Summer Homework – The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

by AustinMom

Students scramble to complete summer homework

I came across this article, just after my daughter received her third summer homework assignment. So far, she has to (1) read a novel for English class, (2) read a book for World History, (3) read a couple chapters out of the World History textbook and answer some questions, (4) read a chapter out of one Chemistry text and answer the questions for that chapter, (5) read 2 chapters out of the second Chemistry text and answer the questions for those chapters, and (5) watch 2 Chemistry videos and complete the guided notes. All this is due on the first day of school. She is also expecting some pre-calculus homework as well.

I have mixed feelings about this. On one hand, this is the equivalent of 2-3 nights of homework for each class or similar to what a week will feel like once school starts with her block schedule. If it seems overwhelming now, it will give her the chance to change her schedule the first day from all AP and Pre-AP to a mix that includes some “on level” classes as well. On the other hand, she worked very hard in school all year, she uses summer to catch up on her pleasure reading, and she went to an academic camp for 3 weeks that included reading almost the entire textbook, a short research paper, a presentation on another topic, and small group project. In short, she isn’t vegging out for 11 weeks in front of the tv or computer. But, even if she were, don’t these students deserve down time?

Totebaggers, do your students have summer homework? Did you? Is this summer homework really necessary? Does it only result in students dropping higher level courses to get out of the homework? Do the students benefit? If so, then why is summer homework focused on the higher performing students and not assigned across the board?

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100 thoughts on “Summer Homework – The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

  1. Last summer my oldest DD had a massive summer homework project that was required for entrance to an AP class. She finished, but a number of her friends didn’t. The teacher never graded the work.

  2. Just some novels for (regular) English…and that requirement has diminished over the past several years from 5-6 to 3 this year.
    I recall that when my other two had APs/advanced classes there was an expectation of some work done during the summer, but not much and IF they did the work a bit at a time (vs. the usual wait-till-the-very-end) it was not onerous.

  3. Murphy, that stinks.

    I am not a fan of summer homework because the kids need some time to relax without any deadlines hanging over them. There is so much work now during the regular school year.

    There are usually one or two books that the kids in grades in 7 -11 are required to read before school starts. The kids in Science research have a lot of work during the summers, but there are very few other classes in our district that require work during the summer.

    I never had any required summer work in NYC public schools. I am not sure if the city is still structured this way, but I had every summer off from school work.

  4. The older kid has two novels to be read with a few questions about each novel to be filled in. I found that the school holds a math camp before school starts so that will be a good refresher. The younger kid has one required novel to be read and one math assignment to be completed. There is more math practice if you want to do it. School recommended starting to memorize multiplication facts. Kid started doing a little every day (nothing some days), should be done by September.

  5. No required summer homework here, however the school heavily emphasis worksheets and reading to prevent brain drain. I receive an email every few weeks with reminders of what kiddos should be working on. I’m not very good at having my kid do the worksheets – a few pages each weekend if I remember. The problem is that she is in camp from 7:30 – 5:30 and then we have dinner and then maybe the pool or the park, or she is just too tired and just wants to veg out. Summer homework is not a priority for me at this stage in her young life.

  6. I told a couple of the kids who hadn’t finished the work to just to in something that hit the required number of pages, but they didn’t. The principal told me that some teachers use the summer homework to “manage their courseload.”

    Yet another reason tenure is a really bad idea.

  7. The teacher never graded the work.

    !!!!!!

    That was pretty much how the rest of the school year went. The majority of the work was never graded. The kids did get an AP level education in cynicism.

  8. Murphy – that is INSANE.

    No summer homework here, they are too young. I am concerned with #1 kid losing some reading skill, but will read with her to prevent that. Friends of ours have their kids doing Kumon worksheets every day, which I think is crazy.

  9. Most of my kids’ summer homework was either not graded or received a check mark. OTOH, some of it was good prep for the class coursework.

    Do you all have one book that every high schooler reads? It’s usually supposed to convey some “important” theme, usually about compassion or humanitarianism IIRC. Probably counts towards character education.

  10. I ignore all of it.

    Junior gets a lot of crap assigned each summer. We don’t do it. Each day he is tutored by teachers from his school who know him well. (Yes, they are allowed to do that.) I pay a fortune for the privilege.

    Other than tutoring, I’m not making Junior jump through summer homework hoops. He has enough to do with scouts.

    But other than that, I don’t impose a lot on Junior’s time during the summer. He can watch TV or play games or tether ball or whatever. I think kids need a break.

    I know I do. And last time I looked, I did practically nothing.

    I want Junior to be a kid. And grow into himself. And have fun. Life can be pleasant. Kind of. For some people.

  11. DS has two novels for English( with a test the first day), two books and an essay for social studies, and a calculus packet. He will do most of it the last two weeks before school starts and the kids will get together to do the math. It’s just a fact of life here.

  12. I know some AP-level kids back a decade or two ago were all supposed to read Lives of a Cell and Ariadne’s Thread. Those are both good books for rising seniors at the AP level, I think. DSS used to have some novels to read and so on, but never seemed to suffer much or spend much time on any summer assignments.

  13. I do think they keep trying to jam 10 pounds of flour into a 5 pound sack. I know that the high school kids here work as much as my very busy husband and he usually gets weekends off for the most part. Son has to read The Book Thief for 9th grade regular English. It is 550 pages, has some pretty difficult vocabulary and is challenging to say the least for a boy who is very literal. So we are doing it together. At least it is a pretty good book. I think we will look back and be amazed at how foolish we were. You can no more prepare a 13 year old for the the real world by working him like dog than you can prepare him for parent hood by giving him a baby.

  14. My kids are too young. I do have friends who make their kids do work throughout the summer but I don’t. My oldest, the only one in actual school, did request a third grade workbook to do over the summer and she works in it all of the time. She loves school, so I don’t really stay on top of her too much. I let her read what she wants and let her watch way too much television in the summer.

  15. My son has a 28 page Project Based Learning packet to do. It starts with building a paper airplane that must accomplish various Feats of Strenght, covers some math and science, involves watching some video on Sully landing his plane in the Hudson and working problems regarding that decision making process, writing some fictional stories, researching five countries and writing papers on each and creating charts and graphs on specifics of the countries to embed in the papers, and writing some newspaper articles. I’m sure I’ve left some of it out. He took off the first half of the summer but will start on the project today. The break from school is good for him but this project is not optional. I think it counts for something like 30% of their grade in the first quarter in each subject that is involved. I want him to get his license before school starts, because that will make my life easier, and he has some of his own goals he’d like to work on, so there’s not a lot of enthusiasm for this.

  16. I know the summer reading novels are quickly touched on in the first week and then there is a quiz on them. I’ve realized that the “no homework till Labor Day” is all well and good, but lots goes on during the first two weeks before Labor Day. It is essentially hit the ground running. I didn’t have so long of a summer vacation, when in school but the first two weeks were sort of slow simmer instead of a hard boil.

  17. I don’t like the idea of summer homework. Granted, my kid’s school is probably just spectacularly awful, but I really think kids need some downtime to get bored and figure out what they do and don’t like about life. Or get a job, or travel with family, or go on an adventure, or watch tv all day and night. Fortunately, only the AP classes have summer homework, and not all of them have summer homework.

    There is no way I would make a kid not in high school do summer work, because grades don’t count, and likely no one else would do it either.

    By the way I hate project based learning too.

  18. My 15 year old has to read 10 research papers and summarize each one. This is for the independent science research course he is starting next year, the one with attrition. He was given no guidance whatsoever. Luckily I have access to university library databases, and know how to conduct research, so I had to run a crash course at the beginning of the summer on how to choose a research area and find papers on that topic. It took him 2 weeks just to figure out what area to focus on and identify 10 papers. Honestly, most grad students take far longer. I worry about some of his friends who are going into this course that don’t have parents who can help them like this.

    He also has to read 3 assigned books and write reflections. My 13 year old has a similar assignment.

  19. When my oldest was in 8th grade, he blew off the summer ELA assignment, and it counted. It hurt his first quarter grade quite a bit. I wasn’t even aware it counted for anything. Now, I pay better attention!

  20. He also has to read 3 assigned books and write reflections. My 13 year old has a similar assignment.

    They wouldn’t want to read my reflections. Trust me.

  21. He was given no guidance whatsoever.
    Why is that ? I wouldn’t know how to help my kids either.
    If the teacher doesn’t give the kids guidance I turn to Google for guidance. For instance, my kid had lots of guidance on a Science Fair project but both of us had no idea of how finished poster boards looked, so we googled for examples.

  22. We always had to read a few books over the summer starting the summer before 8th grade. I would count how many pages total, divide by the number of days I had and tackle it that way. Sometimes I read more, some less, but the books were always read.

    My lesson in cynicism came 3 weeks before my junior year of HS. I think I told this story before… one day in the middle of the afternoon I received a phone call from the AP history teacher (a nun) that *she* had changed my schedule without my or my parents’ consents to include AP history . Her reasoning was that I was “too smart” for the honors track. My reasoning was that I didn’t want her for a teacher. I remember saying “I don’t want to take that class” and being told “You don’t know what you want. I’m a teacher. I know better.” (This woman had never met me…)

    Then she gets down to the summer-homework I need to do before school starts in 3 weeks: 4 books and one report on one of the books. This was in addition to the base level work the school sent home – 4 books. I was finishing the last book from that list, so my total workload for 3 weeks was 5 books and one report. I protested. She told me no one does the work until August anyway. I got very mad. You see, unlike other students, I had soccer camp in August, I planned my workload to ease so I could be at camp 5 hours a day 4 days a week. (I was the only person in AP History who was on the soccer team).

    My parents were furious. Nothing they did changed my schedule. So my dad did what any dad would do – he read one of the books and wrote my report. I walked into class, took a test on books that I didn’t have time to read and handed in a report. The test was never graded and the report was never read. The books that I read for the school were summarized and graded.

    This teacher wondered why I never studied for her final that year. I got a 76 and was quite proud of that C. At the beginning of senior year, I found out this same teacher “did me a favor” and inflated my grade to an 81. She “couldn’t have a C on my report card.” I responded, “I’m proud of that C. You didn’t have to change my grade.” She then spent the entire senior year telling me that I owed her. I asked her to give me back my C. I never repaid the “favor” and I never got my C back. May she rest in peace.

  23. No summer homework until high school. We were given a list of books and had to read 2 and write a short report. Don’t remember the grading, I think it was kind of a pass/fail. I assumed everyone turned it in.

    I remember one summer I read Gone With the Wind and The Red Badge of Courage.

    I can’t remember my other picks, probably some Jane Austen and Ray Bradbury.

  24. There used to be natural rewards for those of us kids who were talented but not going to become professional performing artists, smart but not likely Nobel prize winners, or athletic but not future Olympians or Pros. We could experience success, get cut a little slack in other areas, and expend a lot less daily energy than the average kid in our cohort on just getting through the daily hoops of life.

    I can’t imagine being a parent of my SES in the U.S. today, or for that matter being 14 years old. I just can’t figure the scarcity mindset that drives the worried but currently comfortable middle class. I see very little incremental future value to the pace of these kids’ lives, and plenty of current loss to the whole family.

  25. Confession time – not only did I never have any summer homework, but most years before high school, I usually missed the last 3 weeks of school because we had to head west for my father’s summer consulting gig. No one in the school system ever seemed to care.

  26. Look. I pay around $30k per year (more when you add in property taxes to educate other people’s kids) on educating my son. I have realized that I cannot work at a real law firm for real money for real money with 3 hours of homework per night.

    I want them to leave me alone for the summer. My son gets tutored every day. That is enough.

  27. I’m convinced that many Totebaggers choose highly ranked, demanding urban school districts. Kids here don’t have summer homework, other than maybe for AP classes because AP tests are the same time across the country and school doesn’t start till after Labor Day. I looked at where local high school students are attending school, and one is going to Harvard and two to the Naval Academy, despite our underwhelming academic demands. The LDS kids have religious education every (some?) morning(s) before high school, and they manage to take AP classes, play sports, do drama and fit church in.

    I limit TV, because my kids like it way too much, but they are now allowed to ride scooters in the street. Twin 2 is easier than two years ago because now he can read. Both twins love Magic Tree House and Garfield comic books. Today, I plan to look at the hiking book with DS1 and let him pick a hike for us to do.

  28. I just can’t figure the scarcity mindset

    Is that it or is it just more conspicuous caring? Yes 12 year old Madison could babysit her 8 yo brother and spend the day watching The Price is Right and Judge Judy. But, that’s simply not done!

  29. I see very little incremental future value to the pace of these kids’ lives, and plenty of current loss to the whole family.

    +1

  30. We don’t have mandatory summer homework. Sometimes we have optional summer work. I don’t mind the optional stuff — if we were looking around for a way for the kids to continue their schoolwork all summer then we’d have that as an easy option, and since we’re doing other things we can just ignore it. But I would hate the very idea of mandatory summer homework. The school already plays a huge role in all our lives for the majority of the year and mandatory summer homework just seems like a way of telling parents that no matter what they had planned for the kids over the break — summer school or academic camp, sports camp or regular sleepaway camp, traveling as a family or just letting the kids sleep half the day and watch too much tv — the school knows better how they need to spend their time.

    So just as well the school doesn’t require it.

  31. I love that no one has cared (or read closely enough) to see that my dad did my homework. But maybe that’s par for course in school? I know we’ve talked about parents doing their kids’ homework… never done in my neck of the woods.

  32. Rhode, I noticed but you explained the reason, which was that the school was being completely unreasonable. Under those circumstances I would probably have done the same thing, and I HAVE done similar things when I’ve seen the unreasonable and bogus stuff hurled at my kids. Did you all feel guilty, or perfectly justified?

  33. Rhode, I noticed. It was all part of the absurdity of your situation. Good story.

  34. @Rhode –

    “I asked her to give me back my C”.

    That is the best line….hilarious.

  35. I was at a wake Saturday, Rhode. I was standing at the bar with one of Junior’s teachers. I happened to mention that the homework was getting hard, and I was getting tired of it.

    She told me to stop doing it. She said I had my influences all over Junior’s homework. She knows that, but also knows it can help Junior as long as I explain what and why I am doing what I do. She takes me into account when grading.

    She said she once got a book report in Creole. (Rhett can correct me, but I think that’s our second most spoken language here, English being third.) The teacher can, in fact, read Creole, and the book report was good. But she gave the kid an A and made him read it to the class. The kid doesn’t speak, much less write, Creole. Oops.

    Ultimately the teacher didn’t count the report, she says. So if there were 100 points total for the quarter, the kid was graded on 80– the 20 assigned to his Dad’s book report not included and the kid not penalized.

    I feel sorry with the teachers for having to deal with this. On the other hand, they are constantly telling us to work with our kids on homework.

    Rhode, what will you do as a parent?

  36. “Yes 12 year old Madison could babysit her 8 yo brother and spend the day watching The Price is Right and Judge Judy. But, that’s simply not done!”

    This describes my summers growing up, plus I added in some unauthorized Days of our Lives once I got to middle school.:)

    DH and I are seriously thinking about moving to my hometown in a few years. I would be quite ok with my kids having a more low key upbringing.

  37. Half way between. The fact that my dad offered to do the work and did it astounded me. He’s just not like that. But the frustration for him (and me) came when it wasn’t graded. He really wanted to know how he did. And after all that stress, to find out that it didn’t matter was preposterous. The fact that I remember this story ~20 years later speaks volumes to me.

    As the time in that nun’s purgatory went on, I realized that we were graded solely by name on the front of the report. I quoted an entire monologue from the X-Files TV show which very weakly (and I mean flimsy, like calling BS flimsy) supported some minor point about the Battle of Saratoga within my report. The quote took up ~4 pages of the required 20 page length. I still received a 24/25 on the report. In 8 reports, totally some 200 pages of text, over two years, I never received more than a 24/25. As the reports went on, they got more and more absurd. I found more silly ways to present my topic. I always did the reading and research, but spent less and less time on the content of the report and grammar. Some students blatantly plagiarized.

  38. To follow up on WCE’s comment, most kids do not suffer from excessive homework.

    The Brown Center Report looked at data collected by the NAEP,  the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA, and Met Life in an effort to answer the question “whether strong empirical evidence confirms the anecdotes about overworked kids and outraged parents”.  In fact, the reality is different from hyped-up news stories.

    … Homework typically takes an hour per night. The homework burden of students rarely exceeds two hours a night. The upper limit of students with two or more hours per night is about 15% nationally—and that is for juniors or seniors in high school. For younger children, the upper boundary is about 10% who have such a heavy load. Polls show that parents who want less homework range from 10%-20%, and that they are outnumbered—in every national poll on the homework question—by parents who want more homework, not less. The majority of parents describe their children’s homework burden as about right.

    Parents who complain about excessive homework usually have children enrolled in the most rigorous levels of course work. and are more likely to have other complaints about their schools.  Often they have the myopic view that everyone shares their situation.

  39. I was incredibly serious and studious as a child and teenager, but even I hated assigned summer work. All we had to do was read, but there was a lot of assigned reading. We had to read a certain number of books from a prescribed list (the number increased as we got older). I was fine with the idea of reading my own books on my own time, but I hated being told what and how much I had to read. I would always just pick the shortest books from the list. I would read a couple of them in depth so that I would be ready to write about them in the fall, but the rest of them I just skimmed through. Totally unlike how I approached my work during the school year, when I was a perfectionist to a fault.

    I would hate summer homework for my kids, too. I’m all for academics and school, but enough is enough! Give us all a break for a month or two. My husband’s school doesn’t give assigned work — they just tell the kids (elementary age) to read as much as they can, and practice math facts from time to time.

  40. From what my students tell me about their high school class work, I would say that CoC is correct. I think it is pretty easy to pull a B average in the non-honors, college track courses at many high schools without doing too much work.

  41. I was incredibly serious and studious as a child and teenager, but even I hated assigned summer work. All we had to do was read, but there was a lot of assigned reading. We had to read a certain number of books from a prescribed list (the number increased as we got older). I was fine with the idea of reading my own books on my own time, but I hated being told what and how much I had to read. I would always just pick the shortest books from the list. I would read a couple of them in depth so that I would be ready to write about them in the fall, but the rest of them I just skimmed through. Totally unlike how I approached my work during the school year, when I was a perfectionist to a fault.

    I would hate summer homework for my kids, too. I’m all for academics and school, but enough is enough! Give us all a break for a month or two. My husband’s school doesn’t give assigned work — they just tell the kids (elementary age) to read as much as they can, and practice math facts from time to time.

  42. My kids tackle their homework with lots of interruptions in between. This is a big reason why it seems to take much longer than the typical time described by the school. Sometimes younger kid asks the older kid for clarification before I get home and then gets into an argument and wastes a lot of time. Sometimes, older kid will help younger kid push through, so that both can go out to play(no ban on sibling help).

  43. Gaa — sorry for the double post. Am on a different computer at the moment.

  44. On the topic of doing your kids homework – my oldest requires a lot of supervision and checking, but I never check his work for correctness. I check to make sure he has completed all of his assignments (and that he has actually answered ALL of the questions, lol), but I don’t look at the content. That is because I know from experience that if he completes it, he will have an A on it.

    My DH does the homework checks for the other two kids. He does check for correctness, but he says it is mainly because both kids are sloppy and will make careless mistakes. He tells me he never needs to explain homework concepts to either of them.

    I remember when my oldest had to do a diorama of a famous scientist in third grade, I made him do it totally on his own. It was really sorry looking. He told me later that it looked really bad compared to all of the parent-assisted dioramas that the rest of the kids handed in. I told him that if I had helped him, it would have looked even sorrier.

  45. PTM – you bring up an interesting question. I think it depends on how old my kids are. And how ridiculous the hoops are. I was almost 16 when my situation occurred. My parents fought for me, but because it was so late in the summer, the school’s hands got tied. And my grades didn’t help. I was doing really well in the honors track and could easily handle the AP track work load. I just didn’t want it. At a college prep school, desire to coast just isn’t accepted. Mind you this was the same school that thought I was a boy for 2 years, so take it with a grain of salt.

    I can see myself intervening only when I feel too much is being asked. I don’t mean that I want my kid to skate and never be challenged, but there comes a point when the school sets a kid up for failure. That’s why my response would be “do what you can as well as you can.” And also having them learn early on what’s graded and what’s not. Had I known all that AP History summer homework crap was just words on a page, I wouldn’t have stressed. I would have just walked into that test and written them a story about what I thought they books were about based on their titles.

  46. CoC that rings true to me. My kids rarely had/have more than two hours per night, and when they did it was typically attributable to one class or teacher driving the workload. My Neice attends a very rigorous Chicago area private school and almost always has more than two hours per night, plus a full day’s worth each weekend, but they pay for that privilege.

    I still object to the summer work.

    And Rhode, I registered that your dad did the work, but it made sense in the context. I have done work for my kids — almost always coloring maps or word searches or something else that I considered a massive waste of time when they still had a lot of other academic work to do.

  47. Sometimes, though, it is important to do the homework even if it isn’t graded. My oldest religiously did his geometry homework last year, even though it was never even handed in, because it was the only way to prepare for the tests.

  48. Rhode – I think your dad was right on. I’ve done that myself when I think they are ridiculous. We have had questions. That were so poorly worded that my husband and I couldn’t solve them. We included a note that said “we couldn’t understand the question but we give you this answer based upon the following assumptions…” I think the real disservice we do is when we try to put non STEM kids into STEM because “that’s the future!” All you will end up with there is a crappy STEM job. STEM is great for kids who are so inclined but not for everyone.

  49. Kids vary dramatically in how much time they take to learn required material. I and another friend (A) helped a third friend (M) with her homework. A typed M’s AP English paper and I spent the evening helping M write her computer program. M was a very diligent, driven student who wound up going to West Point. It was a good fit for her, because she enjoyed jumping through bureaucratic hoops. I, on the other hand, have never been accused of enjoying bureaucratic hoops.

  50. CofC,

    I can only assume some of this homework talk is akin to people claiming they work 80 hours a week. Perhaps a bit worse because some parents are pushing for more under the mistaken belief that everyone else has 4 hours a night.

  51. The few times homework caused a lot of angst was because kid was attempting to do all the questions, when what was asked was only nos. 1-7. Of course nos. 8-16. were too hard for kid leading to a lot of hair pulling. In the end, I said – go to school and ask the teacher for help, 100% of the time, those questions were not to be done.

  52. Generally it takes Junior and me 3 hours to do homework. This is on top of his 8 to 5 school day and our 1 hour 15 minute commute each way.

    Then I am constantly told by his teachers that Junior needs to be in an organized sport.

    When?

    I increasingly am aware that Junior’s learning (or not) is my problem. I like his teachers generally and I like his school generally. In particular I like a couple of other moms. But in the end they all seem to throw it all back on me. And I am the first to admit I am not a teacher. I can’t home school my kid. I don’t have the time or the patience or, frankly, the skill. With school work, Junior and I mix like oil and water.

    Just a few minutes ago, I picked up Junior after his tutoring session. The tutor was frustrated. Junior is not progressing. What am I supposed to do?

    I am beginning to think that just as all people must learn to speak Spanish fluently, all adults must minor in childhood education.

    I don’t know how Mrs. Duggar does it.

  53. I’ve colored maps of Europe and the U.S. If a child has to label each state, capital, and water body.. .then I think the coloring is busy work. It is MS and it’s just a waste of time.

    I know I complained about the snow, but this humid weather is driving me insane. I think I am melting.

  54. PTM – you just do the best you can! Teaching is a vocation and a skill and not all of us possess that skill. Do you think Junior is behind where he should be realistically or in the right place for him? I forget how old he is but I seem to recall that he is a tween? If he is swimming this hard at this age, how will he do with the higher demands? Have you had him tested? The real danger, I think, is making him feel like a failure when he isn’t he just isn’t as fast or advanced as others. Maybe getting him tested and seeing where he falls on a normal (NORMAL) distribution might make both of you feel better. I am really sorry. It is hard stuff to navigate. I will tell you what the counselors at my kids’ schools tell me “the fact that you are on top of it and concerned, puts your child way ahead of a most other kids.”

  55. I will assist upon request with drawings for classes that are not supposed to have an art element as part of what’s being taught and graded. One of mine likes to do the drawing part, one is meh about it, and one hates and fears it. I’d rather not see the hates-and-fears kid dash off the writing part quickly and carelessly because he needs plenty of time to freak out about how to illustrate five historical events or his feelings about a story or something.

  56. I mean, all you fellow lawyers, imagine if you had just finished a fabulously argued brief or a bulletproof tight set of contract terms, and then you realize that you have to do a well-executed series of oil-on-board paintings illustrating your client’s emotional state if you want to get paid for your work.

  57. The funny thing is that hates-and-fears-illustrating kid has actually enjoyed it and done well the quarter he had an actual art class and the one elementary year when they did an actual art unit. Learning about line, perspective, color, texture, and trying to create something based on actual instruction and guidance, he apparently enjoys.

  58. ” Learning about line, perspective, color, texture, and trying to create something based on actual instruction and guidance, he apparently enjoys.”

    Such a big deal has recently been made about teachers “certified” in their subjects, yet our schools continue to have ELA teachers grade art projects and math teachers grade writing projects. With antics like these, it’s no wonder that teachers sometimes have a hard time being considered professionals.

  59. PTM,
    You could try talking to your son’s scout leaders to get their thoughts. They may have ideas about how independent Jr. is or can be on academic matters. Some of the merit badges are like school work.

  60. Moxie, I’ve tested the heck out of him. The results are all the same. He is not very smart. He is in the normal range, but just barely. He is kissing the bottom.

    Of course, it breaks my heart. I try to do all I can do. But I am a dad, not a teacher. I do the best I can with Junior and alls I can tell is that it costs me a lot of money.

    Thirteen years ago, I would have told you that my son would go to Harvard. Now I will move to the worst school district in Mississippi (or wherever) so that he gets his high school diploma on time. (As much as I dislike Miami, you all can imagine what I am going to be like when I move next door to Atticus Finch!)

    All this said, my kid is a pretty good young adult. I don’t know what his teenage years will bring, but everyone tells me either to die now or brace myself. I think Junior is smart enough. I think he is a fine person. Now. I uniquely seem to be optimistic.

  61. “I was at a wake Saturday, Rhode. I was standing at the bar with one of Junior’s teachers.”

    OK, I have to ask about this. Was the wake at a bar, or was there a bar at the wake? Or, were the wake and standing at the bar two separate events?

  62. “I think Junior is smart enough. I think he is a fine person.”

    Our pediatrician once told us, “It is more important to be nice than to be smart.” I think there is a lot of wisdom to that, and I remind my kids of it from time to time.

  63. “One of mine likes to do the drawing part, one is meh about it, and one hates and fears it.”
    “I will assist upon request with drawings for classes that are not supposed to have an art element as part of what’s being taught and graded.”

    Given your attitude to the nonessential art requirements, I’m surprised your kids have not come up with some sort of arrangement in which the kid who likes the drawing part does it for the other kids, for a mutually agreeable compensation.

  64. “Sometimes, though, it is important to do the homework even if it isn’t graded.”

    Yeah. It’s important to, as Covey would say, begin with the end in mind. The goal is to learn, and if the homework facilitates that, then it’s worth doing.

  65. A parent, the scout parents are good people. Really. They see my fingerprints all over Junior’s work. (I still make Junior do the work, although it is refined by me.) Junior can’t write jack shit about horsemanship, but he can really ride a horse and groom them. He can’t write about metal work, but he can make stuff. He knows I’ve never shot a gun, hate them, and plan never to. He is good with rifles and marksmanship.

    Scouting is good for Junior. All much to my surprise, and joy.

  66. “Polls show that parents who want less homework range from 10%-20%, and that they are outnumbered—in every national poll on the homework question—by parents who want more homework, not less. ”

    This is consistent with the gripes I’ve heard from my sister, the teacher.

  67. PTM, at my mom’s funeral, I heard about my distant cousin with learning challenges similar to Jr’s. He is married, holds a job, and his wife (who has more average abilities) handles paperwork for their household. Academic ability matters much less after high school, and nothing you’ve said makes me think Jr. can’t get a high school diploma from somewhere.

  68. Finn, the wake was at the bar. After a few hours it got quite animated.

  69. No homework here for my rising 3rd grader. Not that we would have had time for it. But she is reading a little (when forced to put down the technology), practicing her spelling by texting with her parents, practicing geometry with Minecraft, and practicing math by counting swim laps (and counting by 25’s to get the total distance).

    Only 3 more weeks until school starts! In K, 1st & 2nd, all the teachers agreed to buy all of the supplies and we just paid a fee and provided boxes of tissues and Goldfish. But 3rd grade has given the longest list of any grades, and it’s quite specific. For example:
    7 3-prong folders with pockets (at least 1 in each of the following colors: red, green, blue, orange, yellow, purple)
    10 glue sticks
    (WTF?!)
    Classic colors washable markers (broad and fine)
    1 old sock or piece of felt
    (to wipe the whiteboard, I presume?)
    At least I had all of you to warn me what would be coming…

  70. PTM,,

    Have you ever thought about gunsmithing for your son? There are community college programs to get certified and they make good money.

  71. PTM,

    When your son gets to high school, you might really want to consider putting him in a high school with an FFA program.

  72. CoC said
    “Such a big deal has recently been made about teachers “certified” in their subjects, yet our schools continue to have ELA teachers grade art projects and math teachers grade writing projects. With antics like these, it’s no wonder that teachers sometimes have a hard time being considered professionals.”

    CoC, my mother was an art teacher who was actually qualified to teach her subject, and this used to drive her batty. She always said “I am not going to design or grade science projects, so why should the science teacher design and grade art projects”. She taught at an elite private prep school, for what that was worth.

  73. Murphy, what’s an FFA program? Sorry. I really don’t know.

    And gunsmithing for Junior?! No. I hate guns. It is like recommending to me that I apply for Josh Duggar’s recently vacated job.

  74. You’re probably right, Rhett. Oops! It is clear that I have lived my adult life only in NYC and Miami.

    I would have guess it was “Freedom Fighters por Amigos”.

  75. PTM,

    FFA used to be Future Farmers of America, now it is just FFA. It is a national wide vocational program. They have a high school based program wide variety activities (not the right word) for kids with a variety of talents. My daughter raises animals and does speaking contests. Her good friend is an artisanal welder. She does beautiful work. Others do more utilitarian projects. Other kids do small engine projects, mechanical stuff.

    Many kids leave high school with a small business underway.

    Your comment about your son’s abilities with animals and metal set off a line of thought that he should exploit those talents. A school with an FFA program should have the programs in keeping with his talents. And, so be honest, a nice, honest, show up to work when asked, talented kid could have people bidding for his talents.

  76. “I think Junior is smart enough. I think he is a fine person” That’s all you need really and a Dad who loves you. I guess the challenge is finding what he’s good at an nurturing those things and getting him through well enough on the things he isn’t which it sounds like you are doing. Just because he isn’t book smart doesn’t mean he isn’t smart. In fact it sounds like he is smart at a lot of things they just aren’t the things that we are measuring in school. Drawing doesn’t matter except to those people who make a living doing so. Shop class doesn’t matter except for the guy who makes a living in construction or as an electrician or a plumber. There are a lot of skills in which one can have a perfectly nice, even wealthy standard of living that aren’t STEM. Those are also the professions in which being a nice guy brings success. By the way, the world needs more fine people more than anything else. Remember, he’s no more of an outlier than the kid on the mirror side of the distribution. In fact the parents of that kid may be on a forum saying “he’s so bright but doesn’t interact well with others. How do we help him be more social?”

  77. OT, my kids have not had any summer homework, nor have I ever heard of any assigned at their school. I’m sure the school is aware that all, or nearly all, of its students are heavily scheduled through the summer.

    Starting in 7th grade, we need to buy our kids’ books. in MS, DS would bug me to buy his books early, so he could start reading them in the summer. When he got to HS, he started having classes with older kids, and started asking me for money at the end of the school year, to buy books he’d need the next year from older kids. He’s started reading the AP US History (aka APUSH) book this summer.

    The story notes that a lot of the summer assignments are for AP classes. While that makes some sense, since AP exams are in early May, shortening the term for those classes, it makes me wonder why AP exams are given so early; why not the end of May, or early June?

  78. PTM, don’t believe everything you hear about the teen years. My son had some bumpy years in middle school and has had some school struggles as well. I have to say, halfway through high school, he’s a delightful young man. His friends that come to the house are also. He tells me occasionally about his friends that sneak their parents cars out at 2am, and he thinks they’re idiots. (The younger versions of his father and I would likely have been in those cars.). There are many, many great young people out there, and between scouts and church it sounds like you have him on a good path. I have found the teen years to be surprisingly fun.

  79. If not FFA, possibly 4H, which is more popular here.

    And you’ve mentioned the military for Jr- all branches employ gunsmiths, according to Wikipedia. We have hunting rifles that stay in the family for generations, so I admit that I view gunsmithing more the way Murphy does.

  80. PTM, does he like food?

    One of my friends in high school struggled with dyslexia, trained as a chef instead of going to college, and is now a successful baker.

  81. Ugh, Kayak must have changed a bit since I last used it. It’s harder to use than what I remember. When I want to save a flight to “my trips”, it only displays as segments so it’s hard to see the prices for the particular round trip flight options I saved. I quickly tried Google Flights as an alternative but it doesn’t seem to offer as many features as Kayak. This is a PITA.

  82. In my kid’s elementary school parents were expected to check homework for correctness and completeness, and help the child correct errors. In essence, there was no reason a child shouldn’t have 100 as their homework grade. Made me nuts for two reasons – (1) after I did my job all day, I am supposed to check work that requires me to basically redo the work my child did to know if it is right and (2) if every kid has perfect homework, what is the feedback to the teacher about what concepts etc. they are/are not grasping.

    PTM – Texas has (quietly) gone to a system that allows vocational education back in public high school and to get an associates degree before graduating. In some cases, both happen. While you might not thrive in Texas, that set up might be something to think about for Jr. Also, a lot of kids from city – suburb – rural participate in FFA and/or 4H. Depends on where you live which one has more local support.

  83. PTM – have you considered career testing for Junior ? I think that would be a formal approach to matching up his skills with possible occupations.

    My older kid happily outsources any coloring work to kid # 2, who is only too happy to do it.
    Kid # 2 has it easy because she has many of the same projects that kid # 1 had not too long ago. Having an older sibling has some advantages.

  84. Moxie, you damn near made me cry. Thank you. I am a far worse parent than you will ever know.

    I also love my son more than I could have ever believed.

  85. PTM — I have a kid similar to yours. Honestly, I believe the schools have failed him but I am confident he’ll do fine. It’s discouraging, but “book learning” is probably the hardest thing these types of kids will have to face.

  86. Thanks to all of you. I am listening. Anon, your post was too understanding. I have nothing to say.

    I have a lot of hope. My kid is already a far better person than I will ever be.

    (As Rhett will point out, cheerfully, that is not saying much. And it isn’t.)

  87. PTM – getting my youngest through high school may be my biggest accomplishment, it can be all-encompassing. I think it’s dioubly hard for you and them when they fall outside the norm both within the family unit (my older DS is a typical totebaggy child) and their school (his sends 95%+ to college, and it’s public). I second the motion to consider finding him a more diverse high school experience. One of my best friends swears he would fit in perfectly at her kids’ school. She is stunned when I describe the assignments that ‘we’ have to do for non-AP, non-honors classes. But, he is the outlier here.

    Thanks heavens I could afford to outsource math tutoring, as Algebra II outpaced my patience and teaching ability. And, to be honest, my math skills! Apparently college calculus does not stick with you if not put to use in the following 20 years.

    Agree with the earlier poster — imagine how lucky he is to have an parent like you – that prioritizes school and can afford to pay for extra help. In another house, both yours and mine may not have had a fighting chance for their diploma.

  88. “In another house, both yours and mine may not have had a fighting chance for their diploma.”

    It’s maddening to know this, that schools fail to educate so many of our kids unless parents step in with extraordinary efforts. Whether it’s the struggling student or the gifted student, IMO most schools are failing to provide the right type of instruction. This was a topic discussed last week, and I remain convinced that schools could do so much better if they went with evidence-based methods. The result we have is such a drain on our economy, and of course a burden on families.

  89. PTM – I also echo Murphy’s suggestion of FFA or AustinMom’s suggestion of finding a high school with a voc ed component. Maybe you and Junior can do some digging to find people to shadow during the summer so he could get an idea of what apprenticeships would interest him? He has a GREAT dad and a great heart, he will be more than OK! :)

  90. I am already seeing how much we have to advocate for my son in Pre-K with his ADHD, I really fear for the kids whose parents don’t care like you do PTM, it is obvious how much you love your son

  91. someone mentioned food- a classmate of mine opened her own restaurant that is very successful and her brother is a chef at another local place

  92. PTM – wishing you luck and sending love. Your boy is super lucky. And you are the PERFECT parent for Junior. He wouldn’t trade you. Ask him!

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