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The Great (Homework) Debate: How much is too much?

Mom confession: I hate homework more than my kids do.

To me, it’s stealing our family time and my kids’ childhoods. My kids have already spent 9 hours of their day getting ready for, riding to and from, and in school. And that’s plenty to me. I don’t want them spending one more minute on learning academia. I want them to learn about growing and raising our food. To play a sport and learn to be part of a team. I want them to learn about communicating within a family unit. Learn how to do laundry and clean a home, repair a car or paint a room. I’d love it if they learn how to cook a healthy meal and load a dishwasher. Maybe sew on a button or hem a pair of pants.

And besides all that, I want them to have time to be kids. Play in the dirt and in our creek. Daydream in the field or make things out of clay mud and let them dry in the sun.

Now here’s the thing. I know there is plenty of research stating that homework helps bring up their grades and helps with test scores. But there’s also plenty of research that says almost the opposite. It seems no one – not researchers, teachers, administrators nor parents seem to agree 100% about homework’s usefulness.

Some teachers give it in spades, some don’t give it at all. So how do I know what the right amount is?

I know my kids. I know them better than any test, researcher, teacher or administrator ever will. And I am telling you that my kids don’t need it. They get excellent grades, are both in gifted programs and do well on state tests. As long as they aren’t failing – and by that, I mean struggling to learn what they should be able to at their ages – I don’t see the point in using family time on schoolwork. 

I have been in enough classrooms, have many friends that teach, and literally work in a classroom myself. I know what teaching entails. I respect the heck out of how hard teachers work and the enormous task that is educating a human being. I completely understand that they have all made up their minds about what homework means to them, their classroom, and the students they teach. And if homework is what they feel their students need- they SHOULD give it. I agree with the job they do, 100%. But – I have my own job that comes first once my kids step off that bus each afternoon. My job is to raise MY children to be the best humans they can be. I will stand between the world and them, and filter out all the bad and increase the good. I’ll research everything I can and use my mom gut for everything I can’t. I take my job seriously. Sometimes that job and my mom gut are in opposition to my kids’ teachers’ jobs. And that’s ok. It doesn’t mean I don’t understand, respect and adore those teachers. But it does mean that at home, things will be done my way. As a parent, I believe I have that right.

So what happens when my kids get homework?

  1. We have a strict “no weekend homework” policy. That is family time. If it’s assigned, I simply write a quick letter telling the teacher that these are our family beliefs and asking him/her to respect my parental choices and not punish my child as if this is bad behavior. (i.e. don’t take away recess or give a detention). A zero in the grade book is completely acceptable.
  2. Although I don’t want them to have ANY, I do compromise with teachers and let my kids have a maximum of 20 minutes per night – at  4th and 6th grades. After 20 minutes, I draw a line under whatever is completed and explain our beliefs that it’s detracting from family time etc. (Again, a lower grade for incomplete work is fine by me. It’s the teacher’s right.)

I am not asking for special treatment of my kids. I don’t want them getting a grade for work they aren’t doing that other kids are. I feel that limiting the homework to what I feel is acceptable in our home while allowing the teacher to grade the way she feels acceptable in class, is just showing each other respect.

Now, I expect that as my kids get older, things will change a bit. But for now, this is what we do.

I do want to finish with this though: so far, every teacher we have encountered has been completely amazing about our family homework policy. Amazing. (I love the teachers in our district!) But should we ever encounter a teacher who won’t compromise, I will discuss the options with my kids. If they choose to do the homework to save their grade at that point, it’s their choice. If they want to continue limiting it, well then I’ll be in their corner 100%, no matter the consequences. 

If you were shaking your head the whole time, saying that your kids DO need homework each and every night, well that’s the beauty of parenting. We all know what our kids need and can adjust accordingly.

~ This is what works for us~ 


2 Responses to The Great (Homework) Debate: How much is too much?

  1. Parent in Brownbackistan December 10, 2017 at 1:48 pm #

    I hate homework too! But what happens if your kid receives a failing grade bc if work that is required at home? My daughter had a project due that was “out of class work”. She did not have time to do it bc of other homework, Home responsibilities, and family time and other such things. But it qass half her grade. So now she is receiving a failing grade and I don’t know what to do?! I hate having her in her room for 3 hours every night. Our teachers are NOT accomadating like your district sound like it is. Why are they just piling on this work? I don’t want to go to work 8 hours and come home and work 3 more! Why shoukd the kids?!?!

    • Audrey December 10, 2017 at 6:30 pm #

      That’s a tough spot to be in. I myself do not put much stock in grades in elementary school. A “failing” grade in one class won’t actually hold your daughter back from going to the next grade level. Colleges don’t look at elementary grades, so really, what’s the harm in a bad grade? To me, it’s just not worth stressing over.
      But- if it’s stressful to you, then you need to have a meeting with the teacher and discuss options. If that doesn’t help, speak with the principal. If that doesn’t either, try the superintendent. Everyone has a boss 😉 One single project being 50% of her grade seems ridiculous. Now, if it’s just 50% of her grade SO FAR, then I wouldn’t worry about it until she has completed more work and you get a better idea of what her grade will actually look like once more assignments are added.
      Good luck!