Blog Update!
For those of you not following me on Facebook, as of the Summer of 2019 I've moved to Central WA, to a tiny mountain town of less than 1,000 people.

I will be covering my exploits here in the Cascades, as I try to further reduce my impact on the environment. With the same attitude, just at a higher altitude!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Homework: help or hassle?

Some random kid doing homeworkThe school district where my son goes to school has guidelines for how much homework students should have at night. For grades K-2, it's 10 minutes a day. His math homework alone is at least that (some days it's 3 pages of math drills).

Add in daily spelling plus phonics exercises or a book report and it's at least 20 minutes. On top of that, they are supposed to do 15 minutes of reading.

Needless to say, doing homework can be quite a struggle, particularly after school when there are other activities (mostly medical appointments) that push homework off until after dinner. And then we are looking at roughly 45 minutes of homework, including complaints, stalling and tantrums. I'm sure there is great benefit in doing the extra practice, drills and reading, but at what cost?

Some argue that homework only hinders the joy of learning and it has been found that homework in the elementary years does not actually make a difference in the child's achievement. On the contrary, homework tends to squash the child's natural interest in learning and it is recommended that extra reading be assigned only to pursue the child's other interests.

I really can't complain too much. But, when Emma starts school too, I don't know where I'll find the time to help them both out with their combined homework needs.

For those parents out there, what do you think about homework? How does it fare in your house? Do you feel that the extra work is helpful, or does it just end up putting extra stress on the family?

Related posts:
Back-to-school blues
What kids want

Related books:
The Case Against Homework: How Homework Is Hurting Children and What Parents Can Do About It
The Homework Myth: Why Our Kids Get Too Much of a Bad Thing
Closing the Book on Homework: Enhancing Public Education and Freeing Family Time (Teaching/Learning Social Justice)
The End of Homework: How Homework Disrupts Families, Overburdens Children, and Limits Learning
The Battle Over Homework: Common Ground for Administrators, Teachers, and Parents


knutty knitter said...

I simply talked to the teacher explaining that homework would get done if there was time. There mostly wasn't and it was still fine. I did add that we were doing family reading anyway which did help.

This year they are both doing one homework sheet a week usually in the car going to school on the day it is due. (They are 10 and 12 boys, both very bright and both dyslexic although that has improved markedly this year).

I haven't enquired but I suspect that the homework is only there because of the national requirements.

In my opinion homework is a waste of time. School has them all day so I don't see why they should give up any of their free time especially when they only get an hour or so before bedtime. They need time to be kids.

viv in nz

Angel said...

Oh my goodness, homework is a big issue in our house!
My daughter is in 5th grade. At the open house her teacher said, "Homework should take no more than 50 minutes, not including the 20 minutes of reading." Yeah right. I'd say it takes 50 minutes per subject.
My daughter literally has no free time for herself. Lately she's had to do her reading at dinner.
She used to take karate and tennis lessons. We had to drop karate because of homework. She was quite upset, as she's earned her yellow belt and wanted to continue. What should we have done though, let her fail 5th grade because she didn't do her homework? She gets all A's and B's in class and on tests.
It's not all bad. There are a few rewarding projects that take weeks to accomplish but most of the work is busy work. Review of what was done that day in school. I've talked with her teacher a few times about the quantity of work sent home and she still insists it shouldn't take as long as it does.
Thank you for posting your concerns. I'm glad I'm not alone wondering how this is affecting us. I do think all of the extra homework adds to the stress levels in our family.

Marimoy said...

Homework is important. It is practice for what we were taught in class. In Elementary school, however, it is a joke. The only time a student SHOULD get homework is if they are falling behind. Practicing skills they are having issues with will make them more confident they can do it. I think there is such a thing a too much. one or two problems a night in math, for example, is sufficient, more than that is overkill. This is the point where I don't do it. I have a life and can't be bothered with 3 + hrs / night plus dinner, plus picking up the house and walking the dog... it's a drag. This was actually supposed to be the topic for Debate! on my site this week and now I will have to change it. :D funny how I argue both sides. I am so confused!

Sandy said...

Well, as usual Crunchy, you're fabulous. Love the conversation.

I do agree that there was a certain joy and freedom when I was a kid --when you didn't have homework in elementary school. Kids need time to play outside! However, I don't know if all parents would create that opportunity for their children, rather than just plunking them in front of video games or t.v.

Most important though: my rule is the first thing you do when you come home is get the homework out of the way. I tried letting him have a little detox time from school, but it just turned into a war. So now without questions or arguements he just goes upstairs, knocks it out and gets it done. Then, he's free. I also had to put him upstairs in his room with a desk. In the kitchen downstairs he'd get distracted and become more "helpless" than he would have otherwise been on his own. I also have a deal with him that (after 2 years of drilling him on spelling, which he hated) if he gets an A on his test the week before I wont insist that I quiz him, but if he gets a B -- it's quiz time! (he hasn't gotten a B on spelling quizzes all year) It probably took six months back in 2nd grade to establish this -no negotiations rule- but, it's paid off.

Eliane said...

We moved a year ago from England to Wales. Same country but devolved government and so a different education system. In England, in a deprived borough of London, my 5 year old was getting homework 3 times a week, in addition to taking home books to read. This is absurd. What was worse was that the instructions were written in terms that only an adult could understand (and sometimes in educational jargon only a teacher could get) so you had to sit down and work through it with her. Now in Wales where the system is different, at 6 she is only getting books to take home so it's much better. I don't have a problem with homework but when you're in your second year of school you really shouldn't be spending over an hour a week doing it. You should be playing at the end of the day and relaxing and catching up with your little sister or whatever.

Anonymous said...

Homework...yick. With my middle child it is a breeze. The other two are an absolute nightmare. In the older grades it is necessary but by the time my others have reached these grades there is such a negative attitude. Also I believe there has to be a little tolerance. Some families have commitments etc that get in the way. Children should have time to play etc.

Anonymous said...

Ahhh Crunchy - Homework most days is the hell I live in.
my 3rd grader has about 45min/daily
my 1st grader has 15min/2 times a week. This is all in addition to reading 15 minues daily for both.

I started last year in the 2nd grade (because they have to write about what they read in the 15 minutes) that we comein from the school bus - they snack and have 30 minutes to run outside (only execption is rain) then they comein and get it done. Most nights we have it done by dinner - Swimming afternoons its done while they wait for their lessons since they have staggered start times.
Both my kids have IEPs at school and one has a 504 for stuff.

The teachers in elementary schools have a LOT of flexibility with just how important the homework is in relation to family life. In the case of your family - Maybe you could ask for some extra time on the math worksheets and send them in when they are complete like rather than getting them monday to have back in class on tuesday. Unless you have a hard hearted teacher - they must understand that time with Daddy is more important than all the homework papers in the world.

Lisa Zahn said...

We are homeschooling in part because there was too much homework, and not only did it deter our kids' learning it was nearly impossible to get it all done!

Anderson Family said...

I think homework is a great way for me to be involved with my children's education. We can have conversations about it besides just the homework, which I think helps thme value what they're earning and see if they really get it.

Anonymous said...

My kids are 17 and 20....and I homeschooled them until high school, so I don't have any experience with the lower grades.

However, I do have an opinion! (Of course I do.)

I think that most of it just adds stress to the family time that could be used in a better way. I would say that spelling and the times tables need daily practice. That's about it.

Sometimes I think that they give homework because they don't get enough accomplished during the day. That's not right.

Keri said...

I'm homeschooling my children because of the too-much-homework issue as well as the "busy work" happening at school. Homeschooling allows my children to learn at their own pace and study what interests them.

Anonymous said...

I was homeschooled and we homeschool our children. Personally, I think homework is such a waste. You are telling me that my child spends between 30 and 40 hours a week at school (almost a full time job) and you can't get the job done in that amount of time? I know so many kids who have absolutely no time for themselves, little kids, and I think it makes for resentful kids and resentful parents. I also don't know how much it really helps. I was homeschooled VERY minimally due to a lot of different circumstances, and most of it was self driven.I got high scores on my SAT's, got into university just fine and graduated with honours.

Anonymous said...

We're lucky enough to have a public Montessori school here and the kids get no homework. Anything that needs to be done is done IN school, where it should be. If the kids mess around when they should be working, they miss recess to finish their work. That way, they both finish what they need to at school AND learn consequences for their actions. We love it!!

Anonymous said...

My first grader has at least 45 minutes of homework every night, and I resent it. Often the assignments come without prelude. In essence, I am expected to teach the lesson. She is in school from 8 to 3. She is a 6 year old child. Her time after school should be time for her to actually be a child, and be part of a family. Last year, when I spoke with the kindergarten teacher and explained our struggle with completing it all, she was very understanding. This year, not so much luck with that approach. If I were not a single mom who must work, I would for sure just pull her out and homeschool her. She already has a desire to learn and takes initiative to acquire new knowledge and develop new skills. My fear is that her school experience will kill that part of her and she will begin to see learning as unpleasurable and something to be avoided.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand the whole homework thing frankly. How can a kid be in a school for SIX hours a day and still need to do two more hours of work at night? There are some dreadful inefficiencies going on in traditional schools. (A public school parent)

Farmer's Daughter said...

Let me preface my comment by saying that I have no experience teaching elementary school aged children, except for a little work as a teacher's aid when I was in college. I also don't have any children, so my comment is coming as a high school teacher.
Homework in my classes is a requirement. Usually, I assign homework as reading to prepare for the lesson or as a review of concepts covered. There are projects and lab reports as well. The amount of homework depends on the level of the course, and my Advanced Placement (college-level) classes get A LOT of homework. They should read the chapters, review their notes each night, work on practice questions, read articles, write responses and prepare for discussion, and work on lab reports and long term projects. At this level, homework is a necessity, and I would estimate that my AP students get about 5 hours of homework a week, depending on their individual styles. Remember, these are the kids who want to work hard and do well.

When I was growing up, my mom enjoyed helping us with homework. I've done a lot of research about learning (expecially the acheivement of girls in science), and it's clear to me that positive role models in the home is one of the things that has the most impact on children's learning. Children are intuitive, and if mom hates helping with homework, kids will hate homework, too. If their elemetary school teachers hate science (or math, or english, or social studies), then children will dislike it as well. One of the best things we can do for children is be good role models for them to help them learn to love learning.

And finally, as a last note: I am absolutely against busy-work. Every assignment I give has a purpose and is not just to keep the students busy. Having highly qualified teachers helps, because we have spent so much time learning how students learn, how to differentiate for different learning styles, and how to help students achieve to high standards.

For example, last week, I did a lesson that appealed to different students. First, we spent half of our 80-minute block writing a rough draft of a letter to president-elect Obama discussing his environmental policies and what role the environment should play in his presidency. Then, we switched gears to some chemistry and math: calculating the amount of energy that should theoretically be released when we burn fossil fuels (or any fuels, for that matter, but we focused on fossil fuels). This is a long process, so we did a couple of examples and then students had a practice question to do for reinforcement for homework. Since I only see students every other day, it's imperative that I give them practice to reinforce this learning between classes.

I welcome anyone else's comments on what I had to say! (I know I'm not perfect and I'm always looking to improve my teaching!)

Tara said...

Oh lordy. Homework was so stressful in our house last year. I felt like Dr. Phil every night. Now we homeschool. Everyone thinks it takes all my time and but in reality it's way less stressful. If you add up the time I spent transporting the kiddo and the homework time each day, that's about the time we spend schooling. Plus my hub helps. Plus my kiddo has enough energy and enthusiasm left over to help around the house.
Good luck with it.

Anonymous said...

Homework in our house can be very stressful and time consuming. I agree that it is mostly busy work as do my kids and so they really resent losing their free time. Last year we decided to cut out sports during the winter months which has helped. No one has mentioned the weight of backpacks. Beginning in 3rd grade, my son's backpack was so heavy that he could no longer ride his bike or walk the nearly mile home without pain. I hate having to drive each day, but feel I have no option.

Jenn said...

From K-6 grade homework, in my opinion, is simply useless. My youngest daughter, who is in second grade now, has been bringing homework home EVERY night since kindergarten. It doesn't take her long at all, but it does take time. Sometimes I'll look at it and if it's busy work, I tell her she doesn't have to do it. The kid is getting perfect grades, the homework bores her to TEARS especially when she'd rather be outside, playing, like kids are supposed to do.

I don't understand how a 2nd grader can have homework after being in school for 6 hours a day. Oh, wait, I know. The class spends half the day studying for required standardized tests to fulfill the No Child Left Behind requirements. The other half of the day might be spent actually learning NEW stuff, so of course, homework has to come home because they run out of time.

Can you tell I'm not overly enamored with the public school system? Unfortunately, we are not one of those families who can afford a private school. I envy those who can.

Anonymous said...

What I find fascinating about all the comments is the undercurrent that the parents... the mom... is supposed to be sitting beside the kiddo helping out with the homework.

I understand that as a parent, I have responsibilities and duties to my child. I understand that in many cases, these will go beyond all the other responsibilities and duties we have as human beings and citizens. And yet...

If we have public education because we as parents need to be working full-time jobs to put food on the table and keep a roof over our family's heads, why is it that after a long day at work, we are expected to come home and help teach our children when ostensibly there is someone who is being paid (admittedly not much) to teach them during the hours that they are at school and we are at work?

My child is young enough that homework has not yet become an issue. I am a firm believer in education and the need for parents to model enthusiasm for learning. But I really truly dread the point when we'll have to sort out how to balance our paid work (which we love) with our unpaid work (all the family/homework/household stuff, most of which we love) and *still* manage to find some time to play ourselves, and be human ourselves. It isn't just kiddos who need time to be free.

Amanda said...

I'm looking at this from a very different perspective from most of you since I'm an elementary school teacher and not a parent. At my school, the children arrive beginning at 7:50 and are dismissed at 2:20. That looks like 6 1/2 hours on paper, but it's not.

We have students coming in from 7:50 until 8:10, so there is no instruction during that time. Then we have lunch, special, recess, several bathroom breaks, and packing up. We also have monthly assemblies and assessments (one each for reading, writing and math, which each take 2 hours). Those are just the planned interruptions...

With that in mind, I send home assignments that are open-ended and able to be completed independently (some children have no support), but still further their learning. Teachers do not have enough time in the day, and I do think of homework as a way to fit in those opportunities to connect school to real life as well as additional practice.

Alison Kerr said...

Stress, that is what I remember of homework. And frustration, because most of it made no sense to me so how could I 1)insist on it being done and 2)help when I did not understand what the teacher wanted or how it had been taught.

As you may have guessed from my blog, I cut the stress of homework by homeschooling and making all school work homework. Now I'm in control and I understand what needs done and I can help my kids do the work, or if it doesn't make sense I just axe it from our program.

You might think that homeschooling would be more stress, but after the first year it's WAY less for me!

My advice, don't let homework spoil the precious time you have with your child in that little after-school window of the day. Talk with the teacher and if daily home practice of facts or reading is necessary ask homeschoolers for ways that are more fun that worksheets.

Jen ( said...

One of the many reasons I want to homeschool my children.

Green Bean said...

We elected to go to a charter school that does not give out homework (other than to read to your child) for, at least, K and 1st. Not sure about 2nd and so on. We are a block away from the neighborhood school where kinders are already doing 30 minutes a night. It's mostly busy work and, imo, not helpful. There are more important things than worksheets. Learning should be done in the classroom and, unless a child needs additional help, stay in the classroom - at least until the upper grades.

Lauren said...

I'm not a parent (yet) but I work with kids, and my mother is a teacher. I think part of the problem is that months and months are taken up teaching to the standardized tests, and only after the tests are over (at least here in Texas) do the teachers get to start their *real* year long lesson plans. So what used to take 9 months they now have to teach in 6 or 7. I'm sure that's at least part of the reason why there is more and more homework, there just aren't enough hours in the day. It's also sad that schools are taking away from children's recess and gym/music/art times.

Another thing to think about is that probably most of the parents here would engage their children in learning activities and educational pursuits regardless of whether they had homework or not. I know my Mom did that with me and my sisters. But not every parent does that, and without parental involvement in a child's education, that education becomes much less effective. So since not all parents are willing to spend time with their kids then homework is a way to get them involved. I'm amazed at the number of children who are still at our after school program when we close at 6pm! Then they go home and go to bed, when do they see their parents? What is the point of even having kids if you're never going to see them?

Maeve said...

The school has my kids for 7+ hours per day, 5 days per week.

My kids don't need to be doing schoolwork at home.

That doesn't mean they can't *learn* at home. They learn and practice things all the time. Because they want to, not because I or their teachers said "you have to do this worksheet now, sorry, you can't play outside this afternoon." (oh, and don't get me started on how they've cut back, or cut out, recess for little kids!)

If things get too unreasonable, I'll pull the kids, and we'll homeschool. I haven't found things to be unreasonable yet.

Anonymous said...

Even before we unschooled I was staunchly against homework. We tell adults to seperate work and home, not bring their work home. Why do we encourage our kids to do it? I view it as unhealthy, stressful and a waste of time at any age. I think the brain needs adequate time to rest aftre hours spent at a desk.

I agree with the first commenter. Tell the teacher it will get done if there is time. Or tell them it just won't get done at all.

I didn't worry about grades as much as actual learning though. Guess it's a good thing we found unschooling.

TheNormalMiddle said...

I'm a mom to 3 kids AND a public school teacher. I teach 6th grade math. And I hardly EVER give homework.

My philosophy is that I want children (yes, 6th graders are still children) to go home, eat dinner with the folks, go to church on Wednesday nights if that is what they do, go to scouts, dance class, whatever. I want them to play outside, shoot hoops and ride bikes.

In short, I want them to be KIDS.

If I cannot accomplish what I need to in my 90 minute math block, then I need to tweak my system.

Believe it or not, I have parents who complain that I *should* give homework.

You can't win! :)

Adrienne said...

When did this happen? I never had any homework until 5th grade, which not coincidentally was the first year I went to public school.

CoCargoRider said...

I feel that the amount of "homework" our boys come home with is just too much. I also believe that what they are focusing on is not what they need to be focusing on. We would like to homeschool our kids, but cannot afford it right now, but maybe in the near future.

Gaby said...

I'm going to have to stress that I'm neither a teacher nor a parent but I remember being a kid ( not really all that long ago) I was never the biggest fan of Homework and in HighSchool I HATED it. There are two things though that I found really useful even though it was homework.

Reading...reading was really important in my school and they did all sorts of things to encourage it. From free pizza to having our principal ride an elephant if the school read enough pages. The incentives tricked me into falling in love with reading (a neat trick particularly with an ESL student) and it is something that is still with me till this day.

Secondly Math. I'm bad at math particularly when in class with other people there to see my my inability to multiply or add quickly in my head. Doing math at home with a parent gave me some time to really absorb the information without the pressure of other kids.

Anonymous said...

I am a former 3rd grade teacher and a parent. I gave a small amount of homework, mainly to help involve the parents in what we were working on in the classroom. The students who had mastered the material had a much shorter assignment. I also gave the children lots of opportunities to earn homework passes for the nights that they had something special planned. My son gets only a small amount of homework. I personally enjoy sitting down with him to work on it. We use it as a time to talk about what is going on in school. Then, I am better equipped to connect what they are doing in school with "real life". Although, I definitely agree, anything more than 30 minutes a night for an elementary school child is too much.

Erika said...

UGH, this is, yet another, one of my soap boxes. I hate the concept of homework as most of us are familiar with - as a teacher, I use it as a way of teaching time management - I give a set amount of time to complete an assignment in class - I watch to make sure I'm being fair - that kids are completing it. If a student doesn't complete the assignment, the due date (usually the next day or the day after) still applies - it's their job (11-14 year olds) to figure out when they need to finish it. My penalty is simple - come in at lunch and finish it - when you're done, you can leave, if it becomes a habit - then we have a chat, and I let your family know what's going on. It's never gone beyond that. I believe that the time my students spend at home is more valuable than any structured lesson I can "insist" they work on. I've also heard of homework where student s spend their "10 minutes per grade level per day" learning about something of their choice - work with their family (cooking = math/fractions, science, reading (recipe), and life skills)...

Homework should be practice of something that the child is already capable of doing 100% on his/her own. If you are having to teach you son the things in the homework - that's not helping in the least - in fact, it might even be hindering progress (if you are teaching the skill in a significantly different manner than the teacher is).
If the battles ensue because he doesn't want to do the work 'cause it's too hard, it seems as if a parent/teacher discussion would be warranted (e.g. "My son is saying that he doesn't understand how to do this homework; is this because he is behind, or is the homework ahead of the classwork? What are the next steps to remedy this?).

As a teacher, the only thing I ever assign as homework is something that the students might have been working on in class, but didn't complete. I also encourage students to not use the "I don't get it" excuse - my policy is that if you don't understand something, ask another student in the class or a friend who you know has learned this material, then ask an adult. If you can email me, that works too. If you still don't get an answer to your question, write out exactly what you don't understand about the problem/part of homework, then continue with the next part. If you are completely lost (can't finish the rest of HW), tell me how you are lost (in writing) and have an adult sign it.

Another solution might be to simply set your son up with a routine - finish homework, (something he enjoys), brush teeth, go to bed - where the "something he enjoys" could be anything - earning privileges or actual things - but his homework must be completed by a certain time. If you notice he is working diligently, and he goes over time, you're in charge of deciding if that's "okay" or not.

I could go on and on....


Shandy said...

My 6th-grade stepson's homework load vacillates like crazy, from none to major projects with multiple time-consuming steps over weeks. We only see him on weekends and his mother has pretty much checked out on all but the simplest of things, so we spend our "free time" on weekends helping him with his work and teaching him what things like research papers and essays are. See, he gets assigned these things, but he has never, ever been taught what they are. Helpful, eh? The result has been weekend homework jags of anywhere from six to fourteen hours. That is insane. Oh, and the daily reading, too, which Stepson used to love but now looks at as a timed chore to be performed for no more than the required minutes under any circumstances. Thanks, public education, for killing his love of reading by forcing him! So helpful! All of this is causing us to fall woefully behind in life and for what? I'd like to say that Stepson is becoming better educated, but there are many days that I'm not sure this isn't just busywork that really gives him nothing at all as a thinking person.

I'm sure a lot of it is our split-household situation, but I'm really frustrated with the system right now. I can't even chalk it up to public school. My neighbor was paying $15,000 per year for a private school for her middle-school-aged son and decided to homeschool him this year because they were spending hours on homework every night and the only things that her son retained are the ones she was helping him with; he learned nothing during the day. Why pay if you're going to do all the teaching anyway?

mechiko said...

I'm a parent of a 17-month-old and I am seriously considering unschooling if it's at all possible with our financial situation. We have a Montessorri program in our town that is really great, though, too. When I was a kid I was homeschooled for K and 1st, public school for 2nd and 3rd, Montessorri for 4th, 5th, and 6th, and then public school for the rest. Montessorri allowed me to learn on my own schedule, and I still rely on lessons I learned through Montessorri. I'm sure I wouldn't be as successful in school as I was (and still am) without it.

J.G. said...

I attended both public and private schools while growing up. I actually think I received a greater volume of homework in public school. I cannot remember how much work we were given in second grade, but I can tell you that by fifth grade, I remember being up to at least two to three hours per night. And for holiday breaks, the teachers would pile on extra work. I do agree that homework helps reinforce what was learned during the school day, but limiting how much work is given is also a good idea. I would not wish two-three hours of homework on anyone, and I agree that excessive homework can interfere with creative time as well as family time.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm, I think I may have the unpopular opinion here but I actually think that children should be given homework (or family-monitored/involved however-you-want-to-say-it work) early, in elementary school, so that children develop a behavior pattern of completing work for school.
And, with all of the different areas "pulling" a teacher during the day, reviewing homework can be one way for a teacher to see what an individual child MAY be having problems with that the teacher is not able to catch during the day because either the child isn't aware of the problem or isn't acknowledging the problem and the teacher is missing it.

However, I do believe that children who are having trouble academically and are having to go through more trouble at home, in their "off" time, does present a real problem. It's not good if a child doesn't want to go to school because they are worried about their homework...crazy cycle.

Melly K

House Sparrows Academy said...

I am not a parent, but as a school director, I have instituted a no homework policy. After reading Alfie Kohn's The Homework Myth I could no longer justify assigning homework.

My students work hard all day and need to be able to relax and have family-oriented time in the evenings, not engage in a nightly struggle or miss opportunities to pursue their interests. If a student chooses to bring home classroom books or math games learned at school, that is perfectly fine--as long as it is their choice.

I encourage giving Kohn's book a try.

Robj98168 said...

I have to take Henry's side on this one- I hate it when I come home and there is work to be done- I throw one hell of a Hissy Fit. Off work time is for playing with my toys not for working. And those teachers are mean for assigning homework!

Anonymous said...

I think it can be an excellent time management practice. Also, it can be a nice way to spend time with your kids.

Now, busy work, teaching your kid math at home (my dad always had to help with math and physics and I hated his teaching style - not good for a family time), giving up free time. No! But since I'm not a parent, I'll leave it at that.

However, I do work with kids who never done any homework and learning the concept at 15 or 17 is HARD, HARD work for them and their parents.

I was surprised to read how many readers had such negative experiences with homework. Things changed that much since I was in school?

Farmer's Daughter said...

I'd just like to add in that teachers have a lot of homework, too! I've spent many Saturdays and Sundays grading papers, planning lessons, and reading to keep up to date. Not to mention that I do at least 2 hours of work outside of school each day. And I've been teaching for 6 years! It used to totally consume my life, but now I'm just used to it. So I absolutely understand how kids can sometimes feel overwhelmed! That's why all homework assigned should be meaningful, or don't assign it!

just ducky said...

Whoah! You hit a "hot button" issue for me. In my life children's homework equals HELL. I have two teenage daughters---both with mood disorders, my youngest having been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder at age 6. There are days when homework definitely doesn't get done or only gets half done because she is manic. There are days that it doesn't get done because she is rapid cycling between mania and depression. So, I learned a long time ago that if she doesn't get it finished...I e-mail the teacher of whatever class it is and let them know that my child's mental health had to come first--before the homework that night. Luckily, we have an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) in place with the school district where it doesn't get held against her if she doesn't get it done. She is given extra time to finish it when she is able.

I can honestly tell you we NEVER accomplished her "extra reading" minutes. Those teachers were friggin' dreaming and certainly out-of-touch with my child's situation for thinking she would be able to fit that in at night. One teacher pushed the issue so hard (before the IEP was in place) that we started counting all homework time as "extra reading" so that my daughter wouldn't be punished for not turning in extra reading minutes at the end of each month.

I understand wanting to develop a "lifelong love of reading"...but mandatory extra reading is not the way. I positively love reading and I never had that enforced in my youth. My mother regularly took me to the library and signed me up for the library's summer reading program and I ended up being my senior class valedictorian. So it all worked out despite the lack of required "extra reading" in my childhood.

I will stop now...I'm like a crazed woman! If you talk about politics, I clam up...but if you talk about schools and homework---and watch out...I let loose! :)

Anonymous said...

Personally,extra homework in math and music helped me get ahead in my class. My other choice growing: watch TV.

It did not hurt me or my own self esteem.

I don't have kids, so I don't know how it is different now.

Jane said...

I am not a mom, but I am an elementary teacher-4th grade! I hate homework! I know that's probably blasphemy! But, it really frustrates me. For one thing, many days, most of my inner city class will not do the homework. So, it's a waste of paper! Also, lots of homework only punishes the kids and parent who will do it. If I assign homework, I believe I then need to go over it in class and grade it. If not the kids who do it do not see any reward. The more homework I assign the more work for me both at home and in the classroom. Also, who knows what the kids are really doing. I think a realistic 1/2 hour is fair in elementary school.

Wendy said...

I don't understand homework. It's like beating a dead horse - either the kid gets it, and therefore, doesn't need three PAGES of DRILLS to do later at home, when he could be doing something really cool, like building a fort in the backyard.

Or he doesn't get it, and at that point, the teacher (or the parent) needs to figure out where the block is. Some kids just don't get things, and forcing them to simply write problems (which, by the way, is the ABSOLUTE WORST way to teach anything) is not effective, and only leads to a further block and a lot of frustration.

I was in my twenties before I got some higher mathematics concepts, and still others, I didn't figure out until more recently - which COMPLETELY disproves the whole "can't teach an old dog new tricks" theory ;).

I guess I just question the school of thought that says everything we need to know we MUST learn between the ages of six and eighteen. I know far more now, at forty-one, than I knew at eighteen, and I haven't "practiced" one day of mathematics in more than twenty years. I can "do" math much better NOW, after years of non-practice, than I could do in highschool while enrolled in Algebra, Geometry, Algebra II and Trigonometry.

I know most people will say that all of this education "prepares" kids for their "future", but seriously, we spend twelve to eighteen years "in school" and the rest of our lives "un"learning or "re"learning half the crap they tried to teach us. Nothing I learned in school has prepared me for the life I lead today, except reading, and I could have learned that sitting at home with plenty of time left over to build a really cool fort in the backyard.

In the interest of full disclosure, I homeschool my children, and so homework isn't an issue ... oh, ha! I guess it's all homework, at that - *grin*.

Ashley said...

I work with little ones and each week, I put their homework packet in their homework folder. There is one page for each of four days (the folders are taken home Monday, and returned Friday), and each page is pretty much handwriting practice. 2-3 pages of practing the letter of the week, and another page with math. Maybe even a fun page with dot to dots (number sequencing) that they get to color and keep.

I couldn't understand why any teacher would give kindergardeners homework, but it was all practice (handwriting practice).

However, I can tell you that the students that are still struggling with naming the letters are those whose parents do the work for them (yes, we have parents doing the handwriting practice for their 5 year olds...)

That kind of work I can understand. It is work that we have given in class and we know that it would take 10-20 minutes (tops) for the students to finish, if they only did one page per day as the teacher assigned.

I have also been to schools that do not give homework on the weekends (really... it's district wide) and one school does not give homework till a certain grade level.

I can understand homework if it has a purpose, and relates to the content in the classroom. But to assign a research project over the two week Winter break? A 15 page "My Future Career" project due after Spring Break??? The high school I attended still does a 4-year long project where you research, prepare, and give a lengthy presentation on where you see yourself in the future, your career, where you'll live... and all done outside of school.

Yeah, I was one who carried all her books home and back just so I could get my stuff done. I also had band and a number of after school stuff so I can empathise.

Now, I coach after work and yes, give 'homework' to my girls. ...but it's always simple, and given to those who actually need that extra practice (like, "find the beat to your favorite song; march in place for the entire song"... fun and simple).

Ok, so to wrap up (I've lost my place already)... Homework can help IF given to those who need the extra practice, is related to the subject matter, and does not overwhelm the student. Those finding the classwork easy may need a bit of challenging, but can also find challenge in an outside activity.

Ashley said...

Ok, one final comment...

Anyone remember when homework was simply studying for a test? Or finishing what you didn't accomplish in class?

The math teachers I had would give an assignment, and time to work on it in class. If we understood it well, we would get it done in class. The only ones taking the work home were those who needed the extra time to finish.

For english (at least for the AP class and my Junior English class) the only homework was the occasional essay, or reading a selection that we would discuss in class (which we rarely read anyway, and still understood the discussion).

I have vivid memories of Freshman English, and having to go home and do the same spelling exercises that we did in 5th grade that still took an hour to complete. It didn't help us understand Romeo and Juliet, or write a concise essay.

Ashley said...

Abbie... I wish I had you as my AP English teacher!

Our class was started so that the Academic Decathalon students would have a class together and the books for that class would be the books they read for Decathalon.

Half our class were decathaletes, half (self included) were not.

All I can recall of that class was spending the last month with a lot of free time to write during class, and the mock trial for MacBeth (coincided with the Civics class theme).

...and Finally!
A teacher who doesn't give busy work!


lauren said...

I teach 6th grade reading at a strict charter middle school in Oakland. We check homework for completion everyday and for accuracy 1-2 times a week. I go over the homework answers at least 4 times a week in class. We discuss them, so I get a general idea of their comprehension.

Students with 20 days of perfect HW get a homework pass.

My homework consists of one page, sometimes front and back, sometimes not, and it is ALWAYS an extension or additional practice of what we did in class. I never give them something new to decipher at home, alone. It is ludacris, and counterproductive, to give new material for homework.

Also I give them 5-7 minutes to start in class, so they can ask questions.

Overall, the benefit is that of a little additional practice and more importantly, time management.

We have our students use clipboards and work in line waiting for their next class or their lunch. Students who develop the best time management skills get 90 percent of "homework" done at school.

lauren said...

P.S. Teachers also have school-paid cell phones, so students can call and ask questions until 9pm on school nights.

The trick is: The better you prep your students to complete the homework independently, the fewer calls you receive.

I pride myself on receiving almost no calls. That means my homework is easy to understand and managable to complete without teacher help.

Anonymous said...

Homework in our house was always a major battle when our daughter was in elementary school. She had a math learning diability so her math work took anywhere from 60 minutes to 90 minutes plus, spelling and reading. So by the time we got done there was no family time, no play time, no extra activities it was school and homework dinner more homework then bed. teachers all tried to pass it off as math phobic..honestly in kindergarten and first grade? If she had had a reading problem they wouldn't have brushed it off as reading phobic...after much pushing she was finally given the help she needed. Granted it still took some time but it was cut in half...

Sometimes I feel like she missed out on half her childhood to homework. I think too much focus on homework just ruins the whole learning experience. Granted she had a learning disability but if they had actually listened to us she wouldn't have gotten so phobic of math by middle school. And she probably wouldn'thave had to take remedial math in college. I'm just thankful she had great reading and writting skills.

At the higher levels of school I can see homework...but at lower levels its just a nightmare.

Lily said...

I'm also very opinionated about home work.

1) my parents never helped me with home work, ever. I was a latch key kid so I did everything myself. Do parents really need to help kids with their work? Or just make sure they do it? I don't understand when parents tell me they help their kids with homework. What are you helping with exactly? This whole concept is alien to me.

2) I do feel homework when used properly is beneficial. Class is for introduction into a subject matter. The teacher explains the subject. For us homework was to apply what we learned and show that we understood. We did not do endless work in the class. It was mostly lecture. I've had this environment through my entire school years. Homework has always been about applying the concepts we learned in the class' lessons. We were meant to do it solo. No parental help.

3) School became absurd for me at times concerning home work. I'd have home work on every subject and have to take the books home. 7 text books each weighing several pounds taken home each night. I ripped many book bags and could never fit the books into my bag. I had to carry books as well. I loathed the history & lit books. They were the biggest.

I'd often wake early to finish my home work because I couldn't finish it the night before. I'd also use my lunch hour to do home work through middle & high school. It got to the point where every day I went into a teacher's class room during lunch so I could do my 1st three period's worth of home work. There was no way I could have a job with all that home work.

I remember being astounded when I had study hall as a class in my 11th year at the end of the school day. That meant I finally didn't have any daily home work assignments to take home. I did them during lunch and study hall. None of my home work was studying for tests either. I never studied for tests until my 11th year.

With that said, It's been 10 years since I graduated high school in USA. I was never below the top 10 of my class, Usuaully in the top 3.

Nerd Extraordinaire said...

I'm a teacher at a college prep high school in Austin, TX. What we say is that student should spend no more than 30 minutes/subject/night, which is quite a bit of work to do. They don't have homework every night, but the standard is in place to help students develop the skills necessary to STUDY before they get to college, not just busy work.

At the elementary level, though, I can't fathom it. It seems ridiculous that one would have more than 20-30 mintues/night total, including assigned reading (family reading time aside). Math is important to practice; at the high school level it's what most students struggle with, or at least the ones I've seen. I teach Biology and I give homework almost every night, but the majority of the time it is assigned reading to prep for the next day's activities. So, while I think that too much homework is ridiculous, I also think that some is important to build skills early, and as students grow, so that when they get to the upper grades, homework isn't such a hassle. I've got 14 year old kids who don't do their homework, mostly because they've never had to before. Consequently, they are failing their classes in the 9th grade, when its on their record. When you are a student, school is your job, and sometimes you have to bring work home with you.

Anonymous said...

I'm on the homework is hell side of life, partly because of our family sitution, I admit. My older daughter gets to my parents around 3:30 (except Tuesdays, when she gets to our house around 5) and in theory she could get some homework done, but she often very tired, and after taking a break until 4, she makes starts. She's a perfectionest. In the hour before I come to take her home, she'll have done and erased the same 5 math problems because the numbers aren't neat enough.

Once home, she'll "exercise Mr. Violin" and work on her 60 mins of reading a night (yep, one full hour), which is great, unless she's about to chose another book, which can result in hours in indiscion and tears, and I there are times when I can't just put my foot down because I can tell she's on the verge of cycling.

After super, I can get both girls at the table, and encourage the elder to not be a perfectionist while working through the evenings homework (generally on scince which panics her the least) the the younger, who need to be kept in her seat, on task, and using the special decoding and figuring skills that work for her. After an hour or so of that, I get her to bed, whild the older, who has issues with being alone stays with us, sometimes reading, while the youger one falls asleep. Then back downstairs until 10 or so, she outlines a chapter in history, does 4 math sheets, plus problems from the books, including brain teasers which as she is very literal minded she often doesn't understand) writes in her writers log (absolute agony as she struggles to see if she's "made each sentance the very best she can")slogs though Spanish, and life skills or health or whatever elective.

Our situtaiton is somewhat extreme -- most children aren't about to be driven over the edge by homework, or need to be prevented from putting pencils in their ears -- but most parents I talk to say it takes hours to get through, and the teachers seem to think that each one gets the hour of homework a 6th graders is supposed to have or the 1/2 hour a third graders is supposed to have. Of course in my younger daughter's case, she has homework from the mainstream class, the LLD class, and Speech, and this on top of 5 hours theapy a week.

MEA who would love to consign homework to the outer reaches

Anonymous said...

We thankfully don't have to deal with homework these days because we only have the kids on the weekend.

When my stepson was in kindergarten he came home with homework 3 times a week. It was usually a sheet or two of practicing letters. It should have taken about 10 minutes but it took about 20 minutes of him throwing a fit before he would even start and 15 minutes to do the work because he would deliberately do it sloppily and we would make him redo it. It was hell and I am glad we are off of homework duty.

And seriously... I don't as a working adult of two jobs have time to spend 30 to 40 minutes dealing with my child's homework. You had to sit with him to get him to do it and do it properly. So the teacher was actually assigning him and ME (or his father) homework.

He has to do his one book a day of reading (the term book being used lightly) so we sometimes get that homework on the weekends. It is no problems getting him to read... but again... hell to make him write the title in his composition book. What should take 10 seconds takes 10 minutes because he fools around. It is really frustrating.

We are having more luck with learning things that are not school oriented. He has a word ring that I made up so he could write stories for his pictures. He goes through that and uses the words and even reads them on his own. Because it is not associated with school, he seems interested. But in Grade 1? He hates school. He hated kindergarten too. I don't understand how you can hate kindergarten but then again... he had far more work in kindergarten than I remember having 35 years ago.

scifichick said...

My son is in 7th grade now so we are no longer dealing with elementary school. I actually think that kids get too little homework. I certainly don't know how much it contributes to them learning later on, but I think it teaches important discipline. You need to expend some effort to achieve things, and homework starts to prepare kids for it. Yes, it's a pain in the neck to get them to do it, but in my opinion it's a necessary evil. And some things you just need to do a bit longer for practice, like multiplication tables and math in general. You need a lot of practice so that it becomes natural. I didn't like that there were no grades in elementary school! My son went through such a huge adjustment when he started middle school, it was awful! He had to learn that he no longer can get by just on charm. I guess I'm just not too happy with the school system in general.

Lindy said...

I am both a parent of 2 boys (now grown) and a 4th grade teacher. Personally, if I had my way, (which BTW I don't) I would not require homework other than about 15 minutes of reading (child's choice of book) each night. Kids spend all day in the classroom and then are expected to go home and rather than play outside and get exercise and fresh air they are expected to do even more school work.


From the lion's mouth said...

"Even before we unschooled I was staunchly against homework. We tell adults to seperate work and home, not bring their work home."

Could someone tell my employer that?

Or maybe not, since I'm actually glad to have the option that I can take work home - because if I didn't, I'd be stuck at my desk for a hell of a lot longer each day. A job like mine comes with deadlines that are not flexible - sometimes I can leave work early and take nothing home, other times I have a heap to do and long hours.

But I also have intellectual stimulation, so I'm glad of it.

On the homework issue, I can't believe 15 minutes of reading a night is seen as in any way adequate - it should be at least half an hour, with the child choosing the book, plus some extra time being read to by a parent.

And it shouldn't be seen as homework - reading's not work, it's pleasure!

I do think homework should be something the child can do for themself, with minimum parental assistance.

Gretchen said...

Hey Crunchy! It's a tough call. The kids who need homework the most, they are the ones who struggle with it. The ones who are already doing well in class, well, they just fly through homework. It would be nice if kids could have some happy medium.

As a teacher (granted, it was HS), I gave my students all their homework assignments for the entire chapter at the beginning. Then, I left them to do the assignments as they found time for them. We all have life that gets in the way. I was trying to teach prioritization... if you have homework due on Wednesday, but have to work Tuesday night, then be sure to work ahead and get it done Monday night.

In elementary school, I think the rule of thumb is 10 min per grade level. But, that's a completely different story if you have a kid with any special needs!

Good luck figuring it out. And, the bottom line is, even if your kids get crap grades, as long as they are passing, who cares? If YOU feel homework isn't important, then just communicate to the school that you will accept lower grades from your kids' teachers. Grades are one assessment by one teacher. Ultimately, you have to live with your kids & their grades. What I'm trying to say (but failing miserably, I'm sure) is that the kids have to answer to you. and if you don't care about low grades, then it will not stress them out either.

Good Luck!

Anonymous said...

John Quincy Adams was 14 when he was sent to Russia to assist the US Ambassador in translation. I have a hard time meeting 14 year old who can articulate a single thought that does not involve "My Space" or the latest video game.

What has happened to our youth? Did JQA study too much? did he have the right balance of play, farm, study?

Anonymous said...

When our children are old enough, we will be homeschooling. I hadn't even been considering the homework issue up to this point, but the time away from home. Around here, they want to bus my children over 25 miles to school - the bus would pick them up shortly after 7:00 a.m. and wouldn't have them home until between 4:30 and 4:45 p.m.! At least 9 1/2 hours for a first grader?! If you threw homework in on top of it, they wouldn't have a life at all.

Nikasha said...

I love reading the comments on this blog!

I am not a parent, but I still remember my school days, and have worked as a nanny for many years.

I was a great student in school, and can only remember having to ask my parents for help with homework a couple times throughout my entire education. We were simply expected to get it done on our own.

I was shocked when I began nannying for a family that expected me to sit with their girls (approx 6th grade) as they did their homework, and make sure that by the time they were done, every single answer was correct. In my opinion, a child should be able to complete their homework on their own, and any corrections should come in class... unless... the student is not catching on to the concepts because of a learning style that doesn't match the teacher (and this is not the child's fault).

I never had scheduled daily reading that needed to be accounted for in 15 minute increments. That sounds to me like a horridly restricting way to inspire reading. I have no problem with a slightly bigger block required on a weekly basis, but 45 min one day, then missing the next day should be counted as equivalent. I read like a maniac in elementary school- 3+ chapter books a week. Noone made me, but you couldn't take me away from my books. The worst homework in elementary school for me was when we were supposed to read only one chapter of a book for homework, that we would work off of in school the next day. I could never stop, would finish the book the first night, and then I would know things I wasn't supposed to in class discussion.

I must say though, as far as AP courses go- I had more reading for my history courses than I had for any course in college. I also fell asleep attempting to read it each night, and rarely completed my required readings. I don't think that was the most effective homework ever assigned :(

salmonpoetry said...

thank you for this post!!
i have been struggling with my daughter's homework assignments (1st grade) that say "15 to 20 minutes per night" and then proceed to take 45 minutes minimum, PLUS the 15 minutes of reading assigned.
Worse yet, there seems to be no use or reinforcement of the concepts in the classroom. For example, one night's homework is, 'teach your child to make change for a dollar.' In class, they are still learning to add numbers up to 10. My daughter is way ahead of this, can count by 5's and 10's, but I am sorry, no matter who you are, you can't teach a 6 year old to make change in just 15 minutes. Is this ever revisted in class? No, they're still stacking lego blocks trying to figure out how many red and green blocks add up to 10.
As a full-time working single parent (with degrees from Harvard and a PhD from Cambridge, no less) I have extremely limited time to spend with my daughter. We get home just in time to make dinner and perhaps have 30 minutes of playtime before bath and bed. Homework is ruining her interest and passion for learning and making me into some sort of nefarious animal trainer, barking out spelling words as she takes a shower and trying to hunt down the requisite "leaves in four different stages of decomposition" in the garden well after dark.
It's just one more symptom of our industrialized public education system that feeds kids on a conveyor belt through the day without really engaging them, then throws the responsibility of teaching basic skills back at you if you complain about the quality of education being provided. Moreover, it's a guaranteed set-up to widen the gap between haves and have-nots- if you have a parent who can serve as a private tutor and plenty of free time after school, you can stay ahead of the game. If not, you'll be lucky to be able to count and spell by the time you graduate from high school, and you'll have completely dulled any critical thinking or intellectual interest in a subject matter down at the same time.
What's the solution? I'm at least relieved to learn I'm not alone in this frustration.

Julie said...

I see homework as a way to get the kids to practice what they should have been learning at school. Repetition is the method by which we all learn.

With that said, I believe the vast majority of kids get enough repetition in class and don't need additional review at home.

And, as knutty knitter mentioned, with additional activities/time to let them be kids, homework simply takes too much time.

Disclaimer: I homeschool for a variety of reasons, including this one.

Anonymous said...

I'm not a parent, but to this day I am appreciative of the homework I was assigned as a child. When it comes to the knowledge and skills that are the foundation of all your learning to come no amount of practice and "over learning" can be too much.

I cringe to see myself type this now but the intellectual discipline and focus homework engenders is important as well

(Bah, just typing that made me feel old)