April 12, 2008 / Park Slope / Perspective / PS … I Love You

Homework havoc at home

for The Brooklyn Paper
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It’s a typical scenario — begging, pleading, yelling. The bedroom door slams, everyone is crying. A big fight between Mom and Dad? No, just homework.

“The weekends are just a blur of homework. We’ve been working from dawn to dusk. We have to make a schedule just to get it all done. She’s only in the sixth grade!” says Isabel Hill, a Park Slope mother and filmmaker whose daughter, Anna, attends Poly Prep Country Day School.

If I wasn’t also the parent of a school age child, I might have said to Hill — hey what do you mean we — isn’t this her homework?

But, sadly, I know better. When homework reaches those kinds of levels, there is just no way for parents to stay uninvolved. For one thing, kindergartners and first-graders, never mind sixth-graders, just can’t budget their time without help. And even kids who happen to be good at it are often wiped out after a full day at school.

Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. feels the same way. Last fall, Vallone called for a maximum of 10 minutes per grade per night through the eighth grade, with one night off per week. So, in the case of a sixth-grader, that would be one hour, opening up a world of possibilities.

Anna could go back to her music, just for starters — or have pizza with a friend, or invent stuff or play, which is how kids learn. And Vallone, who has two daughters himself, says that families could have more time together, and children would have time to get some badly needed exercise.

Mayor Bloomberg has not been too sympathetic to Vallone’s idea, but Hizzoner should do his own homework: No studies prove that doing more homework equals doing better in school, according to Sara Bennett and Nancy Kalish, the two Slope-based writers of “The Case Against Homework: How Homework is Hurting Our Children and What We Can Do About It.” In Finland, teenagers score higher than any other country in the world on tests, yet no more than 30 minutes per night of homework is assigned.

Proponents of homework say that homework also teaches kids responsibility and time management. But some parents are unconvinced.

“I’d rather my kids learn responsibility from chores,” says Park Slope mom, Caroline Thaler, who has one child at PS 321 and two at Poly Prep. “I can’t give them much responsibility around the house now because they have way too much homework to do.”

Wendy Ponte is a freelance writer who lives in Park Slope.

The Kitchen Sink

Prospect Park: The Prospect Park Tennis Center is having a gala on April 17 to raise money for the junior tennis program. Tickets are steep — $200 — but that’s nothing compared to consigning kids to a tennis-free life. Call (718) 965-8988 or e-mail …

Park Slope: You gotta hand it to the bartenders at Alchemy on Fifth Avenue. They crafted a mix of pilsner and Bloody Mary mix that our Sixth Avenue pal Phil Marriott says is quite tasty. …

The door and the heated patio are now up and in place at Barrio, the restaurant that will take over the Seventh Avenue site from Tempo Presto (and Mojo Cafe before that).

Updated 5:06 pm, July 9, 2018
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