Homework: The Dreaded “H” Word

Posted October 25, 2011 by

As the parent of two school age boys, the things around here that matter the most are eating and getting rid of excess energy.  Since they spend their days in public school with little wiggle room, I’m all about getting out the tension and stress once they arrive home in the afternoons.  However, there seems to be a huge problem with that little ol’ plan of mine.  It’s called “homework.”

Who knew that one little word would cause such a challenge to how I like to plan my days?  It is borderline ridiculous and having children on each end of the spectrum makes the whole issue a bit more unsettling.  Having a child that struggles definitely puts a new perspective on the problem. The beauty of it all is how patient I’ve managed to be so far this year with the whole ordeal.

If you have children in public schools, I imagine that you see these same issues every day.  Rarely does a day go by that someone doesn’t tweet or Facebook their disgust over homework and silly assignments.  Let’s get something straight first: learning to read is not homework.  Engaging your child in reading should start when they come into this world, not just because they’ve started school.  Writing spelling words three, four or five times apiece is useless homework — it’s busy work.   One thing that teachers seem to be in unison on is that they expect parents to help their children with homework.  If they didn’t, they would send home work that even a kindergartener could do alone.  But alas, that doesn’t happen — and immediately, a habit is born.

When kids are 5, mom or dad sits down with them to do homework — and lo and behold, they’re still there handling this duty years later, sitting with a 14 year old who is begging their parents to finish their homework for them.  Many kids see this as the best way to get attention from their parents.  In turn, they can and will milk this time for all it’s worth.

Now, instead of a relaxing evening at home with family, there is tension and more stress.  Instead of the kids coming home and releasing energy, they are home building more and more frustration that permeates the entire family.   Now what?  How do we break this cycle?

If you don’t believe that teachers have mixed opinions on this subject, just take on one of their little science projects they send home.  They send home directions for a project that most students can’t complete alone.  Alas, the project turns out looking like an adult did it.  That’s when the contradiction all begins.  Teachers complain that they sent the project home for the student to do, not the parent.  But they also send home mounds of homework every day for the parents to help the students do instead of leaving the students to their own devices.

Where does that leave lil’ ol’ me and my lil’ ol’ plan?  Splat at home, in front of my kids, wondering from day to day if I’ve done too much or not enough.  Am I helping or hurting their progress?  What about the oldest who is gifted and doesn’t need much intervention?  He gets less attention than the youngest, who is struggling and needs me to be on task with him more and more.  Wouldn’t we all be better off if we were doing family engagement activities that we could all participate in instead of wondering who is going to get the most attention tonight based on their homework load?


Jerri Ann Reason is a full time blogger and self-proclaimed internet-junkie who has been writing online since 1999. She can be found at Mom~E~Centric, The Blog Ambassador and Educate My Alabama. Her Twitter ID is @The_Jerri_Ann & Facebook is Jerri.Ann.Reason

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  1. Jerri Ann (Edit) Report

    I just realized these comments were here. I’m going to address them one at a time though…….

    Brandi, what you say makes me sad because although some students do need a tutor that seemingly has to be hired by the family, the idea that a free public education is no longer free is the source of one of my biggest soapboxes. If you are hiring a tutor because your children are struggling after getting a quality education, that’s one thing, if you are hiring one because what’s happening after they leave school is going wrong, then obviously…there is definitely a problem which is making your free public education no longer free….keep your head up, it will be worth it even if it seems outlandish at times.

    Katrina, the fact that you are actually in the classroom all day and still feel overwhelmed when you get home with your own children speaks mounds about the problem…….keep your head up, keep advocating for the children in your classroom as they deserve you and your hard work but also remember to advocate for those little ones at your home too.

    Alice, I know why they are doing it, it’s because we have learners who learn in different ways. What I don’t understand is why your child is possibly being forced to learn according to someone’s style besides his/her own. That means that teachers are going to need to some individual evaluations on learning style but it sounds like the teacher has already done that. The problem is that you can’t identify one learning style and apply it to the whole class…and then send it home to a parent and child that don’t learn using that style either….it’s definitely a problem.

    Doridan, I am sitting in a hotel in Washington DC preparing to go home. I spoke with the Dept. of Education on Monday. I am a former teacher and now have 2 small children. I am not sitting at home, writing these posts complaining and just leaving it for the teacher to deal with…I’m here, making myself heard.

    Here’s my problem with what’s happening on the levels that you mentioned. Since when does every child learn at the same rate across various classrooms (i.e. how can all 3 classes of one grade actually be on the same page/unit/chapter when they don’t have the same students in their room with the same abilities). I’ve written about that before too. We can assume that the people who wrote the text books are the ones who know best about how to teach what’s in the classroom at any given time.

    So, as a former teacher, please know that I am in no way bashing the teachers individually, I’m talking about the general plan that has been put in place across the board that you, and other teachers, have been forced to adhere to although I have yet to find anyone who agrees that every child learns exactly the same and at the exact same rate…….fighting for the diverse crowd is one of the biggest fights everyone fights right now and I refuse to believe that someone who wrote a text book in California has even a small clue what it is like for students in my Alabama area. So, we have to leave the decisions up to the teachers in many situations.

    I am in no way suggesting my kids avoid responsibility. However, their responsibility in my opinion is to go to school. In our house, their job from birth til that first day of kindergarten was to play. Just as we had the responsibility to go to work, theirs was to play. Once they started school, their responsibility was to go to school and learn and ours is still to go to work to earn our keep. Then we all have the opportunity to play. Do you really go to work and work all day as your responsibility for keeping your family afloat and then want to go to a second job or maybe a third? Then why would we expect our kids to work more than one job? Their job is to go to school and learn. If the school gives them the opportunity to rest and unwind during a decent physical education time, then sure we can add an hour to their work day once they are home by doing homework. The problem is…they don’t get that….they are at school and working and often in situations that are more vigorous than what adults have to do as employee’s. State laws vary but generally speaking, employees are allowed a certain number of breaks and lunch time in order for their employers to hire and employ within the law. But, the kids are at school with less break time and guess what, often those breaks are taken away for misbehaving and sometimes it’s just that those breaks are given but the students are still left to sit down and be quiet during that break time.

    How many employee’s do you think would be suing their employers if they were expected to work either without breaks that meet the law of the land or if they get that break they are told they still have to sit down somewhere, alone, be quiet and not get up to stretch and actually take a break?

    Most people think that because I am a former teacher and I am a huge education advocate that I am against homeschooling. The exact opposite is true. I am for doing what works best for each individual child. No child learns the same, obviously I just discussed that and no child should be subjected to the same experiences. You as the number one teacher of your child, the expert on how your child learns and the biggest advocate for your child deserve the right to make those decisions about your child. Kudos to you for what you did when you realized that you had to make a change for the benefit of your own child!

    Overwhelmed Mom,
    You do have a say in this but you have to be prepared for not coloring between the lines. I speak often about the activities at my children’s school and often times I get naughty looks just like I’m the kid and Santa is on to my bad behavior. And to be perfectly honest, if it were me that I was speaking up for, those looks would most likely work. However, as you know, your children are different and when someone gives me that naughty finger Santa shake, it motivates me to speak louder and to more people. That’s the only way your children will see change and that’s sad but you are their biggest voice until they have a voice of their own so by all means, use it!

    I will have a complete video link of the meeting at the Dept. of Ed as well as a audio and iTunes link for that in a day or two so I will come back here and leave that link when I get it.

    I’m open to more questions and statements and always open to ways we can help.

    I am about to head to airport so I haven’t proofed this, please understand I wanted to respond but needed to hurry.

  2. Overwhelmed Mom (Edit) Report

    The question is, where do we go from here if there is anywhere to go? I want to be able to help my children in their education and for it be a good experience for them. Right now they’re falling behind and when they get home, they don’t want to do catch up work but destress from the day. I’d prefer spending time with them playing basketball or going to the park. So do we as parents have a say in this or not? what can be done? Any suggestions?

  3. LNSu (Edit) Report

    HW. Spending 2-3 hours a day doing HW with my son was a motivator to do Home school. Dearest Frustrated teacher you will be so happy to know at the rate of 6% a yr parents aren’t just calling a legislator they are bringing their kids home to teach. This Top down Government approach only gets worse and as they steal more of our $ the system gets more difficult and our kids’ grades get worse. My issue is why is if so many teachers are frustrated at the school system why also are they so frustrated that parents are taking their kids back to HS them. Why waste so much time reteaching your kid just teach them yourself in the first place. I think that sends our politicians the strongest message. Oh and b4 I get a bunch of negative comments about HS go look up some facts. HSLDA.org. HS do better in collage, are more socialized, volunteer at a higher rate are less likely to be drug addicted etc etc. YES it is VERY hard to be the everyone to your child but it is also rewarding to see your middleschooler understand High school level concepts. (That is until they hit the hormonal stage and forget they have brains).

  4. Madmom (Edit) Report

    I found this article frustrating. Yes, our children have an enormous amount amount of HW that they cannot do without parental involvement, but they can’t skip the HW. Blaming the system for the HW load doesn’t get the HW done. I’m trying to help my teenagers get through school, not how to find out who is to blame so that they can shirk responsibility.

  5. doridian (Edit) Report

    As a teacher, I would like to ask that you not scrutinize us so much! The state government determines what we teach, how we teach it, and how much. For example, our county has 32 schools. We are all on pacing guides, which means all of the elementary schools HAVE to be on the same unit in every subject at the same time, whether the students “get it” or not!!! Talk about frustrating! We don’t get into teaching to become robots or puppets, but YOUR legislators are making us just that. We have pressures you can’t even understand. Also, there are so many children with discipline issues that have to be addressed on the spot that we end up getting behind on a daily basis and then guess what…..the work has to come home or WE get in trouble for not staying up with the pacing guidelines. So my two suggestions for you are:
    1. Contact your State Representative and start complaining to him/her about what the GOVERNMENT is doing to public education.
    2. Take time off from your jobs to go help in your child’s classroom once in a while. You may get a better picture of why your child has so much homework and doesn’t understand it.


    Frustrated Teacher

  6. ALICE AMES (Edit) Report

    Wow you hit the nail on the head! I only have one child I couldn’t imagine going through this with two!! My problem I am facing is in the subject of math. My son is in the 5th grade and the math they are learning is what I was being taught in the 8th and 9th grades. Of course i’m talking about algebra! But not only that even before the algebra, it’s the way they are teaching them simple basic math. You don’t just put 1+1=2 now you have a square box over here over there up above and down below. Why are they making something so simple so hard?

  7. Tammy (Edit) Report

    I have custody of my 12 year old nephew. He just started 7th grade with 11 subjects! The homework is unreal.Not to mention he has ADHD and ODD. I have a struggle every night and weeekend. I have to help him or he would be so far behind, there would be no catching up!Ive already graduated college and feel as if im back in 7th. I just pray EVERY night God will help me through this!

  8. Katrina (Edit) Report

    I am in the same boat as the rest of you moms amd dads. I work all day in a Multiple disabled classroom. Then I come home to mounds of homework. My daughters is modified due to her 504 for dysgraphia and ADHD. I feel that I am re-teaching her all over at home. I am really hating the 3rd grade. I hated it 32 years ago and I still do. then ontop of it the new thing is fitness. Make sur the kids get lots of excercise. Well how can they do that, when home work takes anywhere from 1-2 hours? On top of that there are other activities like dance or swim; lets not forget showers and dinner too. My daughter is in bed by 9:00 most nights, because of school over load. Then half the time when she gets home she cant recall what was taught in school, because they cram too much into one day. It is sensory over load. Theor brains are not fully developed to retain this mass quanity of information. What happened to the good old days? Lets bring them back. And lats get rid of standardized state testing.

  9. Ann (Edit) Report

    The problem I have with homework is that kids already spend 6 hours a day at school and then have to come home and do 2 hours of homework every night! Isn’t that what we pay the teachers for?? Kids still need time to be kids!! By the time they get their homework done it is time for supper and showers and settle down for the night. I think it is terrible that they put this much work on kids. I have a 5th, 4th, 3rd and 1st grader and I am very annoyed at the amount of homework that they have everynight.

  10. Brandi (Edit) Report

    I love this, I often feel the same way with my 16 and 12 year olds, both fortunately and unfortunately I don’t remember how to do half the math they brought home, which is where we que the tutor.



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