One of the benefits of having kids eleven years apart is that I get to see educational trends waxing and waning. A very hot topic right now is homework and there seem to be two camps: those who believe in lots of it, and those who don’t. Lots of articles are trending on social media about parents taking stands against the perceived ridiculous amounts of homework their poor kids are getting saddled with. People are cheering for those parents standing up for the notion that we need to stop ruining childhood with hours of homework each night. I feel like it’s a good time for me to weigh in as my opinion over the lifetime of my children’s school career has run the gamut.
I have to say that I’m very unhappy with the shift over the last 15 years that has occurred in early childhood learning. This unhealthy push for more academic achievement for younger and younger kids is creating a whole new set of problems which includes a scary lack of proper socialization. I’m in the ‘put toys back into kindergarten classrooms’ camp. I’ve had very bad experiences with homework and kindergarteners and I have to say that for them I don’t believe in it at all. When my youngest was in pre-k, he was given a notebook and I was told his homework would be to practice writing letters and his name each night. I kindly refused. I explained that in my experience as a parent, this would not really help him in the long run and that he would be spending his evenings at home playing and engaging with his family. Of course when assignments were like, build a mobile with different shaped construction paper with your mom and bring it in to be hung up on the ceiling, we did those because my son wanted to do it and he enjoyed seeing his mobile and pointing it out to us.
As he got older, I played it by ear. If it seemed like it was going to take more than 10 minutes and he wasn’t going to get anything from it, we didn’t do it. We discussed what was learned and I would ask him if he understood. Therein lies the key to how much and if homework is necessary in young kids: did they understand everything? Do they need a review? Do they need parent’s help with something they didn’t get in class? Homework can be useful for parents to identify how well their child understands material and what they may need help with. You don’t need hours to do that. You should be able to talk to your child’s school administrators and teachers and come to an understanding about homework load. I’ve done it throughout my kids’ grade school career and I have had mostly positive experiences.
Because let’s be real here, no one wants their 9 year old sitting at a table struggling through 2-3 hours of assignments after they’ve been in school all day sitting at a desk, doing assignments. It’s unfair and it robs the entire family of quality time, especially if your kid hates doing it, it can literally be a nightmare of cajoling, punishing, yelling, etc. It creates stress and strife where there needn’t be any and I am against it. But… (sorry, there’s a ‘but’ here), if we work together to abolish homework in early grades completely, what happens when kids get to high school? I could link to articles that say high school kids have way too much homework, but I’ve also found articles saying they have too little. And these discrepancies are often determined by race, geographic location and wealth of districts as well as individual schools. Now that I put that out there, there seems to be fewer easy answers. We are constantly trying to wash the gray out of issues and leave things as either black or white, right or wrong, and that’s it. But that rarely works and it doesn’t work for homework either. Some people in our country have an advantage over others economically, and that creates a hugely unequal playing field as far as educational resources go.
You know your child: are they being assigned homework that is going to take them hours, is that homework all they do until they go to bed and are you fighting about it? Then it’s probably not doing much good and you need to go to the school and work something out. When my son was a fifth grader, I asked for a meeting and asked why each subject needed homework every night. It was way too much and quality was shoddy because of the time it took. I suggested math on Mondays and Tuesdays, science Wednesdays, ELA Thursdays and Fridays or some variation thereof. His teachers and assistant principal agreed and his teachers seemed happier with that arrangement (to say nothing of the kids, my son was a hero in class that week!) Do some research regarding the pros and cons of homework and weigh in!