No homework for my kids. No school for mine. For whom do such approaches really work?

I read an interesting blog by a parent on her resistance to homework. In “Starlighting Mama,” writer Heather Shumaker explains why her household bans homework. In a nutshell, her kids have better things to do. Things that are more fun and probably more educational.

So, every year, Shumaker sends a letter to the school that is generally accepted by her son’s teacher.

Here is part of her letter:

My son gets home around 4 p.m. He gets into pajamas around 8 p.m. In those short four hours, he:

Has an after-school snack, talks and unwinds from his day, plays/ pursues his own interests, goes outside and climbs in tree forts, giggles with his brother,  does family chores, practices piano, has a family supper, reads his own book and listens to a bedtime story

These are all more important uses of his time, or any young child’s time. My view is homework interrupts home learning. Homework tends to give school /learning a bad name and when given too young, kids learn to resent it instead of value it. Kids don’t need to “practice” the routine of homework. That can come much later, in middle school.

The only type of “homework” I value at this age is reading at home.  In our family we already do this every day. When homework does become important, I view it as the child’s responsibility.  We will take an interest in what our kids learn in school, but not tell them to do it.  No parent signatures signing off on assignments, etc.  I also don’t believe in the practice of adding 10 minutes a day per grade, or any arbitrary amount of time. Learning doesn’t work by filling a quota of minutes. I realize this is not the prevailing view in education right now, and perhaps flies in the face of the school’s policies or your own ideas.  Can we talk?  I’d like to find something that’s comfortable for everyone and make sure your goals are supported as well as ours.”

First, we can all agree that Shumaker’s children are going to do fine in school and life. I doubt many educators would worry about children who have access to the natural world every day and who live amidst books and music. An assistant principal in Gwinnett once described these students to me as “teacher proof.”  He said they flourish under most any circumstances because their daily lives provide rich learning experiences.

But I do have concerns about parents opting out of all homework.

Some kids do not go home to log jumping and piano playing or parents attuned to their emotional, intellectual and physical development. They don’t go home to shelves full of beloved classics and the best of new children’s literature. Without assigned school reading, those kids may not read at home, in part because there are no books around their houses. Their parents aren’t terrible people; they are just overwhelmed with the challenges of keeping their kids fed and housed.

These students could end up sitting next to the Shumaker boys who get a pass every day on the homework. How does that affect the class culture? Do kids see different expectations for one another? Do we cast school as a cafeteria where you get to pick and choose your activities?  (For the record, I am not a fan of homework for young kids and have no problem with a class-wide or school-wide limit on how much is assigned.)

In a related vein, I was reading a New York Times profile of the Thiel fellows, the wunderkinds who receive grants from billionaire Peter A. Thiel to drop out of college and pursue their dreams. One of them was Laura Deming. I was struck by her father’s comments about education and about what he and his wife were willing to do for their daughter’s sake.

According to the story:

Ms. Deming is clearly brilliant. When she was 12, her family moved to San Francisco from New Zealand so she could work with Cynthia Kenyon, a molecular biologist who studies aging. When Ms. Deming was 14, the family moved again, this time to the Boston area, so she could study at M.I.T.

“Families of Olympic-caliber athletes make these kinds of sacrifices all the time,” says Tabitha Deming, Laura’s mother. ”When we lived nearby in Boston, we were lucky to see her once a month. She never came home for weekends.”

John Deming, Laura’s father, graduated from Brandeis University at the age of 35 but says he disdains formal education at every level. His daughter was home-schooled.

“I can’t think of a worse environment than school if you want your kids to learn how to make decisions, manage risk and take responsibility for their choices,” Mr. Deming, an investor, wrote in an e-mail. “Rather than sending them to school, turn your kids loose on the world. Introduce them to the rigors of reality, the most important of which is earning your own way.” He added, “I detest American so-called ‘education.’ ”

Again, I have no concerns about the education of a young genius whose parents have the wherewithal to shift continents to optimize her  learning opportunities.

But it is one thing to “turn your child loose on the world” in the rarefied regions where the Demings clearly live and another to loose a child in a world where mom works two jobs, where intellectual curiosity is not nurtured and where reality can be both bleak and dangerous.

Interesting stuff. What do you think?

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

91 comments Add your comment

bootney farnsworth

September 20th, 2012
12:13 pm

one word answers: homeschool. Charter. Montessori.

if you don’t wish to be in the system, fine.
but if you’re gonna choose to be in the system, work within the system.

what always concerns me about these concepts are:
-mom and dad aren’t always the best judges of how much a child is learning.
-sounds like a potential starter kit for sociopaths.

mountain man

September 20th, 2012
12:20 pm

Schumaker’s son is the one that, when he gets out in the business world, his boss will tell him to finish a report at home, and he will say “I’m sorry but my home time is too precious, and I don’t do work after hours”. Bye-bye.

Hillbilly D

September 20th, 2012
12:30 pm

Bootney pretty much has it right, either play by the rules or start/find another game.

mountain man

September 20th, 2012
12:32 pm

I agree with Bootney – if you don’t like the local pubilc school system – then go another route. IF I was a teacher, I would give homework, and if it were not completed, I would give a zero. Now you understand why I have never been nor will ever be a teacher.


September 20th, 2012
12:33 pm

Typical goofy parent attitude in the 21st century in that it’s all about them and nothing else. If it doesn’t suit the parent or kid, then “I don’t want it.” So, I concur with bootney above. Parents, you have a choice: choose this system of education or that system of education. Once you make that choice, it’s YOUR responsibility to work within those guidelines.

Atlanta Mom

September 20th, 2012
12:35 pm

Really? That child is going to learn how to write his letter and learn his arithmetic facts during the school day? Me thinks not.


September 20th, 2012
12:35 pm

One unaddressed issue in this article about homework is the inherent disadvantage for students whose parents do not know how to read very well (or at all) or work math problems or …
Students are often stymied by their assignments, and when parents/guardians/siblings cannot help them through the trouble spots, the students often give up. Over the course of a school year, those students fall further and further behind while students who can turn to family members for help are usually able to keep up or excel.

Atlanta Mom

September 20th, 2012
12:36 pm

Will this mom be negotiating what homework is important when he gets to college?

Edmond Heatley no longer too be head of Berkeley Schools

September 20th, 2012
12:41 pm

BERKELEY — The final candidate chosen to run the city’s schools backed out Monday after parents and teachers criticized his publicly stated views against same-sex marriage.

Edmond Heatley, who recently announced his resignation as superintendent of the Clayton County Public Schools near Atlanta, emailed a letter Monday to Berkeley school board President John Selawsky saying he was withdrawing his candidacy, Selawsky said Tuesday.

“It was clear there was going to be a lot of explaining to do, and there were going to be a lot of difficulties coming in,” said Selawsky, referring to the uproar over Heatley’s 2008 resolution he authored while superintendent of the Chino Valley Unified School District in Southern California urging his school board to take a stand against same-sex marriage, which it did so unanimously.

The resolution was circulated at a school board meeting in Berkeley on Sept. 12 and parents spoke against it.

In the memo, Heatley said “the ideal learning environment for children is within a nurturing home governed jointly by a mother and a father as primary educators of their children.”

Selawsky said the revelation of Heatley’s views on same-sex marriage made the “odds of a successful superintendency slimmer and slimmer. All of us realized that.”

Selawsky said it would have been helpful if the board knew of the memo before it began talking seriously to Heatley about the job. The board hired a headhunting firm and has paid it a $30,000 flat fee to find candidates…”

Ole Guy

September 20th, 2012
12:42 pm

Once again, we see the slow but gradual infusion of passive education…my kid don’t have time for homework, but if he wanders about life, eyes wide open, he will learn all he has to know about the world. Apparently, the author of this fine memo (I’m not too sure if she can…nor should…claim, in good conscience, the title MOM), as many who seem to agree, do not mid if their kids grow up “fat, dumb and stupid”…perfect candidates for a role in Animal House.

At the earliest of ages, these kids need to develop a sense of “connective tissue” between the (supposedly) rigors of school life, and the “demands” of their teachers, and life away from the classroom. Homework is the ONLY way to achieve this. Homework need not require hours and hours of burning the midnight oil…although burning that oil is precisely what will be required if the kid is to be at all prepared for the nasty ole world. Homework simply provides a tool by which the kid assimilates that sense of accountability; follow-through.

It simply amazes me that, on one hand, no one seems to oppose the arguement that kids…probably more so than at any time in human history, need to be prepared for a very complex…and, in many way, unforgiving…world, yet there are those (presumably) sane folks who have the guts to even suggest such passive means of educating these kids will suffice.

Then again, this will, in a very short time, provide extra funding for the good folks at the State Dept who will be working overtime issuing work visas to them thar feriners who will be far more capable of performing the jobs of the 21st century. At the same time, the good folks at the Dept of Labor will be kept busy finding the low-level jobs for then-adults who won’t have the qualifications to dig ditches. But hey, let’s viiew the bright side…unemployment checks will abound while those of us who have somehow managed to get ahead will have the opportunity to share the wealth with the kids whose parents saw no need in doing homework

Sleep well!

Atlanta Mom

September 20th, 2012
12:42 pm

“First, we can all agree that Shumaker’s children are going to do fine in school and life”
I can’t agree with that statement at all. A child who doesn’t have to follow the rules for the first 12 years of his life, is going to find it difficult to adjust to the real world, whenever his mother determines it’s time.


September 20th, 2012
12:54 pm

I too did not think that homework in the early grades served much purpose, but my kids did it anyway. Some people commenting need to re-read her letter. She did not say her children would never do homework. She just means elementary school.

“Kids don’t need to “practice” the routine of homework. That can come much later, in middle school.”

Classroom Teacher

September 20th, 2012
1:02 pm

By middle school, it’s too late. He’s learned that he doesn’t have to do homework and his mom isn’t going to make him. I pity the teachers who will have this child in middle school,


September 20th, 2012
1:04 pm

I can totally understand where this parent is coming from, although I don’t think it’s helpful to “opt out” beyond maybe third grade. Kids do need to learn how to complete assignments, write essays, study, etc. And by the later half of middle school, my experience has been that the kids are developmentally ready to handle such challenges.
I will say that my entire family is exhausted from the homework routine forced upon us. At my 10 year-old’s Curriculum night, I went from class to class where EACH teacher (none with school -aged kids, btw) explained that they gave homework each school night but don’t worry, it is only 30-45 minutes’ worth. Well, that adds up to about 2 1/2 hours per night, then add in special issues with a particular kids’ learning abilities – now we’re at 3 hours. Then add in other children’s homework help needs, scouts, church, sports, dinner, family time, even showers – notice PLAYTIME is not even listed! Since the kids get home from school about 4, it is well past their ideal healthy bedtime before all the hoops are jumped through. And no, dropping physical activity, community activities, family time and spiritual development to replace with more homework time is not appropriate. Or is that what the school system is gunning for?
I consider it my responsibility to find enrichment opportunities to develop my child’s mind, body and soul consistently with my family’s values. I do not appreciate the schools’ attempt to overtake my role in my children’s development by dictating my family’s schedule every night.


September 20th, 2012
1:08 pm

I think it’s wrong to teach your children a lesson that even if you’re expected to do something, you don’t have to do it simply because it isn’t worthwhile. A better conversation would be with the school itself about having meaningful homework. I sometimes think my kids get assignments simply because homework is expected and that they would, in fact, learn more through hands-on or outdoor play or experiences. Growing up, we only had homework in elementary school every so often (other than reading each night). Now, they have it every day starting in kindergarten.

John Konop

September 20th, 2012
1:11 pm

Play is very important part of education. Like most things this is not a black and white issue, it falls into the grey area. That is why a balance approach usually works best.

…….. Within the past 20 years, there has been a considerable amount of research, conducted mostly on preschool children, on the relationship between play and problem solving. More specifically, researchers have looked at the impact of either object play or fantasy play on children’s ability to solve either single-solution or multiple-solution problems. The typical research design has been to (1) allow children to engage in free play with materials that they would later use to solve single-solution problems or (2) examine the relationship between make-believe play and children’s ability to deal with multiple-solution problems (Rubin, Fein, & Vandenberg, 1983)…….

….. Sylva (1977) divided the preschoolers into three groups. The first were allowed to play freely with the problem-solving materials prior to engaging in the task A second group watched as the experimenter solved the problem before they were asked to do it. Finally, a third group, the control, was given neither the play experience nor the opportunity to observe the problem being solved.

It was found that the children who either played with the materials in advance or watched an adult solve the problem became more successful problem solvers than those in the control group. More interesting was the finding that the play group appeared to be more highly motivated to solve the problem and worked at it more persistently than did the observation group, whose members either solved the problem immediately or simply gave up…….


September 20th, 2012
1:18 pm

I think SOMETIMES we may get a bit too much homework, BUT we do it because it is expected, and he has to learn to follow the rules. Honestly, it is through sitting down with my son during homework that I see where he is doing well and what he needs help in. It is also teaching him a valuable lesson in time management – stop dawdling and wasting time, and get your work done, and then you have time to watch your TV shows or work on a Legos project. This woman sounds like SHE didn’t want to get caught up in the homework grind, to save time for her yoga lessons, a manicure, trying new recipes or yapping on her cell phone, than what her kids will get out of not doing homework.

Mom to Many

September 20th, 2012
1:20 pm

From Ms. Shumaker’s blog:
“For seven hours they’ve had to focus on the academic sides of their brains with grown-ups telling them what to do. When school’s out, it should be OUT. Kids need time to get other needs met.

What do kids need? Time outside. Time with family. Time goofing around and picking their nose. Time pursuing their own interests. Time doing family chores. And an early bed. There you have it: Play, family time and sleep. ”

I agree. One of her boys is in 3rd grade. I have two sons currently in elementary school. They’ve spent from 8am to 3 pm at school, and when they get home, they want to RUN WILD. They get 20 minutes of daily recess during that 7 hour span, and get P.E. with a coach every 2-3 weeks as a “special.” The last thing they want to do is sit there and do homework. I allow them to put it off as long as we can once they arrive home. They play outside with friends, ride bikes, or they play with Legos if they aren’t playing outside. They read nightly — and would do that regardless of whether I had to sign a ridiculous reading log to prove myself the proper type of parent.

Atlanta Mom

September 20th, 2012
1:22 pm

Mr Konop,
That all sounds good, if that’s what the kids are doing, playing. But how many kids are coming home sitting in front of the TV or computer screen?


September 20th, 2012
1:24 pm

My response:

Dear Mrs. Shumaker,

Thank you for the note. Unfortunately in this circumstance your opinion on what is a good use of your son’s time is completely irrelevant. Your child will complete the assignments like his classmates or he will be forced ranked below his peers for not putting in the same effort that they have.

Perhaps he will have a more understanding 3rd Grade teacher next year when he repeats it.



September 20th, 2012
1:33 pm

Maureen, you missed the boat with your comment. Atlanta Mom does a good job of what everyone is saying. These are likely to be some messed up kids when they are on their own in the real world.

“First, we can all agree that Shumaker’s children are going to do fine in school and life”


September 20th, 2012
1:34 pm

This just seems like a straight-up case of “my kid is too special to follow the rules.” And I’m disappointed in the teachers for giving in. Surely there’s a compromise of “it’s wonderful and valuable that he has these experiences at home, but we’re reinforcing lessons and he needs to do his homework.”

Maybe I missed it, but was there a mention of how old her child is?


September 20th, 2012
1:39 pm

Reading does not equate to education. Literacy is its own statistic for a reason.

“My child reads three grade levels above…..”

Yippeeee!!!! That’s terrific for him. That will differentiate him in life. 99% of American adults can read. How about teaching Johnny some math.


September 20th, 2012
1:40 pm

@Tired, I got the 3rd grade from a quote in the comments from this freak show’s blog.

Truth in Moderation

September 20th, 2012
1:56 pm

When one home schools, homework loses its meaning. The goal of a home educator is to educate her children, and to support and encourage their UNIQUE talents, by WHATEVER means. Some skills such as grammar and foreign language are best mastered with daily written and oral drill work. This is the type of work traditionally sent home as “home work”. I often use this type of “workbook practice” to make sure my kids get enough repetition to get the information into their long term memory. This is often necessary for math skill mastery. However, I only give this type of work when appropriate and necessary. I have the flexibility to put it off if we have more pressing hands-on or social learning to do. Students resent “busy work”, but will become engaged in meaningful learning. It is also important for students to learn to work independently. However, if they get stuck, or need to ask a question, It is good that the home school parent is available. This doesn’t always happen with traditional public school homework. I do think it is very important for students to have time each day to pursue their own interests and to build family relationships. This is much easier to accomplish with home school.


September 20th, 2012
2:02 pm

One of my very successful colleagues (5th grade) tells the kids/parents at the beginning of the year: If you cannot do your homework one night, just have your parent write a note as to why you could not, and you will not be penalized. Most parents, after writing the note a few times, are too embarrased to continue doing it. The ones who have no homework done and no note work at recess (not a great thing, but the parents are the bad guys here.)


September 20th, 2012
2:03 pm

And of course he saves the notes for conference time.


September 20th, 2012
2:04 pm

When I was PTA president, we had two parents who owned and ran a neighborhood bar. Since their son (second marriage and children for him, so this time he knew exactly how to “perfectly parent”) was born they’d taken him to the bar with them at night, keeping him up until closing and then letting him sleep until noon or so in the care of a non-English speaking nanny. When time came for kindergarten, the parents came to school to explain, much as Ms. Shumaker, that since they knew how to perfectly parent their priorities and time management were much more important than were the k teacher’s. Therefore, the teacher needed to understand that the boy would not be arriving until noon or so, and that the teaching day needed to be rearranged to put the “important” material, as well as some “fun stuff”, after noon so that he could participate.

No, Ms. Downey, this substitution of the parents’ priorities and beliefs for the school’s didn’t lead that poor boy to do “fine in school and life”, regardless of how convinced those parents were that their way was best and that the school had to accommodate their tailored approach.

Bootney is right. If you choose to participate in public school, you are obligated not to force some poor teacher to change lesson plans, schedules or requirements for your little angel and your personal hobby horse. If a student has too much aggregate homework, something that happened frequently when my kids were in school, it is your job as a parent to intervene at the teacher or the principal level when coordination between teachers fails. If the curriculum runs off the rails, it is similarly your right and responsibility to provide your child with your point of view and go see the teacher if necessary. However, expecting a teacher to prepare 30+ different lesson plans to accomodate 30+ different parental beliefs is ludicrous.

If you don’t want your child to follow the rules and meet the classroom expectations, find rules and expectations you can support, either at another school or through home schooling.

Ms. Shumaker is way out of line.

Maureen Downey

September 20th, 2012
2:07 pm

@bubba, Still disagree. Will try and find study that found kids raised to question things and challenge end up in better jobs. I also have to say that many of these kids will never work in the conventional corporate jobs of today. Many more will work independently and remotely so the criteria for success may be far different. I have already seen that some of my older kids’ most obstreperous friends do quite well because they are self-employed and interact with their clients online.

long time educator

September 20th, 2012
2:11 pm

I am not a bit surprised. This mom represents the group of parents to whom the rules don’t apply. Their number is growing and this is another good reason for smart teachers to get out now. The inmates are running the asylum.


September 20th, 2012
2:16 pm

The one thing I have asked of teachers is a little more flexibility on how the homework gets done. For instance, our third grader is required to practice multiplication facts every week day for 5 minutes and to read for 20 minutes. He also has a separate homework assignment three nights a week from a menu of tasks that seem pretty diverse and worthwhile. He gets to pick which one he does each night.

The only thing I asked of the teacher is if he could essentially “batch” work with the math facts and reading. For instance, instead of just five minutes of multiplication facts each night, could he do 30 minutes in one or two batches for the week. Also, some nights our son will read for hours because he is completely intrigued by a book. Other nights, with two older siblings, things can get nutty and before we know it, bedtime is upon us and there’s no time to read. If he read for a hour or two the day before, I don’t feel bad about skipping reading every now and then. Through the week, he gets much more than the minimum amount of reading/math facts, but he does it in batches rather than a smidgen here and there. This approach works well for his particular learning style because he tends to get very absorbed with a task once he starts it, and quitting after just a few minutes makes it harder for him to really learn it.

His teacher has been fine with this. He gets a lot of latitude though because he’s a really good student. I guess I could have not even told her about it, but I figured it was best to be honest so she knows what’s going on.

Jarvis, how do you feel about a parent with this approach? Again, overall, he’s doing more work than is required, but he’s changing the sequencing of it to something that is more effective for the way he learns. Would you be willing to work with this if you were a teacher?


September 20th, 2012
2:16 pm

“…study that found kids raised to question things and challenge end up in better jobs.”

But can’t you question and challenge and still do your homework?

Justin Staub

September 20th, 2012
2:17 pm

I don’t know if questioning whether or not to do homework is the right approach. I’m a teacher, and I strongly value students practicing concepts or completing assignments outside school IF THE ASSIGNMENTS ARE VALUABLE! If the homework is given to establish a routine, then what’s the point? What’s being taught there is Pavlovian behavior modification. Guess what I’ve found? Students will do the preparation if it is valuable and makes sense with a valuable program at school.

I don’t give much homework. When I do, it is ungraded. The expectation is the homework will help you for class, and I explain how. If students chose not to do it, they will be hurt by that choice.

Sometimes large assignments require outside work. These large assignments are graded, so I cannot say I do not grade homework. I guess more appropriately, I only grade final assignments. If students choose to not complete a preparation or practice for the next day, fine. If they can get by without it, fine. If they need additional help from me, the first thing I will make them do is complete the work assigned, if it is essential to their understanding.

Homework for homework sake (for behavior modification) is silly and unacceptable.


September 20th, 2012
2:19 pm

I never had homework in elementary school ( in MASSACHUSETTS). I managed to do most of my middle school/HS homework in school, and rarely took anything home (in Georgia).

I have a BS in Electrical Engineering, a BS in Computer Science, and an AS in Biology.

The smart kids don’t need much homework, and the less-smart kids will resent all of their free time being eaten up by homework. Elementary kids need some down time.

Maureen Downey

September 20th, 2012
2:22 pm

@Tired, You can. I subscribe to the theory — borne out by experience – that you will be asked to do many things in life by employers that are tedious, annoying and sometimes plain useless. You can question and protest, but, ultimately, you may have to comply if your boss insists.
Even if you own your business, clients may ask you to do idiotic tasks.
That is what I tell my kids whenever they start to complain about homework or projects that they deem irrelevant or mindless.


September 20th, 2012
2:27 pm

As an educator, I stopped giving homework. No one does it. Then, when you give zeroes, there is hell to pay from parents and ADMINISTRATORS about the failing grades.

They all use the same talking points: “A zero is too difficult to recover from”.

Now, I know what you’re thinking… “Then do the work!” But, you have moms like this one who refuse to support you, and so there you have it. Look around, MOST schools have policies to deal with this. They include:

1.) If a kid fails to turn in an assignment, you can’t give them lower than a 50 (which is less mathematically damaging than a zero) or,

2.) You can’t give homework.

Either way, teachers, the Enemy of America, are powerless (again). So after two decades in the classroom, I find it’s just easy not to every bother fighting another losing battle.


September 20th, 2012
2:27 pm

Sorry, we can’t agree on the point you tried to stipulate. Maybe there’s some other common ground we could find? That the child has a clueless meddling neo-hippie mom perhaps? That we’ve just spotted a woman who has a tenuous grip on reality at best, and seems determined to pass that along to her child?

I’m trying here.

Entitlement Society

September 20th, 2012
2:31 pm

Wrong, Ms. Downey. We ALL don’t agree “that Shumaker’s children are going to do fine in school and life.” This mother needs to either fully support the public school in which her child is enrolled or home school her child if she doesn’t agree with the teaching methods employed. A teacher plans for the entire class, not student by student. We’re talking elementary school anyway and FOUR hours of afterschool time. Surely the mother could stand to learn a little time management skill and fit in enough time for the small slot that elementary homework would take in the 4-hour window. This child is not going to make it in the real world.


September 20th, 2012
2:43 pm

Sound like prime candidates for homeschooling. More indulgent parents who think their kids should be treated differently from everyone else. I wonder if she plans to follow her kids throughout life with such a request:

“Excuse me supervisor, I do not think my son should have to work late, or take work home with him, ever. He has better things to do.”

What a joke…


September 20th, 2012
2:46 pm

I work as an educator, and had a similar crazy request from a parent. She sends an email to my principal (not even to me!) requesting:

“Please allow my child to take the test at a later date. He is not prepared.”

She sends this email the day of of the test. I provide a study guide one week before the test. Upon questioning the child, he said simply that he “forgot” to study. Do you think he received extra time to prepare?

I don’t think so….

Been there, seen that

September 20th, 2012
2:53 pm

@Entitlement at 2:31: Maureen is correct. These children do just dandy. Only their teachers suffer. At my top private, I met such parents all the time. The worst were college professors.

We had a med school prof who withdrew his kid every year to go with him to a medical conference in some developing country. He said she’d learn more three weeks in Uganda than in school. His daughter is a surgeon now, and I bet as arrogant as her daddy.

But successful.


September 20th, 2012
2:55 pm

I certainly agree with the point that if one is to attend a school, or a class within the school, one has to be prepared to cope with the rules. Having said that, most of the homework I experienced in the dark ages of the 1950’s was useless if you already understood the material, useless if you didn’t understand the material, and for the most part “busy work”. Whether it was exercises in plane geometry or attempting to decipher the allegory of “The rime of the ancient mariner”, I can not say that it was ever useful in my subsequent life – but I obeyed the rules and did it. Was I better prepared for life as a consequence? I doubt it.

When my son attended public schools through the 8th grade, it was clear that most of the homework was a combination of busy work (posters, environmental slogans, etc.) and in conferences with teachers, it was also clear that most were going through the motions with the brighter students in order to attempt to diagnose the problems that mid-tier students were having with the material. I remember one conference when I asked the teacher to explain the relevance of math homework (memorizing the attributes of geometric shapes) and she readily admitted that she had no idea. That is when we decided that Private Schools would be a superior alternative.

The issue of homework (and the amount of same) is whether it is useful in learning something of importance or just one more example of “going through the motions” to satisfy administators. When we saw that in our case it was the latter, we obeyed the rules and then found a better solution.

Fred ™

September 20th, 2012
2:56 pm

I liked the article but *something* was just wrong with the situation and I couldn’t put my finger on it. I like parents exercising their rights as parents and reminding a damn school just who exactly IS the parent……… but something was still wrong. Then I read the first three comments.

Bootney, mountain man and Hillbilly nailed it. Thanks guys for clarifying the confusion in my tiny little mind. :lol:

[...] I read an interesting blog by a parent on her resistance to homework. In Starlighting Mama, writer Heather Shumaker explains why her household bans homework.  [...]

A reader

September 20th, 2012
3:00 pm

Homework for children in grand k-2 is in reality training for the parents. It is to get the parents involved in the education of their children by checking if they have homework and checking that the homework is done. When my daughter was in these grades, home consisted of 1-2 worksheets and reading. It is also important to note that in k-5 most children are taught by 1-2 teachers for the entire day so the team of teachers know exactly how much homework is assigned each night.

Middle school is a whole different ball game. Suddenly there are 6 teachers each working independently and each assigning 30-60 minutes of homework each night. Your child will fall behind if they do not do the homework. And if your child has no discipline of doing homework then they will fight it each night.

I have to agree the Ms. Shumaker is not only way out of line, she is setting her children up to be miserable in middle school and high school.


September 20th, 2012
3:08 pm

I don’t mind someone who is being the PARENT. Just let me be the TEACHER. There are probably many parenting things this parent does that I don’t agree with. Just as (gasp) there may be some things I do that she doesn’t agree with.

Just A Teacher

September 20th, 2012
3:31 pm

Since I teach high school, I can’t really speak for elementary school teachers, but I’d like to say that I don’t assign a lot of homework, but when I do, the students have two options: either they do it or receive a zero for the assignment. If this lady wants her child to fail his classes, that’s her choice. He can always repeat the class at a time that is more convenient for him and his mother. Summer school comes to mind.

bootney farnsworth

September 20th, 2012
3:45 pm

there are some people who have the gift of teaching, and maybe she’s one. I would never homeschool, since it’s not in my skill set to be a teacher to my own kids. remember teaching kids to drive…?

I’m a big believer in pushing the rules hard if they don’t make sense, but at the end of the day every function has crap work associated with it. discuss it until it makes sense, then do it.

what I’m bothered by is the apparent unwillingness to even discuss this up front with the teacher. it you mean it, and believe it, stand for it. don’t do the passive aggressive crap and hope you don’t get caught.

for the kids sake I hope hes the next Bill Gates – real life sorta frowns when you excuse yourself from the actions required of everyone else.

wonder if she tries this approach with the IRS?


September 20th, 2012
3:55 pm

@ Mom to Many – loved your post and could have written it myself. We made the switch to private this year and our new school tries to stay within a 10 min. per grade window of homework each night, which I think is reasonable, but the biggest difference is that I no longer see multiple pages of worksheets (which were CRCT prep sheets for at least half the year). The homework is more meaningful and requires much deeper thought – essay questions, word problems, etc. and amazingly the complaints about doing it have stopped. Funny how that works.


September 20th, 2012
3:55 pm

Well, I was in elementary school in Massachussetts, and I had homework. I had to read, practice my handwriting, do math and learn math facts, study spelling, and I don’t remember what else. And I came home and played outside, ate dinner, did my homework and was in bed by 7:30 every night. Not doing it was not an option. What did I learn? Other than academics, I learned that work does not end when you leave school ( or your job). I had plenty of time to do these things because I did not watch TV during the week, and we did not have electronics to take our time. Recreation was reading or playing board games. I did the same for my child. My mother ( who was a teacher) made it clear that school work came first. She helped us with our work WHILE SHE WAS GRADING PAPERS AND PLANNING LESSONS– home activities for which teachers still do not get paid.

If the child does not have to have homework, then neither do I. No more lesson planning, paper grading, parent contacts, etc., etc., etc., at home for me. I have a family and a life too. I will come in at 8 and leave at 4. Of course, grades will not get done in a timely manner, and lessons will be handouts or written work because I won’t have time during the day to plan meaningful lessons and grade things. Your child can either do the work or take the failing grade.