Homework Horrors and What to Do About Them

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard parents complain about homework battles with their children, especially young learners. This is upsetting on so many levels.

To start with, did you know that research reveals that homework isn’t even beneficial for students until they reach high school?

We have an entire nation of stressed-out parents and children when the outcome is useless? To me, that doesn’t make sense.

And the emotional toll that comes into play in all this is disturbing. Does it really matter if a child completes a homework packet by Friday? Was there even much learning that took place on the assignment?

Even worse, there are too many variables once that homework leaves the school door.

As a teacher, I’ve witnessed the atrocity of this so many times, it could make a grown woman weep. Those kids who were lucky enough to be born into families that had the resources to help with homework delivered their homework assignments to me on time every week.

But those kids whose moms were in rehab, whose families were missing in action, who were abused or neglected, or who didn’t happen to have a family that valued homework…

Those kids were left in the dust. (And they do exist…even when you’ve called Child Protective Services). These kids…they rarely if ever brought their homework assignments to class, and I can still see their sad eyes.

It’s not their fault!

Here is the sad fact. Little kids are not always capable of coming home, whipping out their homework packet, and doing it by themselves. Sure, some kids are. But most couldn’t reason through this entire process on their own.

Children in school should not be judged by their parents actions…or inactions. Their grades should not depend on this, especially in a society where most moms have to work just to make ends meet.

But the real travesty comes when a student spends three or four hours at a time trying to finish a homework packet that has no real bearing on learning, life, or really anything else. Good parents grind their teeth, punish, threaten, and pull their hair out while the child sits at the kitchen table biting back tears or maybe having a tantrum.

I promise you, this isn’t learning. This is oppression.

So…what do you do if you happen to have one of those kids who spends three hours trying to complete a homework page?

Following are some suggestions:

1. Talk to the teacher first and see if the homework amount can be adjusted. Many times, teachers will work with you and truly care about your child’s learning success.

2. Check with the school district for time limits. Most school districts have time limits on homework for each grade level. For instance, first grade time limits might be thirty minutes. If your child has spent thirty minutes of actual time working on an assignment, then it’s time to stop. You can work something out with the teacher or principal where you can sign off for the amount of time spent on the assignment to prove that your child wasn’t dawdling or watching television.

3. Switch schools if your school or district won’t work with you. I often hear parents say they don’t want to disturb their child’s social skills progress, but kids adjust better to a new school environment than they do endless homework battles where self-esteem is whittled away and attitudes toward school and learning are devalued.

4. Private schools, charter schools, or homeschooling options will often be more agreeable toward long and seemingly limitless homework assignments.

5. Make sure your child’s homework is an extension of what was taught at school. For instance, if your child learned long division that week, then homework should be about long division, not double digit multiplication.

6. A child’s homework should be meaningful and not just rote busy work. It also should be something the child can accomplish independently. If it isn’t, talk to your child’s school and see if it can be changed.

7. Just stop the insanity. Set a timer for your school district’s time limit and let your child be a child!

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