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Schools with Reasonable Homework Policies
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Schools with Reasonable Homework Policies
I have been reading about the large amounts of homework that children are
getting in school and wondering how much is assigned by different college
prep schools. If you have a moment to write in with your experiences (if
your child was doing college prep, as that is the case we are wondering
about) that would be great. We are wondering about the schools listed
below, in particular. And the specific question is how much homework is
there on average, i.e. how much a night/week? I've been reading that
even in the past 5-6 years that the amount of homework given has ramped up
drastically, across the board, so experiences from the mid 2000's are
not relevant. If you have compared any of these, even better!
If there is one you really like that doesn't have much homework, it would
be great to hear about it also (my question is for a child with many
Maybeck Sophomore Parent here -- in our experience, the homework load at
Maybeck has been manageable. My daughter is bright and a diligent
worker and generally manages to handle the work load without major
drama. Every Maybeck student has a free period in their schedule, and
she takes advantage of that time to get work done. She has a very heavy
extracurricular schedule -- often at rehearsals for 3-4 hours every
weeknight and all day Saturday, but she has become an excellent time
manager and can get her work done without working all night. I hear the
work load increases as the kids age, but so far so good.
My child just graduated from Lick-Wilmerding this year, and I can't say
enough good things about the school. As for your specific question
about homework load, I think that the school does a great job of
providing a very rigorous academic environment and challenging classes
without burning out the kids. One key is the block system. Classes
meet every other day for longer periods. Teachers love this because
they have more sustained teaching time with fewer transitions for
getting to and from class, packing up books, collecting assignments,
etc. My student liked it because on any given day there were only 3-4
classes where homework or tests were due. He got excellent grades,
played sports and took a very challenging course load, but never did
things like stay up past midnight on school nights.
We visited several high schools and Lick really stood out as a place
where they value learning as opposed to achievement. One school in
particular seemed all about their stats: how many kids scored 5s on the
AP tests, how many got into Ivies. Bleah. Lick is where they talk
about what the kids can do when they graduate: write a 5-page paper in
Spanish on the Cuban embargo, make a table, conduct high-level physics
experiments and explain them. Some kids are burned out by the time they
get to college. Lick kids are fired up and ready to go.
I had two kids go through College Prep (one graduated in 2009, one in
2013). Neither found the homework load crushing. The older kid was not
super engaged and did the minimum to get Bs. The younger one was
completely engaged, loved the academic environment, and did much more
work. But he is pretty sharp and was efficient -- e.g., he always
finished his math homework in the time the teachers gave to start
homework in class, and he is a very fast reader so he could whip through
reading. With that, he estimates he did 1.5-2 hours/night -- more when
projects or papers were due. That is probably on the low side. He says
some of his friends put in 3+ hours/night.
A lot depends on what style student you have. College Prep kids are all
really smart, but even among them there are kids who can whip through
stuff that comes harder to others. If your student is a grinder, who
spends a lot of time to master material and get tasks finished, the
homework load may be very heavy. If your student is efficient and
masters new material easily, it's not bad at all.
Mom of Big Guys
Not sure these exist, particularly in the public school domain, but worth a shot:
Wondering whether there are schools out there, either public or private, that do not
give elementary school children homework. I don't mean the current trend of
''flipped classrooms,'' where homework is done in class and instruction at home
(though I think this is a worthy innovation when kids are older), but rather where
there is no work to be done outside of the classroom. With the intention that
children are free to play and structure their own time outside of school as they
wish. This seems rather utopian when I write it, but as this is the Bay Area, there
has to be somewhere that adheres to this type of philosophy, right? Or, perhaps not
in the Bay Area that people have heard of? It's that important to us that we would
consider moving to find the right educational environment for our children. We
currently live in Oakland. Thanks.
If you are looking for a school with no homework, check out Sudbury
schools. I don't know if there are any in the Bay Area but there is one
in Denver. Www.alpinevalleyschool.com
Check out Beacon Day School: www.beaconday.org
Oakland independent school, NO homework until 5th grade, year round
school, terrific arts program. My children were very happy there until
we moved to Berkeley and public school. They regularly debate whether
they would trade summer vacation for no homework, but from an
educational perspective, the no homework year round program is excellent
for all kinds of learners.
Happy former Beacon parent
I read that the private school, Hacienda in Pleasanton is year round and
does not give homework.
I dont recall every detail but I believe they go up to 8th grade. Good
No homework in elementary school is no utopia! The school you are
looking for is Beacon Day School, a K-8 private school by the Oakland
Embarcadero. It assigns no homework until 5th grade so that children are
free to be with their families and/or pursue their hobbies after the
regular school day is over. Also, the school is year-round so there are
40+ extra school days over which to stretch the curriculum. This allows
the students to engage in academic practice, i.e., ''homework'', IN
school and supervised, with immediate feedback from the teachers.
Beacon Day School believes wholeheartedly that young children should be
allowed to be creative and be given time for play and leisure, not to
mention the arts. Beacon also offers a strong music, visual art and
Our daughter loves Beacon. She has attended Beacon for the past 4 years,
and we find that the developmental-progressive and wonderfully warm and
diverse school culture has allowed her to thrive both academically and
Please check out Beacon: www.beaconday.org.
For further questions about our family's experience, please feel free to
ask the moderator for my contact information.
A happy Beacon Day School parent
Check out Beacon Day School in Oakland! No homework for kids in grades
K through 4. Our daughter is in the third grade and we have been
delighted with this very sensible policy. Beacon is a year-round school
running on a trimester system, so kids get 225 days of school a year
(50-60 more days than other schools). Take a look at Beacon's website
for more information.
We're looking at private and charter schools for our son entering kindergarten next
fall. While I haven't entirely formed my philosophy about elementary school, I'm
leaning towards hands-on, interactive, project-based schooling with no or very
little homework. I like elements of Montessori and emergent curricula. Focus on
non-cognitive/social skills is a must. Field trips, language, arts, science - yes!
Sitting stuck at a desk all day doing worksheets - no! If it's a private school,
lower tuition would definitely be a big plus. We will apply for financial aid, but
doubt we would get enough to make it work once our younger son heads to elementary.
I'm exploring schools on my own, but thought I would throw out this general
question to see if any hidden gems emerge. Also, my husband is interested in
Catholic school for the cost savings, but I can't imagine those meeting the
criteria above. Please let me know your recommendations for private/Catholic and
charter schools. North Oakland-Richmond area (I-80 corridor) preferred. Thank you!
The search begins....
Hi. I don't know about an elementary School that fits your interests. The
School for Boys in Berkeley sounds like it would be an ideal School for your
family, however, its a middle School (Grades 6-8). Perhaps you can contact them.
I'm sure they would have insight into elementary schools with a similar
philosophy/programming. They also host a speaker series called Boys 2 Men that
hosts panelists from like minded Schools/programs. You could always get on their
Happy EBSB parent
is the school you want then. A public charter school in Oakland,
the school was founded on Montessori/Design Thinking philosophies. Hands on,
project based with no homework is pretty much the exact model of the school. For
more information visit http://www.urbanmontessori.org/about/our-mission
Why don't you take a look at Prospect Sierra?
There is an unbelievably good
social and emotional program, and virtually no homework in K. Homework starts in
first grade, but it takes my kid only ten minutes a night (at most) and he enjoys
it. The academics are superb; and he is making art and friends to boot. They
also have a very generous financial aid program. If your kid is a good fit, I'm
sure they'll make it work.
Happy PS Parent
Please consider Archway School
in Oakland. My son started there last year in
kindergarten and is now in first grade. It is a truly amazing school. It is
small, intimate and wonderful. The teachers/staff are absolutely the heart and
soul of the school. They are devoted, motivated, kind and loving. We came to
Archway from a very well-known montessori-based school.....and Archway is light
Please call Michelle, Admissions Director, at (510) 547-4747. You need to do a
tour and meet the teachers....you won't get a feel by driving by campus. The
facility is irrelevant. The teachers are everything.
Very happy mom
You should put Walden School
on your list. It's a very small K-6 school
established in 1958. It's near downtown Berkeley and it definitely qualifies as a
''hidden gem.'' The tuition is lower than average because of the light-weight
administrative structure of the school, and scholarships are available, so there
are many families at the school with modest means, especially young artsy
families. Wealthy families are there too but I would say they are in the minority.
The homework policy at Walden was described to me as ''gentle'' when we first
visited - it was a priority of mine, too. This has turned out to be very accurate.
But at the same time I have been impressed with the amount of knowledge and
academic confidence that our son, now in the 6th grade, has acquired. The best
part about Walden is the teachers. Unlike most other schools, Walden does not have
a director or Head of School or principal -- the teachers collectively share in
the decision making, so they really believe in the mission and are dedicated to a
degree that I have not seen in any of the schools my 3 kids have attended, both
public and private. Most are ''lifers.'' And by the way, the performing arts
program at Walden is like none other in the Bay Area and has been a major factor
in our child's growth. It's an incubator for local highschool-level theater
groups. Walden is a school that really walks the walk -- what you get is way more
than what you see. Walden isn't for everybody, but if it's right for your family,
you'll be in paradise!
I want to recommend Crestmont Cooperative. It meets all your criteria with a
special emphasis on hands-on learning, nature-oriented exploration, family
involvement, social/identity development, and project-based curriculum. There are
plenty of field trips and opportunities for children throughout K-5 to interact
with each other, including a buddy exchange. The tuition is about half tha of
many private schools, and you can even ''participate'' to get a further tuition
deduction if you don't qualify for financial aid. It is a diverse, warm and
friendly learning environment in the Richmond Hills.
A Happy Parent and Child
I can highly recommend checking out Crestmont School
on the Arlington in the
Richmond View neighborhood!
I have had 2 daughters go there (youngest is a current 5th grader) and the balance
of field trips, language arts, reading, spanish, music, and PLAY time is fabulous.
The teachers are creative, fun, and get the kids out into the world to explore and
experience their community.
It is a parent owned co-op, so the community is very strong and involved, which
means every child is seen and heard. For your husband concerns, the cost is 50%
less than other private schools because of the co-op structure. We LOVE the
Kindergarten teacher, who is so warm and caring and fun (we actually love ALL the
teachers!!). A great way to enter elementary school.
One of the best parts of Crestmont is the ability to adapt to each child, and
their learning needs.
The homework for a 5th grader is less than 15 min a night, and then reading each
day.. no pressures or 3 hour evenings of homework.
My other daughter, who graduated from Crestmont, is an 8th grader and is thriving
educationally, as well as socially, and loves going to her school, which I credit
Crestmont in helping give her the love of learning, and the environment to grow.
I think Walden Center & School
in Berkeley may be a good match for your
description. This is a small, arts-based, project-oriented school. There is a
some homework but it's not excessive. My daughter in 2nd grade has one assignment
each week, and my son in 4th grade has homework 2-3 times per week. As I recall,
in kindergarten there may be homework such as: once a week, 'draw a picture of a
story you're reading.' The teachers are thoughtful, engaged, and creative.
Education is integrated between arts & academics. For example, in first grade my
son's class had an Ancient Egypt segment that integrated history, visual arts,
language, math, and even a dress-up event. The kids bring home so much art I
have nowhere to put it all! The school has a strong music and drama program as
Also, Walden is cheaper than most private schools. To keep costs down, there is
mandatory volunteer work - parents maintain the grounds, clean the school, handle
administrative tasks and more. Many families get financial aid.
You can find tuition and admissions info on the website, here:
The description of what you are looking for in a school fits very well with what
our family has experienced at Berkwood Hedge.
The biggest strength of this school
is its teachers, every one of whom seems beautifully in tune with both individual
children's development and the social and emotional needs of groups of children as
they progress through elementary school. It is a place where both children and
adults can bring their passions and interests into the curriculum. My third
grader has come home recently discussing the impacts of plastic downcycling on
what can be reasonably recycled, and he was the person who made sure our family
watched the presidential debate so he could better understand the U.S. political
process. But as important as those topics are, and as passionate as he has become
about them, he was even more excited about creating Balobbyland, an imaginary
world for centimeter tall creatures (and in so doing he became more fluent in
multiplication and measurement). The teachers really ''get'' children, and this
is evident in the excitement with which the kids take up challenging projects and
Art, music, and PE are treated as necessary and important parts of education
rather than as extras, and my children love all of their specialist teachers (in
addition to those three, there are also Spanish and environmental science
The social environment of the school is really sweet, both because the school is
small and because of how the teachers work to support social development. My
kindergartener comes home telling me about her third grade friends. The fact that
a crew of third graders will happily play with the kindergarteners at recess (and
teach them how to braid, do cartwheels, and a host of other things) is both
surprising and heartwarming to me. There is a real sense that everyone at the
school cares for everyone else.
You mentioned preferring no homework, and there is in fact some at Berkwood Hedge.
But I'm a no homework supporter myself, but I don't find the limited homework
inappropriate or overly time consuming. The teachers use homework judiciously,
for specific purposes.
Good luck in your school search! I hope you find a good match for your family as
we have for ours.
Happy BH Parent
Well, a charter school right in your target zone is NOCCS. However, over the past
few years, it has shifted to an intensive homework/teach to the test school. Just
a suggestion to ''do your homework'' so to speak (no pun intended) and go beyond
the hype of various schools' advertised claims and find out what's really
happening on the ground. Good luck!
One school you will want to look into is
Crestmont School in Richmond View. Our
son graduated from Crestmont four years ago. After coming from a school that
emphasized frequent and escalating test-taking, we were looking for a school that
had instead a hands-on, experiential learning focus. We found that focus at
Crestmont, where there were wonderful field trips, hands-on projects, and
creativity incorporated into the daily learning. There was also a community focus
at Crestmont, and the mixed-age classrooms (he was in the 2-3 class and then the
4-5 class in his 3 years at Crestmont), excellent teachers, parent involvement,
small class size, and many community events really added to his (and our)
experience at this school. As working parents, we were also very appreciative of
the caring environment of the before/after school program.
Crestmont Alum Family
We were in your position last year, searching for a Kindergarten for our son with
many of the same qualities you're seeking. Archway School in Oakland has been a
wonderful fit for our family and I hope you'll take a look at it.
is an independent, progressive school with two campuses: K-4 in Oakland
and 5-8 in Berkeley. Classes are small and multi-age with a maximum of 16
students, so there is no possibility of falling through the cracks. Archway is a
warm, tight-knit community and our son is really thriving there. All the students
know one another and the older kids look out for and mentor the younger ones. If
you read the school's goals on their website www.archwayschool.org you'll see that
one is to prepare students both academically and socially. Particularly at the K
age, the school recognizes how crucial social-emotional development is and
actively fosters it. Across all grades there are community building efforts, both
at the school level, then at the surrounding community level, and of course, the
There is no homework in K and the homework for other grades seems very reasonable,
with no busywork assigned. The ''h'' in Archway stands for ''hands-on learning''
and project-based learning is key to academics at the school. In my son's class
there is plenty of opportunity to move around, both in the classroom and at
recesses, plus there is scheduled PE time. In addition to the math, reading,
writing, social studies, and science that are part of the K/1 curriculum, all
students also have Spanish, music, and art classes. We've been very pleased with
the enthusiasm and creativity of all the instructors at Archway. Our biggest
problem is getting our son to leave school at the end of the day and reassuring
him, when he wants to go to Archway on the weekends, that Monday will come soon
Call(510)547-4747 to reserve your spot at the K-4 information meeting on Sat.,
Nov. 10, 10AM-12PM. Free childcare is provided. You can also sign up for a K-4
school tour (adults only) on many Thursdays, including Oct. 25, Nov. 1, 8, 29,
Dec. 6, 13, and Jan. 10, 17, 24. Best of luck in your search.
Happy at Archway
Wow, you could be describing Crestmont School!
My son is in 2nd grade at
Crestmont, and I can tell you it has everything you are looking for. The
curriculum is hands on and project based, fostering critical thinking and
engagement. Class sizes are small, allowing teachers to work with different
learning styles and not be forced into a ''one-size-fits-all'' approach. There are
1 to 2 field trips every month! There is no homework in K or 1st grade, and very
little in the other grades. Art instruction is integrated into the curriculum, and
there are Spanish classes, PE and music several times a week. There is also a
learning specialist. There is a very high importance placed on social-emotional
learning at Crestmont; the teachers create this curriculum together based on
current research and proven practices. My son feels very safe and respected at
Crestmont, and has displayed some impressive conflict resolution skills. Because
Crestmont is a parent cooperative, the tuition is around half that of other
independent private schools. There are coop responsibilities each family has to
fulfill, but they are not onerous, and there is a real sense of community that
develops from the coop structure. And, Crestmont is minutes off I-80 in the hills
of Richmond. There are upcoming tours and information events; see our website
(http://crestmontschool.org/). I hope you'll check out the school, I think you
will love it!
You mentioned that you weren't sure about the educational philosophy that most
appeals to you. Given your interest in emergent curriculum and project-based
schooling, you might want to explore progressive education. Reading Alfie Kohn's
books / articles are a great place to start. Here is a wonderful list of his
writings from his website:http://www.alfiekohn.org/books.htm.
There are a number of schools in the East Bay with a progressive education
philosophy. We were similarly interested in a creative, engaged learning
environment and ended up choosing Aurora School in Oakland off Broadway Terrace.
Aurora is dedicated to progressive education, has multi-graded classrooms (K/1,
2/3, and 4/5 -- students loop with the same teacher for two years), fabulous
specialist teachers (music, art, Spanish, movement, PE, woodshop, computers,
library), an INCREDIBLE library (10,000 volumes -- the same size as or bigger than
many large public elementary schools with five times the number of students and an
amazing librarian who sat on the Newberry Medal committee two years ago), and a
lovely community of families.
A few of the reasons Aurora appealed to us (and why we've been so happy with the
*Aurora's very strong emphasis on social and emotional development which is an
integral part of the curriculum and culture of the school. Children learn who
they are as individuals and as part of a community. They are supported in
discovering what kind of learners they are and where their interests lie. There
is also a conflict resolution process, and all the kids learn how to express their
feelings and resolve conflicts. My son has felt so safe there and has such a
beautiful sense of belonging.
*There is no rote learning, no teaching to the test, and no worksheets at Aurora.
The curriculum is very creative, and children are actively engaged in
student-centered, hands-on learning.
*No homework in kindergarten and first grade. Starting in second grade there is a
weekly homework packet that takes a total of 30-90 minutes per week (depending on
the week and the child). There is more homework in 4th and 5th grade, but it is
fairly minimal, relevant, and the intention is to prepare students for middle
school homework. I am not a fan of homework in general, and we haven't found it
to be particularly burdensome at all (my son is now in 4th grade).
*12:1 max student:teacher ratio. Every classroom has two full-time teachers. This
is a huge advantage in my opinion. So much of the time in younger grades is spent
managing behavior (even if the kids aren't particularly unruly, they have to
transition from one activity to the next, listen, focus, etc.). When you have two
teachers, one can TEACH and the other can help children settle and/or manage any
difficult behaviors without constantly interrupting the flow of the lesson.
*Multi-grade classrooms: this means your child stays with the same teachers for
two years. This is wonderful for the child who becomes really well known by his
teachers. They are able to cater to his learning style and give him support where
he needs it and challenge him where he needs it.
*Aurora is a small school with a cozy, nurturing environment, but it also has a
large enough social pool to allow for lots of connections and friendships among
the kids. There are many opportunities for older children to mentor younger
children, and many kids develop friendships across grade levels (the multiage
classrooms help with this too!).
*Aurora's art, movement, music and Spanish programs are wonderful and fully
integrated into the curriculum. For example, when the kindergartners are studying
tress, they might sketch trees in their art class or use bark and leaves in
creative ways, learn about different kinds of wood in woodshop, and learn songs
and dances about trees in music and movement (Aurora has woodshop which is a much
loved, wonderfully creative part of the curriculum and a huge favorite among the
*There is a genuine culture of kindness among the children at Aurora. The older
kids are so gentle and sweet with the little ones, and many younger children count
older children among their friends. We love that aspect of the school.
The best way to know whether a school would be a good fit for your child and
family is to visit. Aurora is having an open house on Thursday, November 8 from 7
pm to 9 pm, and tours are scheduled from November through January on Wednesday and
Friday mornings. You can just come to the open house, or feel free to contact the
admissions director Lisa Piccione at (510) 428-2606.
Like you, we were looking for an elementary education for our children that would
expose them to all the highlights of the youngest years of learning: a focus on
core elements of science and math, an immersion in art, an introduction to music
and the foreign languages, AND we wanted it all tied together in a community that
would surround and envelop my son with a smart mix of warmth, encouragement and
the teaching of real-world decision-making skills. We found that, and have been
for six years at Crestmont School
on the Arlington Ave. in the Richmond Hills/El
Cerrito boarder. Though we considered homeschooling, what changed my mind was the
breadth of focus at Crestmont: the abundance of fieldtrips, the chance to study
and play outdoors in a multivenue learning environment, the focus on the fact that
different children learn differently and the ability to tailor teaching methods
based on that principle. There's also a strong focus on taking care of one another
and genuinely welcoming those around us, no matter how different they may be. Last
week was anti-bullying day, and every child wore bright orange to show that not
only are they against bullying, but more importantly, they can recognize what it
is and take a stand against it. Crestmont is a parent teacher co-op, so there's a
real hand-in-hand aspect to building the right kind of environment together. It's
been a hidden gem. Shhhh!
I highly recommend The Berkeley School
(formerly Berkeley Montessori School) in
Berkeley. Our son is in 3rd grade and has been at TBS since Kindergarten and we
absolutely love it. The teachers, administrators and community of families at this
school are incredible. There is a lot of emphasis on reading and writing in the
early years as well as hands-on experiences for science and math. There is virtually
no homework, tests or sitting behind desks in the first few years. What we
appreciate the most is that they teach the kids how to learn and why learning is
empowering and important. To do this they give the kids the freedom and personalized
guidance to build on their "gifts" and confront their "challenges."The school is located on University Avenue just a few blocks from I-80. Check out
the website (http://www.theberkeleyschool.org/) for more information. -Arash
In addition to the many wonderful schools mentioned last week, you should pay a
to The Berkeley School
(formerly Berkeley Montessori School). We interviewed many of
the schools that were recommended, and were impressed by the thoughtfulness and
dedication of each one, but TBS stood out for its deeply pragmatic pedagogy (not the
last time you'll hear that word...), its continued investment in its teaching
staff, and the integrity of its administration. Mitch Bostian (head of school) and
Zaq Roberts (K-5 division head) are each your favorite English teacher, ever, now
moved into administrative roles to bring their experience and amazing talents to
on the entire school. TBS is both well-funded and well-managed enough to offer
financial aid to support an economic diversity of families. To us, it felt like
See if it feels the same to you.
A TBS Family
I highly encourage you to check out Montessori Family School. It has both a
Preschool (in Berkeley) and a K-8 campus (in El Cerrito). Both of our
children started in the preschool and are now in elementary school. We
didn't start our search looking for a Montessori school, but feel so lucky
to have found it. The Montessori philosophy has all of the elements you mention
Cb and through that, our children have grown in so many dimensions that I couldn't
have anticipated. Check out the video on the home page:
www.montessorifamily.com to see how MFS puts Montessori into action. It is
really a wonderful spot.
Highly Recommend MFS
We're looking for elementary, possibly middle, & possibly high
schools that do not have homework or much less than the standard
school. I've heard Beacon Day School doesn't have any for the
K-5 years. Are there any others? Is it possible that any
public schools follow that policy? How about middle school or
even high school?
I keep reading more articles about the growing realization that
homework does not make that much of a difference in how kids
learn and test on various school subjects. As a parent of an
elementary school child, I can see the benefits of learning time
management, but frankly, the homework seems overly redundant and
more like busy work. I'm also really feeling like homework takes
away from the experiences outside of academics that really help
to shape us as well rounded, critical thinkers.
Would love to hear of any schools that parents have found
recognize that and have worked out a curriculum for that.
DONE with homework
Check out The Renaissance School
if you want a school that gives no homework.
It's a pre-school through middle school Montessori school located in the Dimond
District in Oakland. We too were appalled at the amount of homework even
Kindergarteners get in many schools, both public and private, and have felt
that The Renaissance School is refreshing in its approach to education. The
Renaissance School has a wonderful program, including strong foreign language,
music, and art. The elementary kids start their day at 8am with a half an hour
of singing. The regular school day ends at 3:30pm for the elem kids, but they
can stay as late as 6pm either continuing to work on things from earlier in the
day, or engaging in many addition interesting activities. The only thing the
elementary children are required to do outside of school is regular reading
which we think is a good thing.
I assume that many have viewed the excellent film ''Race to Nowhere'' as it
raises the issue of overworked kids. I'd recommend it to anyone who shares your
concerns about saturating a young student's time. I am a college professor (15
years teaching) and I have seen in the past ten years freshmen students'
capacity for reflection and unstructured problem-solving diminish severely and
alarmingly. And, I think much of this problem is due to incredibly structured
formative years -- homework, grades, and too many after school
classes/activities at the expense of ''free'' time. I will be looking at the
posts regarding your question about middle and high schools because I have the
same concerns as you.
My own child attends
(El Cerrito/Richmond hills). It is a K-5
Cooperative and supports the idea that kids and their families do interesting
and educational things during free time. The cooperative nature of the school
means parents are engaged in the education of their children and work with the
teachers on all aspects of the school. Homework is limited in scope, it
increases slightly by grade level to gently introduce the concept of organizing
one's time and meeting deadlines as preparation for middle school. But the work
is often given in a weekly packet (not daily) and is more creative than the
worksheets that I see friends' children doing nightly for public school. My
third grader is able to adjust his homework around other activities and he has
time to play and relax after school. He actually has time to engage all of the
educational toys and books that we have amassed over the years and that he
works on self-initiated creative projects -- plus a little homework -- tells me
that balance is there for him. My third grader chooses to film and edit his own
movies, composes music, reads books, and builds ridiculously complicated Lego
structures --all after school because he has time to do it. Crestmont honors
the spirit of childhood encouraging fantasy, play, and imagination which I
think allows each child's spirit to flourish in his or her young years and
beyond. Crestmont has no formal grades nor tests and assessment is performed
in written narratives, progress matrices, and parent-teacher meetings. If there
are doubts about this style of education, Crestmont can show that our kids have
historically done very well when they have matriculated to traditional academic
settings in private or public middle schools. If you are interested in K-5, you
can find more info about Crestmont at crestmontschool.org
Parent at Crestmont
I'm glad you also asked about public schools, for there definitely are some
that are actively moving away from having tons of homework. We have a 4th
grader at a BUSD school in which the admin and teachers have made a school-wide
commitment toward reducing homework for all the kids. Of course the actual
homework will be somewhat dependent on the teacher, but I know that it's
discussed, encouraged and facilitated at our school. Our son, for example, has
reading to do and music he should practice daily, but other than that, he has
about 15 minutes a day of something from a weekly packet. Occasionally he'll
have a short math review page as well. He has plenty of time to play and relax
after school and on weekends, which is absolutely essential for his mental
health. [ours as well]
Ask the principals/directors of the schools you tour, and ask about the
policies per grade, and even if teachers have some leeway in what they assign.
You may find out more specifically if a school has a ''no homework'' policy or
actually just a ''minimal homework'' policy.
-happy BUSD parent
You should definitely take a look at
The Berkeley School. I share your views
on homework, and you will find that the teachers and administrators at TBS feel
the same way. There is basically no homework prior to 4th grade, and very
manageable amounts for 4th through 8th grades. More importantly, the homework
that is sent home is always thoughtful, and builds on something being done
during the school day/week rather than just being busy work. Our Head of School
thinks that kids' homework should actually be ''the work of the home,'' as he
calls it -- kids helping out, being with family, recharging their batteries. I
am happy to talk to you personally about our experience at The Berkeley School
if you would like.
The Montessori Family School
(MFS), 7075 Cutting Blvd., El Cerrito,
510-236-8802, has a very reasonable approach to homework. There is
very little outside work in the early grades and it increases in a
way that is manageable. I have relatives who attend public school
in Berkeley and the West Contra Costa School Districts and the
amount of homework they have from even kindergarten is very
excessive. It really cuts into family time during the week when
things are busy anyway. I was so happy to learn about MFS's policy
of not piling on the homework so that students can enjoy their
families and participate in activities that are educational within
the context of family activities. I am relieved to know that we
will not be robbed of family time while my child is a student at
MFS. Give them a call and learn more. The school is great.
I want to recommend Walden School
in Berkeley as a school with a
''gentle'' homework policy. I am not sure what happens in K-3 at
Walden because we have just started this year for the 4th grade. But
homework in 4th grade is MUCH more reasonable and also MUCH more
thoughtful than what we have experienced in public school or other
private schools. There is reading a book of his choice every night, as
in other schools. There is a weekly project due on Weds. customized to
tie into instruction for the week. Example this week is writing about
pros/cons of California's aqueduct system. Then there is one short
nightly assignment which alternates between math and language arts that
takes an inattentive, distracted kid 30-45 min., for example a couple
pages in the math workbook. There is no busy work, no brainless
discouraging stuff, none of the xeroxed sheets we'd grown used to in
the past. Sometimes homework still doesn't get done, and the Walden
teachers will sit with my son the next day to work on it. They also
check his assignment book every day, adding notes as needed. I really
like the way they do things at Walden.
We are trying to find kindergarten classes that do not give homework. We really cannot
afford private school but have major reservations about local public schools. We are
willing to move (around Oakland, maybe Berkeley) to get into a school, but don't want
to go through that to be faced with homework after all.
If your child's teacher has a no homework policy, we'd love to know!
You will probably have a bit of trouble finding a teacher in OUSD who does not give
homework (or who will admit to such). I believe the district has an official policy of
homework every night (something like 10 min. per grade per day).
However, in my experience, many teachers are willing to work with you and your child
individually on what is reasonable and works for you.
Wow. I guess I can't help you. We had a kindergarten teacher
that gave light, fun homework, some that we could all enjoy
participating in, and my kindergartener learned a lot from it.
be openminded about homework
Can't speak for Oakland, but Berkeley public schools are on the
homework-in-kindergraten bandwagon. Why? Doesn't make any sense.
My slightly-above-average 2nd grader has not been able to complete
ALL the homework (which includes nightly reading) a single week.
I think it really depends school-to-school and even
teacher-to-teacher what the homework situation is like.
My daughter was in kindergarten at Oxford Elementary in Berkeley
last year. Her daily ''homework'' was for me to read to her at
least 15 minutes every day and we had to log what we read.
Totally no big deal (I read to her way more than that anyway; I
just had to remember to write down some of what we read).
Then there was a monthly homework sheet that they sent home with
various activities and you had to choose I think 3 per week. A
lot of them were artistic (draw a picture of what you think Fall
looks like, draw a picture with a moon shape in it, etc) or
pretty simple (how many letters are in your name? What's your
phone number? Or sort of fun for me to do with her .... Tell
someone a story about your day or What are you thankful for? We
just had to turn it in at the end of the month with X's on the
activities we chose and a few sentences about what we learned
(parents and kids). Sometimes it was tedious, but some of the
activities were sort of cool. My daughter was always happy to do
them and sometimes wanted to do every single one.
There was also math homework, but it was optional. Sometimes my
daughter wanted to do it... she really likes math concepts. But I
never suggested it or pushed it at all and didn't ever turn
I also would have preferred absolutely no assigned homework, but
I found what we had acceptable. This year she's in first grade
and it's yet to be seen what the homework will be like. All I
know is that it's mostly math and it's supposed to take 10-15
minutes a day.
I know that some of her kindergarten friends at other BUSD
schools had daily worksheets that they had to complete at home
and return at school the next day. Given that you don't know what
school you'll get in Berkeley, there's no guarantee....
Good luck with your decision!
Not a homework fan either
I'm encouraged that there are now discussions taking place about
homework for grade school children. My daughter will be entering
kindergarten in 2 years, and I am now researching schools, both
public and private. Ideally, I would like her to be in a
progressive school that does not assign homework for children
until 6th grade. I know that Beacon Day School has such a
policy, and I am wondering about others. Please share your
knowledge of various schools' policies on homework, and at what
grade assignment of homework begins.
Looking for recommendations
This is a very timely question. There was an essay by Peggy
Orenstein in yesterday's New York Times magazine about finding an
East Bay school for her child that does not give homework in
kindergarten - see ''Kindergarten Cram''
I asked this question when I was looking at kindergartens three
years ago, because I have already been through the homework
nightmare with two older kids and was anxious to avoid it for as
long as possible. At that time, Head Royce didn't give homework
till 2nd or 3rd grade, and St. Paul's until 2nd. I'm sure there
must be others as well (and you already know about Beacon.)
But if you don't want your 4 or 5 year old to have homework, then
you probably are not going to like public school. My friends with
kids in Berkeley and Oakland public schools have all been dealing
with homework since the get-go. And there are some school
districts that are even crazier. We have friends in the San Ramon
school district whose kindergarter proudly showed us her
homework, which was to write a story about what she did over the
weekend and illustrate it. This was in the fall, at the beginning
of the year! She did a lovely job, obviously a bright and
talented child. But I was trying to picture my own son dealing
with this assignment -- he could barely write his name legibly in
kindergarten and couldn't compose a sentence until halfway
through the 2nd grade. How would a kid like mine feel about daily
pressure to do something he is not developmentally able to do? I
imagine it would be very stressful and defeating.
My son is now in 2nd grade at St. Paul's, which we chose partly
because of their homework policy, although it turned out that
halfway through first grade, the kids began to get homework ''to
prepare them for 2nd grade''. Argh. The homework assignments are
modest, and expected to take only 15 or 20 minutes, but my child
is not exactly Mr. Speedy when it comes to math and spelling, and
who wants to come home from ''work'' anyway and do more work? Many
days, resistance and procrastination can easily stretch a
15-minute task out to hours, often extending the school day well
into dinner time. This is not fair to my kid or to our family
life! I honestly don't see the point of homework until 4th grade
I hope others on the list have suggestions for you about schools
that are more enlightened about homework.
Ah, homework. Yeah, we hate it too, kind of.
As far as the policies in different schools go, our own public school
experience has been that it largely depends on the teacher. Our
school [a small BUSD school] sends home a sheet at the beginning
of the year letting parents know what's expected and why, and
honestly, I was surprised that it wasn't more. [I was told to
expect a lot and, for my 2nd grader, it states 10 - 25 minutes].
In Kindergarten, my son had no homework to speak of, while the
other class had a little packet of coloring that was due at the
end of the week. First grade was the worst for us. While the
other class had one or two [very easy] worksheets, my son's class
had a [thoughtfully done] note of instructions, which required
him to actually write stuff himself instead of just filling in
worksheet blanks. For a kid who hates writing, it was the worst.
This year, he has one or two worksheets [still only M-Th] which
take him minutes to do. While I think they demand way less
imagination than last year, they're also way easier. And, like last
year, he's expected to spend some time reading.
The idea of homework - letting us know what they're up to in class,
and developing habits that will take a kid into later school years - is
OK with me. However, I'd like more clear flexibility and communication
between parents and teachers about it. In first grade, for example,
when my son had such a hard time due to his ''blank page'' anxiety,
I wish the teacher had made it clear earlier on that we could help with
the parts that were structurally difficult for our kids. It took us a long time
to figure out that we, his parents, could turn his blank page into kind of
a worksheet, which wasn't then so intimidating for him.
And about the time expectations - of course that's going to end up
different for every child. My kid would take hours last year just fighting
the process. Once he began it, the work itself didn't take long.
We learned not to sweat it too much. His teachers seem to care more
about it this year, although a lot of kids in our class still don't do it.
One last note: at our school, the afterschool program has a guided
'academic hour' [after an hour of enrichment] during which the separate
grades read and work on homework. When my son goes, he almost
always finishes his work, with no complaints.
My experience at Berkeley Montessori
has been no homework until 4th grade, and not
a ton of it then. Even better, when my kids were in first through third grades the
teachers would talk to them about ''homework'' being the work you do at home, and
encourage the kids to talk about the kinds of things they did at home as contributing
members of their family. Setting the table, making their beds, helping with dishes,
emptying the waste baskets...kids all had different things that they did that varied with
their ages and their families, but I really liked how talking about it this way both set an
expectation about kids helping out and honored their contributions.
Like you, we don't feel that homework is helpful to our young
kids. Happily, we have found a school that doesn't assign
homework until 4th grade (and then not very much), and
de-emphasizes testing and grades, while emphasizing
individualized learning. The school is
School, which has a campus for 3- and 4-year-olds and another for
K-8. Their website is http://www.bmsonline.org/.
A happy BMS family that enjoys our homework-free evenings together
We've been checking out kindergartens (public and private) for my son
next year. Yesterday, we visited our local public elementary school,
one of the kindergarten teachers there mentioned that she assigns
''half an hour to an hour'' of homework a day.
This seems excessive to me, not to mention that I can't imagine my son
actually doing it. I'm hoping that this is just because the teacher
half-day classes -- and next year, when they change to full-day
kindergarten classes, the amount would be reduced, because there'd be
more class time to do the work.
My question for the kindergarten parents in the group is this: how
homework does your kindergarten student do on an average night?
Does 30 to 60 minutes seem excessive to you? And how would you
induce an active boy (who is not much interested in writing, though he
LOVES being read to) to do homework?
My kindergartener has a full day of school 9 to 2 in a berkeley
public school. He gets a homework packet once a week on a
Wednesday and returns it on the following Tuesday. The packet
contains 5-7 pages of work. It takes him a half hour total and
he usually does it in two sittings.
hope this information is helpful.
My son is mid-way thru his kindergarten year in the Castro Valley
district and I volunteer in the classroom weekly-the homework
phiolosphy at our
school is yes-homework comes home on friday, its due Wednesday....if
you did it all
at once it would take 45-50 minutes HOWEVER the goal is a couple
increments to develop ''study skills.'' It is usually re-inforcement
for what they are
learning in class. I think there is a lot going on in kindergarten and
most kids have
some skill set they need to improve upon. They are expected to be able
(alphabet(caps/lwrcase)#'s thru30), read, and write 3 sentences by
June. This in in
addition to the social dynamics, trips to the library, computer and
between the hours of 11:30 to 3pm because our school has a half day
Prior to starting kindergarten you might want to bring your children up
to speed in
the alphabet and basic printing skills. Not only is Lakeshore Learning
in San Leandro
a great resource for materials but there is a series of workbooks at
Barnes & Noble
put out by Kumon that help with ''pencil skills and letter/number work
3PLUS...An hour per night of homework seems excessive given everything
are expected to learn.
We have a daughter in private Kindergarten. She attends from
8:30-3pm each day and has about 15-30 minutes of homework a
night. I don't know if an hour of homework is the standard in
public school but I will say that our child LOVES doing homework
! Your child might love it as well and it may not be the burden
you think. Also, in discussing homework with our daughter's
teacher, she told me that if our kid is too tired - don't do it !
She thought it more important that our child think of homework
as fun and not a burden. The teacher you spoke with might have
the same attitude so you won't feel so much obligation. Best of
- love homework
To the parent of too much hom ework in Kindergarten.
The answer is YES it is WAY too much! WAY too much!!!!!!!
At our school (Park Day) the children in Kindergarten got
about an hour of
homework to do over 4-5 days! We got a homework packet on
Thursday and it
was due on the following Tuesday, so the kids could either get
quickly or take their time. There was also work that was
optional for more
advanced students. 15 minutes is enough. The (very well
research shows that homework makes absolutely no difference in
until 6th grade, and homework given prior to that is a way to
habit of after-school learning practice so that when 6th grade
it's deeply ingrained. The children gain no additional
knowledge or know-how
by doing that much homework, and itís a terrible burden on the
family, on family relations, and stresses-out the children
terribly. I would
say, don't do it, read to your kid at night, play fun learning
colors, shapes, easy math, words, language. Go for hikes, walk
the dog and
do a building project. Your child will thrive in school, and
you can just
tell the teacher your child will not do the homework.
Best of luck!
We're looking at schools for our kindergartener for next year and
we are very interested in this topic, because we don't think
kindergarteners should have homework. Two of the schools we've
looked at do not give homework in kindergarten: Head-Royce and
St. Paul's. HR, which is considered an academic school,
doesn't give homework in kindergarten or 1st grade either
(not sure about St. Paul's) Probably there are others too, but
these are the ones I know about and these are the ones I'm applying to!
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