Homework is the worst. I’m sorry, but it is.
Before I had kids, my memories of elementary school homework consisted of yelling, “IF JOHNNY HAS TWO APPLES!!” and lots of tears at the kitchen table. Did I learn anything? Yes. I mastered the art of the, “Ohhhh now I get it!” face while my brain was actually in a confused state of panic.
National Beta club veterans, you might not relate to this one.
I was not a great student. I’m still not naturally book-smart. I needed a completely quiet environment with a lot of support in order to complete academic tasks at home (spoiler alert: I still do). If left to my own devices, my ADHD brain had me focusing on the buzzing refrigerator, the designs of the wallpaper, and the dogs barking down the street. After fifteen minutes, I was right back at the starting line. I was yelled at. I was exhausted. I was burned out. I chewed off every fingernail. My home was loving, but loud and chaotic. School was for schoolwork, and home was my resting place. I wanted to visit my grandma. I wanted to draw. I just wanted to play.
As a seasoned parent, I really don’t mind a little bit of homework here and there. The problem is when homework becomes a big part of the school routine and disrupts time meant for family and extracurriculars. Excessive homework can hinder a child’s natural curiosity. Instead of exploring the world around them, they’re stuck at the kitchen table with worksheets. Life’s most important lessons aren’t learned from worksheets. They come from exploring, making mistakes, and discovering passions. Many students spend eight hours per day at school. Where’s the time for guitar lessons, sports, family dinners, outside play, and rest? Adults hate having to take their work home with them. Are we training children to do the same? Why can’t they just clock out?
I know that homework is meant to help reinforce what students are learning in school, but the quality of homework assigned is important here. Worksheets don’t typically engage students or align with their interests. If we’re reinforcing math concepts, can’t we do that in a recipe? At the grocery store? In exercise reps? If students should be practicing reading and writing skills at home, shouldn’t they sometimes have the freedom to choose topics that interest them?
I understand that homework can sometimes feel like a necessary evil. But is it really necessary?
Research suggests that the benefits of homework might not be as clear-cut as we think. The National PTA and the National Education Association recommend a “10-minute rule” per grade level. So, a first-grader should have 10 minutes of homework, while a fifth-grader should have 50 minutes. But let’s be honest, it rarely stops there, right? On that note, studies have shown that excessive homework can lead to stress, sleep deprivation, and a lack of quality family time. The American Journal of Family Therapy even reported that elementary school children are now spending an average of three times more on homework than they did in the 1980s.
So, what’s the takeaway here? Homework isn’t all bad, but it should be meaningful, age-appropriate, and balanced. Let’s encourage our schools to focus on quality over quantity, allowing our kids to flourish both academically and personally.