Friday, September 02, 2011

The Requisite Beginning-of-the-School-Year Complaint

My first grader and second grader have been in school for three weeks now. They have adapted to their new situations, mostly. I have not.

If I were to sum up everything I hate about the public school experience in only one word, it would be this: homework.

Our girls have had homework since kindergarten. Sometimes it can be done in twenty minutes. Other times it takes over an hour. Last night the first grader had double homework to make up for a missed sick day. It took us almost two hours to finish.

The kids get home around 4 pm. I make dinner. We eat together as a family. Then we read aloud as a family. Then there may be baths. Fitting homework into this evening means squeezing out something else important.

And like every other parent, I wonder, What do they do all day? Why can't they get this work done at school?

I hate homework because it requires me to organize my home life by the public school's schedule and priorities. I work hard to encourage my children to be lively, curious, intelligent people. Books are central to our family life. Every teacher the girls have had asks me at some point how I raise such smart, interesting kids. And the same teacher (because of school policy) assigns homework that interferes with my efforts. I do not think I should have to give up family reading time or shared meals or imaginative play so that my child can repeat on paper exercises she already did in school.

It is exasperating.


  1. Oh, AMEN.

    Last year one of our teachers insisted on homework for every subject every day, it was part of their grade. Which meant that on crazy days I couldn't just push the extra math page to the next day. I hated it.

    We're adjusting to three in school this year and next year it will be four kids. Yikes.

  2. For young elementary students, I would put a time limit on their homework (and inform the teacher). 20 minutes a night is more than reasonable. They are already in school for almost 7 hours a day - it's not developmentally appropriate for them to be spending afterschool hours on seatwork, also.

  3. YES. This is so well said, especially that last paragraph. I would like every teacher to read this.

  4. Anonymous9/02/2011

    I AM a teacher, although not in your system, so I can't comment on what pressures or expectations your children's teachers may be operating under. I will say that if you were my parent, I would hope that you would come and share this with me, because I would not want a second grader doing more than 20 minutes of homework per night. I'm sorry I don't have the right citation for you, but the last professional development on homework I had provided research stating that home work taking more than ten minutes times the grade level in elementary school simply isn't helpful. I'll also share that as a teacher, the families in my room have differed wildly in their expectations and preferences and beliefs about homework, with some saying the amount you describe is just right and still others saying it isn't enough. That's why I always appreciated parents coming and sharing their perspective, especially if they had a high achieving student and wanted to know how they could reduce the busy-work homework to increase the quality family /reading time at home. Teachers are mostly just people who want to do good things for kids. Talk with them. You might be surprised at what can be worked out.

    I hope typing all this was ok. I wish I were your teacher. Then I could say, "stop it! Enjoy your kids more! I am the Queen!". Alas. I don't get to teach everyone.

  5. I'm a high school English teacher and I almost never assign homework unless the student doesn't finish in class. I just don't see the value of it. I'm glad that my children's school doesn't have much homework; they are supposed 20 minutes a night and occasionally we have a project. That is plenty.

  6. Amen, and viva la homeschool!

    I read something (sorry, I don't remember the reference) that said that homework is actually detrimental to high-achieving kids, and your post describes WHY that is.

  7. Susan Piv9/03/2011

    I agree with Ericalynnfoster! Last year, my 15 year old daughter had "fun" homework from her health teacher--a word search. After asking my daughter twice what she was working on (she's not a procrastinator), and finding out that it was simply a word search for health class...I looked at it, not understanding how a word search could take so long to complete. Well, it was a huge computer generated one that was 40 x 40 letters (in small type no less). Wow, I have never seen such an intense word search. I emailed the teacher immediately, because unless one sat down to find a word or two, there's no way to know how intense it was. She was happy I contacted her. We laugh about it still.
    God bless!

  8. I hope you can work something out with the teacher. My 4th grader has to read 30 minutes a day (which is fine with me, as she likes to read at times but is also easily swayed by things like TV) and usually has a math worksheet. She needs the extra math work but I know not every student does. My 3rd grader has to read 20 minutes a day and usually has a math worksheet. She will read unprompted for hours and she likes math, but she doesn't mind homework. My 2nd grader has a math worksheet, spelling, reading comprehension, and guided reading every day. A little much, but he doesn't mind doing it either. If he focuses on it he can be done in 30 minutes, if I have time to help with spelling right away. My kindergartener so far has had a couple of quick tasks that require him to tell me about a story they read or animal they learned about. It does take about 1.5 hours for all kids to have homework done, but that is because I can't help them all at once. I wish it didn't take so much time, but at least some of them need the extra work. Unfortunately, today's teachers don't have the time or flexibility to customize homework assignments. Which says more about the system than the teachers.

  9. Homework is one reason I pulled my oldest daughter out of school to homeschool her. She was in 5th grade and it was taking over 3 hours each night to complete the assigned homework. God help her if she fell behind and had make-up work to do on top of that. It was insane and talking to the teacher didn't help. His attitude was "Well, no other parent has complained about the amount of homework." Good riddance.

  10. Ab-so-lutely. I hate homework because it requires me to organize my home life by the public school's schedule and priorities.

    Last year I pushed back on behalf of my first grader, who was being made to stay inside during recess to finish/redo homework. (She had homework every school day.) If she comes to school with incomplete work, I said, that's because I told her it was OK to leave it incomplete. That teacher -- unlike the commenter above -- did NOT like me telling her that. But she acquiesced. ---------- I could never have done that with my son, who's lazy as can be; but my daughter is dutiful. Her homework was taking so long because the teacher said the handwriting had to be perfect! No stray pencil marks, nothing. AAACK. I totally disliked that teacher, can you tell? : )

  11. I agree absolutely, wholeheartedly. Especially the bit about "what do they do all day? Why can't they get this work done at school?" Usually the homework is so dumbed down or so unchallenging that it is .nothing. but a waste of precious time.

  12. The homework issue was the number one reason I put my daughter in her multiage program. After 7 years of private school homework ethic, I was looking for something less intense. From K - 3rd grade, Marley had virtually no homework.