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kids too much of the wrong homework

I Am Heading to Hell in a Handbasket Full of Homework

By Chris Jordan

Once I graduated from college I thought my homework days were over.  Little did I know that once I had children I would have homework once again.  These days just the word homework causes my shoulders to slump and an exasperated sigh. The second question out of my mouth every single day is “What kind of homework do you have?”

By the end of the school week everyone is exhausted from staying up late, including me.

Is there value in having homework assigned? I’m not sure. I go back and forth on this depending on the week.

One of my friends has a child in high school taking a higher level math class. That child has a lot of homework, assigned each night with multiple problems to solve. The teacher does a homework check at the beginning of class. If you have it, you get a 100. If you don’t you get a 0. Homework counts for 10% of your grade. The teacher never goes over the homework nor does she give the class the answers so the students can self-correct. The whole exercise of homework seems like a big waste of time.

After my friend’s child failed the first two tests, my friend set up a meeting with the teacher that basically went like this:

“Can you go over the problems in class so the students know if they are doing them correctly?”

“No..I can’t that would take away from the limited time I have to teach new material.”

“But what if they don’t know that they don’t know how to solve the problems?”

“They should go to after-school tutoring.”

“That’s fine too, but my concern is that there is no way for them to check the their homework answers. Do you think you could post them on your website?”

The teacher said No, she couldn’t, or wouldn’t change anything about the way that homework was dealt with in her classroom.

I was recently informed by one of my children’s teachers that it is my responsibility to check my child’s homework before it is handed in to make sure all the questions are answered correctly. But let me let you in on a little secret… sometimes I have no idea what the answers are, even for the elementary-schoolers. I don’t usually check their homework unless they are confused.

Homework Frustration by Chris Jordan for

And then there are the homework assignments that send you right over the edge of your sanity. For instance, the homework assignment that required driving around town, taking photos of the student in front of various public and private industries. Or to clarify, having your parents drive you all over hell’s half-acre taking your photo because as a 14-year-old you can’t yet drive a car. One of my friend’s breaking points came when she was almost arrested doing this assignment. Apparently people get weird when you take photos in front of their business.

My breaking point came when my child was required to design a menu for a restaurant that would have existed in the early settlement in Jamestown or it might have been that rap song about the elements of the periodic chart. Hard to say.

Other homework assignments don’t bother me in the least. Ones which seem to have some value other than just being busy work. Spelling tests? Bring them on! Memorizing multiplication facts? Hell-to-the-yes! Forget all these crazy “strategies” for solving math. You know what the best strategy is for math facts? Memorization. Long-term projects that teach kids how to allocate their time and do research? Yes! But the daily grind of turning out homework, especially for the younger students, seems counterproductive. And researchers agree. There has been plenty of research that points out how homework isn’t really helping anyone. And for all the complaining we do as parents about the amount of homework, it still seems to be accepted as a necessary evil.

The president of France announced sweeping educational reforms this week. One item that stands out is his plan to abolish homework in schools. Could you imagine if President Obama announced the same thing in the United States?

What do you think about the homework your kids get from school? Do they get too much? Not enough?

Chris Jordan
About the Author

Chris Jordan

Chris Jordan began blogging at Notes From the Trenches in 2004 where she writes about her life raising her children in Austin, Texas.

Oh, she has seven of them. Yes, children. Yes, the...

Chris Jordan began blogging at Notes From the Trenches in 2004 where she writes about her life raising her children in Austin, Texas.

Oh, she has seven of them. Yes, children.
Yes, they are all hers.
No she’s not Catholic or Mormon. Though she wouldn’t mind having a sister-wife because holy hell the laundry never stops.
Yes, she finally figured out what causes it. That’s why her youngest is almost 6.
Yes, she has a television.

She enjoys referring to herself in the third person.

If you would like to submit a question for Chris to answer publicly, please do so to adviceforparentsoftweens[at]gmail[dot]com.

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  • Heather K

    October 20, 2012 at 12:17 am

    Even in 1st grade we are struggling. I work full time, as does my husband. By the time we get home, make dinner, take a bath, it’s bed time. There is no homework time beyond reading. It’s not like he has a lot of homework, and we can do it on the weekend, but we receive the assignment on Monday, and I hate to leave things till Sunday, as it sets a bad precedent. And then, there is NO instruction to the parents on how we are supposed to help. I finally asked, and found out that yes, we are supposed to help him proof his writing. Let him write it out, mistakes are fine, and then we help him proof it to get it right. Would have been nice to know a month ago. The math teacher you mention, that’s beyond the pale awful. Really, really awful.

  • Adriana

    October 20, 2012 at 3:57 am

    Have a son in 6th, a son in 5th, and a 4yr old preschooler. My preschooler has homework. Once a week a double-sided worksheet with the week’s letter is sent home. This is actual writing-the-letter worksheets, no coloring. What bothers me the most? It is not optional. Granted there is no grading but still, my daughter is starting to not like homework. Also, how it was explained to us parents at back to school night (because yes even preschoolers now have back to school nights) was that they like to hand it back to the kids telling them what a great job they did. Umm… ok.

    As for the older boys, most of their homework now seems to be ‘legitimate’ homework. K-2nd seemed to be mostly busy work which I despised. The other assignments that I cannot stand are the projects. Puppets of famous people, floats of different states with important facts on them, etc. I disliked these assignments when I was in school and I still really dislike them.

    Maybe it’s harder when your child is a bit slow in writing and has focusing issues so that homework (that for most kids might take an hour-and-a-half) ends up taking him 2-3 hrs to complete. Every.Single.Night.

    • Summer

      October 31, 2012 at 1:53 pm

      I taught middle school for several years, and many teachers would tell parents of children like yours to have them stop working after a prescribed time (for example, 45 minutes, or however long the assignment is supposed to take). The parents would sign the assignment at the stopping point to confirm that the student did put in the required time. Maybe you could ask your son’s teachers for this option?

  • jill

    October 20, 2012 at 8:09 am

    I agree with you that things like spelling tests, reading for 15 min. a day or completing projects and research are great homework. I’m a high school teacher, and I wouldn’t get anything done in English class if I didn’t ask students to read and do some thinking around the texts the night before, or in Drama if I didn’t assign some at home memorization of lines.

    BUT I am also a parent of a grade 3 kid with sloooow hand writing. He had “20 min.” of homework a night in grade 1, “30 min.” a night in grade 2 and now that he is learning in a Bilingual program he has spelling words, 15 min. of French reading, 15 min. of English reading plus at least one assignment to finish plus times tables to memorize. Even if writing didn’t take him forever, that is already 45 min. of homework, not including extra work that gets sent home because his writing is slow. I feel frustrated, because when I asked his teachers if he could read Englsih one night and French the next, they said no. He had to do both. every night. Do they just want him to hate school and homework? It sure seems like it.

    • Jessica

      October 22, 2012 at 5:39 am

      Can you ask to do spelling on the weekends?  How about typing?  Is he faster at typing?  
      I’ve let students type or even have their parents help with writing out answers when this happens.  I see no problems with that. Why can’t he respond orally?  Is it the writing that’s being judged, or the answers?  

  • Anna

    October 20, 2012 at 11:39 pm

    As a former public school special education teacher and now mother of a two-year-old, I would be in favor of a homework-less schooling option. Unschooling, anyone?

  • Emily

    October 21, 2012 at 5:18 pm

    this is pushing me towards homeschooling

  • Jessica

    October 22, 2012 at 5:31 am

    As a middle/high school teacher (who actually works in the French system at an international school abroad), I think it’s important that parents AND students understand what the homework is for and how the parents should help.  There should be a reasonable amount of it (of a type that is achievable and not onerous for student and parent), and it should be discussed if there is too much. That’s sooo fair!  
    OK, my ONLY caveat is that there are certain types of programs where you need to walk into it with your eyes open.  A bilingual program is one of these places, as are AP/exam prep courses. You should absolutely have known before and agreed to the extra work load thats coming.  
    And that math teacher???  That’s just dated practice.  Plain and simple.  Talk to the administration about it.

  • Brianna

    October 22, 2012 at 4:32 pm

    I’m a Grade 7 teacher and I am lucky enough to teach at a great independent school – one that supports limiting or eliminating unnecessary homework.

    My students work hard for almost 8 hours a day. Often, many of them are at school from 7 in the morning until 5:30 in the evening for sports, musical, choir, clubs, debate (etc, etc). How many of us want to do two hours of paperwork after a 10 hour work day?

    Homework can’t be assessed (no way of knowing who did it) and it’s often frustrating for the child when their teacher isn’t there to provide direction.

    It’s been refreshing. My students are learning and achieving. I’m all for it!

  • emah

    October 23, 2012 at 10:57 am

    I’m a high school teacher at a school that has just brought back study hall. We’ve got block scheduling — 4 classes of 75 minutes each day — and then a 70 minute academic lab at the end of the day, where students are required to do homework or independent reading, and have the option of going to ask their teachers for help. Teachers then get some tutoring time built in to their schedules (as well as a little extra time for grading). I really like the way it’s working out.

  • Christine

    July 5, 2013 at 5:29 pm

    I’m a 4th grade teacher. I have my students write their spelling words 3 times each a night (to force them to study), write their multiplication (mon: 2s and 3s, tues 4s and 5s, wed 6s and 7s, thurs 8s and 9s), they read 20 minutes a day. Everything is independent work and can be done quickly

  • Christine

    July 5, 2013 at 5:31 pm

    They get out of the treasure box for working all week.

    • Janna

      July 20, 2013 at 2:41 pm

      The problem with this is, one of my children doesn’t learn from copying facts. She needs a more hands-on approach. She LOVES to use letter magnets to form the words on the fridge, using buttons or other little figures to do math facts, or even forming words by “drawing” in sand with her finger.
      Your “not much time” independent work would be pure torture for her. Why not give the kids some options and have the parents sign that they did them? Because honestly, after my child completed your homework she still wouldn’t know the information and I would have to spend time teaching her in a way that did help her and by the end of the year I would be so stressed out and so would she. I know this because we lived that way last year and I have sworn that I will never do that again. Just yesterday she asked me if I knew what the best thing about school was and then informed me it was the LAST day of school. And oh yeah, bribing with cheap trinkets to encourage kids to complete busywork really just adds to home stress since now we have even MORE clutter in our house…

  • Michaela

    September 5, 2013 at 9:09 am

    I’m a mother of a k student and 3rd grader. My youngest failed kindergarten because he refused to learn. This yet he is doing better even though he is in kindergarten again. My 3rd grader has trouble reading. He was in another school that had no homework. He isn’t special needs but has a IEP because of a learning disability. I don’t want my son to have any special treatment but it takes us from the time he gets picked up at 2:40 until sometimes 10 o’clock at night to finish. While that I’m helping my kindergartener and trying to cook dinner and help my Half half brother who is also in 3rd grade. It is soooooo frustrating. I understand the idea of homework. It also gives me a gauge as to what and how he is doing in school. I didn’t know what the base 10 was so looked it up to help him. Thank god for google/yahoo search. Life saver!!

  • Jess

    October 3, 2013 at 2:43 pm

    I know you must have posted this sometime back but I just found it on Pinterest. Can I just say: I am in LOVE with you for posting it??!! SO. VERY. RELATEABLE.
    Sincerly, Mother who is nowhere near G/T raising a G/T 4th Grader.
    Is this where hashtags would be appropriate? #clueless #idontgetit #exhausted #ihatehomework

    • Jess

      October 3, 2013 at 2:45 pm

      See!? I can’t even proof read or spell sincerely right! *sigh*