Moms Talk: Homework in a Handbasket

Is there any value to homework?

Recently, the French president François Hollande has stated his intention to end homework in France.

Hooray! It’s not often that I’m on the side of Alfie Kohn, but I have to agree that homework is vile. 

My daughter moved from a standard public school to a choice school a little over a year ago, cutting her homework from over 90 minutes a day to zero. The difference in her life has been amazing. Her relationship with me has changed dramatically for the better. Her self-esteem has shot up as well, and she’s passing spelling tests right and left where she struggled before. She reads copiously and by choice. She has time to have playdates and after-school activities and still sleep.

So yay! Someone else on the homework sucks bandwagon, on the international stage, no less.

So which reason convinced him? That it takes away from necessary time to play? That it strongly negatively impacts family life, especially the families of struggling students? That it has no proven impact on test scores or benefit to children at all until the last three years of high school?

What’s that? Hollande wants to ban homework not because of any of these data driven reasons, but for some vague idea of increased equality? Because kids who do homework in front of their parents have an unfair advantage over kids whose parents work late?

That’s almost the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard, and I follow politics. Even in election years.

I don’t think that my child ever benefited from having me stand over her and force her to do busywork. I think my child benefited from having my attention, and I think she does so even more now that it’s not purely academically focused. 

I think that equality is an amazing goal. I don’t think that you can achieve it by trying to block people from helping their kids. Parents whose greatest desire is to help their children succeed academically will do so in spite of their schedules, and regardless of the presence of homework.

I know parents who give their kids extra homework because what is sent home is not to their standards. I know parents who take the school district’s recommendation of 10 minutes per night for kindergarten and 10 extra minutes per additional grade to heart, and put a line under where their second grader was at the 30-minute mark. I know parents who get home just in time to kiss their kids and send them to bed, who just have to pray that they got their homework done with their other caregiver.

I know parents who think homework is vital, even giving it to their kids over the summer. I know parents (many from my daughter’s school among them, obviously) who think that homework for young kids is poisonous to both the children and families and do what it takes to find educators who agree with them.

I know no one who believes that the right thing to do is to keep the same busywork worksheets and giving them to kids to do at school instead of at home because otherwise some might have the advantage of adult help that isn’t paid.

No one except François Hollande.

What's your take on homework? Does it help or hinder the education process? How involved are you in your children's assignments? Tell us in the comments section.

Jeanne Gustafson November 07, 2012 at 05:50 PM
I second Caitlin's comment. I think most parents will be happy to know that teachers are paying attention to a conversation such as this. I have mixed feelings on homework, but I find for my son it's a good opportunity to learn study habits and taking things bit by bit to make it less overwhelming, and I think it will help him later when he doesn't have a parent standing around to help him organize. I can help him learn how to deal with what may seem like a big task, and despite some concentration issues, he almost always gets 100 percent on spelling tests thanks to the practice.
Anne November 07, 2012 at 06:03 PM
Thanks Caitlin. I just followed the top link of this story to read the Washington Post article about the French president's "intention to end homework." The comments following the article show how issues of educational practices are personal & mixed together with adult feelings on public policy. It's great to see the passionate responses. I view them as showing a helpful competitive feeling, which aspires to help kids develop skills by giving assignments that they see as rigorous. I think commenters to that article may become more skillful advocates for children if they heard themselves say in their own words, how children develop critical thinking skills through play & feeling safe instead of feeling stressed. So, my 'optional enrichment opportunity' I'm assigning myself & inviting others to try is: to listen for concrete examples of how people learn better when they feel safe and have room to try things out.
Anne November 07, 2012 at 06:29 PM
Jeanne, thank you for your example.
Michelle Smith November 07, 2012 at 07:00 PM
Great suggestion, Anne! Thanks for your input on this subject. Everyone - parents, educators, community member - should have an interest in the success of our children in school. I'm so happy to see another bright and passionate person enter the teaching field. My stepmom recently retired from teaching and is a stellar example of the type of dedication and perseverance it takes to be a great teacher. I hope you find it as rewarding and enjoyable as she did.
Anne November 07, 2012 at 07:10 PM
Michelle, thank you!


More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something
See more »