I don’t know about anyone else out there, but it is not uncommon for my 3 kids ages 11, 9, and 8 to have between 2 and 3 hours homework per night.
I find this very alarming, especially because they already have a very long school day. It’s like we almost have time for nothing else other than school and then schoolwork done at home! Are my kids distracted and slow? Is it just my imagination, or are our kids getting too much homework?
Research shows that over the last decade, there has been a growing trend of elementary and middle school children indeed receiving more homework than ever before. Ah ha, I was sure of it! What I didn’t know is that this is partly due to factors such as parental involvement and expectations. Yes, indeed, we parents, who want to give our children the “best,” have somehow helped to perpetuate this phenomenon. How many of us are under the age-old impression that homework is an important daily staple of every student’s life? How many times are parents puzzled to hear that their child does not have any homework? It’s almost as if something is not right in the world if a child utters the words “I have no homework.” Many of us have come to expect the daily reassurance of homework and even rely upon it as some sort of evening occupation. It is admittedly a better solution than the TV!
Surprisingly enough though, research has also continually shown that there is no correlation between the amount of homework a child does and how well he or she understands the assignment or even performs on a quiz or test. Volumes of homework do not necessarily guarantee a child’s success in school. So, why do we put our kids (and ourselves) through this nightly torture? Is it because we have deep-rooted beliefs that homework serves in helping students develop good study habits, time management skills, and self-discipline? If that were really true though, why are so many adults irresponsible and unable to manage their time efficiently?
So what is the real reason for all this homework? Is there too much to learn? Are we teaching our kids inefficiently compared to when we were at school? I certainly didn’t do 2 to 3 hours homework a night when I was that young. Is the bar being raised too high for our kids? Even with the longer school days, is there not enough time in the school day to cover the material? I personally believe that while parents definitely feel some level of comfort when their child has some homework, we cannot be solely blamed for this recent trend of copious quantities of homework being assigned very night. In fact every parent I know is complaining bitterly about the homework load. The real reason for all this homework, in my opinion, has nothing to do with the parents or with helping our children learn, but rather, it’s all about helping the school get a better “grade.”
As an involved parent I have no problem assisting the school in teaching my children at home if the material is interesting and sparks a love of learning and a love of the subject in my child. And many parents I know welcome the opportunity to be involved in their child’s education. However, the rising levels of frustration that result for both parent and kids are counterproductive. The problem as I see it, is that most of the time the homework is dull, monotonous, rubbish and is assigned sheerly so my child does well in some moronic standardized test (did I mention I like to be direct?). Instead of instilling a the love of learning in my child it becomes a source of family frustration. But for the school it’s really important that the kids do well on these tests because the school gets rated and funded depending on how well the students do.
My oldest son told me the other day, that some teacher at his school said that they spend so much time testing now, and not actually teaching the kids, that teaching is longer fun. How sad is this? Unfortunately it appears that we have become so obsessed with measuring learning, that we are actually killing learning.
So what can we as involved parents do about this? How can we possibly buck against this long-standing tradition? I think it’s time we all pushed back and came to our kid’s defense. We need to embark on a mission to break this ridiculous homework cycle. The “very brave” home school in my opinion. However, for the rest of us, that have chosen to send our kids to regular school, we need to draw a line in the sand and let our teachers, principals, and school boards know that the homework is simply too much! I think it’s also really important that we realize that standardized tests are actually for the school’s benefit and not for the well-being or benefit of our kids. It is vital that in these precious years for our children we stay focused on them and help them develop a love of learning whenever possible. If the material is not doing that, we need to wonder why they are doing it. Learning should be fun! Of course there will be topics that need to be learned that may not seem like fun, but that too is part of the game! Kids don’t try to avoid or have any trouble with rigor and memorizing numerous facts, if they can see and feel a reason for it. Just ask my kids to tell you the names of the all the Pokémon characters and they will rattle them off in seconds. I believe if the periodic table of elements or any subject matter in fact, was presented in an interesting way kids would have no problem learning and retaining the facts.
It is important too that our children are given time to develop in areas other than school so that they may become well-rounded individuals, rather than be continually bogged down by so much homework. They should participate in extracurricular activities, spend quality time with their family, and acquire diverse life skills. All of this should be highly encouraged by the school administration and be a genuine part of their daily “homework”! We as parents can participate in a homework revolution by enlightening other parents as well as teachers and administrators to remind them that our children need time to be just that…children!