1. Cooperative Catalyst - Active Conversation

  2. Story from Homeschooling Freethinkers

    via ( Cathy Earle)
    I have a friend whose homeschooled teenage son wanted to go to school so he could hang out with friends more. But, once he was there, he didn’t want to do all the school rules - like going to EVERY class, or turning in homework, etc. Teachers and administrators weren’t happy with this and called the mom to complain about his behavior.

    She wasn’t worried about any of the things he did. He wasn’t being unkind or destroying property or anything. He was just breaking the school rules about attendance and homework. So she just said to the administrator who called, “I can see that you are unhappy with his behavior. Now, what are you going to do about it?”

    Oh, my, did that administrator splutter! “What am *I* going to do about it?” he asked her. “He’s YOUR son, *you* need to handle it!”

    She explained as nicely as she could that her son had behaved perfectly fine in her homeschool, but she was being nice enough to let him try “your school.” And, she went on, these are “your rules, not mine.” She basically left all the responsibility for rectifying the situation in the administrator’s hands. He had been counting on her to be his deputy—but she didn’t play along.

    So he said, “Well, I will have to suspend him.”

    “Wonderful!” she said, very sincerely happy.

    “For TWO WEEKS!” he said, hoping against hope that she would start to worry and maybe cave in (or something?)…

    “Better and better!” she said.

    So the kid went home for two weeks, and when he returned to school, he was a little more careful to follow the school’s rules, and they all lived happily ever after.

    (By the way, this young man is still a bit of a rebel, smart, and creative. He went to public school as an older kid, knowing he had complete freedom to leave. Very different situation than most kids.)
  3. Rick Wormeli: How Much Should Homework Count? (by stenhousepublishers)

    This helps to add to the conversation of John Spencer recent post

    Ten Reasons to Abolish Homework

  4. Ten Reasons to Abolish Homework (And Five Alternatives) « Cooperative Catalyst

    1. Young Children Are Busy: If a child cannot learn what needs to be learned in a six hour day, we are expecting too much of a child. We are creating a jam-packed hurried day without a chance to play, reflect and interact. Adding hours to an already busy day is absurd.
    2. Older Children Are Even More Busy: So if younger students need a chance to play, the reality is that many older students are busy with extracurricular activities,
    3. Inequitable Situation: I have some students who go home to parents that can provide additional support. I have others who go home and babysit younger siblings while their single parent works a second shift. I have some who don’t have adequate light

    read more

  5. Ten Reasons to Abolish Homework (And Five Alternatives) « Cooperative Catalyst

    What I Advocate Instead:

    1. Emphasize the idea that learning can and will happen naturally at home or elsewhere in a child’s world.  Visit a skate park and watch the learning that happens.  Spend some time watching kids develop new games in the neighborhood.
    2. If parents really want homework, let teachers give workshops (might be a great time to bridge the gap with homeschoolers / unschoolers by doing a co-teaching workshop) on how to engage children at home in authentic learning.
    3. Provide ideas and support for students who are interested in doing more.  If a teacher had said, “Hey, I’d like to meet with you on that novel you’re writing,” I would have met one-on-one or in a small writing circle.
    4. Treat homework as an extracurricular activity: Students in my class voluntarily do homework when we create documentaries.   They take pictures, film interviews, complete community surveys, work on neighborhood ethnographic studies and volunteer with local charities.  The key here is that it is not graded and is treated as an extracurricular activity.
    5. Ultimately, we need to tackle injustice.  If parents can’t be home with kids after school, there is a systemic flaw that needs to be addressed socially, culturally and politically.
  6. Chad's comment on No Friction Homework « Cooperative Catalyst

    So I highly recommend reading this whole article, it is a great reflection for a teacher about how her family dealt with Homework. The comments I shared yesterday came as a response to this piece. The comment below also comes from teacher and father, Chad Sansing.

    I fully expect to be called on the nonsensical things I do in the name of my job. I love having conversations with parents about my silly traditional school habits because they let us find common ground for changing the work I ask of their children. We should have our work complexified and problematized by parents who defy our expectations of compliance. I don’t understand why we assign the kind of homework we assign given what we know about homework. Maybe schools could move towards policies that make it clear families can opt out of homework and shrink our fear of school authority at home. Happier, less fearful families might be more supportive of meaningful work students want to continue at home. My son certainly has some school activities he willingly does at home without asking, but, of course, he doesn’t get credit for those against the homework in which he struggles to find relevance.

    For all the totemic power homework holds over the psyche of United States schools’ graduates, we file and recycle an awful lot of it. We review a bunch of it during time we could be outside, as well. It’s good to read well; it’s good to communicate well. Relevant work is probably the faster way to reach those goals than homework ever will be.

    Please comment on the original post. It helps to deepen the conversation, and a much easier place for discussion, even  though I love Tumblr!

    So what are your thoughts?

    -Adventures in Learning

  7. I’m trying to negotiate how to handle the whole homework thing. My son rightly insists that “school is fun, but homework is boring.” He points out that he’s being asked to practice what he already knows. “Dad, what if I kept asking you to repeat yourself after you already said something? What if, after you did that, I asked you to repeat yourself two more times? How about ten?” By this point, he’s already worked up into a frenzy.

    I’ve asked the teacher if we could do our own homework. Joel loves to write. Can’t he write and read real books? Can’t he construct a graphic novel? Can’t he choose his own topic? Can’t I opt out of homework entirely and treat it as his own unschooling time?

    Comment Posted by John T. Spencer on Kirsten Olson’s No Friction Homework « Cooperative Catalyst

    If a parent was to offer you suggestions of what his or her children could do in place of homework… how would you react?

    there’s this concept of the assignment menu, where you have a bunch of different assignments that kids can choose from so they’re not all stuck doing dittos and guided readings.

    in fact, it’s a really effective way to give a big project. say the project is out of a hundred points. you can have the menu with a large list of small projects [five poems, a three panel comic strip, five metaphors] each worth 25 points, a smaller list of medium sized projects [a three page essay, an illustrated timeline, a pamphlet] each worth 50 points, and an even smaller list of big projects [a five page paper, a 7-10 minute presentation given to the class] worth 100 points. then the students can pick and choose what they want to ultimately add up to their 100 point score.

    you also have the option of approving kids’ ideas in the menu and assigning a point value to that [‘sure, you can do an interpretive dance/lady gaga parody/original rap about the treaty of verdun. i will give you one hundred points to perform it in class’]. variety and novelty, and a student feeling ze has a voice in class, are huge components to keeping engagement up.

    [it also puts the onus on them to get the work done: there has to be something you’d like to do to prove you understand the content. you can’t come at me with ‘writing an essay is bullshit’ if i’m not making you write an essay].

    goddammit do i miss teaching.

    OH! ALSO! quizzes are a good thing. they let us know what you know and what we need to reteach. they are just as much a measure of my teaching as they are a measure of yr learning. this also affects homework; as the op so rightfully says, students shouldn’t be forced to go over things they already know. if they get it, change the homework. if they don’t, change the homework to address that skill/knowledge accordingly. but don’t make quizzes a big part of the grade, cause that’s horsesh!t!

    (via joshmordecai)

    I think these are great pragmatic steps to working in the system but also changing the system. While I not a fan of grades or homework, it is hard to argue with these suggestions. I would high light the section where he talks about involving the student in the discussion of creating the homework. YES! Love that! That is a huge step. I think this would change homework in such a way that it would no longer look like it does now.

    thanks for these suggestions!

    -Adventures in Learning!

    Reblogged from: morewhitefeathers
  8. 桃梅梨: gowns: GOWNS: adventuresinlearning: “’m trying to negotiate how to...

    not to butt in but
    if the parents being quoted in the original quote have such an issue with “mindless homework” or think their child doesn’t enjoy it/isn’t being challenged, then yeah - why don’t they take it into their own hands like gowns/rebecca’s mom who saw that she was poised for action and let her run with it! that’s what parenting’s for.
    of course “ideally” every child gets to learn in the way that’s best for them and in a way that not just encourages rote memorization of facts but stimulation of thought and new ideas etc etc. but yeah the fact is there’s just no time/resources for that! like gowns says, all that can’t be changed without starting from the ground up re: completely remaking the education system, realloting/gettin more resources, blah blah.
    but also all in all, as much as routine might not be inherently stimulating or interesting for your kid (or you), life {and school} will certainly incorporate a ton of it. first of all, assuming you don’t continue into a professional job/more schoolwork, you’ll likely be going into retail/sales kind of thing {like gowns says} which is obviously very repetition based, but even if you DO go into some professional/academic career, even the most prestigious/insane jobs require repetition in order to be able to make creative judgment calls and insert your own interpretation of data. like a scientist has to gather an immense amount of tedious, repetitive data in order to be able to come up with an interesting, creative theory that joins it all together. and if you can’t find joy and pleasure in doing that repetition, then you’re going to be really fucking miserable for your whole life.
    and i think that’s what im really trying to say! if you want to baby your Precocious Angel by telling him, yes honey youre too smart for all this mindless busywork!, you’re really failing to do one of the most important jobs of a parent {i think} by not allowing them to a) find pleasure in the most mundane tedium of life and b) learn how to make things better by himself rather than simply say “this sucks” and refuse.

    I recommend reading the original quote and the original article it is linked too.The parents and son, offer meaningful works as an opinion to replace the meaningless busy work.

    I am not sure I agree with your assessment of life or parent, but understand where you are coming from. The ability to withstand the harshness of life not a skill I think we need to teach, society teaches it well enough. I would rather spend my energy help children and adults change the harshness of life. We can take the reality of today and complain or become apathy or we can active seek a more humane, just, creative, positive. I don’t claim it is easy, but do think it is a better way to live. Nothing changes by just waiting for it, we must actively become a part of the change. One step in this case is to question homework policies.

    Still also not sure I agree that homework in any shape or form, is really the best tool to help teach children to find the beauty or joy in the mundane. Just to name a few alternatives, nature walks (the live in dirt), post modern art (andy warhol), beach trips (waves), service learning (visiting the elderly), taking apart a clock, computer or bike… and on and on.

    the boy in the original quote makes a valid point, not just that it sucks. He says he knows the content, would rather spend his time doing meaningful work. I do think this type of self-assessment would be welcome in the business world, the retail world or any life or job setting. Even in a retail setting, which I work a lot, you can tell the ones that are more than robots repeating the same task and the ones who find newness in every day…they do this not because they did homework and learned how to fill in worksheets, but because they are mindful about their work, even if it is repetitive. A worksheet never taught mindfulness!

    And thank for butting in. we need more discussion on Tumblr.

    -Adventures in Learning


    GOWNS: adventuresinlearning: “’m trying to negotiate how to handle the whole…

  9. GOWNS: adventuresinlearning: “’m trying to negotiate how to handle the whole...

    from Gowns responding to my comment.

    Life is no longer repetitive or routine-based? just because factories are becoming more mechanized doesn’t change the nature of our daily lives, from hygiene and meals to our jobs, which are mostly retail or sales related. life has bursts of creativity and “movement,” but it also consists of filling out the same forms over and over again, and the same customer/consumer relations over and over again.

    and frankly, if a kid complained that they didn’t like repeating something over and over again, i’d ruffle their hair and say “try being a parent!”

    if homework is too repetitive/mindless, then homework is not the problem — it is a symptom of larger problems within the u.s. education system and the the u.s. economic system. reduce class sizes, minimize rote learning, drastically rework standards…only after these changes are made can we start to work on how educators assign/grade homework. until that glorious utopia arrives, educators and parents will just have to work around education standards to give kids moments to express themselves and routines where they can build discipline.

    Yes, Life does have routine and repetitive qualities. Do we truly have to teach that, if it is so much of a part of our daily life. Even if we used homework to do this… how long must a children partake in this type of work until they learned this quality of life. A week, a month, or 12 years. Kindergarteners are getting homework now and taking test… I don’t think it is to teach discipline (which I guessing you mean, the ability to self control our actions) … We survived for hundreds of years without homework, and think we would be just fine if it went away also. Not sure of any great work of humankind that was produce because of one’s ability to do repetitive work or homework. Actually much of our genius comes from breaking free of routine and repetitive work… Practice helps to built the capacity for genius, but it can also produce mechanical action. I personally believe we would be better off if more people would break free of the conditions of repetitiveness and routine… for sure there is a balance. But repetitiveness and routine often lead to mindlessness not mindfulness… which I think this world needs more of.  

    On your other point I agree wholeheartedly that there is a systemic problem, one that is standardized not because of the we learn or even the best way we know how to teach, but I don’t think we change anything just by waiting for others to solve the problem.I don’t think it is utopia, I think it just takes the collective will of parents, students and teachers to begin to envision a system that supports learning and creative mindfulness along with lots of other positive qualities of life. One teacher remove homework or one Parent like John Spencer (in the original post) asked a teacher for alternatives, or one student invented new ways to showcase their understanding, it would be a start. I think that was the point of my original post, to ask teachers, parents and students to reflect on the usefulness and purpose of homework.

    Thank you for being willing to engage in this conversation.

    -adventures in learning 

    Reblogged from: gowns
  10. GOWNS: adventuresinlearning: “’m trying to negotiate how to handle the whole...

    unfortunately, life is full of repetitive work and routine. that’s what i would tell my kid, even though it’s disheartening. it doesn’t matter if they already know it or are repeating it; doing homework is tedious, but i think it’s important to get into the habit of it.

    I wanted to respond directly to this comment with a question. Do you really believe the best way to teach habits of mind is repetitive busywork, that has little meaning to you or the teacher?

    Later in your comment you state that you really enjoyed the work your mom assigned to you, because it had meaning and purpose. This to me is the main point, homework if truly needed, with I not sure it is, should be meaningful and engaging. Your mom would of never picked assignments that were boring or busy work, because she knew you and hopefully what would engage you. If teachers had the chance to know their student, they could also do this.

    Also I hate to be blunt but to use the defense of “while life is repetitive and tedious” is one of the problems with school today. We have been schooled to believe that what we had to deal with as students is the way our children should also have to learn.

    Actually life is no longer just repetitive and routine based. We don’t work in factories anymore. We need to be creative, think on our feet and play with knowledge, not just write it down on a worksheet.

    I challenge you to reflect on not just what is or was but want is the optimal type of learning to develop and grow and work in this every moving ever connected world. I just don’t see a future or worksheets and homework are needed.

    -adventures in learning

    Reblogged from: gowns
  11. I’m trying to negotiate how to handle the whole homework thing. My son rightly insists that “school is fun, but homework is boring.” He points out that he’s being asked to practice what he already knows. “Dad, what if I kept asking you to repeat yourself after you already said something? What if, after you did that, I asked you to repeat yourself two more times? How about ten?” By this point, he’s already worked up into a frenzy.

    I’ve asked the teacher if we could do our own homework. Joel loves to write. Can’t he write and read real books? Can’t he construct a graphic novel? Can’t he choose his own topic? Can’t I opt out of homework entirely and treat it as his own unschooling time?

    Comment Posted by John T. Spencer on Kirsten Olson’s No Friction Homework « Cooperative Catalyst

    If a parent was to offer you suggestions of what his or her children could do in place of homework… how would you react?

  12. (via 'No Homework' Debate Finds Support In New Jersey (VIDEO))

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    Children in some New Jersey school districts may soon be living nearly every student’s dream: No more homework on the weekends.

    Based on research, parent and teacher surveys, and recommendations from district officials, board members within the Galloway Township Public School District will soon consider discontinuing weekend homework forever. Officials believe the extra time will allow students to focus more on extracurriculars and spend quality time with their families, reports Press of Atlantic City.

    Superintendent Dr. Annette Giaquinto said they want to make sure the work they do assign is meaningful, reports NBC:

    "Many people believe that by doing homework, student achievement is increased. Well, in the early and primary grades, that is absolutely untrue."

    While research has shown homework has the potential for both positive and negative outcomes on a student’s academic learning, some parents and board members are fed up with the long hours children spend stressing over piles of books and what they feel is simply busy work.

    According to CBS, this anger led some parents in Maplewood, N.J. to organize a movement to abolish homework altogether.

Adventures in Learning

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