Why do your kids do homework?

Homework is hard. It’s a lot of work for teachers. It’s hard for kids, and sometimes it’s hardest for parents. As a child I spent a good amount of my childhood SCREAMING at my mom about not wanting to do my homework (sorry mom).

Now that I have kids I find myself thinking what I want my kids relationship with homework to be. In an effort to better understand homework I worked with the superintendent at my son’s school and surveyed the parents in one of the elementary schools to see what *they* felt the role of homework should be. There were some surprising and some not so surprising findings:

  • 40% of the 300 parents I emailed responded, which seemed like a VERY high number to me.
  • 40% felt that last year’s homework was appropriate
  • 48% felt last year was too much
  • 11% felt that last year was not enough
  • 52% felt less busy work should have been given last year
  • 14% asked for more Math
  • 18% asked for more Reading
  • 53% supported ONLY giving Reading as homework
  • 46% supported homework “projects”

But the comments are where things got really interested. When I think of overachiever “helicopter” parents I think of sports, music and academics… but it turns out those are very different groups. The number of parents who disliked homework because it interfered with extracurricular activities (sports, music, dance, whatever) was actually close to 15%, which is HIGHER than the percent of parents who wanted MORE homework at school (11%).

Other trends:

  • Many people supported homework because it helped them understand what their kids were doing at school. Keep in mind this is elementary school, but this was fascinating to me and I wonder how many teachers actually sit down and say “I need to design a homework assignment so that my parents feel connected to the classroom.”
  • While many parents loved “project-based homework” a number of single parents (50% of my son’s class in 2nd grade) and working parents commented that projects are unfair because they’re not able to help their children with the assignments as much as they’d like.
  • A number of parents pointed out that while homework is supposedly created to teach kids accountability, in younger grades the accountability role often falls on the parents not the students.

So what’s my policy as a parent?

Do nothing.

Which sort of fits into my overall parenting philosophy. I mean if my job is to help my kids understand consequences (good and bad), am I helping them by forcing them to do something they don’t want to do? Am I improving their relationship with me by spending 30 minutes of the 2 hours I get to see them every night fighting?

As someone who’s interviewed hundreds of recent college grads I can tell you that kids that do whatever they’re told are a dime a dozen. McDonalds has *no trouble* hiring. But creative hires, that figure things out on their own and work the system? Those are worth their weight in gold.

Last year I saw Max’s homework sheet sitting on the counter. Next to his reading log he wrote “I couldn’t find a book I liked”. I didn’t say anything or do anything. I never heard from the teacher and I’m not sure 

I honestly don’t know if that homework was ever reviewed or graded, but I know what I would have done if I were that teacher. I would have sent him to the library, but he had substitute teacher for half the year and he was in the top of his class, so I’m guessing the sub never even checked his homework.

On the other hand he LOVES his teacher this year and doesn’t want to let him down and so in the first week of school he walked past me at 11PM and went into the craft room and closed the door behind him. I was curious what was up so I went in and asked if everything was OK. He looked up and said “Yeah dad, I’m just doing my homework before bed.”


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