“I Hate Homework,” says Jeff Opdyke of the Wall Street Journal

So many readers have pointed me to an article in the Wall Street Journal How Homework Is Hurting Our Family by Jeff Opdyke that I’m posting it here. He begins:

I hate school!

Yes, I know that’s a bit immature for someone 41 years old. But it’s true. I hate school — so much so that my wife, Amy, and I have hired a college student to help our fifth-grade son manage his schoolwork a few times a week.

It’s not that we can’t do the work with him, or that we don’t want to. Just this evening we helped him study for a reading test, and over the weekend I was quizzing him on customary and metric units of measurement one day and biological definitions the next.

No, it’s that the volume of homework and tests that fill his docket is, in a word, ridiculous.

I’m not sure when it happened, but at some point U.S. schools decided that if you can’t teach ’em, test ’em…or pile on more homework.

The result is that my son’s life — and by extension our family life — is a constant, stress-laden stream of homework and tests and projects. It overshadows everything we do, always hanging over our head. It affects our weekends, our meals, our vacations, our work time, our playtime, our pocketbooks.

And to what end? Maybe I’m missing something, but when did schools determine that the best place for kids to learn math, science and English is at their own kitchen table?

* * *

Obviously, learning is what school is about. I have nothing against homework or school projects or a certain level of anxiety about it all. How a student deals with those demands and that anxiety is great preparation for later life.

But the level of homework and anxiety my son deals with on a daily basis is well beyond anything healthy. And from talking to other parents, this problem is hardly unique to our family.

Amy and I knew there was a problem several weeks ago when our son brought home a D and a C. This was the first time that he earned anything less than a B. And then, a week later, another D.

At first we were mad. He’s just not paying attention to the questions; he’s rushing through the tests; he’s being careless. We quizzed him before the test and again afterward. How is it that he can know the information before and after, yet not during?

It turns out he’s stressed out. He told Amy that he wishes he could do better. But he already wakes up on school days between 4 a.m. and 5 a.m., panicked that he doesn’t know the material he has already studied. He wakes up Amy to help him go over his notes one more time. He studies in the car on the way to school. Some nights he’s up past 10 p.m., writing, reading or memorizing. He spends parts of many weekends reading and doing projects.

Then he sees the Ds and Cs and gets dejected, wondering how he could possibly study any harder or any longer.

The truth is, he can’t. His childhood is already all but consumed by textbooks, notebooks and flashcards.

* * *

Compounding the problem, as Amy says, is that this barrage of schoolwork “is killing our family.” Amy says it makes her “feel like the worst mom in the world.” Here’s why: Many times our efforts to help our son lead to short tempers and blown fuses because at some point he simply has had enough of all this studying. He just wants to be outside on a Saturday, but he’s stuck inside on a project, or reciting the synonyms and antonyms to justify, villain and abandon.

One of Amy’s colleagues calls it the Bermuda Triangle, because first the child gets mad, then the parent helping gets mad, and then the parent listening to the meltdown gets mad.

Our four-year-old daughter gets caught up in this Bermuda Triangle as well, of course. Besides getting less focused attention from Mom and Dad, she picks up on all the angst. After a recent homework meltdown, she went up to her brother and said, “All you have to do is do your homework, and Mommy won’t be mad.”

Then there’s the effect on our jobs. I’m not saying work takes precedence over our son’s education. But let’s be realistic: At some point, the ability of Mom and Dad to keep the family clothed, sheltered and fed is relatively high on the Things To Do Today list. When I’m cutting interviews short to make a practice quiz, or Amy’s going to work late — or rising at 4 a.m. — to help him prepare for a test, something’s rotten with the system.

Perhaps the worst part is that many parents we’ve talked to are angry because they face the same issue. Some have felt compelled to put their elementary-age kids on medication for anxiety to cope with the stress of so much schoolwork. How insane that because of an overabundance of studying, prescribed as a way to prepare students for standardized tests that theoretically prove the schools are doing their jobs, kids are popping pills to keep jangled nerves in check.

Amy and I continue to help our fifth-grader nightly. He knows the material, but he continues to awaken early, worried about doing poorly. He continues to get burned out by the volume of homework he’s responsible for, and the family continues to creak under the weight of all the stress.

Beyond hiring someone to help our son — and, in effect, us — Amy is meeting with our son’s teachers to determine if there’s anything else we can do to help him manage his load. Something, we hope, has to work.

99 thoughts on ““I Hate Homework,” says Jeff Opdyke of the Wall Street Journal

  1. What a great article! It is reassuring to know that parents everywhere are feeling the strains of homework. I admire Mr. Opdyke for having the guts to expose his family’s frustrations to so many readers!


  2. Oh my God!! You just described our family’s life, down to the younger sibling whose not getting her deserved time with Mom and Dad! Thank you for further validating the issue in my brain!


  3. I am doing a presentataion on “Why Kids hate soing homework?”. I am in college and this is a class project. I also need pamplets. I don’t know where to go for those. I also need books. I will check the library for books. I did not know that kids really hate doing homework. If you can give share some more of infromation I would like to read it. Thanks for letting us share our comments.


  4. I can not believe I have a son the same age – and he spends his afternoons playing. Often outside, but always running, jumping…being wild. A normal healthy 5th grader. And he brings home perfect grades, we hardly check his homework (he mostly does it in school). One idea that comes to my mind: he is not allowed to go on the computer or watch TV on weekdays. Might that help anyone?!


  5. Anonymous writes:

    One idea that comes to my mind: he is not allowed to go on the computer or watch TV on weekdays. Might that help anyone?!


    With all due respect, I think most of us have figured that out already. Our family currently doesn’t even own a tv! We did when my daughter was in 5th grade, but yes, she was not allowed to watch on school nights either. And her computer time was quite limited too.

    Your advice is sound. But it implicitly suggests that children whine about too much homework because they fritter away the afternoon on nonsense pursuits, and get started at nine o’clock. I too know of such kids. That is not how we run our household. And it doesn’t sound as if Jeff Opdyke does as well.

    I’ve had teachers make this assumption too and it undermines a very real problem. It shifts the blame onto the parents and children. Many of us have been forced to be our children’s homework coaches and it’s insulting to suggest it’s somehow our fault. Look, my daughter scored a 150 with multiple ceilings on her WISC IV when she was eight. The homework for her often was not too hard, it was simply too much. This in a gifted talented center. In fact, the reverse is true. Slogging through assignments in which the child learns nothing new but is forced to do anyway is unnecessary at best, torture at worst. For child and parent alike.

    It simply could be that you live in a district and/or area of the country where less homework is assigned. Jeff Opdyke of the Wall Street Journal is in New York, I am guessing. Or Washington, DC. I live in the DC area. I can attest that in the “high achieving” schools, it’s not tv or computer time that is the culprit, it is merely too much homework. Worse yet, the wrong kind of homework. I’m alarmed at the inordinate amount of time my daughter spends on it and more than sad over how much of her childhood was lost. And for what?

    I’m glad to hear your son plays all afternoon and manages to get most of his homework done at school. That’s how it should be! That demonstrates evidence of a sensible school, a sensible administrator. Sadly, all too many of us who tune into this blog are not so fortunate.



  6. Anonymous: Where do you live and what kind of school does your son go to? What kind of homework policy is there at your son’s school? I hardly hear from anyone in a situation like yours–where the homework is done in school and the child has plenty of time to run around and “be wild.”


  7. It’s me again, the one with the “no-homework-kid”.
    I did not know that our area seems to be an exception (Charlottesville, Virginia).
    But there is still one part I do not understand:
    why WE? why do parents get involved to that point that it has in impact on family life?!
    I definitely would get frustrated with the kind of homework the other parent described, “Slogging through assignments in which the child learns nothing new but is forced to do anyway is unnecessary at best, torture at worst. For child and parent alike”,
    That might be THE real problem and I wonder how you can fight that…PTA?
    Bottom line: when my child, that young, suffers to that point, something is wrong and I can not believe that all parents can do is helping with (wrong) homework.
    I am not from the US, so tell me if I have not yet completely understood the american (school) system.


  8. 10pm wow thats late and i do not want to know waht its like in colage. that means he only gets 7houers of sellp what is wrong with thes pepols heads (and by that i mean the schol systom)


  9. PS.I am 10 years old and I am in the 5th grade, And maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan!!!!!! do I hate school!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


  10. I agree. I do not like school. I did not read the full story, but from the few paragraphs, I hate school, and homework. I have some to do right now. BORING!


  11. Man homework is a pain it kinda makes my test scores lower and i really dont understand why but my grades start dropping when they start givin homework everyday i cant take it fuck skool!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


  12. Okay to the parent who posted this…..I am with you one hundred percent!!! Man your family life is mine all over! My son struggles so hard in school. He has been in school 3 years now. I am so with you about school work at home. That is why teachers get a paycheck is to teach our kids. My son’s kindergarden teacher had been teaching for 35 years and I never knew my son was behind his grade level when he went to the first grade. They put him in a Reading Recovery program with a special reading teacher for about 2 months. WoW!!! He was 1 out of 5 students in the entire school to get one on one help. You would not believe it…he was reading in a week. I then emailed his kindergarden teacher when I found out he was behind. I aked her if she thought he was behind when she passed him on to the first grade and what her oppinion was on why. Guess what her response was???? “Yes he is behind and below grade level because he did Read enough at home” You have to be kidding me!! I was so fired up! I said I have a day job and that is what she gets paid for is to teach our children the basics to move on in school. I think after 35 years, she is burned out on teaching. Retire Mrs. Black please! He struggled for a while in 1st grade but then at the end of the year I was very pleased with how the 1st grade (different ISD) had worked with him to get him to the current level. He got an award for the most improved. Now he is back in the same school district and is failing in reading again. He is a math and spelling wiz…no problems in those studies….just reading. He also is rushing through his work to get it over with. I get so frustrated with him just guessing at his work to get it over with. I will erase it and make him do it all over. I was up till 10:00pm with him last night. My husband and I just do not know what to do help him. The schools should notice that he needs help with this by now. A counceler or someone call meet with him to correct this problem. I have to bring it to the teacher’s attention and tell her we have to do something to help him. My husband and I have 5 kids and we both hold down full time jobs. It is very hard for us to spend so much time on homework. We feel as if we never can get ahead with our at home life. Here is the thing…..I make my son read every night (even though he is only required to read 2 times a week) his current story for the week and sometimes I read it to him. I want to do what I can to help him get his grade up. It just seems to keep dropping. I also have him take a spelling test every night and the words he gets wrong..her writes 3 times. Man I will tell you that the few minutes we spend giving a spelling test every night has really paid off for his spelling grade. It is his reading grade that I am about to lose my mind over! Can you tell me what might help his reading grade and what I can do to get him to take time with his school work and apply himself? Thank you for writing this article. I do not feel alone anymore. I will send a prayer for patience for you now everynight when I am spending time with homework with my son!


  13. I`m 14 and I like school but the homework kills me.
    It really sucks, the teachers pile on homework like the are the only class giving homework and then you get home and it takes forever. I wish teachers knew this. For those of you with kids that have tons of homework tell them to ask the teacher for help after school, thats what I do sometimes and it helps a lot.


  14. To Stacy Clemens,
    Don`t make your kid take a test every night, that is torture that no kid likes. Twice a week is ok and it should help. For his reading grade, have him write down his homework every day if he doesnt already and have small study sessions on the weekends or when he has very little homework. If that doesnt help try to get an older kid(in the neighborhoodor a older sibling) give him help.


  15. these teachers should understand that we have a LIFE. And after school we cant just come home and spend the OTHER half of our day doing even more work. cuz i mean im fine with going to school but the homework just ruins it all. no wonder kids say they hate school. i know id love it, if there was no homework. im in 8th grade and i will admit, that i dont get TOO much homework, but seeing all these other people that have so much to do, it just makes me think this.


  16. Hi, I am a sophmore in highschool. I am not a nerd but i get pretty good grades without a lot of time. I used to have bad stress issues back in grade school. I would get so upset that i would have stomach aches very often. Once i got to high school, i started to unwind. I learned that if i forgot some homework thing it was not the end of the world. I think that the previous comments have been pretty dead on in saying that kids that do bad don’t do homework and the people that do don’t need it.

    My best suggestion is to help this unwind. I was never really given many rules to follow on bed, tv, or computer. I learned from my mistakes that way and have learned to balance things I like to do.


  17. I am in high school and have a GPA of 4.214.

    The price I pay is far to high. It sucks the life out of me and my teachers do not care. (I swear that they torture me on purpose.) I end up spending my Saturdays dreading having to do my projects on Sunday. The state just keep passing laws that continue to raise the bar, but don’t help students learn. What frusturates me the most is that all the work is done for nothing. I end up learning so little after working so hard. I can’t even explore interesting topics, I have to work specifically on one thing. My teacher finished her curiculum early and decided to create a massive project that was due two weeks later.(Which just happened to be the day my 20 minute english presentation was due, on an African poet!)

    This is rediculous!


  18. That is really good information on why we should ban homework. I have been working on an assignment on banning homework and put a couple of your quotes in. My teacher totally disagreed with me at first but after she heard your story she is totally on my side now.



  19. Savannah–You must be very persuasive. Will you send me what you wrote? As you can see if you read my blog, I like to post students’ work. By the way, what grade are you in?


  20. I strongly agree with the author of this article. I believe that the main issue that many teachers fail to see is that the main reason for school is to prepare us for adulthood. Then they got carried away with procedures, and such, and it becomes a place where many kids won’t want to go to. I’m already planning for my future life, and lots of the things taught at school aren’t going to help me in the long run. Also, summer homework: is there really a reason for carrying over school into your personal life? I don’t like how when I want to go out with my friends, I can’t because I have to do my homework. On vacation. It’s not right.


  21. P.S. My summer homework is: Read 2 books, and do graphic organizers about them. Find 6 articles on a current world issue, and write a page about each. Then, read a passage and write another one page essay on something we learned. The “reward”? more homework and essays on the first day of school. Too bad I don’t see any learning value in this homework.


  22. Wow do I agree with with Mr.Opdyke sure I do! i have three kids of which one is dyslexic.i have a large home library which is more than enough with modern illustrated books,but my children hate books!The problem is i loved books so much and as a mother now my stomach turns upside down when i hear the word books… My opinion is school ended up with so many heart feelings,sensitive feelings,my daughter hates to go to a children’s party just because they ended up with a conversation about their exam grades…..where is the the time of simple life can we call this freedom or an experimental life? will they experiment a pill of turning short people tall,maybe a pill for ugly to become pretty or old to become young.Family time is stolen and i have all the support and help my husband can bring.School days make me exhausted and a real nightmare..for all my family…



  23. suggestion maybe remedial teacher should help with homework and fun reading should be left for family fun time.new school curriculum changed alot -ok but most parents are not that updated that’s why it is frustrating to find time for private lessons and paying plenty of money sometimes wasting most of family communicating time running here and there…back home tired and eating seperatley or all in a hurry.where is the time for long late family walk or riding the bike for fun when we even have to hurry in the bath!



  24. if we don’t have homework most say that’s crazy because children will not learn the school work by heart…but their is something wrong with this method of homework because those parents with more than one kid and even a dyslexic child in between.How will we have time for a real relaxation with our husband! or we got used to relax alone an hour before school time ends? did we got used to grumble i’m tired? is a relaxation pill the answer or we really do miss that candle romantic dinner….even a nice round family table all discussing our day do we have time to hear each other and share ideas except about history,religion.maths, and we have also to study ourselves all teaching methods have changed and it’s all insane who is the proper person to explain because mostly woman are embarrassed to show their real opinion for many facts and i don’t blame anyone…
    It’s like when you are on duty how many of the staff members are willing to report a problem to the boss without being afraid they get fired…..believe me this is not a psychologist problem relaxing alone is not reuniting families nor a day at the spa or message therapy will solve once a marriage is damaged will that A levels bring it back? hahaa by myself i feel that i’m the only one looking at homework as a problem am i??????????




  26. a single child could be a different story and when both parents are very intellectual it’s not about genetics but i have to study history because i don’t have a photographic memory for names and dates as a 40 yr old mother…that’s not pleasant for the child…many have skills to teach their children and others beside time don’t have the patience because they simply hate school like many hate sports it’s not a question of too much tv or computer otherwise all kids would be a genius because all mothers want that their child shines in everything…..who is good at ballet only or dancing only and who can do it all good luck to them but wasting time on pc or tv is just a smart excuse for low grades i even tried 2 months no tv and pc and psp or ps2 but their dislikes for homework grew more!!!!


  27. FREEDOM TO HUMAN in my opinion many so called intellectuals say tv and and show models and soap operas give so much bad impression on us and children…well i believe soap operas are copied from real life which we all have the right to know whats going on out there…what a person admire as an idol is in the blood different in each of us…as one have music in him other have religion in him,one have football in his blood and other have art and paint like some have technology and others have cooking in their blood….even a priest and a teacher can become a childs idol if she plays the right role to him and even a priest and a nun can become an idol of anyone… but nowadays school are giving us the impression that intellectual high school grades makes the perfect man or woman…nudity to most catholics is
    a shame full thing when is it that nudity is a whore thing and dressing yourself as a priest makes us holy…don’t our children learnt that the wise fox can sometimes disguise himself like a lamb……where is that woman with that highly intellectual husband who gives her all the scores and needs but keeps visiting the ugliest whore in town…..sorry for the expression but these i’ve seen with my own eyes….some time ago about the age of my eldest son i was pregnant with and at work this guy student worker came up to me several time a day i don’t even know his name because from all the staff seems like i was the only one to answer him back he was very intellectual choosing between a doctor or a priest i just couldn’t reckon why he grumbled to me everyday My mum wants me to be a doctor and i want to be a priest please do you have an opinion of what shall i do?i just say you must have it in you your answer is in you not your mum..i always share my truth opinion if you don’t like it choose the other way up to you i don’t decide for anyone like most intellectuals do anyway not to go long some weeks later a good friend told me GOODMORNING I HAVE SOMETHING TO TELL YOU BECAUSE IT’S NOT GOOD TO HEAR SUCH NEWS FROM STRANGERS WHILE YOU ARE PREGNANT….HE FELL FROM A HIGH BUILDING IN MALTA…….i never wanted to read the news paper about him and hearing people talking about him got me frustrated how can parents put so much pressure on their children……Why is this much pressure with school ..why the avarage is not enough if a child wants to keep going for high grades should be in his blood no hell will change that…….schools and skills should be introduced more in primary schools like many different …..my older son doesn’t like sports like me but he loves swimming and bikes… hope this can help someone ideas…seems like dyslexics are the only persons in prison second to research…when is it someone went to prison for writing the wrong prescription medicine….oh that’s not impulsive that’s a mistake to experiment with human beings!


  28. I’m a second year college student and I agree with a huge majority of what’s been posted here. When I was in high school I drove my teachers CRAZY because I refused to do the homework but still got “A”s and “B”s on a huge majority of exams (not saying that I never had anything below that!). I graduated high school with a 2.89 GPA because I only turned in about two dozen assignments in four years. Theoretically speaking, with that track record, my GPA should have been around a 0.50 (or a similarly horrible number). What does that tell you about the “need” for homework in order to pass exams? Graduating with almost a 3.0 after only turning in a couple dozen assignments isn’t a fluke. I knew the material as well as, if not better than, students that studied for hours and hours. I took notes in class, read the assignments and participated in class discussions. On top of that, I was finishing in the top percent tiles in all of my state “assessment” exams.

    Is homework necessary to learn the material? No.

    Is more homework necessary to drive the material home? HELL no.

    Is homework a good, OPTIONAL, tool to HELP learn material? Sure, the right kind of homework is very helpful, especially as an ADDITION to good notes and good LESSON PLANS.


  29. I totally agree! There is way too much homework being given out. My sister daughter had a test the day after school started! These school boards have really got to get their act together! Kids are going to hate homework even more now then ever!


  30. Man I know how you feel. I am in High School and I like school, but I HATE homework! I can get a max of 15 pieces of homework a week, and whenever I slog through another pile of pointless turd, sorry, homework, I get more next lesson! It never gets any easier. I get into arguments with my mum and dad about doing homework. I get stressed. My parents get stressed. I would rather plunge my hands into a steaming pile of camel turd, seriously. I get through six hours of school, picking up homework on the way like leeches in a lake, then I spend like another couple hours doing the same stuff I did in school.
    The thing is, I’m only in Year 8.

    Plz help me. đŸ˜¦


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