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The Negative Impact of Homework- Why Teachers Need to Stop the Madness

By Edited Aug 9, 2016 9 28

Has homework had a negative impact on your child’s life and yours?

When we are in first grade, we learned about compound words.  They are two individual words that make up a new word.  Homework, by definition, is a compound word that means work that you do at home.

It does not mean that all you do at home is work.

I have been a teacher for 25 years.  For twelve of those years I taught elementary school in a wealthy area, with parents who were unafraid to speak their minds.  I have been a mother for seventeen years, and have three very different children when it comes to doing homework.

While I believe that some homework is necessary to help reinforce newly learned concepts, the amount of homework my children receive needs to decrease.

Homework at the kitchen table

Many years ago, when I had my own classroom, I used a simple guide for assigning homework.  My third grade students got 30 minutes of homework.  I told parents on Back-to-School night that if they found their child working beyond 35 minutes, tell them to stop and write me a note.  We needed to talk and reassess the assignments given and make accommodations for their child.

My students were very busy after school with an assortment of activities, so I only gave homework I felt would be beneficial.  For example, the math worksheets in the program we used always had 20 or 30 problems on each page. After the first 10 were finished, was there any point in doing the rest?

In my opinion, no.  Kids got sloppy with their work when more problems were assigned, as they just wanted to get it over with.  

Some days we did even numbered problems and others we did the odd.  Spelling words only needed to be written three times each, and only the words they did not know how to spell.

The bottom line is that homework has its place but it should not be busywork nor should overtake a child’s life.

Homework That Is Busywork Has No Value

There are certain kinds of homework that my children have brought home that have gotten on my nerves.  Coloring pages is one of them.  I spent many years coloring and crafting with my children, and paid their preschool plenty of money to help them work on these fine motor skills.  In elementary school, if you’re asking my children to color, I am going to help them finish.

Another homework assignment that bothers me is creating your own puzzles.  My younger daughter had this assignment almost every week and it took forever for her to complete it.  I never saw how this could help her spell.

If the teacher is going to give a homework assignment I  need to see the educational value for it being brought home.
The Case Against Homework

No Homework Days Are a Blessing

In my twins elementary school, there is no homework on the weekends.  My kids are free to go to a friend’s house or have a friend come over, without worrying about doing homework.  It is truly blissful.

There is also one school-wide homework free day each month.  It is my favorite day of the month!  My kids can just breathe when they get home.  No more fights with me about getting homework done before playing with a friend or going outside!

My older daughter did her homework quickly, easily and without drama at the kitchen table.  I wish I could say the same for my twins, but alas, I cannot.  Doing homework with children who are at the same developmental stage is a challenge.  When your kids are a few years apart, the older ones, if they are capable, can do homework independently. It makes them feel like a "big kid". Having two first graders needing help on different assignments or  reading help made homework time tense in our home.

It also did not help that in our tiny school, I could see which teacher gave more homework and what kind they gave. I chose not to keep my twins together in the same class, so I know just about everything that is happening in our grade! On more than one occasion, I have had to write the teacher a note telling her that I refused to have my child finish an assignment because she gave too much homework and it was taking too long.

I had to be my child’s advocate.  When other mothers called me sharing stories of homework horror, I encouraged them to do as I did.  If we did not stand up for our children, who will?

Too Much Homework Impacts Family Life
The Negative Impact of Homework– Why Teachers Need to Stop the Madness

Once the elementary school pass by, the homework of the middle school and high school years overtake your child’s life.  My oldest daughter is an honors student. Can I tell you how much homework has changed her life?  We stopped seeing her sometime around ninth grade.

My daughter is literally holed up in her room night after night with hours and hours of homework in each subject.  Each teacher thinks that s/he is the only one who gives assignments.  

When my daughter was in middle school, we used to spend time together in the evening.  Now, right after dinner, she disappears and we only see her when she wants a snack.  I used to spend time in the evenings with my mom taking walks or watching a program.  My daughter has no time for this.  She has too much homework.

Summer Homework Assignments-What the !@#$%&*!

No more pencils,
No more books.
No more teacher’s
Dirty looks!

Remember when summer was a carefree time to work (if you are a teen) and play?  You were able to leave the worries and cares of September through June behind you.  

Not anymore.

If your have a smart child who takes high level classes, they no longer have carefree summers.  There is a boatload of assignments that need to be completed before they return in September.  Kids are still tethered to school and homework when they really need  a break. 

I would love to give the rocket scientist who started the nonsense of summer assignments a slap upside the head.

There is negative impact for assigning too much homework.  Teachers need to carefully weigh the value of each assignment before asking a child to complete it.



Sep 11, 2012 12:40am
Agree with you. Some homework is necessary but too much homework has negative impacts.
Sep 11, 2012 6:30am
Absolutely! I think parents need to step up to the plate and advocate for their children.
Sep 11, 2012 1:12am
My daughter is in the last year of Junior school, She will be 11 in January. I have had a talk to her and stated that this year she needs to get her head down and concentrate, yet I agree with you that each child needs to concentrate on different things.
My daughter is a top star student but that is no excuse to drop the ball, life won't slack off on her, so she needs to learn to put that extra in.
We have said 1 hours homework 3 times a week, so 2 nights and weekends off. Plus she has her reading and spelling.
Ask me again when I am teaching my youngest daughter as she is much less inclined to do academic study, then we will do other things, she will still improve herself someway.
I do think it depends on what the school are already handing out, ours is minimal, they hardly even get spellings, so I have to step up. If I had a school that dished it out, I would lay off. I certainly agree with you that no way would they be bound to the table to colour!
Sep 11, 2012 6:31am
I like that you have more days without homework than more days with it! You also bring up a valid point that I have-an easy child will just do it. A difficult or unwilling child, who may struggle with learning, will have homework negatively impact home life.
Sep 11, 2012 5:24am
My son is an 8th grader. He is a 4.0 student and gets all his work done in class. He has had homework only twice in 3 years. My concern is that once he gets to high school and college he is not going to have the study skills he will need to keep up his grades. Homework is a good thing as long as it is not busywork. It would be even better if it were geared towards learning that is not typically done in school.
My child and all his friends are capable to some degree to handle university level work. They need to be challenged from many angles and from many disciplines. I agree with you about coloring projects and the like. They are a waste of time and do nothing to develop our children.

Thank you for this article.
Sep 11, 2012 6:36am
I am shocked that you son has almost never had homework. High school and college will be a rude awakening! No matter how smart your child is, three or four hours of homework a night is uncalled for. I was an honors student and I never had the kind of work my daughter has. This is her senior year, and along with everything else, there are college applications and essays to prepare. THAT should be her homework!

These high achievers have no time to get a job, something that many children need to have with gas at almost four dollars a gallon! Unless your parents hand you money, those who need to work have their academics suffer.
Sep 11, 2012 5:56am
Thanks for the article. I agree that homework can be necessary but I have found that the amounts teachers give to be downright ridiculous sometimes. 2 hours is far too much time to spend working on homework ever day. It teaches kids that school is the single most important thing in life above all else including family.
Sep 11, 2012 6:38am
If only my daughter had two hours of homework! I might be able to see her once in a while. The competition among students is so much different and heavier than when I was in high school in the 1980's. I wish it was like that for her.
Sep 11, 2012 7:24am
Great article. My kid is just 4 years old, but I'm already worried about how much homework she'll have in the future. I've heard good things on that aspect about her school, though. In addition to some teachers piling on the busywork, I know a few parents who are constantly asking for more, even when there is no need for more!
Sep 11, 2012 10:04am
Just remember that as a parent, you are your child's advocate. Forget what the teacher may think about you and do what is right by your child.
Sep 11, 2012 10:22am
I never had any homework until senior school (11+). The first day of senior school, every class gave out homework, all for the next day. That wrecked that evening completely. There was no way to balance homework out, because every teacher assigned homework as they saw fit, with deadlines as they saw fit. It was impossible to assign so much time on any particular day, because amounts and deadlines were totally variable. You couldn't say no homework one evening if you had been handed something for the next day. This was probably why so many did homework on the bus or train in the morning.
Sep 13, 2012 1:33pm
All upper level teachers have so much material to cover. It is the students who suffer from all the work piled on mercilessly.
Sep 11, 2012 11:43am
Great, mindful article. All my kids are grown now but, looking back, I agree with you--I can see home work for special tests. I frankly think that the school system needs a complete overhaul in any case--Anyway, 2 big stars from me
Sep 13, 2012 1:33pm
Yes, there is a need for change, I agree!
Sep 11, 2012 6:18pm
Great article and I totally agree with you that some homework makes sense.
Sometimes it appears to me that kids work longer hours than adults with their full time job.
That's just crazy.
Sep 13, 2012 1:35pm
Excellent point! That is why I am not in favor of summer assignments. Kids need a break from their job of schooling.
Sep 11, 2012 8:11pm
Very nice article. My son graduated college 2 yrs. ago, with a teaching cert in K-5, major in Humanities. He is having trouble finding a permanent job, though he did sub in K-8 as the permanent sub in a nearby school district all last year. He has been a martial arts student for 14 yrs. and notices the children have no discipline in the class. He is shocked that by grades 7-8 the teachers are treated so disrespectfully by the class. He is the Assistant Director of the Martial arts school, and found out ages ago he loves working with 4-6 yr. olds. But right away, because he's a man, they try to push him to middle school. I think the younger kids need the routine and discipline from the start, not when it's too late. Also, they are called out for "specials" like art, music and gym, first period. It doesn't give the teacher time to settle the children in and get them organized before they go off into other rooms. I also recall hours of homework, even though he was always an honors student. I can see a little homework if the extra practice is necessary, but I agree, keep the schoolwork in school. These poor kids get rushed around and never have time to hang out and daydream! How can they be creative or find out where their talents are in school all day, and doing homework all night?
Sep 13, 2012 1:36pm
Excellent point! Some of my most inspired writing comes when I am in my down time mode. Kids who are constantly "on" never get a chance to unwind mentally.
Sep 11, 2012 11:14pm
Great Article! I am a mother of 3 children in Primary school and over doing homework myself! My daughter alone, has 2 speaking programs a week, then a food program and so much extra stuff its crazy. Shes in grade 3 and last year she had to do a power point presentation about the statistics of another country. I was just floored with the amount of stuff she had to do. She was doing it from the time she came home, until tea and then until she went to bed. Would wake up and then do it until school. I ended up banning her from homework for a week, although she cried thinking she was going to be in trouble. As far as i was concerned she needed a break and would burn out at the this rate. Even myself have trouble keeping up with the amount of homework my children bring home and have often thought about going up to the school and speaking to the teacher.
Sep 13, 2012 1:40pm
I have found that most parents do not want to be "that parent"...the one who causes an issue, even if it is justified. I act in the best interest of my kids, and I do not care what the teacher or principal think.
Sep 12, 2012 2:01am
If children are sufficiently stimulated at school, if they are doing work that they like and are really interested in, then they will themselves choose to continue some of the work at home (which is what happens in Montessori schools). If a teacher has to decide which work has to be done at home and which at school, then I see it as something that the child has not chosen himself, something that is imposed on him; it becomes something that he does out of obligation, not out of love or interest. It doesn't seem right.
Sep 13, 2012 1:41pm
Children do need to practice things like spelling and math facts. But doing thirty long division problems serves no purpose, in my opinion, when ten are sufficient.
Sep 22, 2012 7:47pm
When I was in high school, I had to read 4 books and write 2 papers every summer before school started, and I was up past midnight almost every night during school because of the 5 or so hours of homework I would have. None of it furthered my understanding of the material and most of it was just busywork. It was a waste of time and I never got a chance for my brain to relax and unwind.

Now in college, I have similar feelings about group work. Great article. :)
Sep 23, 2012 4:33am
Thank you for confirming what I believe to be true. I, as well as my peers, have become successful adults without having had to do summer homework. it would have been a drag! Thanks for reading!
Sep 24, 2012 9:57pm
I share the same experience of teacher-student relationship with you,but I must agree to differ in emphasising the positive impact of homework.Homework has to vary according to grades in school.
Lower,upper and high school, each category gets less,more and most homework respectively,and that matches well with their mental growth[ability].Homework gives initiative to bright children to dig deeper into books and learn more in addition to the assignment.
Limiting homework is limiting the scope of learning experience. Even without homework,intelligent students brainstorm each other with questions in prepation for an exam.A learning challenge!
Sep 26, 2012 4:33am
As a teacher I found that I was under pressure from parents to set homework. Personally I found marking it and going through it all a total waste of time. Time that I could use infinitely better. It also ruined working teacher/student relationships when I had to remonstrate with kids for not doing their homework.
Towards the end, I just did not set any, at all. Occasionally "learn for a test" but my non-teaching time was better spent planning my lessons and updating my knowledge than it ever would be throwing ticks at books
Jun 20, 2015 7:28pm
Thank you for writing this.

When my daughter was in fourth grade, I felt the homework assignments were "getting out of hand." Repetitious homework is a bit insane, I think. I remember having to complete every single math question (or I'd get in trouble as a kid). When I went to college, I did every second (or third) question. I did fine, I even aced a math exam (to my own surprise).

Sometimes kids need a different approach. My daughter gets bored easily, so we take more breaks. Her teachers this year seem more 'reasonable' in their approach to homework. I have to wonder if it's the demands placed on teachers is causing them to assign more work at home? (I'm in Canada, so I cannot compare it to the US system).
Jun 21, 2015 4:38am
Standardized testing, Common Core Standards and the No Child Left Behind Act are just a few of the reasons for this inundation. I was an Honors student in high school and never got the kind of homework my older daughter did.

I originally wrote this three years ago, but nothing has changed. Even though my twins are in middle school, I still email teachers when homework is too much. None of their grades count until eighth grade (the year before high school), so they need to learn how to balance long term assignments with studying for tests.

Kids absolutely need different approaches to learning. We all have our own strengths and weaknesses that need to be addressed.

Thanks for reading!
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