Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Homework Blues

The more kids I have enrolled in school, the more homework bombards us. All of my school-aged kids, from my seventh grader right down to my two kindergartners, are expected to complete homework assignments nearly every day. And the longer this goes on, the more my resentment over it is building.

It's not even that my kids dislike doing their homework. Fortunately, we don't engage in too many homework battles around here. Joey thoroughly enjoys homework, in fact. For the twins, who just started bringing home their weekly homework packets a couple weeks ago, homework is at this point a novelty that makes them feel like big kids, and they're eager to get to it every afternoon. Even Kevin doesn't put up a fight about doing his homework - and he's got plenty.

There are a few things that bother me about homework. First of all, the sheer volume of it, and here, I'm really talking about Kevin. He's in seventh grade. He spends seven hours a day at school and then comes home to, on average, two to three hours of homework every day. That means he's effectively putting in a ten-hour day, and he's 12. On a typical day, he's holed up in his room from the time he gets home from school until dinner time, and often beyond dinner time. Why? What is the value of this? The argument, apparently, is that the work he does at home reinforces what he learns at school, and teaches good study habits. I don't know if this is actually true or not. Kevin does well in school. He's a bright kid, he enjoys learning. I don't know how big a role homework has played in his success at school. I suspect very little. What seems utterly unfair about all of this is how little time there is left over for him to just be a kid. Ride his bike. Hang out with friends during the week. Lay in the grass and stare at the clouds. Torment his younger siblings.

Kevin has recently expressed a desire to reinvolve himself in Little League baseball in the Spring. The truth is, I just don't see how it will be possible, knowing that it would require practice two or three times a week, and two games a week. There is just no way he can be involved in any type of extracurricular activity that requires that kind of time commitment, not with his homework load. So, effectively, he's being deprived of activities that have their own very real value, like building self-esteem, and teaching teamwork and good sportsmanship - because of homework.

The younger kids obviously don't have that kind of homework load - yet. But even their homework is a thorn in my side - mostly because it's not just their homework, it's our homework. The twins' kindergarten homework isn't even intended to be self-directed. It's expected that I, the parent, will sit down with them and do their homework with them. So I am effectively being forced into the teacher role, and I am the first one to say that I'm no teacher. I never wanted to be a teacher. And I don't want to be my kids' teacher; I want to be their mom. And while Joey has no problem doing his daily homework on his own, he came home today with a daily activity calendar for the month of November (I assume this will be a monthly thing), with a learning activity listed in each daily square of the calendar. Accompanying this calendar is a note from "The Second Grade Team" asking us, the parents, to encourage our kids to complete at least 15 of the activities for the month. And then there's a "journal" to be sent back to school at the end of the month in which not only the child, but the parent, is supposed to write about what they learned from the activities performed during the month. This is on top of the daily homework.

Really? Like I need one more thing heaped on my plate?

I mean, I know the school didn't aim this directly at me, mother of six, wife of sick husband. But it just seems to me that the assumption should be that every family already has enough going on without piling more on their plates.

And I mean no offense to my teacher friends. I really don't even know how teachers themselves feel about homework. I'm sure their feelings on it vary. I'm sure there is a lot of pressure on teachers relating to economic matters and test scores, and maybe homework plays into that. I don't know. I'm just saying, as a parent, I think homework kind of stinks.

I found a really good article on this issue written by a school principal: Rethinking Homework. Food for thought.


ashamom said...

I couldn't agree with you MORE!!
One night I had six kids to help out with homework, thankfully my oldest doesn't ask for help... It sucked!
Going from one kid to another, trying to stay calm...
And you are right, the math homework for my elementary school kids always says: " Ask an adult...."
It takes us an hour after school to get everyone done. And all the signatures required.... A little oppressive. But if I don't do it with them I feel guilty and I feel like I am going to get judged as a mother. Or they will say: " No wonder she doesn't help them, she has so many kids..." So the pressure is on.
That's why i love summer.
I do believe that it helps them somewhat,but in middle school it takes over their after school time. I shudder when I think about high school next year.

Esther and Brian said...

I respectfully hear you, Lisa. I do not have school-aged kids yet, so I can't really comment but I can definately sympathize with you having so many roles and so little time. Must be quite challenging for sure.
All I know is there needs to be a major overhaul in the educational system in the United States. It's not good, it's not good enough to have our kids, future adults and leaders, be anywhere near competitive with the rest of the world. Here is one example: I was born and raised in Europe, came over here for college. My first college calculus class my freshmen year was a joke! I had already done that stuff in 7th-8th grade in Europe! AND I AM NOT A MATH GENIOUS and this was a private, 4-year college with a good reputation. So, I agree with you, maybe kids here are doing too much "busy work" and not enough substance. Quality over quantity.
Best of luck in getting through all the assignments. I know you will...because you seem to manage it all!

Kristin said...

Totally agree. Homework comes easy to William thankfully but the volume is a bit much. He really learns nothing from it.

huggodsmile said...

Lisa, I wholeheartedly agree. 4 kids in school. The 11 year old doesn't want to do homework. My 8 y/o has Asperger's which turns 10 minutes worth of homework into 2 or 3 hours worth. The 6 year old flies through his and the 5 year old usually has that weekly parent involved homework. I cringe when we have the other 3 in school. I hate my kids' homework!!!

Sara Bennett said...

Lisa: Please take a look at my book, The Case Against Homework, or my blog at stophomework.com. You'll find that the research shows there's no correlation between homework and academic achievement in elementary school and that you are absolutely right to have the "homework blues." Perhaps you can get together with some other parents and change the homework policies in your community. You and your family will be much happier, healthier, and ultimately better educated. Good luck!

Kelly said...

Oh, preach on. I agree. I have 6 children in school - K, 1st, 6th, 8th, 10th, 11th. I will tell you this..it gets better. They get more independent with their homework and they learn how to study more effectively in a shorter time. My oldest 3 never need help. My 6th grader rarely does. My K and 1st wow we spend a lot of time on homework M-Th. It gets old and I can't wait for Friday to come. All my boys play sports and seem to find the time to do it all. When the pressure is on to go to practice or a game they come through and get it done before we go. I have noticed that homework for my kids isn't as heavy after Christmas break. I have also noticed that 5th and 7th grade are the worst years for homework.

Zsuzsi said...

I sooo agree with you. Although I do believe in some homework, I cannot stand the fact that kids have to do tons of homework after a school day that is already way too long. I did grow up with quite a bit of homework, but through 8th grade most days school ended at 12:45, so there was enough time for play, rest, sports, other activities and homework. With the almost 7 hours spent at school and 2-3 hours of homework, kids often put in more 'work' hours than some adults.
Crazy! Dont' get me started about the rest of the education system...

Keri said...

If Kevin has so much homework that he can't play Little League, then there is something wrong. Either the teachers are giving too much busywork or Kevin isn't studying efficiently. As someone that was a complete perfectionist at his age, I found that when I had limited time to get homework done, I focused better on what NEEDED to be done and did it- in half the amount of time that it took when I didn't have practice. Joining a team that had daily afternoon practices was probably the best thing that ever happened for my study skills!

Larry said...

Thankfully the homework for Nate and Matt is "doable" at this point. I have heard other parents of middle school kids voice your issue though - the choice between sports and school and I find that awful! Kevin absolutely should be able to do both - because you are right - school learning has one place in life development but outside activities, especially team sports, add such an important dimension to a kid's development - physical, social, etc. You should NOT have to choose! I have a friend who used to teach and she is taking issue with the kinder homework at Beechwood and she says she loves the teacher but notices that the teacher doesn't seem to get where the mother is coming from when she comments on "too much homework" - the teacher says "well your kid is capable" and the mother says "that doesn't mean he should have to do it - I want to spend my time with him playing games, baking cookies, etc - not doing worksheets!"...a disconnect in philosophy it appears. But I think it does come down to the false assumption by the powers that be in education systems that the homework load somehow reflects the outcome...clearly not since CA students are consistently at the very bottom of performance ratings nationwide. Until it changes here I figure that I'll have to do with my boys throughout the upcoming years what I am starting to do this year in soccer season with practice M-TH - clipboard in the car with the homework for the day on it and whatever boy is NOT in practice that day does his homework on the drive to, while the other practices, and on the way home...takes some planning by me for sure but we get it done that way...GOOD LUCK!

doulamom said...

HOMEWORK IS RUINING MY LIFE!!!!! I'm so frustrated with the 3hrs of homework I cannot tell you!!!! I see my kids exactly 2 hrs per day and now I have to waste most of that time riding my kid about what homework she didn't finish. She's beginning to hate me.
What's the source of this article, cause I'm about to send it to the school. I've never been a "troublemaker parent" but now I'm incensed!