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In Defense of Homework

Last month, a Texas teacher broke the internet by sending a letter home to her students declaring that she would not be assigning homework this year. Parents around the country applauded the teacher, shared the post, and did everything short of throwing this woman a parade.

Homework should be cast aside in favor of playing outside, spending time with family, and extracurricular activities, the argument went. That last one is always a kicker for me. It’s an interesting concept that when children are over-scheduled, the solution is to cut back on academics. I also wonder what “homework” looks like in the households involved in these studies. Apparently, it doesn’t involve “spending time with family.”

I understand the tendency to treat homework as drudgery. It’s yet another thing we have to make time to do in an already busy world, and depending on what our own attitudes towards homework were when we were growing up, that profound negativity can easily be communicated unintentionally to our children.

I would suggest that the homework process has numerous benefits to our children in terms of their education, parents in terms of involvement and awareness, and the family as a whole in mutual support and communication.

With homework, I notice that the devil is often in the approach. We can treat homework as something that is done reluctantly, the kids retreating to their various corners of the household to slave away in isolation until they finish the “work” and can move onto the things they really want to do … you know, all the fun stuff. Homework can be cast as the vegetables that must be forcibly consumed before we can enjoy the chocolate cake.

Or we can take a different approach.

What if when our children get home from school {after a 30 minute after-school romp on the playground with friends, if they are young}, we all sit down at the dinner table as a family and unpack the backpacks together? What if everyone has a special snack that they only get to enjoy during homework time? What if the kids tackle their homework together, at the table, with the active presence of a parent in the role of collaborator {not as drill sergeant}?

1.}  Homework is a Window into Your Child’s Day

Amidst the “Do Away With Homework” articles circling the web, there have also been several “How to Ask Your Kid About Their Day” articles. Here is a prime opportunity to get your kids talking about what they did that day! As you’re unpacking the backpacks, look through the graded work they bring home and ask questions about it. When they pull out their homework, talk about what’s going on in that class right now. Express an interest in the subject and ask your child to teach YOU what they are learning about. This is one of my favorite techniques to use with my 5th grader to get him to practice his Spanish. {“I took French in school but have always wanted to learn Spanish. Would you teach me the vocabulary you’re working on now so I can learn a little?”}  This works with my kindergartner too. {“You learned about different types of trees today? That’s so interesting; what can you tell me about them?”}

2.}  Make Homework Time Family Time

There have been numerous studies demonstrating the benefits of nightly family dinners. The conversation and the time spent together have been shown to correlate to increased vocabulary and academic performance, as well as decreased engagement in risky teen behaviors. Sadly, those nightly family dinners have fallen by the wayside for many families in our culture.

Time spent doing homework together can recreate the benefits of those lost family dinners. It serves as face time with each other and provides an avenue for conversation. I’ve also seen some really amazing bonding between siblings happening during family homework sessions. My older son will often assist and encourage my younger son in his homework, and my younger son enjoys hearing about the things he will get to learn about, the science labs he will get to participate in, and the books he will get to read when he gets to be my older son’s age. The older child gets to see how far he has come and share some of his knowledge, and the younger child gets to feel the excitement of what is in store for him.

3.}  Homework Can Foster Responsibility and Independence

Despite our best efforts, homework is not always going to be fun. It may not always be interesting either. And there will be days when no amount of special snacks, family time, good attitudes, and love of learning can save an overtired child from wishing he were doing something else. But there is a lesson to be learned on those days too. We learn that responsibilities must still be fulfilled even when we don’t feel like it. We learn to push through even when we would much rather give up.  We also learn that when we are having those days, the job must still be done, but our loved ones will be there to support us through it. There’s a sense of pride in knowing you can suck it up, buttercup, and persevere.

I understand the allure of greater freedom for our children. I understand the desire to have the school day end when the last bell rings. {Wouldn’t we like to have our jobs work that way too?} And I have experienced the frustration of dealing with a teacher who was assigning homework for the sake of checking a box and not because it was furthering my child’s education in any way.

But there are so many benefits that can come from the homework process for the child and for the family as a whole that this particular mama is grateful there’s still something to pull out of those little backpacks each afternoon as we gather around the breakfast room table.

In Defense of Homework | Houston Moms Blog

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2 Responses to In Defense of Homework

  1. Rebekah September 27, 2016 at 8:58 am #

    Thank you for sharing the positive aspects of homework and ways to help make it more about learning about your kids day and their learning and not just a monotonous chore!

  2. pamela Pizzurro September 30, 2016 at 1:29 pm #

    As much as I agree with the concept of how we aproach things can influence in a good or a bad way our children, I have to make a point on the fact that there are many parents to children with learning disabilities for whom is it dreadful doing homework. The number is not minimal, with all this great advances science has made to help those same children. Thankfully many of us can finally send our kids to school with confidence that will receive some help that can accomodate their disadvantages. However, sending homework, makes an already very difficult task as it might be putting all of your attention for 8 hours in learning a new concept.
    As much as I agree with your perspective, my son would see more benefits from school work with no homework, or at least not everyday.

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