My Love-Hate Relationship With Homework

by multilingualmania on August 8, 2011

in Literacy and Biliteracy

I have had a complicated love-hate relationship with homework all of my life. As a child I hated completing it and when I would complete it, I just ended up losing it or throwing it away by accident. I was always the child whose mother or teacher would find her homework squished up in the bottom of her backpack two weeks after it was due. It was always a waste of my time, because I would have rather spent my time reading or hanging out in the library.

When I was in the second grade, my mother broke her back and was in the hospital for quite a bit of time. After she was released from the hospital, it took her a few years to physically recover and I would often have to do all the chores, get my younger brother ready for school, and help out with making meals at home. I often was too tired by the end of the day to complete any homework. During that time, I remember frequently losing my recess because my homework wasn’t completed.

When I became a teacher, I vowed that I would never give much importance to homework. I vowed that I would never punish a child for not completing their homework because I would much rather have them spend their time reading, playing, or passing quality time with their family members. But somewhere along the line, parents started asking for more and more homework and so I started to pile on the homework. And then one day I found myself withholding my students’ recesses if they did not turn in homework every day.

One day it hit me smack in the face that I was doing the same thing that I had hated as a child. I started to notice how many of my students attended the afterschool program after school every day, and then went immediately to soccer practice on one day, catechism on another day, mass on another day, and did something fun with their parents on another day. I suddenly realized that it was much more important to me that my students participate in extracurricular activities and spend time with their family than complete their homework.

I decided to continue to give homework every day, but I scaled back on it and tried to make it much more authentic by having children read and write about what they wanted to read and write about. Students were supposed to turn in their homework every day, but I gave them free passes when they didn’t turn it in and instead gave them the whole week as well as the weekend to complete it. If they didn’t turn it in on the following Monday, then I expected them to only miss one recess and instead of having them do busy work to complete the homework, I tutored them during their recess.

Over the years I have had many friends (who also happen to be teachers) complain about how late they had to stay up to help their child with their homework after they had spent time together as a family or completed extracurricular activities. “Just don’t do it,” I said. “Is homework even really that important? It’s just busy work,” I would tell them. For at least seven years I have been a homework rebel.

Once I became a school administrator, I began to receive a lot of complaints about this homework issue, so I became more and more opposed to homework. Parents would complain that it was too much, or that they didn’t understand it, or that the English-speaking parents in Dual Immersion programs felt that they couldn’t help with homework in Spanish.

Most recently I have been taking care of my niece every day who is in kindergarten. Suddenly, I turned into the guardian from hell regarding the homework issue during her first day of kinder last week. She didn’t receive any homework, and I called everyone who I knew that had children in order to ask them whether it was appropriate that she didn’t receive any homework. Every day that she came home I asked if she had homework, and was disappointed when she didn’t have it. It was as if I were basing my view of the quality of the teacher on whether or not she had homework.

Today she came home with a packet of homework, and now I’m irritated beyond degree. By the time that I pick her up, bring her home, and make dinner it is almost 7:00 at night. After she takes a bath and gets ready it is almost 7:30. On days when I want to take her to dance class, she will get home even later. By the time that she is fed and bathed, I’m exhausted from working all day. I also want to spend a little time with her, talk to her, read a book to her, and maybe even let her play with some of the cool iphone educational apps that I have found.

I’ve decided that this week it is much more important for me to read to her, talk to her, spend time with her, and to allow a little bit of down time before she is ready to go to bed. If we don’t get to the homework, then we won’t do it because everything that I have previously mentioned is much more important to me than filling out a worksheet. Some people might tell me that I’m doing her a disservice because she needs to be taught to be responsible by completing her homework, but I will teach her responsibility in other ways. I’ll have to deal with the repercussions of her not completing it if it comes to that. And you never know….tomorrow I might be a homework fanatic again.

As a parent or a teacher, have you had a similar experience? What are your thoughts about homework for children?

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Tye August 9, 2011 at 10:00 am

Not sure where to begin.

This year’s experience is that we went to the Open House on Wednesday of last week. The 5th grade teacher went on about how things were more serious in 5th grade. Then she handed my son homework that was to be turned in on the first day of school. Yes, really..

The school my kids go to is a public school. It is a theme school. It’s a good school, but the theme is academics. What does this really boil down to? They get at least two hours of homework each weekend. This is all grades PreK through 5th.

I wish it was as simple as just not doing it, however homework is weighted very heavily across the board. During the week it is about 2-3 hours of homework aslo. I also have a 4th grader and it is the same.

The amount of homework does cut into family time.

Lindsey August 11, 2011 at 7:47 pm

Love your thoughts on homework! It is so true and unfortunate that we don’t just assign real life homework, like ride your bike around the block 10 times and tell your family about your day!!!

multilingualmania August 14, 2011 at 5:25 pm

This sounds really frustrating to me!!

multilingualmania August 14, 2011 at 5:26 pm

Yes! I love that! Especially considering the childhood obesity issue in this country….we’ve really got to get the kids moving. Riding their bike around could also springboard into writing a descriptive paragraph about what they saw! I’m all for authentic homework!!

Jen August 17, 2011 at 7:36 am

Very interesting! I am conflicted on homework. I do agree with everything you wrote. But at the same time, I need to do extra for what my kids won’t get in their own school to ensure that they will be biliterate. The key is to not go overboard, but I just have to keep reminding myself of that.

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