My Mother Crapped On My Homework & Set It On Fire

Okay, she didn’t crap on my homework, or crap on it and set it on fire, but she had delusional fantasies of doing so, oh yes she did.

Seriously, what the shmeck is up with all the homework? Teacher, please. Is it necessary for an eight year old to have this much work to do after school?

Last week my third grader had seven pages of multi-step math homework. I’m supposed to get a child that is pretty much feral after a 6 plus hour day at school to sit down at the kitchen table and figure out the rate at which Adele (who is probably going to end up a meth head) is collecting crayons for her birthdays.

This kid (my kid, not Adele) is not math minded. I was not math minded as a kid. She has the math curse (but is a kick ass writer–WOOT!). Might I propose a different math education path for children who are not destined to be engineers or accountants?

Feel free to thwack me on the head for suggesting this, but how about teaching practical math to such children? Like how to measure, how to balance a banking account, how to handle money?

I don’t blame the homework zeal on my daughter’s teacher. She is a sane, smart, compassionate person. It’s the system. Our educational system is so broken. Assigning this much homework seems to be something that has picked up speed over the years, sort of a Hey, I had to take it in the ‘nads, so future generations should as well.

What I can speak to is what I experience on the other side of the bus ride home which is ugly, very ugly. It is two children who hate homework and appear to be getting very little educational benefit from being forced to do it.

Alfie Kohn, high school teacher turned author, was interviewed by the School Library Journal. He said, “No research has ever demonstrated any academic benefit to making kids do homework before they’re in high school. Even in high school, there is only a weak correlation between standard measures of achievement and doing homework. What’s more, there is no evidence that the two are causally related—that is, that kids who have better grades and test scores have them because they’ve had to do more academic assignments after a full day in school. Finally, there isn’t a shred of evidence to demonstrate that homework has any nonacademic advantages, such as teaching self-discipline and responsibility or teaching kids good work habits.”

Yes, what he said. Ok, I haven’t done a whole lot of research past what I wanted to hear (convenient, eh?) but what I’m finding with my own kids is that their homework makes them dread school, it takes the joy out of our time together after school, and it increases conflict in our household.


Getting my daughter to do this much math homework is about as painful as systematically pulling out pubic hairs one by one. Or stepping on Legos in the dark. I’m sure most parents are well familiar with the struggle.


I would much rather use the hour or two every day that we wrestle over homework to take my kids to see art at a museum or read to them or have them run around outside. There are so many more interesting and alternative ways to teach kids when they are outside of school. Why not give parents the freedom to create an enriching home teaching environment?

How do other parents feel about homework for elementary school aged kids? How do you motivate your kids to do their homework? Teachers: What purpose does homework for young kids serve?

70 thoughts on “My Mother Crapped On My Homework & Set It On Fire

    • My brother is a prime example of this failure/ A-B student until 5th grade when homework started (3rd grade yikes!).From then on he advanced grades by the skin of his teeth. He was always on detention for not finishing work, parent conferences galore, he’s not LEARNING! Final semester of senir year, he pulled straight A’s just as a final F-U to the school.

      That’s why my own kid is in a Montessori school, and making the discovery that most of his classmates have parents that teach public school only cemented that decision.

      Great post!

      • Lynette, I kind of love your brother for giving them the big F-U! So sad that he had such a hard time with the system, though. It’s very interesting to hear that your kid’s classmate’s parents are public school teachers. I haven’t done much research on Montessori schools but I will now! Thanks for commenting.

      • I sure have! You should have heard the tears and tantrums and that was just from me. Factor in 5 children and a Mother who can barely add up and you can see how homework time soon became my most least favourite part of the day.

  1. I totally agree Jen! My son has always been an enthusiastic learner, if let on his own, will usually be found reading, creating imaginative scenarios with blocks and mini-figures, playing piano or outside with his brother, running, building, exploring, playing. I believe these activities to be more healthy, productive and educational than the pile of worksheets he is sent home with.

    • Kelly, Think of the brain development that goes on when a child learns to play piano! Build a tower out of blocks! Pretend play! The importance of this type of learning shouldn’t just get thrown out the window once a kid graduates kindergarten. Worksheets are deadening.

  2. Hallelujah! My daughter has a hefty writing assignment, 3-4 math pages, 3 spelling assignments each week, along with 30 minutes of reading a day. The homework conflict is now a part of our everyday landscape,making the few hours I get with my girls each evening less than enjoyable. It often spills over into the weekend, and the fact that we say fun stuff can only happen after homework is done sometimes means no fun is had. At all. The best part? No homework is ever returned to us. Does it get reviewed? Dropped in the trash? We have no idea. I know just two things : we work too hard to get this work done to never hear if it was done well…and parent teacher conferences are the week after next. Guess what I’ll be talking about?

    • Michelle, I want to hear about how that goes! Not getting assignments back is entirely unacceptable. Why should kids be expected to hand in homework if they aren’t getting feedback?

  3. I’m not a mother, but I have plenty of friends who are, and I hear the same complaints about homework again and again. I agree completely with you! Don’t they spend enough time in school everyday without having to sacrifice what precious time they do have with their family for hours of arguing and frustration?

    And as an aside, I would also like to agree wholeheartedly about the suggestion that kids who lean more towards language be taught more practical math skills. I was always more into writing, English, and history classes than I was math classes in school. As a result, I memorized what I could about math in each class and squeaked by at best. Now I find myself unable to do simple math…just because they made me hate it so much while I was there.

    Great post!

    • Katie, Thank you so much for chiming in! That really sucks (about having a hard time doing simple math). The best thing for my math skills was getting a job in retail. (And a short stint in studying nursing–medication math.) It makes me sad that school actually teaches some kids to hate math. Incidentally, I find myself scratching my head and having to struggle to do my own kid’s math work. Mortifying. And, I don’t explain it in the same way that her teacher does, so that compounds her frustration. This week is a creative essay and my daughter is sailing through it. My son hates writing (he’s a math head) and I am already dreading next year when he has to do expository writing at home.

  4. As a former hs teacher- I can say that this kind of homework for a child this young is a waste of time. For the kid, parent and the teacher. I think that while on the one hand it’s great to instill a habit and a routine with kids and their homework at a young age- but I mean come on. Useless homework that’s long and drab like this is just going to teach them that it is without value going forward. It’s hard enough to get kids to care about homework in the first place- and technically the purpose of homework is to reinforce what has been learned in the classroom. This does nothing but make it a chore that’s despised by everyone. Oh boy. I’m going to be THAT MOM at conferences, aren’t I?

    • Farrah, You won’t be the only THAT MOM at conferences. I’m sure teachers hear about this all the time, and I suspect that the homework overload has little to do with their desire to assign it and much to do with state expectations. It’s an unnecessary drag for everyone.

  5. I would have the 8 yr old work for 20 -30 mins max by herself and thats it Write a note on the hw as such. Teachers need to know that kids cant do it And hw should be done by kid independently. We already went to school. Voila. Thats it. Dont help and dont contribute to the broken system. All w a smile i might add.

  6. Oh, I am so with you on this one. My kids’ homework never comes back to them, either, and if my middle schooler is to be believed (and I have no reason not to believe her), she doesn’t get her tests back either. The grades are posted, but they both turn in work that they never see again. Bizarre-o world. How are you supposed to learn from your mistakes if you can’t actually SEE them?!

    • MK and Michelle, Wow, I don’t understand why your kids don’t get their homework back! That is nuts. We get corrected homework and tests back. My daughter’s teacher encourages them to complete their homework via sticker rewards. Not getting homework back would really sap both kids and parents of motivation to get it done. OY!

    • In our kids’ high school, the tests are shown to the kids in class, but then they have to pass them back to the teacher before the end of class. It drove us nuts, because the parents never got to see them, and what is a quick glance going to tell the student about where he/she went wrong? And when our oldest had an outside Chem tutor (he was flunking Chemistry), we had to make a big stink about getting his quizzes and tests for the tutor to review with him. Turns out the department reuses the same tests every year, and they don’t want someone to start keeping a file. Hello? How lazy is that? As a former college lit prof, I cannot tell you how many midterms, quizzes, and final exam questions I’ve written without needing to reuse any. There has to be a better way.

  7. I’d never had made it through grade school with the math they are teaching these days. I agree- it’s way too much and too hard on both kids and teachers (who are forced to prep kids for the standardized tests…)

    • Iza, I don’t think I would’ve been able to, either! Eeek. Though I have to say that I got much better at math as I got older and capable of concentrating for longer periods of time.

  8. State standards, school district expectations, have you seen the STEM focus from federal admin?, among other things, bind the hands that teach, in most cases. I agree that homework is, for lack of a better word, dumb. Family time, alone time, exercise time, friend time are of significant value to the development of a child…Measuring and other practical math concepts are usually in state standards. Go to your state’s dept. of ed website and see what’s expected… We aren’t mathematicians in this house either, but I tell my girls that they are smart enough to do it, can do it, and sometimes have to do things we do not like in life, and then I leave them with a computer so that they can get support from one of the many great math sites on the Web-I am of NO help at all ;)…also, I’ve read that a parent’s view of a subject shapes the child’s. Just another perspective. I hate math, myself, and took “Mathematics for Liberal Arts Majors” in college which was geared towards those of us with a more contemplative mind. It was fab. Not sure if it’s something that is offered in post-secondary theses days or not. Great post!

  9. Don’t think I’ve read anything so spot-on (and so very descriptive of our everyday life with an 11-year-old boy with ASD and a math-itude!) and affirming of our struggles in the homework department. The only thing that saved us this year (5th grade) is that my husband was desperately ill for about three months and the teachers took pity on us and allowed our son do his math homework at school with the guidance of the resource teacher. My husband is on the mend, but our son continues to do his math homework at school. It has been an enormous burden off our shoulders. This does not mean we don’t struggle with the other copious amounts of science and language arts homework that comes home each week (along with baseall practice and swimming lessons), but having the math done at school has helped. I am in the same boat as Kimberly – I couldn’t do this stuff without the great math websites out there. I’ve been on the computer well into the night hunched over the speakers listening to a Youtube math tutorial so I can try and help!

    • Jen, I can’t imagine how stressful it must’ve been keeping the kids on track while caring for your very ill husband. I’m glad to hear that your son’s school was willing to help out with the math homework. (My daughter has an IEP and I’m wondering if we should work something like that in, too.) I’m so happy that your husband is doing better. Please share the math websites if you check back in here. Would love to share them with others. Math-itude is such a great way to put it!

  10. Professional educator here…
    The purpose of homework is to practice the work learned in school. is piloting a program that I think would do wonders for math education. The students learn their lessons at home on iPads provided by the school. These lessons are delivered in 10 minute videos (1-2 per evening). When students come to school the next day, they begin working on the practice problems with the teacher there to assist and monitor progress. Parents are released from the expectation that they’ll teach their children (a job that parents pay US to do) and educators can more effectively monitor progress of students who rarely complete their homework anyway. (In my school, we’re working on finding other ways to give students practice since no one does their homework.) I completely agree with you. No elementary student should have more than about 5 minutes of homework for every grade in school. (1st grade- 5 minutes, 2nd grade 10 minutes, 3rd grade 15 minutes…) and they shouldn’t have it every night. Be sure to share your concerns with other parents in your district because teachers get criticized for NOT assigning enough homework. In my business, we get criticized no matter what we do.

    When my children were at home, I told them that if they didn’t know how to do their homework, their teacher had obviously not taught them to the point that they had learned the material. In that circumstance, my children were told NOT to do the work so that the teacher would know that there were gaps in their knowledge. They were only required to do the work that they knew how to do and to write “I don’t know how to do this.” for all the others.

    Last thing: Our education system is NOT broken. The United States has one of the finest systems in the world. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t have people from all over the world coming here to access it and other countries wouldn’t be trying to emulate our work. More children are learning at higher levels than at any time in history. In spite of the increased requirements and decreased resources allocated, dropout rates have declined over the long haul. For more, see

    I loved reading your piece. Kvetch on!

    • Chris, I’m so happy to have an educator chiming in! Thank you for your thoughtful response. I feel really bad for teachers who are required to assign a certain amount of homework. Luckily my daughter’s teacher is not at all punitive about unfinished homework, but I still feel compelled to enforce getting homework done. Your suggestion regarding your kids’ homework is really smart: “They were only required to do the work that they knew how to do and to write “I don’t know how to do this.” for all the others.” Can’t wait to check out your blog and

  11. We have set homework every week this year so it doesn’t seem as bad till now when my son is so over the school year it’s a fight! And trust me in past years with all the homework that came home it was a non stop fight. I have always wondered why they have homework… Is this the stuff they couldn’t teach cause they are to busy teaching them how to pass these standardized tests we HAVE to take every year (another cause of anxiety in my house) or do they pack too much into a day and this is the left over. I get studying for a spelling test, I get the 30 minutes of reading a day, I even get the handwriting homework that comes home but, the pages upon pages of math is uncalled for.

    • Jen, I have the same exact questions. And I agree about spelling test practice and reading (and math for practical application). My daughter was really anxious about her math standardized testing, too. Fun, fun. Thank you for reading & commenting!

  12. “No research has ever demonstrated any academic benefit to making kids do homework before they’re in high school. Even in high school, there is only a weak correlation between standard measures of achievement and doing homework.”

    Preaching to the choir! I am a teacher. This is my 20th year. And student performance is getting worse. They are so burnt out after a full day of school and then the hours of pointless assignments! I encourage parents to draw a physical line on homework sheets when kids reach the melting point. Write down how long the student has been working. And have your child stop. Teachers can’t know how much kids are struggling when parents “rescue” kids by “helping” them to complete their homework. We need a major educational revolution. ;-)

    • Amen! I was lucky that my kids were usually able to finish their homework quickly while still in elementary school, but I was ALWAYS prepared to put a stop to it and write a note saying, “Jack (or Karly) has already done over an hour (or whatever) of work and we are now going to read together so suck it.”

      Sadly, I must admit that they enjoyed school until 7th grade and now that they have 3+ hours of homework a night they hate it.

      Hate it.

      These are bright kids who love to learn but they dread the classroom because that’s where they get hit with So. Much. (Pointless.) Work.

      Out of the mouth of my son, age 14:

      “If I already know the concept, doing an extra 45 minutes of work on it in my bedroom is pointless; if I don’t know the concept, I stare at it for 45 minutes and don’t learn a thing.”


      I wish I had a solution. But there is so much pressure on teachers to get so many standards met, AND teach to standardized tests, AND provide life-choices curriculum, AND offer artistic/creative stimulation…


      Where can I sign up for the revolution?

      • Julie, I think the revolution has to start with the teachers (with parents backing them). Right? Or is that asking too much of teachers who have to answer to the school district? Sigh. The model needs a serious revise.

        It makes me sad that your kids hate school now. That fact says it all, really.

        I’ll be part of your revolution!

    • Renee, I was hoping you’d pop in and give your opinion! I’m going to take your suggestion to heart & try the physical line on the paper. This all must be incredibly frustrating to you hard-working teachers. Thank you for doing such a great job. It is appreciated!!

      • Remember I’m a parent, too! I WISH people would do what I do. I DON’T do my son’s homework. EVER. If he is frustrated, I let him struggle for what seems like an appropriate amount of time — and then I tell him to draw a line. If everyone would do that, the teacher would have a much better sense of what is going on in the classroom. Best line: “I already went to school. Now it’s your turn.” Drawing a line is harder than you think. We all want our kids to succeed — but teachers aren’t psychic. If no one is complaining or providing feedback that there is too much homework, we think all is well in Denmark. ;-)

  13. Yes! With one exception. We have these math tests my 1st grader takes four times a week. They don’t “study” them in class. If we didn’t go over the problems are night, she’d never get past it. Well, that’s not entirely true. She can take each test up to 6 times. I have a feeling she’d pass just by taking it enough times and learn from the exercise. But, that won’t fly because the kids are talking and bragging about which test they are on. Her self-esteem would plummet if we didn’t have her practice at home and she had to take the damn thing multiple times before passing. No thanks, school. I’d like a less competitive approach to learning. I have no problem with contests and winners, that’s a great lesson, but learning rote math facts through competition bugs me.

    But that’s all a side note. I think if the kids spent more time in class learning their assignments, more time at home playing and exploring personal interests (and I wish I’d be off to museums, but I’m more likely to lean toward that outdoor time) and picking up their damn toys, they’d grow up to be better adults. Adults need to be bright enough to function at work and in society. But they also know how to socialize for fun and take care of the mundane business of living, like laundry and taxes.

    • Amen, Nicole! Good points about learning how to function at work and in society. That is so important. Competitive stuff at school really gets me irritable. That’s way to much for kids who are anxious to start with & not a good way to learn. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  14. As a former middle school teacher and a parent, I’m with you. Imagine what it is like in households where the parents are working three jobs or drunk or in jail . . . or meth addicts. In my district we were required to assign homework. I would assign a weekly packet on Monday that was due on Friday (it included flash cards, puzzles, and computer games). It was all online so parents had access to it in case it got lost on the way home. Most of my students lived in households like the ones I described above. There was no such thing as incomplete homework in my class because I had kids do it at lunch in my room if it wasn’t done, so they could not fail my class just because they didn’t have parents forcing them to do the work. In other words, I was the teacher and the parent to these kids. I never assigned huge projects as homework because as the parent of the kid with the sorriest looking model of a California mission, I know who actually does the projects. In my class, we did the projects in class and they looked like they were done by kids. Sadly, my students failed all of their other classes because they didn’t turn their homework in (or the science projects they did in my class at lunch didn’t look nearly as nice as the one’s their classmates’ parents did). It’s a very screwed up and unfair system.

    Hmm. I guess I have an opinion on this.

    • Julie, Guess who is going to be making a Iroquois longhouse this weekend? Sigh. (I remember having to make a CA mission when I was in elementary school and it was so very ugly.) I have so much respect for all teachers. It is the most important and least recognized job of them all. It sounds like you put a lot of time and heart into your profession. Thank you very much for weighing in!

  15. Ok…here is another teacher point of view.

    Homework is stupid. Unless, like a previous commenter, it is a ‘flip the classroom’ situation where the students spend up to 20 minutes watching a video of the lesson and then you practice in class.

    Or you need students to read something before coming in so you can have discussion and whatever.

    Or it’s a project/writing assignment based on things you do in class.

    But just busywork? no good.

    I give ZERO homework in my Spanish classes other than studying.

    I give almost ZERO homewok in English other than reading or studying or projects based on our discussions and stuff in class.

    I agree with the Great Alfie. Boo to homework. ESPECIALLY for little kids. I get reading and studying vocab/spelling words. But PAGES of busywork? D-U-M-B.

  16. We experienced this insane amount of homework when we lived in Germany. Our 6 year old son would literally sit and do homework from 3:30pm when he got home from school to about 6pm doing homework. Three freaking hours!! How ridiculous is that!? He had to read a book. I’m cool with that. He had a reading log he had to complete where we timed him on how long it took him to read about 5 very short stories, each with a different number of words. I was fine with that. Those were given to him by his regular teacher. He then had an extra reading assignment given to him by his reading teacher; sometimes 2 extra reading assignments. 3-4 reading assignments a day sounds excessive to me. And that wasn’t even all he had to do. He also had a science sheet to complete and 2 math sheets to complete from his regular teacher. So all in all, she gave him 5 assignments a day plus the one or two extra things that his reading teacher would send home on a daily basis. I have 3 children!! I don’t have time for this shit!! Now he doesn’t have that much thankfully, but I never saw the point of spending that much time on homework after an 8 hr day in school. It made life hell for me trying to help all 3 kids (one in pre-K, one in K and one in 1st grade) get everything done and still have dinner, bath time and bed at a reasonable hour. There was no playing at all for them after school. My husband was deployed so I was doing it all alone which made matters even worse for me. Single moms certainly have my praise lol. And I agree that usable life skills like learning how to handle money and balance a checkbook should be taught in school. I’ve never used advanced algebra a day in my life since my senior year of high school and knowing the square root of pi hasn’t exactly enriched my life much either.

    • Bethylicious, That sounds incredibly stressful. Holy hell! I’m glad we don’t live in Germany. That is just way too much work for a 6 year old (or a 10 year old). Burnout would be inevitable. I hope things are a bit easier for you all now!

  17. Where we live, FCPS has what I think is a sensible set of guidelines for homework. Here’s the part about the amount of time each night:

    “It is recognized that students vary significantly in the amount of time they need to
    complete given assignments. Teachers should estimate the amount of time the
    average student would require to complete an assignment. In general, homework
    across disciplines should not exceed 0.5 hour in kindergarten through grade three,
    1 hour in grades four through six, 1.5 hours at the middle school level, and 2 hours
    at the high school level. Long-term projects may require additional time. Teachers
    should adjust daily homework assignments accordingly.”

    Teachers didn’t always abide by the guidelines, of course, especially when my children were in the gifted program, but a frank discussion about the guidelines and their “estimate of the average student” helped get us all on the same page.

    Our biggest challenge was with our middle child, who was diagnosed with ADHD – Inattentive subtype – in 2nd grade (and he is also gifted, which makes things really interesting – can you say “absent-minded professor”?). Homework was a nightmare, EVERY year. He’s in high school now, and does fabulously on tests and quizzes, and poorly on homework assignments, because he still struggles with turning things in on time and following all of the directions. I wish they would just base the grades on what he’s learning – he actually IS learning the material! But his overall grades do not accurately reflect this.

    Thanks for sharing your struggle, and hang in there!

    • K.B., Thank you for sharing your comment! That sounds like a pretty good guideline for homework, though I find it a true struggle to get my kids to sit at the table even for 30 mins after sitting at school all day. I wish there was homework that could be done with the kid jumping on a trampoline or something! My daughter sounds a lot like your middle kiddo. (We are having testing done right now.) Kudos to you on getting him to high school relatively unscathed. And my middle kiddo is just bored with the assignments. You are so right on–value should be placed on the fact that they are actually learning the material. Period! :)

  18. we have a hard time convincing matt’s teachers that, as a child who has lived for the past 3 1/2 as a kid who had cancer, ridiculous amounts of homework are only taking more away from him. it’s bad enough he missed the third grade due to treatment. what’s even funnier is that, after all of the “fluff” is taken out, his tutelage consisted of 6 hours a week. in 6th grade he is an honor student. (my kids have the math gene but they didn’t get it from me) he has a grueling physical therapy schedule that he has had for the past three years. he doesn’t have any time to do anything with his friends because of his pt (which is just as (if not more) important as his education right now. he needs to learn to walk again. factor in all of the homework and you have one (rightfully) angry and (extremely) tired 12 year old. we all know the domino effect, so the result is usually someone yelling (usually his father) and tears. what really gets me though, is the amount of “busy work.” take, for example, plotting 100 points on graph paper to make a design to portray some image of whatever holiday is occurring, i.e., turkey for thanksgiving, abe lincoln for presidents’s day, snowmen in winter..well, you get it. in order to avert tears for one night, brilliant mom saw the website on the bottom of the assignment paper, looked it up, and fudged the picture. i tried to do it the correct way, but 12 leads from a mechanical pencil, eraser shavings everywhere, and a picture that had no resemblance whatsoever to honest abe i decided to do it the dishonest way. my older son made the comment: “it’s busy work, mom. you don’t learn anything. obviously if you can plot points the first ten assignments you have in school, you can plot a point. you don’t have to do another 100 at home.” busy work? there isn’t any time in my house for “busy work.” sorry, but i don’t live in june cleaver’s kitchen. we are busy enough,thank you. i need “down time” work. another favorite is the quia (sp?) website which they use for spanish. you go on the website, have to answer a series of questions, and if you get one wrong you have to start all over again. really? the laptop almost got thrown across the room for that one. and that was by me. all i know is that this is not helping this kid in the least. obviously, his grades show he is learning. i am tired of writing notes to teachers (who know his situation and his 504) to cut him a break with this homework. and it’s not doing anyone good if it is the cause of yelling and tears. we have lived with our share of that.

  19. I love this post! I’m not a parent yet, but have been through this kind of targeted maths education at school in England. Like your daughter, I’m no mathematician, preferring to direct my energies to writing. I would wholeheartedly support such a ‘practical maths’ scheme for children who are not as interested in it as others.

    Have a great day,


  20. Seriously!?!? That much homework in 1 night?!?! I am flabbergasted! Its entirely inappropriate not to mention detrimental to your daughters potential to love learning! What if you simplly refused? Sent a note that said “this is too much for my child and I refuse to make her sit for hours to do it. She did what she could.” This is 1 reason I homeschool. My Autistic/LD/ADHD/ddyslexic twins could never handle this. They INSIST on fitting all kids into the same mold of what they “should” be able to do. Well, not all kids CAN! Rant over. :) best of luck with that!

  21. SO glad I stopped by here after you commented on my blog (and I saw that you know RASJacobson, who I love).

    That amount of math for an 8 yo is insane. I have a 3rd grader as well. We just moved from Texas to CA at the start of this school year. It’s made for an interesting comparison.

    In Austin, the kids got so much freaking homework it was a total battle every night. Reading + spelling + other language arts work + multiple math assignments. In CA, my kids get much less homework. They’re still frustrated, though.


    Because for my kids, the homework is nothing but repetition of what they’ve already learned in class. (not to mention that my son learned in his second grade TX class most of what he’s re-learning in CA’s third grade class).

    it’s a lose-lose: for the kids who struggle with a particular subject AND for the kids who may have mastered it.

    I won’t even go into the health problems I’m sure will result from my skinny 8 yo toting around a binder that weighs more than his little sister on top of other books, etc. in his backpack.

    I think the issue is: better homework, not more homework. And I use the term homework loosely – and echo what some of your other commenters have said.

    I was really interested in what one of your readers said about Khan. I had heard about it weeks ago and was so excited about this ‘revolutionary’ way to teach kids. I immediately downloaded the app and asked my 3rd grader to watch the introductory video on division (which they had recently started working on).

    After a few minutes, he said, “how is this different than watching my teacher say the same thing?”

    I was completely unimpressed. How *is* it different than a lecture in class? Oftentimes, Khan rambles and stutters and is unprepared, which doesn’t “show” well when you can’t see the person’s face. anyway, I am rambling myself, but I was hoping I could use Khan as a way to give my children a chance to work ahead on topics that they’re ready for…but clearly, whatever I expected is not what it delivered.

    The other day, my son asked me to start home schooling him, because he wants to work ahead where he can. I wish that I were able to do that,but we can’t. I’m such a huge proponent of public education, and the whole conundrum – and the fact that my child would ask to be homeschooled – makes me sad – not because I oppose homeschooling, but because the public system can’t accommodate the individual learning of a child.

    Great post.

    • Gigi, I love the idea of “better homework”–I think there must be ways to get kids outside & exploring the world around them and make that applicable to education. There is math in nature. I just hate the thought of my kids sitting in school all day and then having to come home and sit some more. And, the tension it creates between me (The Homework Enforcer) and the kids just sucks. Loved your comment & so happy to have you visit!

  22. I’m probably one of the only people who thinks that their kid doesn’t get enough homework. She gets 3-4 worksheets once a week and she has them finished in 20 minutes. But then again, I understand that after a day at school the last thing she wants to do is more work nor do I really want to spend hours helping her. Next year we are switching to homeschooling so we won’t have to deal with the flawed school system anymore.

  23. If the kids are taught well in school for 6 1/2 hours a day 5 days a week.. I think a lot of homework is completely unnecessary. Elementary school is supposed to be about teaching the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic and in America..the history of it’s own country and state …. teach the facts and teach kids how to think… not what to think and that is all covered in the basics. higher education is for getting way in depth… my kids are taught very well at a Christian school… they never have or need much homework.. let them read and think about what they want to when they get home…. apply what they learn and enjoy life with their family and friends..

  24. I’m SO with you. My oldest is only in first grade and the homework thing is already a battle. HATE HATE HATE it. And honestly, speaking as a former high school teacher, I paid little attention to the homework I got back. Granted, I had somewhere in the neighborhood of 120 students each semester, but still . . . it’s busy work half of the time. It just is.

  25. Ugh. I am so with you on this. I also have a third grader who struggles with math. I spent the entire first half of the school year trying to get extra help with her in math b/c she was failing every quiz she took. I even inquired about getting her tested for a math learning disability. I was told over and over again that although she was doing poorly, she was not doing poorly enough (not in the bottom 10% in her grade) to qualify for services and since her aptitude test from 2nd grade showed her as weak in math, they figure she does not have a learning disability because she is working at her ability level. The only good news? If she fails the state standardized test next month, she automatically qualifies for services in 4th grade. So I have stopped trying to get her help- I figure it is better if she just fails 3rd grade math and then gets the help she needs next year. Math homework is torture.

  26. Amen! I work @ a bank and can’t believe these kids that have no idea how to balance a checkbook or manage money. I agree w going back to the basics and stop pushing young kids so hard, they are only young for a short time!

    Plus, the way they teach math now is not the way we were taught so it makes it even harder for us as parents to help them. Ugh!

    • Amberr, I agree about the piles of paperwork! Heartily dislike. I wish I had the patience to homeschool. My kids do have excellent teachers & they are learning a lot. I don’t think I would be half as talented as my daughter’s teacher.

  27. I think this post is so wonderfully and humorously written, but you are right, this is a serious subject.

    I taught Kindergarten for two years, and we did assign homework. Here’s what I know from my teacher’s perspective:
    1) We did give homework in Kindergarten. One English and one Math assignment per night. I would look over them every morning and give their work checks or smiley faces or stickers, and the ones that were having trouble I would carve out some extra time during the day to help them with that concept. It helped me know what areas they needed more of my attention in.
    2) I worked in an under-privileged area where there was no family time after school and definitely no possibility of an enriched learning environment in the home. For many of these students, the exposure they received to letters, numbers, and someone giving them attention was limited to the school environment. It was important to give them the opportunity to continue learning and re-enforce skills in their home environments.
    3) A lot of it is passed down from over head. Somehow, homework has become an expectation as a part of school from people on the school board, so giving homework becomes an expectation of teachers.
    4) Even though students are in school all day, there is so much of that time filled with procedures, changing classes lunch breaks, bathroom breaks, etc. It is nearly impossible to fit in all of the things you are supposed to fit into a curriculum within the given hours of a school day.

    Unfortunately, I think the homework issue really plays into a lot of bigger issues within school systems. Are teachers expected to cover more material then is actually realistic, forcing some of that to be covered at home? Are teachers given autonomy in their own classrooms of how and when to assign homework or is homework an expectation passed down from school board members? Is homework beneficial to some children and not for others? And then how do you make that distinction and execute a plan? And should it be based on the area the school is in? There are children who have parents who read to them and talk about the alphabet with them and give them learning experiences outside of school, but there are children who do not have this in their home lives, In that case, does homework provide some of those learning experiences outside of school that they otherwise wouldn’t receive?

    This is a very thought provoking post. I’m so sorry that homework is more of a burden than a help for your daughter. I hope that you are able to talk to the teacher about reaching a resolution. I also love your idea of more personalized and practical homework. But again, how would that be able to realistically be executed in a school system? So much to think about. Thank you for this post!

  28. As a teacher, I hate homework! LOL seriously, though…Assigned usually to ensure the kids practice and master the skill. However, I have always taught by this motto: “If they can’t solve 10 problems correctly, why assign 40?!!!!” They either know it by a few , or don’t know the concept at all. Hilarious post! (P.S. And that would be WAY too much for me to score!)

  29. So totally agree with you! My daughter has a tough time with math too. Just like I did. She’s in grade 3 and I hear the homework only increases from here. I can’t quite wrap my head around the pages and pages of math your daughter has here…that is really over the top, isn’t it? Annie has math corrections to bring home, but nothing like this.
    Love this post, Jennifer. You have a great way of bringing humor and truth together and then…brilliance!
    As an aside, my kids are making me batshit crazy right now and I feel the need to tell someone.

    • I specialize in batshit crazy! You’re in the right place, my friend! Usually my daughter has a mix of writing and math, but it preparation for the state testing, I think the teacher was trying to get the kids geared up for lots of math problems.

  30. Let me say this. For every one parent that thinks their child gets too much homework, there are 15 that don’t feel their child gets enough, and 200 emails about it. I’ll take the parent that thinks their child gets too much! That tells me they are involved (although it may be frustrating.) Frustration can be an opportunity for a student to become his or her own self advocate in (or outside) the classroom. I say speak up and ask for modifications, even if you’re only a sweet little 9 year old. One thoughtful attempt at one math problem is more beneficial that struggling through ten.

    No tears policy: If your child is so frustrated with homework… STOP. Take a break. Come back. Try again. If it is still too hard and becomes a battle, don’t do it. Done. Send a note in for the teacher. Ask for modified homework. Set a timer, and that is “work time.” If they don’t finish and have made an effort, that is what they turn in. Just write a note that is what you are doing at home. The teacher WILL understand.

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