Has Homework Gotten out of Hand in Your House?

Posted February 27, 2009 by

Photo of annita-woz

During the president’s first State of the Nation address, he called on parents to be responsible and make education reform a success by starting at home. And then he mentioned the word my kids dread – yup, homework.

In families where mom and dad both work and children are signed up for after-school activities, the family dinner is often served in the van in transit.  There isn’t much time left for homework after dinner — heck, there isn’t much time for dinner around a kitchen table, either.

Our school is a public charter school with assigned homework almost every night.  Sometimes my daughter has homework, plus finishing classwork, plus special projects that can each fill more than an hour each evening. And if one of my kids is dealing with a focusing problem, homework time seems to last forever!

Parents in our school have mixed feelings on homework.  Some believe that there is too much homework and not enough time for fun in our stressed out children’s lives. Others simply believe that homework is busywork and that juggling homework with home time is too much. Still others are worried that our kids are falling behind, and that we need to be more stringent with their schooling, and increase the length of the school year.

Where do you come down on homework, and how do you structure it in your house? Is it too much for your kids (and you) or do you feel like teachers have no choice if they want to comply with national guidelines? Finally, if you have any tips for making homework time better, please share them!

About

Annita Wozniak grew up in a large, imperfect family in the Midwest. "As adults we have the power to build children up or tear them down," she says about the challenges of being a responsible parent, "and we never know when what we say is going to be a defining moment in a child's life." Woz is a writer and child-grower living in the Midwest with her husband and their three inspirational children. She is always learning. You can visit her website at annitawoz.wordpress.com

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  1. mvg4wrd Report

    Wow! This discussion has been one of the best. My husband and I have thoroughly enjoyed it. I work with my grandchildren (ages 5 & 8) every night and sometimes the homework takes up to six plus hours (3:30 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.). My eight year old, third grader has 11 subjects, including Latin, Religion, Memory Lessons, Science, Grammer, Reading, Math, History, Writing, Art and Music, plus she plays an instrument. We agree with so much of what has been exhausted. However, we don’t mind the rigor because we want them to be able to compete in this world without giving up at disappointments and rejection. This takes discipline. Being in a minority population, a little extra doesn’t hurt, at all. It’s just the plain truth, anyway!

    Reply
  2. Annita Woz Report

    Higher Ed Prof- excellent points! it is clear you are passionate about learning. Some schools have assigned homework every night at the elementary level based on the belief that it is good training for later when homework is definately what it takes to help kids achieve academic and work ethic goals to succeed in our more competitive, now global job market. Is this the perspective of other schools? Is this the perspective of parents…? I really agree that education has to be valued at home and that parents do their best with the school systems that they are given.

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  3. Higher Ed Professor Report

    OMG! And we wonder why our country is falling behind the other civilized countries of the world. And I wonder why, at University, I cannot get my students to read their textbooks or do their homework; why they think they should be able to come to class and learn everything by sitting in class. They are getting this attitude from their parents! Wake up folks! Homework serves a very real purpose. And that purpose is NOT for the parents to do the homework! Nor is it for the parents to HELP with the homework! Teachers are supposed to explain if the student does not understand and needs extra help. Students are supposed to ASK for this extra assistance. Homework is supposed to reinforce concepts introduced in class or prepare students for new concepts that will be introduced in class. When students do not do their homework precious classroom time is wasted going over material that the student should have learned/practised on their own. When students carry these bad practises from grade school to high school and on to University we end up with Doctors and Lawyers and Accountants who are functionally illiterate. What are you folks thinking?!? Homework is NOT busy work! It is your job as parents to make sure that you are developing life skills in your children and that includes life long learning skills.

    OMG. OMG. OMG!

    Reply
  4. annem Report

    I personally am floored with the lack of work being done at school adn given for homework….my son took a whole years class at community college last summer in 4 weeks part time! I used to have a lot of home work but in the UK where I grew up we graduate at 16 not at 18.

    Reply
  5. Ashley Report

    Although I am not yet a parent, I am one of those who feel that grade school homework has gotten to be a bit much for what the average student may be able to handle on his/her own. Because the load of homework varies from teacher to teacher, I do not feel as if the excess homework is assigned to meet national guidelines. Regardless of what the reason is, a childs education should be a priority, therefore so should his/her homework. I feel that parents should stress that homework comes first and should be completed before any extra activities are allowed. If the child has commitments directly after school then it should be a rule in the household that his/her grades must stay up in order to stay involved in those after school functions.

    Reply
  6. Annita Woz Report

    I like that you mentioned that the teacher is willing to reduce the homework requirements IF the student is meeting classwork expectations and believe that this flexibility should not be confused with lowering standards or expectations for students or your son in particular.

    Many parents and educators believe that homework should complement the learning but when it complicates the learning, then it is unnecessary. Any school that expects or supports a child sitting to do homework for 7-10 hours raises a red warning flag for me. This must be completely awful for you (and for him!) and I cannot imagine where that time comes from. He must be up from 3pm in the afternoon til Midnight? This would in turn affect his sleep, focus would be lessened and fun and learning would all but be impossible. And I agree, it would create a needless battleground!
    I encourage you to post this issue on the FORUM section of the Empowering Parents website where you will surely get some good feedback and ideas for successful homework sessions.

    Reply
  7. AmyK Report

    I have a 9 year old who is repeating 3rd grade. Every year with his homework it has taken him hours upon hours to do. He will start at 3pm and most nights is not done until 10pm. I bet some of you are thinking “How much homework does he get a night?”, but it’s not that. He can have a simple math worksheet of adding and subtracting 15 problems and will take 3 hours. My husband and I have tried everything. It seems to be a bahavior issue he has so we have tried to ignore him, explain to him, set time limits, given rewards for homework being done on time, among other things. We just don’t know what to do. Now we use to blame the teacher that she was giving too much homework and talk about how he shouldn’t have any homework, but his little sister is in 2nd grade. The very same homework that took him up to 7 hours (10 hours on some very bad nights) takes his sister 30 minutes to an hour to do. She is not a genius, but she just does it. I just am at a loss of what to do about his homework. I tried talking to his teacher and she told me not to worry about it his grades in class are fine so if he doesn’t get it done, it’s not a big deal. You see that is why he is in 3rd grade for the second time because his teacher last year thought zero’s weren’t important until he got up to 20 then she would let us know about it. Although that was classwork not homework zeros. I know with his behavior issues that his teachers suggestion won’t work, because if I let him get away with not completing assignments because it takes to long he will never stop. We are just at a loss when it comes to homework and we dread it everyday.

    Reply
  8. ruth Report

    I feel like the school has my children for 7 hrs a day, and that after hrs is my time with my children. I agree that if they do not finish the work in class, then it should be finished at home so it can be turned in the next day…but I do NOT think they should assign homework!! It can make the evening stressful, and it can interfere in our family life. As someone said earlier, kids need time to unwind too….time to do their chores (we live on a small farm) time to ride their bikes, and time to be silly…and then tomorrow they can go back to school for 7 hrs.

    Reply
  9. Annita Woz Report

    Samantha- I like your perspective on doing project work IN school– that would be a real eye opener wouldn’t it! You make a really good point about the availability of the parent to help (job situation) and the cash to “fund” the project cause disparity in the end result. Wouldn’t it be great if employers would recognize the value of parents being involved/volunteering in our schools with our children…and then offer time off to do that…imagine the possibilities of that on reducing drop out rates, encouraging learning, cutting down on the need for “cheating” by having mom/dad to the work.

    Reply
  10. Annita Woz Report

    Cat-What i’d like to see is homework that commplements what was taught in school that day and makes them think- rather than just another repeat worksheet. I have to admit though that in the younger years reading the same lesson over and over IS valuable since reading well is a matter of repetition of sounds/phonics/etc.

    Some schools promotes homework as a skill development to prep kids for middle school/hs/college work study habits.

    I wonder if homework isn’t the new way to promote family time. It is almost as though homework forces parents and kids to stay home and sit around the table together.

    Reply
  11. Samantha Report

    I am concerned that parents or babysitters are doing too much of the homework with their kids. projects should be done at school so parents are not put in the position of or taking the position of doing the project. I think that if each school would say that all homework and projects had to be done in school we would all see that the content of homework is becoming too complex and therefor inappropriate. what a six grader did a few years ago, a fourth grader is expected to do now. When parents and caregivers assist with the homework, and the kids basically have a crutch, the teachers applaud themselves and the the kids for doing the work but are really deceiving themselves and the kids because they all think the work was done by the kids alone with some light supervision. Ha! not in NY City. If the schools had the kids do the homework in school, they would see that almost every student needs help. Why do they need help? Because the work is usually too difficult and not age/developmentally appropriate to repeat. It is a weird vanity the schools have to overload students so that they can say that their students are super bright and advanced. The parents drink this koolaid and end up with homes that are overly tense, fraught, and constantly eyeing the other families. No one tells the truth or admits to this problem because then they are branded either not supportive of the school or not able to handle the workload. Really rich families have help to clean, do the laundry, take the dog out for walks, buy groceries, pay bills, sit on the phone with an insurance company, etc. while everyone else has to do all the above, work and raise kids with homework that is more often than not way too hard and too much. It is heartbreaking. Look at all the cheating that is going on, the rate of teen drug and alcohol use, the suicides, the stds – these kids are stressed out and acting out – but! “they” are getting their work done! “They” is a small village not each kid learning the value of their own work.

    Reply
  12. Cat Report

    Homework can be very stressful in our household. I have 3 kids in High School and the work is very challenging… even for me! Especially foreign language! However, I have become very handy with the computer, this has help enormously, especially the widget my 14 year old daughter put on my 16 year old son’s computer that converts spanish to english! I also found a “buddy” guidance counselor at school that works with my son during his study hour. You just have to get creative.
    I do feel that there is something wrong with our schools just for the fact that after 8 hours of being at school, another 2 hours for sports after school, plus the commute to and from, the educators feel another 2-4 hours of homework is honestly going to discipline and teach our children! Give me a break!!!!!!!!!!! What teaches kids is family time. Life skills such as, preparing a meal with your parents, sewing on a button, fixing things around the home. Quality time with our kids that has been taken away by night upon night of busy work, ridiculous projects, tears, anxiety, fights etc……
    Teachers out there and parents out there, lets bring back the country of families being together in the evenings, breaking bread not choking on it trying to down dinner in a hurry just to get back to that chemistry project!!!!!!!!!! We need teachers that use class time to really teach, not just assign homework! I know that there are some fab teachers out there, and there are millions of teachers frustrated by classrooms that are too large etc…. There are teachers that have the ability to take a huge classroom, and transform…..let’s find them!!!!!!!!!!!

    Reply
  13. disguisedblonde Report

    I feel the homework is excessive – packets are given at the beginning of the week to be completed by the end of the week. There is also other work that needs to be completed daily. The Teacher says not more than an hour a day – but I find that it does take about 2 hours – more if my daughter becomes frustrated with the problems. Some of this is just busy work or poor planning in the class room.

    Reply
  14. mdparent2 Report

    The schools have a general guideline of 10minutes for every grade in school: e.g. 40min for a 4th grader. Our school also is very demanding on homework. Due to my daughter’s ADHD and learning problems, it was often way over the top. So I talked to the teacher, and they reduced it: e.g. not as many math problems, etc.

    My son, due to his mood issues and learning disability, was giving us screaming and crying with his procrastination. Many days it wasn’t done, since I didn’t allow him to yell at me: I walked away. School punished him, without effect. Since he would do it for the teacher, she allowed him to stay after school, do it quietly, with only occasional help. He is rewarded for completion. I just mark his incorrect answers and he is responsible for the correction. Again, rewarded again if without a fight. A work in progress, but it keeps the parent-child relationship intact. We hope to wean him off this soon.
    KEY: we are parents, not the teacher; it is our kids’ “job” to do it. But when learning problems enter the mix, it helps to be creative and talk to the school for help.

    Reply
  15. cpederso Report

    I believe some homework is good for children and it can be for parents because it keeps us aware of what they are learning. However, the amount of homework is becoming excessive. My daughters are in 4th and 6th grade and between the two we spend 2-4 hours per night on homework, papers and studying for tests. I often feel like I am teaching them rather than reinforcing what they learned in class. My 6th grader just finished the third paper on a single book. I wish as parents we could get together with the teachers and come to an agreement about balancing the amount of time.

    Reply
  16. lctntx Report

    In my opinion, homework is a plus when it only takes 30 to 90 minutes to complete. It teaches the discipline without being overwhelming. Then there is time for after school activities and for kids to have play time and be kids. Seems we keep thinking they are just short adults and don’t need some down time, but last I checked they were just kids and need time to share with friends and just play. We are blessed and our school has built in time for the kids to complete their classroom assignments during “flex-time.” It works because they are still at school where they can get help from the teachers if they need it.
    Thank you.

    Reply

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