Moms Talk: The Homework Hot Button

Nearly everyone has an opinion on homework. What's yours?

As we settle into the second month of school, schedules and routines solidify more with each passing day. The excitement of clean notebooks, sharp pencils and the fresh school year wanes. For many students and their families, that August giddiness gives way to frustration and anxiety from the grind of completing daily homework assignments.  

This raises a question: What are the proper amount and types of homework for our children? We asked several Tucker-Northlake parents for their opinion.

Paula Garrett is the PTA president and mother of three students. Garrett, whose youngest attends Brockett’s pre-K program, feels the amount of homework given to her third and fifth grade children is appropriate. “I think homework is a great way for the parents to see what's going on in the classroom and it's a good time to talk with the kids about what they are learning.”  

Angela Graham, also a parent of three Brockett Elementary students, agrees homework can be beneficial, as long as it has intent beyond “busy work.” In particular Graham points to increased organizational skills as a result of after school assignments, saying she “can see how having to be responsible for writing down homework assignments, bringing home all the necessary materials, doing it, and turning it in can also help create a more responsible child.”  Still, Graham cautions, “The issue with homework is the amount. It should be quality, not quantity.”

Homework induced anxiety played a role in Northlake parent Leigh William’s decision to home school her children. The afternoon stresses of finding enough time to help with two kids’ homework, caring for a younger child and maintaining her household remained fresh as William recalled wondering “if the teachers had actually sat down and done the work themselves that they were expecting my kids to do in 30 minutes to an hour….It was impossible, even for a grown adult, to complete the work in the suggested amount of time.”

One Tucker parent of elementary and middle school children, who asked not to be identified, suggested priorities are a large part of the homework struggle. “I hear plenty of parents complain about how much homework is assigned, yet those parents and their children find time for several hours of television or video games at night,” she said. “That is a priorities issue, not a ‘too much homework’ issue. Parents need to set a better example of these kind of priorities.”

Whatever our opinion of homework, it is unavoidable for the majority of American children and successfully contending with it teaches organization and self-motivation, skills required daily in adult life. The US Department of Education offers some tips for parents as their children navigate daily assignments.

  • Have a designated place to complete homework each day, and try to keep the same block of time set aside for homework.

  • Project a good attitude about school and homework. Children take cues from their parents, and their attitudes, positive and negative, are contagious.

  • When a child needs help with an assignment, help them discover the answers rather than simply telling them the correct answer.

  • Communicate often with your child’s teachers so that you and your child understand the purpose of the homework and due dates.

If your child is struggling with the type, difficulty or amount of homework, Cathy Vatterott of the National PTA suggests that parents request individual adaptations for their child. “Some children without learning problems or special needs simply have no mental energy left at the end of the school day,” Vatterott said. “These children are entitled to adaptations, too.”

DonWell September 16, 2011 at 02:14 PM
I have no problem with the idea of doing homework; it's a good time for parent/child bonding and to engage parents in their child's school experience. But how much homework is too much? When your elementary aged 2nd grader is spending an hour or more on homework everyday (which, by the way, accounts for only 5% of their semester grade), at what point does a parent have to draw the line? And should a child be penalized for not completing all the homework assignments? As a child of educators, I know how important a good education is. But at what point does it become more important to eschew excessive homework/busywork and let your child have some freedom after spending most of their waking hours sitting in a classroom desk?
Jennifer Burrell September 17, 2011 at 10:43 AM
DonWell, I agree with you in that I don't have an issue with the idea of homework, as long as the amount is reasonable. My first grader is finished with her homework and off to play with neighborhood kids in a matter of minutes. My fourth grader has substantially more, averaging probably 2 hours each afternoon. It seems like a bit much to me, after having been in school all day already, though I am the first to admit that a lack of focus can sometimes contribute to that 2 hour time-frame. Her teacher is open to communication about assignments, and if my daughter is struggling with something, the teacher would rather me write a note explaining the situation than have her sit at the table for 4 hours completely lost. To off my opinion on your questions, as a parent, I draw the line when finishing an assignment is no longer productive. If my child simply does not understand, and my attempts to help are not reaching her (or making it worse!), and we have reached an impasse, I will not make her finish the assignment. This rarely happens, but when it does, it's pretty clear when we've reached a point of diminishing returns. I would hope a teacher wouldn't penalize a child academically for this type of situation. I hope they'd try re-teaching the material in a different way. Education is important. So is time to play, read freely, and have the time to get bored! We just have to find a balance.


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 »