Guest Blogger: “We don’t have time to do that; You’ve got Homework!”

Today’s guest blogger, Diane Hewlett-Lowrie, has worked for 20 years in a variety of environmental education positions in Scotland and the U.S. and she currently lives in New Jersey. She has a special interest in how children learn and believes in nurturing the development of the whole child. She and her husband have one son, age 6, and their experience with homework to date has been that it is pointless, causes stress, has no real merit and takes time away from much more valuable activities at home. This piece started as a letter to the Superintendent and evolved into this essay, which Diane has sent to the school Principal and her son’s first grade teacher, and is planning on sending to the Board of Education and a variety of magazines. Diane has been a guest blogger before. (If you would like to be a guest blogger, send me your proposed submission.)

We don’t have time to do that; You’ve got Homework!
by Diane Hewlett-Lowrie

We are a very active family. We take walks, cook, kayak, swim, visit friends, parks and museums and we read avidly – for pleasure. Imagine our shock as we began to realize that we would have to give up those “luxuries” because our son, at the grand old age of 6, has homework!

When our son started first grade, I asked the parent of a former first-grader what the homework was like. It took a half-hour, she said. A half-hour not counting the time needed to persuade her daughter to start the homework, or the time for the arguments to cease and the tears to stop. Yikes!

After a full day in school, Iain gets home by 5 o’clock. He needs at least ten hours sleep, so our bedtime routine – bath, reading books, singing songs and talking together – starts at 8 o’clock. This means that, on a weekday, we have three hours per day as a family. One of those hours is necessary for cooking, eating and cleaning up. This leaves about two hours for everything else. In those two hours, I would like him to play and develop skills other than reading, writing and arithmetic (after all, he has a full day at school for that). In those two hours, I would like him to simply enjoy being a child!

In those two hours, I would like to teach him how to cook his favorite meal and clean up afterwards. His Dad would like to show him how to hammer a nail, paint a door and play the guitar. We both want him to be able to ride his bike, explore his world, learn to swim and enjoy good, old-fashioned, free playtime with his friends. Which of these activities will be sacrificed when the homework burden increases to an hour a night? Two hours?

My son has a wonderful imagination. His favorite indoor toys are Legos, dinosaurs, cars and action figures. I enjoy watching him and his friends create all kinds of scenarios with their action figures and building toys. They invent stories and sometimes pretend they are making movies (complete with commercial breaks!). Outdoor fun includes hunting for bugs and toads, riding scooters and bikes, swimming at the lake and playing made-up games. As I watch him and his friends create their own games and activities, I know that important social and communication skills are developing, his capacity for problem-solving is being strengthened, he’s laying down foundational pathways in his brain that will benefit him academically in future years – and he’s having fun!

I believe what Iain is doing in his few hours at home is far more valuable to his all-round development (social, physical, emotional, and neurological), than doing any kind of schoolwork at home. I don’t want him to sacrifice any of these activities for homework. He’s a 6-year-old boy; he needs to run!

I worry about the future.

My friends never see their teenage daughter during the week because she has three hours of homework every night. She is overweight and unhealthy because she spends most of her “home time” sitting still doing school assignments. How much healthier and happier would she be if she could spend one or two of those hours on a bicycle, playing sports, or just taking the dog for a walk?

My son’s best friend loved Kindergarten and first grade, but the second grade homework burden proved too much for him. His 20-minute assignment took about 2 hours to complete. He was tired when he got home from school and just needed to switch off, relax and rest his brain for another day. Homework burned him out. His family, tired of the homework wars, took him out of the public school system and they are now home-schooling.

I believe strongly in the benefits of a good education; we have read to our son almost every night since he was a baby. I want my son to WANT to learn. I don’t want him to be over-burdened, turned off and burned out.

Why do children spend the best part of the day in school then have to continue schoolwork when they get home? Does homework really help kids academically? Is there a good reason to endure those nightly tears and tribulations? Maybe not! A recent Duke University study found little to no correlation between homework and tests scores in elementary students. Alfie Kohn, after careful review of many research studies for his book, “The Homework Myth”, concluded “There is no evidence of any academic benefits from homework in elementary school.”

I wondered if students in other countries with more homework scored higher than those in countries with little to no homework. Apparently not. A research study conducted by Trends in International Mathematics and Science, which compared students in 27 states and 37 other countries, found no relationship between national average amounts of homework and national average student achievement scores.

Maybe the fact that kids get extra help at home boosts test scores? Again, the research says otherwise. A National Center for Education Statistics report states that “… researchers have not conclusively demonstrated the relationship between assistance at home and student achievement.”

Proponents of the belief that it must at least be improving study skills will be disappointed to know that there is absolutely no evidence to back that conviction either.

So, why burden elementary students with homework if there are no proven benefits? Why make kids forfeit fun with their families, physical exercise, imaginative play, and experiences in the real world to sit at the kitchen table with pencils in hand? I have not yet heard a legitimate or substantiated answer.

I fear that in future years, the homework burden will become so great that my son will lose the ability to choose what he can do in his “free” time – because he won’t have any free time. I am afraid that my role as a mother is going to be supplanted by my role as the “homework police”.

Schools and parents should embrace their roles as partners whose joint responsibility it is to help children develop into well-rounded young people. During the day, learning the skills and knowledge necessary for academic proficiency is in the hands of the teachers in the schools. When my son comes home, however, it’s my turn. I want that precious time to teach him about the natural world, to play, laugh and talk with him, to read for fun, and to give him a healthy, fun and loving family home in which he can truly grow.

PS – I am thinking of buying a dog to eat the homework so I can take a hike in the woods with my son.

11 Comments on “Guest Blogger: “We don’t have time to do that; You’ve got Homework!””

  1. raven says:

    i don’t think kids should have work to do after school ether or on the weekends.

    February 8th, 2008 at 2:11 pm
    Permanent Link

  2. Stephanie says:

    In addition to too much homework, schools are too focused on testing and standards. My 2nd grader is already complaining about how boring school is. They spend too much time quietly listening to the teacher and doing worksheets to prepare them for tests. All anyone seems to value is “good” test scores. They completely miss the point that it’s the process of learning that’s important, not the result.

    There’s nothing like worksheets and filling out bubbles on a test to kill a kid’s imagination.

    So how do we change this?

    February 8th, 2008 at 8:17 pm
    Permanent Link

  3. Sara Bennett says:

    Hi Stephanie,

    The second half of The Case Against Homework is filled with ideas on how to change homework policy, including how to talk to teachers, how to advocate for your child, how to organize at the School Board level, etc.

    February 11th, 2008 at 3:47 pm
    Permanent Link

  4. cassie says:

    I know what you mean. Children these days get so much homework there is no time left for family or play. I have a first grader who always brings home from her reading recovery program: a cut/paste journal and at least two books to read every night and on weekends. This takes about half hour to complete. But if she gets work from her primary teacher it may be another reading book and a worksheet or 2 on math. My daughter spends 1-2 hours daily on homework and its ridiculous. She doesnt get home until 6 and goes to bed at nine. She cant stand school already, she is too young to be burnt out on something that is supposed to be great for her. She never has time to just be a kid and I have no control over it.

    February 26th, 2008 at 1:38 pm
    Permanent Link

  5. Scott McMurry says:

    Which activities will be sacrificed- answer- all of them including sleep……..
    Help. Give me back my family. All 4 of our kids have been overwhelmed with too much homework from the SRVUSD district in junior high and high school. God forbid we should try to have a family meal, mid week church, or heavens, do an outside sporting,scouting, or charity activity.

    My brother is a principal in Wisconsin and their school day is about 50 minutes longer during which kids get more homework done in school be it study hall, labs or class.

    Sometimes the homework sparks a question or discussion about war, or politics, or science or history, and my answer is, “we don’t have time for meaningful conversation, just get the assignment done”.

    We set the timer during dinner and tell them, okay. 20 min on dinner is enough, back to your homework the kitchen is now closed. Oh and breakfast-what’s faster, oatmeal or an egg- my kids can eat both in one minute flat. Sorry if there is food on my kids homework; they do homework while they eat.

    My kids have to do homework as we drive back and forth in the car from school to activites. I say, don’t tell me how your day was just get your homework done. I am tired of being the homework czar. They go to bed at 1030p most nights. I find those teachers without kids are the least sensitive to overwhelming us with homework.

    Am I smarter than a 5th grader? I don’t know; we’re too busy with homework to find out….

    Scott McMurry
    Danville

    March 12th, 2008 at 1:47 pm
    Permanent Link

  6. Jena says:

    WE dont have time as we are young and we need to make the most out of our time as we grow up fast:( . If we go to school the teachers should be paid for doing work not for not doing anything then handing us our homework at the end of the lesson. Please someone do something about it!! I takes up all my time i cant hang around and meet up with my mates…I will be greatful if you do something.even if it is one peice every fortnight.only boffins do IT!

    November 30th, 2008 at 10:27 am
    Permanent Link

  7. Anonymous says:

    he we should not have homework, it is soo freaking stupid. pleas support this, it would help me at my school. for more info go to rfshq.com/free-rider

    December 8th, 2008 at 2:07 pm
    Permanent Link

  8. MR.X says:

    he we should not have homework, it is soo freaking stupid. pleas support this, it would help me at my school. for more info go to rfshq.com/free-rider

    December 8th, 2008 at 2:07 pm
    Permanent Link

  9. Kyra says:

    Hi:) I am a student and I agree with you children should NOT get homework!! If you get a question wrong you have to stay inside for recess or, correct it over the weekend. Teachers also have homework on weekends, and week ends are supposed to be fun we should not learn

    February 21st, 2009 at 1:25 pm
    Permanent Link

  10. Bailey...... says:

    i am 11 years old and i am on this site because am actually looking for research for my writting assignment. Every week we are given an assignment to have finished in one week on top of all the other work we are given. I think that it is cruel to put all this work on kids. We should be outside riding bikes playing sports participating in after school clubs to help our environment, instead we get home from 7 hours of school then go inside and do homework for the rest of the night!!!!TO MUCH STESS!!!!!!!!!!! I already have neck problems;all i need is more stress from pointless homework to make it hurt even worse!!!!!!!!!!!

    October 8th, 2009 at 8:20 pm
    Permanent Link

  11. Jacob Parsont says:

    i agree with you guys, i am a student in 8th grade, i USED to be in advanced math, but all my teachers were overloading me with homework, so it was pick one fail another, and the other happened to be math, i did well on my quizzes and tests and worksheets, but could never finish homework on time, so i ended up failing, tomorrow i have to turn in another assighnment so i am gonna fake being sick just so i can finish it! what has this world come to!?!?!

    October 19th, 2009 at 3:32 am
    Permanent Link

Leave a comment on “Guest Blogger: “We don’t have time to do that; You’ve got Homework!””

Your Info (optional)




Comment (required)

Message