In My Version of Utopia, There Would Be No Homework.

We just wrapped up a blissful week of spring break.  Okay, it wasn’t really blissful – the kids were cooped up inside for a large part of it due to inclement weather (yes, that’s right, right here in sunny Southern California), we dealt with the stress of an out-of-town visitor whose name I won’t mention, and there was plenty of tattling and bickering.  And that was just me and Michael!

Anyhow, that said, there’s still something about not having the whole school deal to deal with, you know?  The morning rush, the afternoon madness . . . and homework.  God, how I hate homework.  Hate it.

Today the kids went back to school.  And while it was nice to have some peace and quiet so I could kick my feet up and relax with a magazine and a pint of Ben & Jerry’s do laundry, balance the checkbook, and deal with Little League business, the moment the kids walked in the door after school, my reverie came to a screeching halt.

The demands for snacks.  And the homework.  The homework, the homework, the homework.

It’s the three girls, really.  Kevin and Joey, thank goodness, have grown to be independent homework-doers.  They don’t need supervision to get their homework done (that’s not to say they don’t both engage in procrastination on long-term projects, but somehow they both get their work turned in and are both doing very well in school), and it’s rare that they need help or input from the parental units.  But the girls?  Ack.  It’s not so much feet-dragging and stalling techniques anymore, it’s just that all three of them seem to require huge amounts of supervision and help to get their homework completed every day.  Honestly?  It feels like I’m being assigned homework.  And I resent it.  I did my share of homework when I was growing up (and I don’t remember the homework load being anything like it is nowadays), and frankly, I never wanted to be a teacher.  Never ever.  Yes, I realize that part of being a parent means being a teacher, but a parent is meant to be a teacher in the life sense, not so much the academic sense.

Right before Spring Break, we (second-grade parents) were notified that the kids will now be required to do five minutes per day of math practice.  A list of choices is given for methods of math practice, and the parent must sign off on it each day.  Methods include flash cards or various math websites. This is in addition to the daily homework they already have to do!  Yay.   The first problem is the choices.  Do you know how long it takes a seven-year old to make up her damn mind about which method of math practice she wants to do?  Roughly twelve minutes.  And of course she wants to do a practice game from one of the various websites offered.  Which means I have to turn my laptop over to said grubby-fingered seven-year old.  But first, I have allow her to choose an activity from said website.  Which takes approximately nine minutes.  Then I have to read the instructions and explain them to her.  Another four minutes.  Child then attempts her chosen practice game, but within two minutes is wailing, “Mommy!  I don’t understand this!”  I grit my teeth and explain it to her again.  This kills another three minutes.  She then spends the allotted five minutes doing the activity.  Can you do the math?  What was supposed to have been a five-minute activity has now taken 35 minutes.  And I have TWO second graders.  Lather, rinse, repeat.

And what’s this all for, anyway?  Haven’t multiple studies shown that homework does not actually improve skills or scores?**  And worst-case scenario (and probably pretty common) is that it makes learning a drag.  I mean, seriously, what kid wants to spend six and a half hours in school and then come home and do more schoolwork – and with a harried, pissed off mom?

I’d like to tell you about my version of Utopia.  In my Utopia, there is no homework for elementary school students.  If a child in grades K – 6 actually needs extra help, then customized homework may be assigned, the aim being to assist him with grasping the concepts he’s having trouble with and practicing/reinforcing those concepts.  This one-size-fits-all-homework-whether-they-need-it-or-not?  Nonexistent.  Instead, kids come home from school – happy!  Because they know that Mom is fairly relaxed (because she’s also not dreading the prospect of an afternoon of homework), and they know that the afternoon is theirs for the taking.  Milk and cookies await them.  And then what’ll it be?  Racing scooters up and down the sidewalk?  How about a rousing game of hopscotch or hide-and-seek?  Or maybe they’ll just lie on the grass and stare up at the clouds, daydreaming.

My two second-graders’ teacher happens to be a very close friend.  I hope I haven’t pissed her off with this.  I hope I haven’t pissed off any of my teacher friends (I seem to have quite a few teacher friends).  But this is the truth: homework sucks.  I know, I know, there are mandates and other parents demanding more homework (what kind of crack are they smoking?), and budget cuts and program cuts and overcrowded classrooms, all necessitating more parental involvement in the kids’ academic upbringing than ever before.  I know.  It just stinks, that’s all.

Two more months until summer break.  I’m counting the days.


** The Myth About Homework

The Homework Myth

The Homework Debate

As Homework Grows, So Do Arguments Against It





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7 Comments on “In My Version of Utopia, There Would Be No Homework.”

  1. Caryl Becker Phillips
    April 17, 2012 at 3:13 am #

    Your girls should be able to do homework on their own. If they cannot manage that, then they are playing you. As I have said before, homework should take no longer than 20 minutes per night. Now 25 because of the math fact practice (which I assure you, you will thank me for when your girls are in 3rd grade and you see what horrors that brings). So, as I have also said before, set the timer. What they don’t finish they will do with me and at recess and lunch. Or perhaps they can finish the homework instead of going to see Beauty and the Beast on Thursday. You know it is going to get worse from here Lisa. Nip this in the bud before 3rd grade. Do not give them a choice. Flash cards and that is it. Do not give any chances. The timer goes off, it’s homework with Mrs. Phillips. And Mrs. Phillips will not be happy. Therefore, neither will they.

  2. Janet
    April 17, 2012 at 5:37 am #

    I am SO with you on the ‘no homework’ front. I LOVE school holidays, although the kids’ appetites grow exponentially and I spend the entire day in the kitchen manning the fridge and pantry! But, homework truly does suck especially as I seem to be one of the only ‘bad’ parents who doesn’t spend oodles and oodles of my spare time (yeah right, what spare time) helping them with extra homework, internet educational games, etc, etc. I am the only one (or so it seems) with a 4 year old who can’t read, write and stand on his head and toot God Save the Queen with both hands tied behind his back! Go figure, I spend my ‘spare time’ making dinner from scratch, drawing up 2-week menu plans, running around after a moody 2 year old, supervising home renovations, cleaning, ironing, etc., etc. which other mothers apparently do in their sleep?! You are not alone Lisa :-)))

  3. Shannon
    April 17, 2012 at 7:11 pm #

    Girl, homework is total BS!! I am a (former) elementary school teacher and I am going to give it to you straight. If a teacher has their shit together IN THE CLASSROOM then everything gets done and she/he knows who needs more help. The smart kids suffer boredom, the struggling kids suffer humiliation, and the middle kids just stay middle FOREVER because so much friggin’ time is spent on checking the damn homework–if it’s right, if it’s complete, yadda yadda yadda. Your kids should be encouraged to read current events, watch news programs, read leisure books, take walks, etc. in their after school time. There aren’t enough teachers thinking outside the box! It’s 2012 for God’s sake! Moms and Dads both work now and family time is precious. Enough with the homework!

  4. Stacey
    April 17, 2012 at 9:51 pm #

    This is the age to start setting good study habits, as your boys have learned already, so I’m not going to be the one to argue completely against homework. I do think a reasonable amount of homework that supports the learning being done in the classroom is a good thing, but too much is just wrong. Does your school district have a homework policy? If so, then it probably says a maximum of 20 minutes per night at this grade level. Hold them to it, because the teacher can’t set a stricter policy than the district alllows. Set the timer, tell the girls to do their best work until it beeps, and when it goes off, homework is done. And do NOT allow the teacher to make them do homework at recess. That is absolutely unacceptable! Recess is for the body & mind to rest & recharge so the student will be able to focus again when back in the classroom. Recess should never be spent doing anything but playing unless the child is being disciplined; homework should not be a disciplinary tool. And having to do homework at recess violates the homework policy’s time limit anyway.

    If your school district doesn’t have a homework policy, then maybe it’s time to start lobbying for one. I was going to post some links but I see you found them first. Our school district’s policy is 10 minutes for K & 1st grade, 20 minutes for 2nd & 3rd, and 30 minutes for 4th & 5th, and there is to be no homework on weekends or holidays. Even if we didn’t have a homework policy, there’s no way I’d make my 7-year-old spend more than 20 minutes on homework. No way! The school has six hours a day to teach them; afternoons & evenings are our family time, not school time.

  5. Stacey
    April 17, 2012 at 10:03 pm #

    One more thing… my 7-year-old does not use the computer and will not be using the computer for the next few years. Period. Our kids do not have access to technology at this age and I’ll be damned if I’m going to start because the school sends home a list of cool websites. Kids at this age should not have unsupervised access to the internet at this age, which means the parent has to do the activity with the child, unlike regular homework which the child should be able to do unattended. With all due respect to Ms. Philips above, this sounds to me like this school is shifting the burden of education too much onto the parents. Push it back.

  6. Laney
    April 17, 2012 at 10:49 pm #

    It sounds like they still might be playing you, just in a different way. Instead of trying to problem solve, and figure out how to do it , they know mom will make it really easy by helping them do it,

    I discovered this year that my second is very good at this, to the point that we use/d a timer like others have said. We homeschool, so it’s not homework as much as whatever I assigned him to do while I moved on to the next kid. It threw everyone else off, and in the end he wasn’t really learning anything because I was guiding it too much. I started giving him the work (explaining it to him, showing him one example, and saying do the best you can), setting the timer for x number of minutes and if he doesn’t get done then he doesn’t get his check mark for that class. If he’s missing more than 5 check marks at the end of the week, no reward. He does ask questions when he needs to, but it cannot be “show me, help me” type questions.

    I would rather he try, and keep trying so that I (or in your case the teacher) can see what he doesn’t know than have a perfect worksheet that basically was done by me.

  7. starrlife
    April 19, 2012 at 12:43 pm #

    Well, with my daughter,because of her DS there is another level of complication in this dialogue. I prefer full inclusion in school and to do the rote tasks like flash cards at home. I kind of like getting the gist of her progress and doing the homework but I only have one child and can’t imagine trying to assist with several 🙂 Sometimes I laugh because the HW worksheets are about ways of doing something that I have no idea what they mean and she knows it (especially those cryptic little pics that we are supposed to guess what they are? and write the word – really? it’s the tooth in the smile I’m supposed to know is the thing?). And I do agree that no more than 20-30 minutes should be spent on academics in the home after school – it’s unbalanced in terms of a holistic perspective on a childs life. Lately I have been thinking about the consumingness of a child’s life by academic life and the burn out that I fear many kids experience by the time they get to HS. Anyway- good things to think about!

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