Homework: An Unnecessary Evil?

girl_homeworkI’ve discussed my feelings about homework here before and it has become a bit of a recurring topic here and on the MommyEnnui Facebook page. A friend just sent me this fascinating article written by Valerie Strauss of The Washington Post and now I’m even more convinced that homework is a waste of time. A number of studies have shown that homework is virtually useless in increasing grades and test scores. Instead, it adds stress to children’s lives, causes conflict between parents and kids and keeps children from exploring new interests and engaging in active, creative play.

I know I’m not alone in this; I have many friends who feel the same way. However, I also know that many parents still believe children should be given homework, some even complain to teachers that their kids aren’t being given enough homework.

I’d love to hear your responses to the above article. What are your reasons for supporting or not supporting homework? Should math be treated differently from other subjects? Does your opinion change when a child gets to middle school? How about high school? I know we have a number of teachers here. What are your thoughts on the subject?

If you, like me, are convinced homework is an “unnecessary evil,” what do you think parents can do to change policies in our kids’ schools?

10 thoughts on “Homework: An Unnecessary Evil?

  1. I am a teacher and I do not believe in homework. I am, however, required to issue homework per my administration. I know that my students work HARD the 8 hours they are with me. The last thing they need is to come home to more work, especially the students who are not getting home until 6:00 pm or later due to after school activities or after care. Kids need time to unwind. Play. Have a conversation with their parent(s). Read. Draw. Write. What they don’t need is another worksheet that only causes frustration between the kid and the parent. If a student is struggling in school, homework will not help. What will help are real life situations to help with the concept that they are struggling with (i.e., subtract/add items to your pantry or refrigerator, divide/sort the laundry, measure things needed to make muffins (and discuss elapsed time!), etc.). I am speaking as an elementary teacher, but I don’t think my position would change as middle school teacher or high school teacher.

    • Hear, hear, Elizabeth! Do you know how the administration at your school determines the amount of homework to assign per grade? I’m curious. Has there been talk amongst the teachers and administrators about recent research on homework? Are the teachers who are against homework vocal about their beliefs? I’m trying to wrap my head around what it would take for school districts and individual schools to change their policies.

      • Fortunately, the admin leaves the amount up to the teachers. So, I give ONE language arts sheet, ONE math sheet, and a writing prompt. Students can do it at their own pace and turn it in by Friday. Since the amount issued is up to us, teachers are not very vocal about it. But the parents are! There are many parents who request more. The counselors at my school just did a homework workshop for parents. If you are interested, I can share the handout with you they gave at the workshop.

  2. I think “some” homework is ok. And heck, when the kids are older, pile it on. My problem is that the little ones need help. Sooooooo, their homework is my homework. My kids go to aftercare everyday, and yes they have a homework club. However, my kids never do their homework there because they NEED me to help them. This year in 3rd grade, my son receives a packet of work on Monday that is due on Friday. This includes studying for a spelling test, a math times table test, and there are about 10 worksheets to do too. The kicker is “we, the parents” have to grade it and sign off on it. If there are errors, the teacher will know we simply just signed it, but didn’t really look at it, so now we are in trouble for being bad parents. So Ben gets home about 5:30, he chills while I scramble to heat something up for dinner, he eats, he then works on his homework. When he is finally done, he asks if he can watch a show. I look at the clock and say, ” sorry, no…bedtime”
    Now this is what we do on Mondays and Wednesdays. Tuesdays and Thursdays he has soccer directly after Aftercare until 7:00.
    Did I mention, he is 8, oh and that he somehow has a violin to practice?
    It sounds like he is doing too much on paper, but really he goes to school, and is on a soccer team. This shouldn’t be a big deal. I don’t know how my parents did it. My brother and I played every sport that was available to us among other crap. I never saw my mom having a glass of wine at dinner… Oh wait that was my dad. He had the wine and the cigarette dangling from his mouth as he ” did” my home work for me. Dad, that is not the way we are supposed to show our work!!!!!

  3. It sucks that they don’t have someone to help the kids out with homework at aftercare. Hell, that’s one of the main reasons I want to go back to work! It is ridiculous that kids can’t do fun stuff after school anymore and still manage to get their homework done before bedtime. I’ve limited Biggie to just one after school activity this year, because she really couldn’t handle any more than that. She’s chosen piano, which is great, but this means that she can no longer do gymnastics or go to dance class and rarely gets to run around with neighborhood friends after school so her physical activity has diminished considerably this year.

  4. You know, I’m going to say it depends on what the homework is. You can’t sound out though/through/cough/bough. Nobody’s first draft of their first screenplay is their best. Most people can’t memorize their part in a play without having to rehearse. So is the homework reading, or running lines, or practicing loops for penmanship? I’d want to take a very close look at any study that makes a strong claim that humans get skills and knowledge down pat just by hearing a lecture one time because I have seen that happen zero times in 42 years.

    For sure I was bored senseless as a kid by vocabulary lists and totally traumatized by times tables. God. Don’t even say 7×8 to me, I’ll crap my pants.

    • Ha! Yes, I definitely think there are things that kids need to practice outside of the classroom. Multiplication tables are a great example. What frustrates me is that homework a one-size-fits-all kind of thing and every child in the class must do the same stuff even if they really don’t need it. For example, Biggie is an advanced reader and a very good speller. With most words, she only needs to see the correct spelling once and she’s got it. But she still has to do the busy work of writing each word three times and alphabetizing the words. That’s the kind of homework she hates and I totally understand.

      • Yup, everybody having to do the same homework is pretty ridiculous. It becomes a thing of, you say you know it, but how do I know unless you prove it by doing X. This is why I got such lousy grades in high school! It has to be 100x more painful when you have a bright child and see her having to do it, though.

  5. Interesting… How come nobody asked about the teacher’s role if the students come home and still do not understand the concept(s) Hmmmmmmm? Are we making a case FOR E-learning? Are the parents complaining about NO Homework because they want to busy the kids while they do THEIR THING? How about quality family time instead of “keeping the kids busy” or doing the teacher’s job?

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