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Four Reasons Homework Hurts

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Reasons For Why Homework Is Such A Struggle

On April 4th, 2005 I was part of a panel discussion at Leo Baeck Day School. One of the threads of discussion was around homework at the elementary school level. I did field several questions and discussed how I work in a coach-like fashion to help my children learn how they best they can deal with this responsibility without taking over the actual responsibility itself.

Like any great event, we had so much to talk about and there is never enough to time to get to it all! I was inspired to write more here so the conversation might continue.

If I were to create "The Alyson School" it would not have ANY homework. There would be more non-instructional time for students to do their work projects during the course of the day, even if that meant a longer day.

I think it was Mark Twain who said "Don’t let your schooling get in the way of a good education". I am all about education, but homework can be detrimental and here are the reasons I feel this way: 

Firstly: it is killing the family.  For most of the modern families I know, parents work all day and then come home to the precious few hours they have together with their children and spend it fight over doing homework. Once the homework finally gets started, things only go from bad to worse as parents fall so easily into hurtful comments; "come on, you KNOW this", "Did you even READ the question?"  Ouch.

Secondly: I see homework as a method of grooming the next generation to be workaholics. It isn’t just that I don’t think kids should take work home, neither should teachers or parents take their work home. We have lost all common sense and balance. After a day of work the human mind needs to rest. Try going to a conference and look at the energy level of the learners by the end of the last afternoon session!

Just a quick aside here about just how culturally bound our ideas about homework are. I have a colleague who is working with schools in Azerbaijan. There, the teachers bock at the idea of giving home work because it would require them to do more work for the same money since they have to produce it and to mark it.  So in Azerbaijan, families pay the teachers under the table to give homework. It makes a class barrier. Poorer people can’t afford the homework so the wealthier children advance.

Thirdly: For a variety of reasons, some parents can’t help their children. Perhaps they work evenings or do not speak English. For some families it is not feasible. Should those children "fall behind" because work is expected at home?  It reminds me a bit too much of Azerbaijan.

Fourthly: Parents are not trained elementary school teachers. I respect teacher’s skills too much to think a parent can master it at home.

What do others think? Shall we start a movement? I’d love to read your comments.

About Alyson

Alyson has been blogging parenting advice for over 15 years. She has been a panelist at BlogWest, Blissdom, #140NYC and more. Her content appears on sites across Canada and the US, but you can read all her own blog posts right here.

More about Alyson

4 Responses to “Four Reasons Homework Hurts”

  1. Jane

    I agree with you! As a parent and teacher, I see that we need more balance at home. I do not want to spend my evenings doing homework with my children either. I try to avoid giving it at all cost. Evenings should be spent being active after a day that consists of mostly seated work.
    However, I do feel differently regarding late work. I give ample time for larger projects to be done in class, and if work is not submitted on time I think punitive marking is justified. There is a sense of responsibility and consequence that needs to be taught since it is part of real life after school aged years.
    We can’t forget about the student who didn’t bother doing his/her work in class. That child must finish the math work, that has now become math homework, in order to move forward the following day with the next lesson. You simply can’t take that consequence away from teachers.
    Just wanted to remind everyone there are other situations, and an overall ban won’t serve everyone. I would invite anyone willing to teach a math lesson to 31 teenagers and tell them the work won’t be for homework no matter what, and see how that works out for them!
    Thank you for talking about the issue. There are way too many teachers who still think they need to give nightly homework and there are still parents who ask for it.
    PS teachers’ rather than teacher’s in that sentence…..aren’t teachers annoying?!

  2. Julie

    Hi Alyson,
    FYI – the Dufferin Peel Catholic District School Board is now surveying parents for their homework feedback.
    I filled out the survey but went a step further. I emailed the administrator conducting the survey and recommended some reading. 😉
    I gave her links to the Alfie Kohn article you have on your website as well as a link to his book.
    Hopefully there are more parents out there who support the cause.

  3. olivia

    i do agree with you.My family and I do not have time for family sixth grader has so much homework!she gets home at 3:00p.m.and does not get done till 7:00.
    __ Olivia Youth

  4. Brenda

    I know this comment is really late. But homework use to be a real problem in our house. So much that my son who was in grade 7 at the time said he wanted to kill himself. The work given him was so hard that most of the time I could not even understand it. And although I did not graduate I am only 1 credit short of grade 12. Eventually CCAS were called in and I almost lost my son because I figured the teacher would not give him this work if she did not think he was able to do it. So I would become upset because after awhile he would not even try. Once CCAS was involved the teacher was not allowed to discipline him for being unable to do the work she handed out. He was found to be ASD but very high-functioning. Which was why he could not do the same work as everyone else. Everything worked out eventually but it took a long time and it was very stressful and put a distance between us that is still there today. Today I was looking at your site for ways to communicate with your teen when I found this. Well better late then never.


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