This I Believe

Laurie - Sunderland, Massachusetts
Entered on December 28, 2007

I believe that children have too much homework. No, I am not a middle school student, though I have one! It is perhaps because I have a 13 year-old child that I have formed this belief.

For seven years a child is in elementary school, learning the basic building blocks of knowledge on which they will build their future. These are important, formulative years, and while at school, a child will spend 6 hours a day, 186 days a year in this worthy pursuit of knowledge. Outside of school, they will spend increasing more and more time on continuing that pursuit at home doing “homework,” hopefully with the loving support of a parent.

After grade school, that child will progress to middle and high schools, where the days at school are longer, and so, too, are the hours of homework. After 7 hours at school, a child can expect 1-3 hours of homework per night. Moving beyond basic skills and knowledge, it is during these years that students enter the more complex work of learning. With each passing year, the concepts get more difficult, the expectations for performance increase, and the end results carry more weight as college looms ahead.

So when does this child get to experience quality time with their family? I can assure you, it is not during homework time! I love my child, and I cherish greatly the moments that we have together. But homework time is not one of the cherished moments. After a long day of work and managing the house and yard, when I get home at 5 pm I don’t get to relax and enjoy making dinner. I don’t get to have fun and play with my child and hear about her day. I have to be the homework cop. First I have to ascertain what work has to be done, and then I have to help her with the work while I watch her frustration build. Inevitably this leads to an argument, and the lasting effects of this struggle will spill over into what is only a few hours a day that I even get to spend with my child. At times, we even have homework over the weekends. Notice I said “we,” because I truly feel like I have homework as well! As if I didn’t serve my time already when I was a student!

Is all this homework really necessary? I know that repetition is the key to learning. I can still sing the lyrics to just about every Top 40 song from the 1970s. But how much of it is repetition for the sake of repetition versus a truly helpful and important augmentation to the in-school learning experience?

I have been through elementary, middle, and high schools, as well as college and even law school. And I teach college now. But I believe my time with my child is precious, and at times I am very resentful of teachers for taking that time away from me. I believe children have too much homework, and I implore teachers to weigh carefully what assignments truly must be done at home versus those that can be done within the confines of the school day.