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Should Students Have Homework On Break

Jill Notte’s daughter Sara is a straight-A student, and she’s taking five advanced-placement courses this fall. It’ll be her senior year.

This ambitious undertaking may prove Sara’s undoing — at least if the 17 year old wants to enjoy her summer vacation. Somewhere in between spending a week at a Girls State program, a month at the New Jersey Governor’s School of Engineering and Technology at Rutger’s University, and visiting a few potential colleges, Sara must complete the following workload before school starts:

• Read five novels for AP English
• Read one book for AP History
• Complete a packet of assignments and problems for AP Calculus
• Complete a packet of assignments and problems for AP Chemistry
• Write several summaries of scientific principles for Honors Physics

Oh, and her English teacher recommends that she attend Shakespeare performances at the local college to supplement the many plays she’s required to read as part of AP English. “I try to put a positive spin on it,” says Sara’s mother, Jill. “I told her, ‘Summertime’s a great time to read Shakespeare!'” But, admits Jill, it’s not so easy to put the same kind of “fun” spin on the stack of mind-numbing calculus and chemistry books hefty enough to take down a Yellowstone grizzly.

Forget languidly balmy weeks unwinding from the stress of an intensive school year. Goodbye, as well, to working her usual summer job as a lifeguard, which Sara unhappily has to forgo — along with the money she hoped to save for college. As her mother puts it, “Summer homework is a full-time job.”

A working vacation

Sara’s not alone. The oxymoronically named “vacation work” is on the rise. Sara’s older sister had only a few books to read over the summer when she was in high school — and that was just eight years ago. Jill, who like her daughters was a high achiever in the top five percent of her class, remembers completely homework-free summers.

Many parents remember their own childhood summers as true respites from school, devoid the rigor and rigidity of academic life. Summer was a sprawling mass of unstructured time that ranged from idyllic laziness to stupefying boredom to invigorating camps and family vacations, not scores of math worksheets, science packets, and lists of “good-for-you” classics that hardly qualify as light beach reads.

Harris Cooper, chairman of the department of psychology and neuroscience at Duke University and America’s leading homework scholar who co-authored the landmark meta-study on homework, says that while there exists no formal studies on the rise in summertime homework, he’s witnessed a particularly sharp increase over the past two years — probably a response “to high-stakes testing and accountability issues for schools.”

Just say no?

Some parents argue summer homework is nothing more than bland busywork that saps the joy and spontaneity from summer. So says Sara Bennett, founder of StopHomework.com. “Even if there is a summer slide, I don’t think homework is the solution,” Bennett says. “Kids don’t have enough downtime during the school year. I think they need that freshness during summer.”

Here’s a revolutionary approach for vacation purists who say kids deserve a good, old-fashioned summer free from intense brain-strain: Just say no. That’s what Bennett suggests a parent do in the fall if a child is averse to doing the packet. “I’d send it back and say, ‘I’m sorry, my child didn’t have a chance to do it.’ ” (A parental dispensation only possible for kids who haven’t entered the high-school pressure cooker where — as with Sara Notte — summer homework is graded and can directly affect a student’s chances to enter a top-tier university.)

Protecting young minds from melting

On the other side of the summer homework debate are the moms and dads who, when the school doors slam shut, ramp up the supplemental brain work, even if the teachers didn’t provide it themselves. Most parents, though, fall somewhere in the for-better-or-worse-summer-homework-is-here-to-stay camp.

So if the kids have to do it, can we at least be reassured that it’s a magic bullet to protect young minds from melting? “We can’t say that with any objective data,” Cooper says. “But we would make the assumption if students are continuing to flex their mental muscles over the summer, this would have a positive effect on how much material they retain when they return.”

Certainly, studies support that painful truth that students — no matter their economic status — lose about two months of math abilities over the summer months. (When it comes to reading, low-income students also fall behind by two months.) If a teacher doesn’t supply one, says Cooper, “[Math] might be one area when you want to introduce the dreaded worksheets.”

No buy-in from the kids

“There definitely is a lag — I’m not denying that,” says Denise Pope, senior lecturer at the Stanford University School of Education and co-founder of Challenge Success, a research and student-intervention project. “I absolutely agree that three months is a long time to not do anything. That said, I’m not sure this idea of giving workbooks and pages and pages of handouts works.”

The reason it doesn’t work? “There’s not a buy-in from the [kids],” Pope argues. “In order for any learning to be retained, there has to be engagement on the part of the students.” Pope explains that students need the “ABCs of engagement,” which means they’re engaged affectively, behaviorally, and cognitively. “If they’re intrinsically motivated, then they’ll want to do it.”

“I know kids who get these huge 40-page math packets,” Pope says. “It’s because [teachers] want [kids], over time, to have systematic practice. The problem is that this requires an adult to monitor this kind of disciplined work. It’s not like a kid can do that on his own. So it puts a burden more on the parents.”

Year-round homework blues

So, alas, those nightly angst-ridden homework dramas that run from September through June now get year-round billing. The other problem, Pope says, is that summer homework packets (frequently put off until the last unhappy week before school begins), often seem to fall into an academic black hole once they’re turned in — with no feedback from teachers and no effect on kids’ grades.

As for the work that Pope’s three kids — ages 10, 12, and 15 — get handed at school’s end, she tells them, “‘I won’t bug you about this at all. I won’t be the police.’ We look at the assignments they get for the summer and I say, ‘How long do you think this will take? Do you want me to remind you to do it?’ ” But if they leave it until the tail end of the summer, Pope says, well, that’s their choice. It’s their vacation, after all.

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  • Its just crap...

    The moment the word holiday strikes our mind, we think of going out and enjoying with friends, having fun, chilling and of course relaxing a lot. BUT, schools nowadays have made it so worse that children end up doing holiday homework till the last day of the vacation. When we think of vacations, its like hurray...Its time for vacation after so much of hard work..Wait, but are we getting homework?Oh yes, you think the school is so kind to leave us for one single vacation....Nooooo...The whole lot of joy goes down the drain. Such insane people, they think we are gaining knowledge by writing down the whole lot of crap and sticking pictures neatly and making a well decorated project. So i desperately think that we should not have holiday homework....And if they really really want us to do something, they can give us sensible books to read....Its a burden for the whole family....Parents hav got so fustrated and i can say this firsthand as an 8th grader....

  • A vacation is a time for relaxation!

    Aren't vacations a time to relax with family and celebrate the holiday or something? Well i remember in elementry i spent all of my 2 week holiday break on homework. On vacations i just stress out on homework the whole time which is bad for my health. When i was back at school i was sick with the flu and a stomach virus with a headache on top. I still had homework to do! 54 questions on the reading packet, 75 questions on the math packet, and dont get me started on the rest!

  • Homework sucks alot

    Vacation homework = crappy vacation. Ok people we need to stop overburdening our kids with homework. Its one of the main reasons i always hated going to school is because of the stupid homework. It did not make things any better for me ever. I feel that they like to ruin childrens lives with homework.

  • No, cause NO.

    Vacations are there so students can have a break from school. The term "vacation homework" simply contradicts itself. In my opinion, it's like putting the words "clean" and 'pig" into a phrase. Get what i mean? Us students shouldn't even think of homework during vacation breaks. If you're saying that homework is necessary, why don't you just give us those pieces of homework when school resumes? Of 365 days, why during vacation breaks? Ridiculous, I say. Peace out

  • It's called VACATION for a reason- we get a break from school!

    Hooray! After completing a long, hard 180 day school year and passing all your huge exams, it's time for summer vacation! Wait-what? A packet for each class? This would take months to finish! No! This vacation has just gone down the drain!

    That's how millions of children feel the day before any vacation. And the feeling is not pretty. During vacation, you should be enjoying yourself, not stressing out over homework. I can say this firsthand as an 8th grade student. During my 7th grade Easter break, which, mind me, is only one week, I had 5 essays to write, and that was just part of the ELA homework. I also had to do a giant math project and I had a science packet. Let's not even get started with Social Studies. My "vacation" ended up with me spending at least 3 hours on homework each day, which still wasn't enough and I ended up wasting basically my entire last day doing homework up to 11:00 PM, and I am not exaggerating. And yet I still ended up having to sneak and rush through my last ELA essay during the school day to complete my vacation homework. What kind of Easter vacation is that? It just made me cranky and gave me a headache, it didn't help me or make me any more prepared for school. Schoolwork is for school. The time I spent "celebrating" Easter was more of me thinking of how much homework I could have gotten done if I was at home. Teachers do not get this sort of torture, so why should kids?

  • Holiday home work is crap

    As others said vacation term itself explains everything. I feel students should not be given any work during vacation holidays. This is the time for them to explore the world like going on a trip, visiting places of their interest or something else. I feel visiting taj mahal makes more sense than reading about it in books.

  • The question answers itself.

    A vacation, is a period of time when you relax and do whatever you want. If you have homework, then how will you be able to enjoy yourself during the vacation? You could suggest revision to the students - people do forget without practice, but otherwise no 'homework', it is like putting a bird in a cage, let the students be free during this period of time called 'vacation'.

  • Students should not have homework over break

    Students shouldnt have homework over vacations. Clearly, it can cause students to become stresses out or sleep deprived. For one thing, in 2004, University of Michigan surveys found 2,900 six to seventeen year olds spend 3 hours 58 minutes on homework. This could lead to being late for an important event , which can cause stress and make the student rush the homework. Secondly, students could get sleep deprived from homework because they wait until last minute to do it on vacation, this also can lead to stress since the student might start to get upset over it. On top of all that, studies show 29% of 13 year old students spend 2 or more hours on homework. Certainly, kids should not be given homework over breaks. Firstly, a lot of kids spend 3 hours 58 minutes on homework. Second of all, kids can easily become sleep deprived from staying up late to do homework. Lastly 29% of teens use up two or more hours on homework. Without a doubt it can make kids lose sleep or stressed out. (cowboy Payton:D)

  • I think no likes homework over their vacation!

    No because their vacation is for relaxing, spending time with family, and getting away from school. Relaxing I mean like just hanging out and play video games or something else. And spending time with family is like going to go see and hang out with other family members and the ones you live with if you live with your family. Then getting away from school like who wants to go to school for a holiday vacation and you can relax and spending time with family also friends. So that is why you shouldn't have homework over vacation.

  • No, that is not vacation.

    No, school students should not have vacation homework, because the whole point of taking a vacation is to put their minds on something else. Children cannot do all the things they are supposed to do, like play, socialize, or try other activities, if they have to spend large amounts of their vacation thinking about school work.

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