What I've Written About

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Homework Hatred...You'll Thank Me Later.

I am an adult now. I have been for, oh, about a while. However, there is one thing I have never grown out of...


Lest you think I'm lazy, which I'm not, I'm going to give you some very good reasons why homework is a complete waste of time. All of these reasons have been proven with research into child education. (I just didn't want to dredge up my old college and workshop papers to cite references.)

Feel free to tell your child's teacher these reasons the next time your second grader is given an assignment to do a five page report on a country, or do thirty math problems, or fill out a grammar worksheet.

Are you ready?

The only homework EVER to have proven that it improves the way your child thinks is READING. And I'm not talking a little bit here. Thirty to forty minutes is minimum, and I'm not kidding. Of course, this includes you reading aloud to them and talking about what you read and them reading on their own. So if they are little, you read more, if they are older they read more. That's it. It is the ONLY kind of homework that has been proven with research to actually do something for your child. Got it? The only thing!

2) MATH:
Math is only improved by doing lots of problems if your child is getting them perfect every time. If a child is long dividing wrong, doing thirty problems only ingrains the wrongness in their brains and makes them do it wrong forever. In fact, it has been proven that if a child can show they get five problems right, in a row, without any help at all, they know how to do that kind of math. They shouldn't need to do any more than that. In my opinion, teachers just assign that many to make themselves look like they are teaching a lot, but I'd like to know, if you assigned my child forty-five problems, and there are forty-five problems on the page, which problems did they do with the teacher? Hmmmm...think about that for a minute.

The reason that writing homework is so dumb is that teachers don't teach the child how to do the assignment before they assign it. Do you know how frustrating it is when my child comes home, says they have to write a two page report on something, and then has no clue on how to do it? I equate it to teaching someone how to build a house by handing them a hammer and a saw and saying, "You have a hammer and saw right? Good luck!". It makes no sense, but often a teacher hands my child a pencil and a piece of paper and says, "Create an essay. You have the paper and pencil right? Good Luck." I'm not against you assigning it. You just better teach them how to do it first. Because, you see, a parent's job is to support and help. A teacher's job is to teach. End of story.

Okay, this is my number one pet peeve. Once again, they are something a teacher assigns and never teaches. If you are going to assign my child to make a diorama, you better show them how that is done AND give them the materials to do it. If you want them to make a paper mache of a state, you better teach them how to mix paper mache and mold it into something. If you want them to write a song in honor of a past president, you better have taught them the musical notes, poetry, and rhythm. Do you see what I'm saying? This kind of homework is homework for parents, not kids. And if you as a teacher can not explain the educational benefit "the child" gains by doing this project, then it isn't a worthwhile project. I am busy enough in my life. I have to jump through hoops all day. I don't need more busy work. I've got enough going as it is.
*Note:Parent led projects are a product of nineteen fifties education. The problem is that back then we were training them to work in a factory. Part of what they needed to learn was to jump through stupid hoops and shut up so they wouldn't get fired. Now we are competing globally. They should be doing things that make them marketable--which would be becoming better readers, writers, and users of oral language. Enough said.

Above all else, my problem with meaningless homework is that it is given to "force" parents into supporting their children in school. I don't need to be coerced into helping my child with things that will really improve the way they think and the way they problem solve. I care about that. I care about things that have been proven to make my child a better student. You don't need to "Make" me do it. Because if you do, I will hate your guts when I'm running to the supermarket at one o'clock in the morning to pick up posterboard to make a collage of things that start with the letter 'A'.

Bonus Bad? The parents who don't really care about what is happening at school don't help their child with the crazy homework. Then their child doesn't ever do the homework, and the child is blamed because their "parent" didn't do their homework. That doesn't make sense. Don't assign it if a child can't do it themselves without a minimum amount of support.

Last, I want you to know I'm not just an angry parent spouting off my beliefs. I am an educator. I taught fifth grade in public schools for nine years and am currently a Literacy Specialist for my school district. My main fight is always about homework and how it really benefits the child doing it. Most of the things teachers still assign at school are products of nineteen fifties (or earlier) beliefs. The world has changed and so should the homework...that's all I'm saying.

So the next time your child is given some whacked out school assignment to build a working replica of a Native American settlement, feel free to print off this blog post. Or at the very least, ask the teacher what educational benefit your child is gaining from doing this asinine busy work, and what they (as the teacher) have taught the students about Native American villages and how they ran. (Because you can know how a Native American settlement worked, ran, and looked without ever having to build one.)

         (Now that is a twenty-first century thinker)

What about you? Do you hate homework? Like it for the bonding time you get with your child? Or are you just happy you are out of that faze of your life?

Signing Off,


To play along in our visit through the alphabet...go to Jenny's...Jenny Matlock


Melissa said...

Thank you. SOMEONE needed to say this. I'm glad you did. I don't have kids or anything but I still remember high school and I still have to do bs like this in university. Building things, creating posters, answering a billion math questions....

a moderate life said...

Hi Margie! I am visiting you from Alphabet thursday and I am now following your lovely blog. As the mother of a senior and a freshman in high school I whole heartedly agree with what you are saying here! The worst is when the children get assignments over vacations. Seriously, the teacher isnt doing them why should the family and the child have to suffer? I have friend's who have their kids in democratic schools and other's who are homeschooled and those kids arent doing twenty page papers on Christmas eve! All the best with your writing! I have a middle reader book about half way finished for the last 4 years! Gotta get it done. Alex@amoderatelife

RawknRobynsGoneBlogWild said...

Thanks for visiting and for your kind words. I hate homework too, but I really like your blog.

Gattina said...

I agree with you. In Belgium the school finishes at 4 pm, I think that's enough learning per day. I didn't like homework either.
Love the cartoon with the sheeps, lol !

jfb57 said...

Oh dear! Homework is a subject that causes real pain whichever side you are on. As an ex headteacher, I think it should only be use if the re was not enough time in the lesson to finish the learning!

tracy said...

Thank you - I am so frustrated by my 2nd graders homework this year. It is just crazy.

Nick said...

Homework is exercise for the mind. Use it or lose it.

Charmingdesigns said...

Well written! I said I hated homework, but we didn't have a tv and it was better then being totally bored...but that was a looooong time ago. Nice H subject

JDaniel4's Mom said...

I don't look forward to starting homework with JDaniel.

H said...

I agree with you about reading. I feel like I am banging my head against a wall when kid's reading records come back unsigned week after week after week. Some parents just do not listen to their kids read!

As for the rest. The value of the homework depends entirely on what it is. Most of the home work we assign is project based, where children have around three weeks to research a particular topic linked with what we are doing in school and then choose for themselves how to present it; model, powerpoint, poster, photograph album, leaflet...

Just a note to Alex@amoderatelife, I don't know what it is like in the States, but the concept of a UK teacher NOT working over a holiday made me roar with ironic laughter!

Lois D. Brown said...

I have repeated kindergarten five times. That's right, five times. Once when I was five, and four other times when I was 31, 33, 37, and 40.

Honestly, "kindergarten homework" is totally mommy homework, and it is the same thing over and over again. I'm not the only one bored with it, just ask my kid.

"It's time to do math homework," I say.

"Oh no," she groans. "Not patterns again?"

"Yes," I say. "Now be quiet and start gluing those noodles on the paper. ABABABAB."

Pondside said...

Yes, I hated homework, especially those big projects and (drum roll...) the Science Fair. If ever an endeavour was designed to weed out the involved from the uninvolved parent it was the Science Fair. I was SO happy when my children moved on to high school!

Jenny said...

I'm going to send this link to my daughter-in-law. I am shocked and angry at the amount of homework handed out to first and third graders. They both love reading and it is almost impossible for them to carve out enough time to read a book with over two hours of homework each night.

I hated homework in school. Except creative writing assignments. Actually I always did creative writing assignments whether I had them or not! ha!

Thanks for a thoughtful and thought provoking link to Alphabe-Thursday.

This was excellent.


And no homework for you, Missy!