I hate homework

Did I mention I hate homework?

Homework is a contentious issue. I often have interesting discussions with friends and teachers and the frustration they convey is palpable. Grand master D and Miss Gremlin attend public school in Harlem. It’s a great school, getting great results with a very dynamic principal who is passionate about his charges. The current policy on homework is everyone gets it. This is pretty much across the board in public elementary schools.

So little kids in pre-k at 4 years right through to 5th grade are getting homework.( I  do agree with older grades and high schoolers getting homework as their studies are a little different). This work is supposed to support the classroom lessons and give the kids the opportunity to practice what they learn. My experience has been it’s just busy work without real benefit and plenty of unnecessary pressure on family life. Today’s kids are hyperscheduled, often getting home late as parents are working and they are in after school activities etc. Over the years I have clashed often with teachers regarding how long it’s taking to complete set tasks! When they say that a 4th grader’s home should take 1 hour and it takes 4 then there’s a problem. Especially if they’re penalised the next day for not completing the task. I dont want that fight! I dont want to clash with teachers or my kids… I dont know how many evenings I’ve had kids in tears frustrated over homework! Why is this MY problem? I ask this often. I heard this week that there are current studies being done in Europe on the validity of homework and whether it even works!  Teachers complain about parents frustration , parents complain about non complying kids, it often ends up the parents are doing it  just to get it done. The teachers know this and the point becomes moot because the children gain nothing, in fact it could be perceived as damaging because the kids learn that it doesnt matter, mum and dad will fix it for me. At some point parents have to step out and stop trying to save their kids on everything! The task is set by the teacher and the child is expected to complete it. Now if that doesn’t happen then the child has to accept the consequences. If you do your child’s homework so that it is just completed and the child wont get in trouble for incomplete work then what are you really teaching your child? I have been guilty of this to a certain extent but that hasn’t worked so I have taken another tact. It’s not my problem and the world isn’t fair and children have to learn to stand on their own 2 feet and navigate life. Now  don’t get me wrong, there are some things parents must step in for, certain issues are beyond children to defend themselves,  perhaps an intimidating teacher or a bullying child ( we are all well aware of the bullying epidemic and the dangers associated) but every action has a reaction and a consequence. If you don’t turn up for work or pay your rent or obey the law then you will come unstuck. Children need to understand that and learn how to navigate these things to grow up to become well adjusted, RESPONSIBLE functioning humans in society. The extent of my homework involvement these days is this…. Have you done your homework? Do you need help?  Mum out! I will always be there to offer assistance if required but I’m not going hold your hand or do it for you or constantly nag about it. I will, however, write a note to the teacher if I feel it is excessive or there’s an extenuating circumstance for the incompletion but if it’s just because they didn’t do it then too bad, I’m sorry that this is happening to you but you will do better next time. I had my time at homework when I was at school. If I didn’t do it then I had to accept the consequences. Why should I be doing my kids homework? I shouldn’t…. What I should be doing is supporting them so they can do it to the best of their ability. If they don’t do it or understand it then the teacher needs to see that so the child can get the support they need.

I think that at least in the US public school system, homework for younger children is here to stay for now, so it will continue to be a source of frustration and guilt for parents. Give it back, let them fail….failure isn’t bad, it’s a step towards success. Take back your family time and enjoy your kids.. Leave homework where it belongs, with the kids.

Comments 11

  1. There was good piece on RN radio here about the homework issue. You might find it interesting to listen to – http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/lifematters/homework/3933036

    Very different approach to homework at my kids’ school. My 7 yr old (grade 2) has a reader and is encouraged to do reading every night, but otherwise nothing else. My 8 yr old (grade 3) has just started getting homework – one homework sheet once a week, with a week to turn it in. And it’s good, useful material like practicing maths, etc. And she is expected to read for 20 mins each night, but from a book of her own choosing – too big for readers. I think it’s a pretty good balance. I think it’s positive for them both to develop the discipline of doing work outside the classroom and managing their time, but it’s limited enough so that we can work it around the myriad other activities they (and we) have. I don’t envy the system you’re working in. Not sure how I’d manage to find time to help with 4 hours of daily homework… I’m pressed enough trying to find time to do my own homework (but don’t get me started about the ridiculous amount of reading some lecturers assign …).

    1. Thanks Kirstin, I look forward to listening.I think it’s an ongoing problem. Unfortunately I can’t see it getting any better in the US anytime soon so we will just work with it the best way we can.

  2. My boys start Pre-K in the fall. I’m not overly cool with them bringing homework home . . . yet!

    Also, I think I have a skewed outlook on homework. I hear tons of parents complain about it & how they have to do most of it. I was a ridiculous over-achiever in school & my parents had zero to do with my homework, ever. Here’s to PRAYING my kids take after me! With my luck though, I somehow doubt it. HAHAHA

  3. In the U.S., and to some extent in Canada, primary school homework has become an ideological issue, rather than an educational one. Somehow we have acquired the idea that unless our kids are “working” (even if it’s only on busywork that serves no purpose other than to say, “Look, Mr. Taxpayer, our kids are hard at work!”) we aren’t getting our money’s worth from the education system.

    This is a steaming pile of horse crap, as you point out.

    I think the only way we’ll combat it is when parents team up with teachers and let the politicians and administrators know that kids this age don’t need to be put off learning for life–they need to learn to love learning.

  4. That is the extent of my help with school assignments, too. My daughter does not get a lot of regular homework, but she gets a lot of “projects” assigned. I am willing to buy supplies, but that is the extent of my involvement.

  5. I have an issue when teachers give homework on material that hasn’t been taught yet – isn’t it supposed to reinforce instruction, not replace it? I have helped my children with homework when they didn’t understand the new material – much to my annoyance. Fortunately as they have gotten older they need my help less, but I still get frustrated when they are expected to teach themselves after a full day at school.

  6. I was just discussing with one of my friends how kids are so overscheduled these days and the stress it puts on them and on us is ever mounting. My oldest is 4 and he get’s homework in preschool. I can only imagine once he enters elementary school next year how much this will grow.

  7. I agree w/your take, and plan to do pretty much the same. Except that if what the teacher says should take my kid 1hr is taking 4 (and it wasn’t cuz he’s twitteling his thumbs) then I would talk to other parents and maybe get my kid tutoring. I have a feeling in your case it was all the fighting over doing in the first place.

  8. Go you! It took me a bit to figure this one out. When my daughter started grade school she spent hours at homework practically every night. While I thought/still think that this is ridiculous, she still had to do it. I was guilty of hand-holding followed by so many nag-a-thons – if nagging were effective, she would have been valedictorian of the universe. Once she hit junior high, we made an agreement – we set expectations, established consequences and I had to butt out unless she asked for help. She didn’t respond well to hovering (some might, she didn’t). She did respond to being held accountable and being responsible for her own success. The transformation was unbelievable, mostly mine but hers was cool as well.

  9. You should definitely not need to do it for your child. There is something definitely wrong if that is happening. I agree that most homework is burdensome and kids whose parents work have to bear the brunt of late nights in order to get their work done.

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