This is quite the detraction from the normal types of posts I make. I typically try to put things that are tech related or other “hobbies” of mine up here. But this is something I’m feeling very strongly about, so I wanted to share and possibly get feedback from.
Long story short, I’m in my mid 40’s and am a father of two young boys. After a few failed rounds of IVF about 10 years ago, we accepted that we weren’t going to have kids. I got the best 40th birthday present ever when we discovered Jessica was pregnant. We had a perfect, beautiful healthy baby boy. Apparently its true, nature finds a way. When he was almost 2, we decided that we didn’t really want him to be an only child, so we decided to try for another. About 42 weeks later, our second son was born in the bathroom — not on purpose — but that’s another story and not the purpose of this post. My wife and I both love being parents and our boys are, for the most part, happy and healthy.
The oldest is now in his second week of first grade. For various reasons, he goes to a private school. Kindergarten was an all-day kindergarten, and he has the same schedule this year: 8:30am – 3:30pm. This is almost a full hour longer than what is in public school in our area, and almost 2.5 hours longer than public kindergarten would have been. This is a full 7 hours which is a long, full day for a kid. Hell, this is almost a full day for an adult. I know how exhausted I am when I get home from work and all I do is (as anyone who doesn’t understand what I do) sit behind a computer all day.
He had homework assigned in kindergarten. That’s right, homework in kindergarten. The homework there didn’t count towards his passing or failing, but it was expected to be done. Now he’s in first grade, and its starting to count more. According to the parent handbook, the homework should take between 15 and 30 minutes per day. So, this is pushing the kids day up to almost an adults work day.
My wife is an amazing person. She’s got Multiple Sclerosis and has been diagnosed for about 14 years now. Last year she had a major flare that all but eliminated walking. She still sat with our oldest every day after school and guided this kindergartner through his homework. Homework for him was a fight. He didn’t want to do it and threw out every excuse he could think of to not do it: Its boring, its too hard, I need help, I don’t understand. He knew the material and could have easily done the homework, he just didn’t want to.
Fast forward to this week and the struggle is even greater. His simple homework, write down 4 spelling words — furniture, cozy, middle and yawn — 5 times each. This ended up in a major battle that started at 4pm and hasn’t stopped yet. Instead of doing this homework that would have taken 10 minutes, he has chosen to battle his mother and I non stop. He’s fought for over 5 total hours so far. We’re also to the point where we can’t back down, he has to do this homework or there will be real consequences for him. If we back down, then we’re failing as parents.
The problem is that I can completely see his point. This sort of homework is useless. I also understand why the school is assigning homework to lower grades, they say it helps prepare them for later years when homework is more important. In other words, they’re trying to condition them for longer and harder days in the future.
I believe this is causing much more harm than good. Even Scholastic, yes, Scholastic – the company that publishes nothing but books targeted at and sold through schools is questioning the motivations behind homework.
Homework is causing a huge amount of contention in our family right now. Our oldest is extremely unhappy — yet he still wants to go to school. Its just the homework.
It takes our household of 4 about 2 hours to get ready in the morning before leaving for school and work. He then has a 7 hour school day, plus travel time of 30 minutes total, has to have dinner, a bath, stories, etc, which is another hour and 45 minutes before bed. That leaves him the hours of 4pm – 6pm to be a kid. And he’s expected to do homework during that time? That’s not enough time. Time spent in school has gotten longer and longer since I was in school and that gives kids less and less free time to grow and explore and play without the pressures of academia, and that is just as important for a well rounded member of society. They need that time to decompress and unwind otherwise they’ll be depressed and angry. I don’t want my kids to be depressed and angry, I want them to be happy and full of joy and wonder and excitement. I want the kids my kids play with to also be happy and not angry.
This is not okay. I understand that homework is school policy, but I question the motivation behind it given all of the recent studies. The attitude of “we do this because its expected because that’s what we’ve always done” doesn’t cut it for me. Show me the studies that say homework is beneficial for elementary school kids. Good luck finding any. I haven’t been able to, all I can find is opinion pieces, not actual studies. All of the actual studies I can find show that homework below middle school is, at most, minimally beneficial. So why haven’t the policies changed yet? Has it not occurred to anyone, or are they just content keeping the status quo?
I don’t care if my kids are in public or private school, homework has little or no benefit for elementary school kids. It takes away too much with no gain. He doesn’t get to play with his brother, he doesn’t get to build his Legos, he doesn’t get to play outside, he doesn’t get to play. Instead, he gets to sit at the table and fight with his mother because he is wiser than the educators that decided that homework was a good idea for elementary school kids.
Homework has caused too much stress in our family for me to not take up the cause. Chances are is that I’ll probably fail in my attempts, but if someone doesn’t stand up and question these decisions then nothing will change. I have to try.
Wish me luck in trying to end an ill-conceived homework policy.