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During the school week, she averages three to four hours of homework a night and six and a half hours of sleep. Some evenings, when we force her to go to bed, she will pretend to go to sleep and then get back up and continue to do homework for another hour. The following mornings are awful, my daughter teary-eyed and exhausted but still trudging to school.

I wonder: What is the exact nature of the work that is turning her into a sleep-deprived teen zombie so many mornings? By late afternoon, I am tired after filing a magazine article on deadline. When I arrive home, a few minutes ahead of Esmee, I consider delaying my week of homework, but then I realize that Esmee can never put off her week of homework. We have 11 algebra equations. I am surprised by the amount of reading.

Seventy-nine pages while scanning for usable material—for a magazine essay or for homework—seems like at least two hours of reading. But the math is easier than I thought. I breeze through those 11 equations in about 40 minutes and even correct Esmee when she gets one wrong. I think.

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I may be overconfident. We have only one copy of the book, so we decide it will be more efficient to stagger our work. But after 30 minutes I am only about 16 pages in, and Esmee has finished studying for Earth Science and needs the book. So we switch. It is now time for me to struggle with Earth Science.

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Tarbuck and Frederick K. Then come carbonates, oxides, the sulfates and sulfides, halides, and—I am asleep after about 20 minutes.


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I struggle with Earth Science for another half hour, attempting to memorize rather than understand, before I give up and decide I have to get my reading done. My study habits were atrocious. If my daughter came home and said she had no homework, I would know she was lying. What has changed? No, our children are going to catch up with those East Asian kids on their own damn time. Every parent I know in New York City comments on how much homework their children have.

Well, imagine if after putting in a full day at the office—and school is pretty much what our children do for a job—you had to come home and do another four or so hours of office work. Monday through Friday. Plus Esmee gets homework every weekend. If your job required that kind of work after work, how long would you last?

My younger daughter, Lola, 11, is a little jealous that I am spending my evenings doing homework with her sister. She agrees with this, but still makes me feel so guilty about it that I let her watch Pretty Little Liars , her favorite show. There is also a Spanish test tomorrow on irregular verbs.

The algebra is fast becoming my favorite part of this project. I may have picked an easy week, but something about combining like terms, inverting negative exponents, and then simplifying equations causes a tingle in a part of my brain that is usually dormant. Also, the work is finite: just 12 equations. The Spanish, however, presents a completely different challenge. My daughter has done a commendable job memorizing the conjugations. I spend a few minutes looking over the material, attempting to memorize the list of verbs and conjugations.

Then it takes me about half an hour to memorize the three most common conjugation patterns.


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I decide to skip the irregular verbs. Esmee already worked on her Spanish this afternoon, so she goes right to the Humanities project, which she has been looking forward to. She takes a shower, then reads in bed for a few minutes before nodding off at about One evening when Esmee was in sixth grade, I walked into her room at a. One assignment had her calculating the area and perimeter of a series of shapes so complex that my wife, who trained as an architect in the Netherlands, spent half an hour on it before coming up with the right answers.

The problem was not the complexity of the work, it was the amount of calculating required. Another exercise required Esmee to find the distance from Sacramento—we were living in California—to every other state capital in America, in miles and kilometers. This last one caused me to question the value of the homework. She explained that this sort of cross-disciplinary learning—state capitals in a math class—was now popular. She added that by now, Esmee should know all her state capitals. She went on to say that in class, when the students had been asked to name the capital of Texas, Esmee answered Texas City.

The teacher was unmoved, saying that she felt the homework load was reasonable. If Esmee was struggling with the work, then perhaps she should be moved to a remedial class. There is little to no coordination among teachers in most schools when it comes to assignments and test dates.

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The class had prepared dioramas of the role women played in the Revolution, the Boston Massacre, the Battle of Yorktown, and other signal events of the period. In hand-drawn murals explaining the causes of the conflict, the main theme was that excessive and unfair taxation had caused the colonies to rebel. The British had run up massive debts in the French and Indian War and wanted the colonists to repay them. The colonies also wanted, several children added, freedom. This algebra unit, on polynomials, seems to be a matter of remembering a few tricks. Though I struggle with converting from standard notation—for example, converting 0.

Earth Science is something else. And tonight, the chapter starts in the familiar dispiriting monotone. The accompanying charts are helpful, and as I keep reading into the chapter on igneous rocks, the differences between intrusive and extrusive igneous rocks make clear sense. The upcoming test in Humanities will focus on John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, monopolies and trusts, laissez-faire capitalism, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, the foundation of labor unions, the imposition of factory safety standards, and the populist response to the grim conditions of the working man during the Industrial Revolution.

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My daughter has a study guide she is ready to print out. But our printer has just broken. The logistics of picking up the printer, bringing it over to our apartment, downloading the software, and then printing take about half an hour. The study guide covers a wide range of topics, from how Rockefeller gained control of the oil industry, to the rise of monopolies and trusts, to the Sherman Antitrust Act, to the Triangle Shirtwaist fire. Esmee and I have a pretty long talk about the causes of the tragedy—the locked doors that prevented the young girls from taking breaks, stealing merchandise, or escaping the flames; the flammable waste material that had been allowed to accumulate—that leads to a discussion about trade unionism and then about capitalism in general.

Freedom, in the form of unfettered capitalism, also has its downside. I tell her my view: laborers have to organize into unions, because otherwise those who control the capital have all the power. My daughter has the misfortune of living through a period of peak homework. It turns out that there is no correlation between homework and achievement.

According to a study by the Penn State professors Gerald K. LeTendre and David P. Baker, some of the countries that score higher than the U. The irony is that some countries where the school systems are held up as models for our schools have been going in the opposite direction of the U. In the U. According to a University of Michigan study, the average time spent weekly on homework increased from two hours and 38 minutes in to three hours and 58 minutes in Schwartz Top Contributor: Philosophy. Format: Paperback Verified Purchase. This is an interesting and charming book.

The author, a mature 24 year-old, travels across America 49 states of it with his brother and studies U. The brother provides illustrations which appear at the head of each chapter. The author is not a scholar, but he is informed on the major issues. In the end, he comes down on the side of a varied pattern of schools, but offers a number of key conclusions. Parents, in general, want a say in the determination of their childrens' classmates. In some ways, the most important element in a school, according to this rubric, is the peer group with which parents' children will share classrooms.

Conscientious, disciplined, well-behaving students provide mutual support and make the whole larger than the sum of its parts. Who attends this school? What kind of student does it attract? With whom will my child be interacting?

High School Scholarships

This is a reasonable conclusion, particularly in light of the fact that students learn from one another and not just from their teachers. What percentage of that learning is attributable to peers? The author also supports Hirsch's ideas concerning cultural literacy and highlights two Colorado schools with strong core curricula and strong training in the liberal arts. He favors school choice, supporting, e. While the book is a pleasant and informative read there were particularly noteworthy sections--the Vermont model for funding elementary education, e.

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