tax base, and receiving lots of students displaced by gentrification who were receiving sn and title 1 dollars at the old school...but not enough have moved here to tip the district into title 1. So, lots of need but no money following; middle class leaving. In another five years we should get relief as the doubling up in housing may tip us into title 1. Or it may not, if McKinneyVento is invoked and many choose to attend their old, better, district. Unfunded mandated are a big deal.

lgm said...

Mandates not mandated

Auntie Ann said...

A friend of mine complained yesterday that she hated sitting with her daughter to help her with math.

Me: "What grade is she in now?"

Her: "Kindergarten."


M&M said...

My dd did Morningsides Summer Program for three Summers. Their program was AMAZING and they specifically said NOT to do more homework. Their program worked GREAT for my dd. She has learning disabilities stemming from a stroke near birth. At the end of 5th grade she tested at the 2nd grade level for writing. By the end of Summer 1 (4 weeks, 1/2 days at Morningside) she tested at 4th grade level. By the end of the 2nd Summer, she tested at grade level (WOW!) and amazingly, she didn't lose any gains during the school year. We sent her a 3rd Summer to do their Study Skills program. She enjoyed all three Summers, and I am still amazed at her writing ability. She is very descriptive (learned at Morningside), and is now in community college, getting an A. I think that Morningside's precision teaching is the bomb. As a math teacher and math tutor, I try to replicate their model whenever possible.

FedUpMom said...

Thanks for the shout-out, chemprof! I'm touched.

Argh, homework! I sort of like Younger Daughter's math homework this year, because at least it usually looks like actual math (compared to last year's Trailblazer craziness.) The other night she came home with a whole page of stuff like this:

6(2b + 5)

which she was supposed to use the distributive property on. At first she thought there must be a single-number answer to this thing, so she just guessed at a possible value for b, and chugged the whole thing through to get a single number at the end (e.g. "54"). I explained to her that if we're not given a value for b, we just leave it, so the answer should be

12b + 30

I then sat and coached her through the whole page. The next day YD told me that she was the only kid in the whole class who did the worksheet right. That shows that the teacher didn't explain it. Plus, an entire classfull of kids, minus 1, spent an evening practicing getting the wrong answer! Now they have to unlearn whatever bad habit they got into.

owen thomas said...

government doesn't *want* to be responsible.
it's just not in their *nature*. they'll got to
any elaborate lengths... unto slaughtering
yet another generation of children... to *prove*
this simple fact. the hungry sheep look up
and are not fed.

owen thomas said...

for "got", read "to".
i'm done for tonight,
i promise.