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Schools with Reasonable Homework Policies

Berkeley Parents Network > Reviews > K-12 Schools > Schools with Reasonable Homework Policies


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Homework loads for various high schools?

Sept 2014

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 probably 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 outside interests).
looking ahead


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. Maybeck Mom
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. Lick Parent


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


Elementary schools with no homework?

April 2014

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. educational utopian


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 Luck! http://www.headsup.org/menuhu/campuses/haschool.html -Rose
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 dance curriculum.

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 socio-emotionally. 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. Ann B

Hands-on, no-homework private/charter elementary?

Oct 2012

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 East Bay 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 mailing list. Happy EBSB parent
Urban Montessori 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 UMCS parent
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 years better. 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! GO
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. scott


Hello, 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 well.

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: http://www.walden-school.net Good luck! Walden parent


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 ideas.

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 specialists).

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! Educator
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.

Archway 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 larger world.

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 enough.

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! Crestmont parent
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 school) include:

*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 kids).

*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! Susie A
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 Sara
In addition to the many wonderful schools mentioned last week, you should pay a visit 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 having moved into administrative roles to bring their experience and amazing talents to bear on the entire school. TBS is both well-funded and well-managed enough to offer significant financial aid to support an economic diversity of families. To us, it felt like home. 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

Seeking schools that have no homework, or much less

Jan 2011

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. TRS Parent
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 Crestmont School (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. Good luck! -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. j.s
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. Happy parent
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. G.

Public kindergarten that doesn't give homework?

Sept 2009

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! Thanks! kinder-searching mama


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. anonymous
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.
Hi there, 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 anything in.

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


Looking for schools with "no homework" policy

May 2009

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. Thank you! 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'' http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/03/magazine/03wwln-lede-t.html?ref=magazine

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 at least.

I hope others on the list have suggestions for you about schools that are more enlightened about homework. Tired Mom


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. -j


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. Ann
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 Berkeley Montessori 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

Excessive homework in Kindergartens we're visiting

Jan 2006

We've been checking out kindergartens (public and private) for my son next year. Yesterday, we visited our local public elementary school, and 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 teaches 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 much 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? Karen


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 Unified School 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 smaller 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 to write (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 science labs...all between the hours of 11:30 to 3pm because our school has a half day program. 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 for AGES 3PLUS...An hour per night of homework seems excessive given everything else they are expected to learn. sydney
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 luck! - love homework
To the parent of too much hom ework in Kindergarten. The answer is YES it is WAY too much! WAY too much!!!!!!! Follow your intuition.

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 through it quickly or take their time. There was also work that was optional for more advanced students. 15 minutes is enough. The (very well established) research shows that homework makes absolutely no difference in learning until 6th grade, and homework given prior to that is a way to build the habit of after-school learning practice so that when 6th grade comes around 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 parents, on 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 games with 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! arodman


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! a Mom
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