Which Schools Have No Homework?

Parent Q&A

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  • Hi Parents!

    I realize that this goes against most teaching philosophies, but does anyone know of any schools in Berkeley, Oakland or SF that give their students little to no homework in the evenings? Some of these schools that I’ve been touring just seem like overkill on what kids need to do at night.

    Any advice would be much appreciated!

    You don't mention what grade level you're looking at, and it does vary by elementary/middle/high school. At my child's public high school, there is a policy about no more than 20 min/night/class, except for AP or Honors classes. We've been happy with that, although most teachers are very inflexible about late assignments (they don't accept them). At our other child's private middle school, there is no stated policy and it varies by teacher and subject quite a bit, although they all say there's lots of flexibility for turning it in late.

    If you're looking at K-3rd grade, I agree with your drift that there should be zero homework, with exceptions for bigger projects and/or nightly reading (as long as they make it not a chore). And I'm sure you can find schools that will explictly say that's their policy, just as I'm sure you will run across individual teachers who don't follow it.

    My children are both at Rosa Parks Elementary in Berkeley and have, essentially, no homework. We/they are asked to read regularly, and occasionally have a project to work on for holidays or special occasions, but they don't have anything regularly. It's wonderful!

    For elementary, Walden Center & School gives out very little homework, which is line with their teaching philosophy, as well as the most current research on homework's benefits & costs (i.e. all the other things children could be spending the time with, including play!). In 2nd grade, we get a small packet of worksheets to be done over the course of the week - but it's not a big deal if it doesn't get done. Occasionally there's a bit more - e.g. in preparation for science week (which includes a science fair) the kids get small assignments each week, but it's meant to provide scaffolding to allow them to think through the steps of their planned science experiment and complete the work & poster by the time science week rolls around. 

    Overall, we've been very happy with the project-based academics at Walden, and especially the way they're structured to connect with socioemotional learning & social justice. As an example, my 2nd grader's class as been doing a project on people with disabilities, and how our society succeds and fails in various ways to support people with disabilities. In social studies/english they've been learning about athletes with disabilities and reading/writing about different individuals. In science & math they're working on engineering spaces that are accessible to "clients" with varying disabilities & preferences - how would a house need to be designed to accomodate an electric wheelchair user who also has a dog? What sort of square footage is needed in the garage? How would charging facilities for the wheelchair need to be designed?, etc.). It's pretty fantastic how the teachers weave this type of learning into everything they're doing!

    You didn't say how old your kid is, but if you're looking for a more balanced elementary school school experience I would thoroughly recommend the Waldorf model. Our kid is in first grade at Wildcat Canyon Community School in El Sobrante (near Richmond) and has absolutely 0 out of school responsibilities. I believe that in third grade kids start being expected to do instrument practice outside of school but nothing else. Having unstructured time to play, do chores, etc. is really important to the Waldorf model. Happy to talk more about the school if you're interested--feel free to PM me!

    Berkeley Arts Magnet gives very little homework. I have a third grader and sixth grader who graduated last year. In K through 3rd, the homework is mainly just reading on your own or with a parent. There also is some math homework in 4th and 5th grades, but not a lot.

    My sixth grader attends Black Pine Circle. There is homework most nights, but not more than an hour or so of work. They say the number of minutes of homework matches the grade times ten (60 minutes for sixth grade, 30 minutes for third grade, etc). My daughter is very happy there.

    Berkwood Hedge has very little, at least in our child's experience. Most days he has none. 

    I'll be interested to read the responses. I have heard of charter middle and high schools that do not have evening homework, rather the school runs an extra 1-2 hours in the afternoon for supervised independent study, but I don't which schools specifically.

    In my experience as a student in the Berkeley Public Schools of the 1970s, I had pretty much no homework K-3, and then 4-6 were weekly writing journals and project-based homework. This seemed great at the time, but turned out to be a huge disservice when I got to 8th grade and school got really hard really fast (algebra and Shakespeare!) and I had no good study skills or homework habits. Most of the students who did well had older siblings so their parents knew from experience what to expect.

    Homework, although it is a huge time-suck for many years, does teach more than the material itself. The components of learning time-management, organization, how to work independently as well as part of team projects, are critical life skills.

    My child attends Urban Montessori, a charter school in Oakland (she's in second grade and started in TK during Covid). They don't have homework, even in the older grades (the oldest child there I know is in 5th grade and they have no homework, but they are allowed to take home work if they need to catch up -- but not many do). This does not go against most teaching philosophies as homework has not been found to be effective in the lower grades at least. We are very happy with her school and the Montessori system and I don't feel that her learning has been hindered because of no homework. In fact, the opposite. She's also able to participate in several extracurricular activities and play outdoors every day. 

    My kids go to Crestmont School in Richmond/El Cerrito Hills. They don't have any homework until 4th grade when then have one weekly reading response page (very reasonable).

    Mentoring Academy High School in Berkeley has a "no homework" policy. They also have a 9am starting time. The only drawback is the school day ends at 5pm (3pm on Fri). 
    Our son goes there and is very happy with it.  The "homework" assignments are handled in the afternoon (after tea time) with the staff present to assist.

    Yes the day is long but once he is home the time is entirely his to game etc.

    -- A.S.

Archived Q&A and Reviews


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.


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