• Thu, Jan 3 2013

SAHM No More: I Hate Homework Just As Much As My Kids Do


shutterstock_79744471SAHM No More explores the the ups-and-downs of navigating a new world of parenting, transitioning from married stay-at-home motherhood to a full-time working, divorced motherhood. And there are a lot of adjustments being made—a lot of adjustments and not a lot of sleep.

Is this scene at all familiar to you? It’s late on a Sunday afternoon, after a full and fun weekend or running around and getting together with friends and family, and you ask your child one last time if they finished all their homework. At which point they promptly burst into tears and scramble to get their backpacks, which, incidentally, weigh almost as much as they do. What follows is several hours of reading, writing, and arithmetic—a few more tears—and a pledge to never, ever let anything get in the way of doing homework again.

But guess what happens? Life gets in the way. Again and again. And so the tears come. Again and again. And as much as my son is sick and tired of all the homework, I think I hate it even more. And I hate it more now that I’m working than I did when I was consistently at home with my kids. The thing is that even when the homework doesn’t require me actively helping my children—they’re generally capable of completing it without my assistance—it does mean that while they’re doing it, they can’t be doing anything else. Namely, just relaxing with me and enjoying family time together. And, while the education my children receive is of paramount importance to me, so is sitting around the dinner table all together and piano practice and getting to bed at a reasonable hour.

Maybe if my children were struggling in school or if I had some doubts as to what their academic potentials were, I would be a little more focused on getting them to do their homework, but it just feels like so much busy work to me. Both of my kids read for fun and read well over their grade level. They excel academically and I don’t think that their performances would suffer if their homework load was decreased.

The way things stand now, it just feels more like it’s wasted time. Time that they could spend just, you know, being kids. And, of course, selfishly, I don’t feel like spending my time with them watching them do homework. I’d rather spend my time with them having fun.

This past year, the issue of homework has been making international headlines with the president of France proposing a nationwide ban on homework and the Finnish school system—which does not prioritize homework—was ranked first in the world in academic achievement. When my kids learned of the news they immediately requested that we move abroad, pointing out that I can work remotely, so why not give France a chance?

The reasoning behind the proposed French homework ban is that there is a huge disparity in French schools between the achievements of kids who come from different backgrounds, regardless of how much homework they have. Basically, kids whose parents can help them will do well no matter what, and kids whose parents can’t will continue to struggle. Homework doesn’t harm, but it doesn’t seem to be helping.

What does this mean for me and all of the nights when I have to force my kids to sit down and do their work instead of doing things that I honestly think would be more stimulating? I don’t know. I can’t actively encourage them to thwart a system that they have to be a part of, but it’s hard to promote the worthwhileness of a flawed bureaucracy. So, for now, we deal with the tears and the late nights of completing homework packets, and try and achieve balance in whatever free time they do have.

(photo: Paul Hakimata Photography / Shutterstock)

You can reach this post's author, Kristin Iversen, on twitter.
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  • BadIdeaBear

    I know busy work seems silly when your kids are little, but I would have been lost in university without the study (and homework) habits that I formed throughout elementary school and high school. It’s important, especially for very smart kids, to learn that some times you just need to sit at your desk and grind through the work. Some day, I hope I will get enough experience in my field to out-source the things I don’t like to junior colleagues, but until then, I’m very happy I learned the value of working through problems on my own, the way my elementary school homework encouraged me to do.

    • Lawcat

      Yes X 1000. I get that busywork is not fun, but everything in life isn’t stimulating. Teaching kids to deal with the mundane, the boring, the “bureaucracy” will help them later in life because they are going to deal with it at some point in the workforce. Not doing so is a disservice to them.

      I write this because I had absolutely horrendous study habits. I did not have to study for tests in high school and my first year of college. I could absorb everything in class and be prepared for a test. From Kindergarten to college I tested incredibly well. Around high school I stopped doing homework assignments that didn’t interest me because – what’s the point? I already knew it and could pass a test. A couple 0′s will bring down that GPA pretty quick. Because I didn’t have great study skills in elementary, middle and high school, I had a bit of a shock second year of college. I was able to get it together, but it was difficult and I still fall into old habits. Studying for the bar exam was THE WORST. Not just because of the vast material, but because (1) it’s boring, (2) I hadn’t completely disciplined myself, and (3) I had to learn study habits on top of the material.

      Even now in the workplace, it would be great if I could put off things that aren’t “stimulating,” but that’s not the way the world turns. Things have to get done; even the boring stuff. The sooner kids learn that, the better off they are.

  • Courtney

    In addition to the great comment below (above?), I’ll add this. What sometimes FEELS like busy work is still practice and reinforcement. It’s still one more time that the student has done that kind of work before they see it on the test/SOL. I give homework every single night (albeit in high school) and give a quiz every single day. And absolutely students and parents complain. But my students consistently outscore the students in the class across the hall who’s teacher does not give homework, so I don’t feel the slightest bit bad about it.

    In the end, I have some students who never do homework and some parents who don’t care. Cool, it’s their kid. As long as they don’t later come to me and complain about his lower grade because he has a string of 0s.

  • Nat

    As a student myself, I totally agree. I can’t stand busy work because it doesn’t teach or help. I’m in college and studying in stimulating ways helps more than grinding through worksheets and ultimately falling asleep at my desk before finishing. My worst class is the one where my teacher gives us worksheets and daily quizzes. My best class is the one where I choose to study my own way- by making pretty much everything a game and not letting myself open the fridge until I can solve a practice physics question or something.

  • Jan

    I completely agree. Throughout grade and high school I was bored with the homework. When I went to college, where I was challenged, I started doing homework and studying because it was worthwhile. I have an engineering degree and a doctor of Pharmacy and graduated magna cum laude. Busywork is just that, busywork.

  • Justme

    I can’t speak for elementary school teachers and curriculum but after teaching middle school for 8 years, I feel that a certain amount of homework is necessary.

    Far and away the class MOST kids struggle in is math and in order to become proficient at converting fractions or solving proportions a child MUST have more time working different kinds of problems than is allotted in the (average) 45 minute class period during the day. Thus entering in the need for homework.

    On the other hand, there are definitely some classes where the curriculum isn’t so rigid and based on fundamentals and scaffolding like math – such as history or reading. I teach history and since my particular course is not one of the state tested areas I am able to lengthen in-class working days and rearrange curriculum as needed in order to accommodate special school schedules and the like. I tell all the parents at Open House – if your child is coming home from school with MOUNDS of history homework…..it means they are not using their time wisely in class because I give them ample amount of time to complete certain assignments and projects.

    BUT….again, each grade level is different as well as the course of study. Math will always have lots of homework – it’s just the nature of the beast. Whereas English might have a research assignment stretched out over two weeks…..and your child could leave everything to the last minute thus creating a large amount of homework.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Shelly-Lloyd/826469442 Shelly Lloyd

    I don’t mind most homework. But what I hate are the project where they have to build stuff. Or cook something. You have to go out and buy a bunch of craft items, and they are always due when you have just spent $$$ to fix the car or something, so all you have left in your bank account is like $5.83…..

    I remember one project when we were in the middle of moving, I had already packed up all the craft items, and had spent tons of money for moving truck, boxes, down payment on the new home….and this teacher sent home a project where they had to make an animal out of plaster of paris. All together the craft supply list was $20, and it was due next week. Not only did I think it was annoying to have to spend $20 for a project, but we were in the middle of moving, I didn’t even know when and where were we going to be able to make this animal out of freaking plaster of paris. I couldn’t even see my dining room table for all the boxes on it. I ask the teacher if we could have a little longer to do the project since it was a very stressful time with moving and all…she said no a week would be sufficient regardless of the move. I wrote back that she was an evil woman. We had to do the project a a friend’s house–but it was such a huge hassle. I swear I still hate that teacher to this day. Every now and then she comes into my place of business and I refuse to serve her.

    • Ipsedixit

      You sound like a treat.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Shelly-Lloyd/826469442 Shelly Lloyd

      The woman sent it home on Monday and wanted it in by Friday. I asked if we could have the weekend it work on it since like I said we were in the middle of moving. How would you like to make a plaster of paris animal when you are in the middle of moving? And all I asked for was 2 extra days? I’m sorry I don’t think that was asking for a lot. Not to even mention the fact that plaster of paris gives me asthma attacks. So much fun to have to add asthma attack to the list of things to do while moving. And, I did ask the teacher if we could make the the model out of something else, since it did bother my lungs. Nope. She would not consider it.

    • chickadee

      I don’t agree with the way you communicated your position to the teacher, but I do agree that there are far too many projects-as-homework assigned. There is a learning process attached to a project that may not occur when the project is completed at home. The parent may not know what should be emphasized or, sadly, the parent may do the project for the child.

  • Need a life

    I hate homework. My 13 year old has about 3-5 hours of homework DAILY during the week. That often doesn’t include long term projects which needs to be done on weekends. We had to drop all extracurricular activities, including private music lessons. We look for shortcuts (some may call it cheating, but I call it survival skill) such as turning in fake reading logs. I know my child isn’t the only one suffering at his school. I know one classmate who goes to bed at 1am (getting about 5 hours of sleep) every night because he plays sports.

    Teachers underestimate how long it take to do the work. I even had one teacher tell me it should only take 5 minutes to do the assignment….really? Maybe for someone who knows the material well, but not for someone who is learning it for the first time! They also never coordinate their workload to prevent the occasional all nighter. Parents complain but they don’t seem to care.

  • Blue Crush

    When I was growing up,I did my own homework without my parents helping me.I remember in highschool, Math homework was based on what we learned on that particular day with the teacher giving us examples.Nowadays,kids homework is the parents homework.Like we don’t have anything else to do.I don’t mind the kids having homework but let it be that they do it on their own.What good is it then when the kids aren’t using their own brain to solve a problem?Then they bring home answer sheets,I call it the “cheat sheet” because in case you don’t get the correct answers,you can look it up on that paper.Why don’t they teach basic math instead they are so advanced yet kids aren’t learning anything.Honestly, when you go find a job,say flipping burgers, do youeven apply math?To daily activities, at work?Unless you are a math teacher.Math if I may say so means Mental Abuse To Humans!