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. 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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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
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?
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.
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.
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.
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. :)
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!
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
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).
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!