My older child started second grade this year. Second grade seems to be serious business. So serious, in fact, that he has nightly homework. I’m not a believer in homework. I’d rather my child build forts in the backyard, balance on the stumps my husband installed last year, and pursue things that interest him at the moment. A synthesis of the research from 1987 – 2003 by researchers at Duke University found only weak correlations between homework and standardized tests for student in grades K – 6. The same research found no strong evidence for a correlation between homework and grades. In other words? Our young students are not benefiting from homework in an academic sense.

Yet, every parent I’ve talked to tells me their young students have homework. Is it because teachers are being asked to do more than can be reasonably accomplished in the already long school-day so they’re forced to punt the job of teaching to me? Is it to instill some sense of achievement and responsibility in students (even though playing can do the same thing)? Or are we just so worried that if our students don’t have homework, they’ll look weak compared to others?

Whatever the reason for homework, it boggles my mind. Two weeks ago, for example, my son completed math tasks that were banal and probably did more damage to his love of math than we’ll ever know. To my son’s teacher’s credit, she picked up on this pretty fast and has now provided “differentiated” math homework for him. This, of course, is both a win and a loss. It’s a win since he’s now doing cool math tasks. Tonight’s homework involved figuring out how many total points Michael Jordan and Kareem Abdul-Jabaar had scored in their careers by being told how many points Jordan scored and how many more points Abdul-Jabaar had scored than Jordan. That, for a second grader, is a pretty cool application of some basic math principles.

But the new homework is simultaneously a loss, because I was hoping to get a free pass on not doing math homework that seemed rudimentary in the future. But alas, that’s not to be for now.

I talk to other parents about this all the time. And the most common answer I get? Well, it doesn’t take that long (guideline in Arlington for a second grader is maximum of 30 minutes, minimum of 20 minutes on average, four days a week – plus being read to or reading). Are we that cavalier about our own time? There are few parents I know who would willingly participate in a task for 20 – 30 minutes a day that wasted their time. So why expect our children to do so?

Am I nuts here? Do you actually see value in your early elementary child’s homework?

When not supervising nightly homework, Elaine blogs about her children at Connor and Helen Grow Up!