Dear Parents, Is Homework Helping Your Child?

homeworkphoto credit: Homework Night 56/365 (license)

Recently the discussion about homework has entered the media again with a New York elementary school banning homework and telling their students to play instead. According to some media sources, parents are “outraged” and are threatening to pull their kids from this school.

Remember when you were in elementary school and you ran home as fast as your legs would take you, gobbled down your snack then eagerly worked on your homework every day? You put so much effort into it, knowing that it would get you that “A” and help train you to be better at independently completing homework in high school. Yeah, me neither.

I did homework because I was eager to please and my parents would kill me if I didn’t! Every day, I would shut myself in my room and struggle through the required tasks. My parents went to school in another country, English is their second language and they had no idea how to help me. And even when they thought they knew how to help me, it always ended in arguing, yelling and tears… on both sides! I wasn’t a great student in elementary school, I found everything, especially math, very difficult to grasp. I remember staring at jumbled numbers for hours and blaming myself when I could not understand how to do math equations. At the same time, I had perfectionist tendencies that would push me to forget about the pain in my fingers or the lack of sleep I was getting because I had to colour title pages and maps and leave no white spaces. White spaces didn’t give you good marks. It became worse in high school, but I learned to play the game. I learned to give the teachers what they wanted, present the homework in a visually pleasing way, but without truly understanding what I was doing.

When having discussions with parents about homework I often hear “well it worked for me, so it’s good for my kids.” Think about it, though, did it really work for you? Did it help promote your innate love for learning? Did it improve your knowledge of subjects more than what you learned at school? Did it teach you how to learn independently? Did it increase your stamina to write high school and college papers? Did it give you the discipline to learn?

I doubt it “worked” for many of you. So why do we keep up with this routine? Nostalgia? I often also hear from teachers that they give homework because parents are asking for it.

Many parents are spending a great deal of time driving kids to practices, games, and lessons. Families are filling the holes that are often to be first to be cut from schools: sports, arts, music and enrichment. Shouldn’t kids be getting some sort of break from homework if they are participating in these activities?

So what about the families who can’t afford or choose not to take part in activities outside of school time. Well, I’m sure there could be something that they are doing at home that they can replace homework: reading, writing a letter, helping make a meal, having a conversation with a grandparent, making a structure on Minecraft, meal planning, the list can go on and on.

At the same time, as teachers are saying that they often give homework because the parents of their students are asking for it, I also am hearing that parents are struggling with the demands homework has been putting on their children. One of my friends said she was looking forward to spring break because of the homework respite! Her child is in grade two!

We have to put an end to this madness. Why aren’t teachers hearing from parents that they do not support homework, that they can’t do it anymore, that it is seriously impacting their family time and their lives. If you feel that homework is having a negative effect on your child and family, this is not okay! You know what’s best for your child. Please go speak to your children’s teachers and express your concerns.

Here are some really great articles with supporting research if you need some help conveying your thoughts…. and thank you!

Homework is Making Our Kids Miserable: Why the Classroom Staple is a Colossal Waste of Time

Rethinking Homework

The Growing Argument Against Homework

Probing Question: Is homework bad for kids?

Too Much Homework Is Bad for Kids