Homework – how was it for you?

Posted June 12th, 2012 by christine in Child, Parenting

Homework. People seem to have strong feelings about it. Now that the year is over and we can discuss it calmly, let’s have a little retrospective.

I have to admit that homework has been a thing this year. A thing to fight about, to whine about, to resist, to resent. (And that was just me.) While on the face of it kindergarten homework is so easy as to be almost (almost! bear with me) pointless, getting my son to just sit down and focus on a piece of paper and a pencil again, after a six-hour schoolday, is not trivial. Especially when we’d both rather he was outside in the fresh air, burning off some of that six-year-old energy riding his bike, or working on his social skills by having light-saber fights with his friend across the road.

At our little parent-teacher conference earlier in the year, his teacher asked me how long he was spending at his homework. She was surprised when I said it takes him twenty minutes or more, because in the classroom he’s a diligent and attentive worker. Sure, when she’s the one asking, and it’s a new day and there’s nothing more interesting he could be doing anyway. I mentioned to her that some people think homework should be done away with altogether. This was news to her.

“There’s a whole movement to abolish it,” I said.
“Here?” She was alarmed.
“No, I mean, in general.”

Evidently, news of the Stop Homework Now front has not reached the teacher-training colleges, and the research showing that homework at elementary level is of little or no use is not discussed either there or in the staff lounge of our local school.

I do think that at this early stage he’s going to learn at his own pace, and I don’t want to push him. Luckily he’s not the sort of child who agonizes over getting things exactly perfect (more like slapdash me, then, for all my type-A tendencies), so “good enough” every evening was fine for both of us. And every Thursday, homework was finding an object for show-and-tell the next day, so really he only had three nights a week of sit-down writing this year. We ignored the optional take-home packets of work at Christmas and Spring break. Reading at bedtime, is, of course, standard.

I know that I had little or no homework for my first two years of school, because I was an early reader and our homework was always to read the next page of our reading book. Since I had perused the entire thrilling saga of John and Mary, and the antics of Spot the dog, on the way home from buying my schoolbooks in August, I was done with that. I don’t remember anything about homework until I was in second grade, at the earliest. Having nothing further to do after school until I was 7 doesn’t seem to have set me back a great deal. (After all, I’m a DC Moms contributor now, and not many can say that.)

On the other hand, at some stage pretty much everyone in mainstream schooling has homework. And this year has taught him to sit down at home, write the date at the top of the page, find out what his assignment is, and complete it. It’s also shown me more about his progress than I would otherwise have gleaned, as I’ve watched his writing become neater, smaller, and more appropriately placed on the page, as well as seen that when he draws people they no longer all have enormous, Hulk-like arms. Unless he’s drawing Bruce Banner. (It’s also taught me that we need to keep the pencils away from his sister, who likes to bite the erasers off the tops.)

What have you learned from homework this year? Do you think it should be abolished?



6 Responses to “Homework – how was it for you?”

  1. Sue Wagner

    I don’t believe in banning homework altogether. One thing I loved about my kindergartener’s homework was the individual attention I was able to give to her handwriting, which a teacher with 20 plus kids just couldn’t do. And while I could work on her handwriting without having homework, in reality, in my busy household, I probably wouldn’t do it.

    I do think homework for younger kids needs to be given well in advance. We would get kindergarten homework on Friday afternoon and it was due the following Friday, so we could take our time, or do it over the weekend. And I also think that there is a point of diminishing return for all kids. Twenty math problems can reinforce and refresh what kids learned in school. Fifty math problems is ridiculous. (I’m talking about my middle school kids.)

  2. Dawn

    Yeah, I’m in the Alfie Kohn camp on this one, and I’ve seen the awful effects that homework has had on my son’s school experiences. The majority of the time, it was simply busy work, and the struggles and conflicts it caused were never worth any benefit during elementary school. I think there’s a different case to be made for older students, but the amount that is usually assigned in the higher grades brings about even more issues.

    THE RACE TO NOWHERE is a fabulous film that examines the effects of many aspects of the American public education system, and they talk quite a bit about homework. The filmmakers have also started a part of this social movement with their petition to the National PTA calling for “Healthy Homework Guides.” http://www.endtherace.org/

    And, welcome to the DC Moms, Christine!

  3. Elaine

    Homework is an extreme waste of time for elementary aged children. Luckily, my son’s first grade teacher is aware of this. As it happens, my son doesn’t mind the task, so he does it. But homework is high on my list of things I’m not going to care about. If homework has a purpose to serve, it has nothing to do with academic improvements. It’s only purpose in my house is to give my older child something quiet to do in those few minutes right before I slap dinner on the table and he’s hungry, tired, and thinks picking a fight with his younger sister is a good idea. Welcome to the DCMoms! Look forward to more posts.

  4. aimee @ smilingmama

    Our kindergartner got a packet of homework each Monday that was due on Friday. IF (and that’s a big if!) we did the assignments daily, it was only about 10 minutes a night. Too often (and the adults take full responsibility for this!) we’d wait and cram it all in on Wednesday and Thursday night. And, (rarely) we just didn’t do it. I also enjoyed seeing our son improve his handwriting throughout the year and I really loved seeing how much he enjoyed things like addition and subtraction, drawing and writing about simple and complex machines, etc. He’s definitely our little engineer!

  5. musingsfromme/jill

    Kids need to do homework. Even little kids. I tell my friends with kindergarteners who balk at doing daily homework to stick with it. A kid who gets a free pass on homework in K, will not want to do homework in 1st grade and on.
    My older two were in half-day K so homework was more or less reading a book. My son was in all-day K and he had language arts homework 4 times a week and math 4 times a week. Not a lot, but maybe a sentence or two a night or a short math worksheet. It was reasonable and short enough that he could get it done with minimal help from me.
    By 1st and 2nd grade, all three of my kids went through phases of not wanting to do homework. I would fight the good fight, but if the child was still refusing to do it I would let them not do it and then have them face the consequences from the teacher.
    My son still refuses to do homework. He’s in 3rd. I tie his homework completion in a timely fashion to getting to watch TV or play a video game. So far this tack is working with him.
    Welcome, Christine!