What’s the point of homework? by Celia Klassen – Time for Tea

During a particularly arduous homework session with my two elementary children, I began to echo their sentiments: “what’s the point of homework anyway?”
I turned to Mr. Google, as you do, for the answer. Benefits of homework include giving the parent a chance to see what is being learned in school, teaches students to take responsibility for their part in the educational process, and teaches students they have to do things – even if they don’t want to.
This was going to be a very balanced argument about the pros and cons of homework, but I find myself leaning more towards the “no homework” category. I’ll give my reasons, and you can send in yours.
Starting with the first point I found on google, giving the parents a chance to see what is being learned in school. Well, can’t I see that in the million pieces of paper they bring home every day? And while it would be best if I don’t stay too long on that subject, what happened to the era of workbooks that were completed in the book and sent home when they were full? I’ve got some nice ones from when I was in school. Even if I keep my children’s work, who wants a bucket full of ratty-edged loose papers?
Teaches children to take responsibility for their part in the educational process. I fail to see how school doesn’t do that. Perhaps teachers are standing at the front and giving them the answers to class work? Depending on the subject, even at a very young age we had a lot of independent work. The teacher would use some examples, and we would complete the rest. As we got older some classes the teacher said almost nothing at all, directing us to read certain pages and answer the questions. Whether that is a good teaching method is questionable I agree, but surely independent work teaches them responsibility for their education? If you don’t complete your work you don’t get a grade?
Teaching children to do things – even if they don’t want to. Well there are many things that could be said about this, the first education-related answer that comes to mind is doesn’t “going to school” fall into this category? An almost daily conversation; “I don’t want to go to school”, “well you have to”.
Then we get into the hours. My children leave on the bus shortly after 7 a.m. They start school just before 8. They leave school at 3:25 and arrive home shortly after 4 p.m. Even if you discount the bus ride, that’s about seven and a half hours of school every day. Oh yes, I realize the law requires bla bla…
I’m refocusing on after school. Imagine in an ideal situation you lived right near the school and your children got home at 3:30, remembering this applies to almost nobody. Who comes home from work and immediately sits down to do more? Yes, my husband does, some crazy people do, but most people like to flop onto the couch, or have some form of down time. Another thing about children is their appetites; they need a snack when they come home. Lets continue with this ideal situation and say they eat a snack the moment they get home and are done by 3:45. Now I know that a lot of children go to bed late, but the recommended bedtime for children between 6 and 12 years old is 7:30 to 8:30. Let’s choose 8 p.m. as right in the middle there.
That means that between 3:45 and bedtime you have 4 hours and 15 minutes with your child. In that time, you are supposed to squeeze in a family dinner, extra-curricular activities, church activities, family events or visiting, homework and a bath or shower. Note that I did not even include play. That is six things in about four hours. I’ll come back to not including play later, but I also did not include chores.
Our job as parents is to raise our children to be respectful, responsible human beings, capable of functioning in society. Perhaps the reason so many college students don’t know how to do basic cooking or their own laundry, is that they were never given the time to learn it at home.
Back to play. Play is recognized as one of the most important developmental things for children, and even as adults we use ‘play’ or ‘down-time’ or whatever you would like to call it as a way to rest and unwind, to recharge for the next day. How stressed do you get on a busy week where you don’t get a moment to think? And think how much worse that would be for a child without the maturity to know it’s short lived and a break will come soon, or it’s necessary for survival.
We have already taken a large amount of the ‘play’ out of preschool, and completely removed it from kindergarten. Why do so many children go to preschool now? Because they will be behind if they’re thrown into kindergarten with its ridiculously high expectations if they don’t. So if I were to imagine some form of realistic family schedule for the evening; get home at 3:45, snack until 4, homework until 5 (I’m erring on the low end of homework time here!), play for 30 minutes, family or church activities and commitments until 6, family dinner needs an hour, we are at 7 p.m. now. Then if you have any experience of getting children into the bath/shower, actually washed, and back out and into their pajamas you know that will take the rest of the time until bed time.
This did not allow for soccer practice, or football, or after school tutoring, or anything else.
Now we look at the amount of homework. I have one child that does it as fast as he possibly can and another that would rather sit and weep over it for a couple of hours before finally getting around to it. So I’m in a good position to give an average. So far, in elementary, they rarely come home with more than two sides of one paper to complete. Then there are also spelling words to practice, and then they are supposed to read for 30 minutes to an hour. I skip the spelling and reading most nights because there isn’t time.
If you get higher in the school I have no doubt that each teacher requires at least 30 minutes for their subject alone. Even the limited amount of homework sent home in elementary takes us an hour to complete, I cannot always help both children at the same time, and I have other kids not in school yet so the problem will only get worse. And right at the prime homework helping hour is when you’re supposed to be cooking a wonderfully nutritious meal to give your children plenty of brain fuel for their development.
Have we considered that perhaps the chief thing that is “wrong” in society is the demands we put on our time? We’ve lost the ability to have fun, or relax, or make time to strengthen family bonds, because we have put so much emphasis on work and we drill it into our children right from the time they start school.
I’m not bashing teachers here, far from it. They are doing what they are expected to do. If we can’t figure out how to slow down, we’re all going to come crashing down with society around us.

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