Parents on homework

On a SurveyUSA News poll, most parents of school-aged children said their children spend 30 to 90 minutes a night on homework. Only 14 percent said homework takes less than 30 minutes and another 16 percent said it takes more than 90. Parents tended to think today’s kids gets more and harder homework than in the past.  But 52 percent said the amount of  homework is just right with 26 percent saying it’s too much and 21 percent wanting more.

On an Inside Schools poll, most teachers say they assign homework on holidays.

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  1. How 52% of parents say the amount of HW is OK is beyond me. At my place HW seems only to be a source of stress – deadlines approach, suddenly remembered tasks at 930 at night and generally feeling like losers because we’re not Organised as the Principal says we should be.I can see why HW may possibly be useful in senior school but here in Australia it’s given to 5 year olds. It gives kids the message that taking work home at night is good – some work-life balance that is.

  2. Did it adjust for kids texting/im’ing/staring into space for 27 minutes of that 30?

  3. Deirdre Mundy says:

    We homeschool. So my five-year-old usually does her classwork during the day, and we don’t have homework at all. (Evenings are for read-alouds, board games, etc.)

    Yesterday was a MESS, and we didn’t get to her schoolwork until 6pm. It was AWFUL… unfocused, slow, like pulling teeth. Things that usually take 10 minutes took 30. We really would have been better off skipping the whole thing and working twice as much today…..

    I can’t imagine going through that EVERY NIGHT with a child, especially after you hadn’t seen them all day– and I’m not sure how much kids actually LEARN from the exercise.

    When a kid is still learning to read, reading is REALLY HARD WORK. You really can’t accomplish anything when she’s tired. She doesn’t really have the energy to think hard!

    We don’t expect most adults to bring difficult mental work home with them—why do we expect it of 5 and 6 year olds?

  4. The homework we get manages to be, at once, time consuming, highly demanding of parental supervision, and academically unchallenging: i.e., complicated or unclear directions, heavy on the arts & crafts, and heavy on the organizational demands, but conceptually easy (a la Reform Math). A very high ratio of effort to learning. Perhaps it’s part of the attempt to narrow the achievement gap. As someone has put it: equality of effort and equality of outcome. I resent the imposition, and would rather spend the time filling the knowledge gap with things like Singapore Math. But perhaps this effect, too, is deliberate: the more the schools fill our children’s schedules with busy work, the less time they have for extracurricular enrichment.

  5. Margo/Mom says:

    I came into the school/parent experience fairly compulsive about being a “good” parent. Seeing that homework was finished and sent back to school (only to discover that I had no control over whether it was handed in). This worked fairly well for may daughter up to adolesence. For my son, however–at a school that bought the theory that if homework isn’t managed well in third grade, they should start it in kindergarten to “get them used” to it. As I recall, it was one or two nights a week–and we grew to hate those nights. Not only were we dealing with some grapho-motor dysfunctions that were not diagnosed for another 3-4 years, but I was constantly pressured to “reinforce” (meaning fix) at home something that had happened behaviorally at school that day. The things that happened at school were generally the perceived refusal to complete work, combined with an emotional immaturity that made it very difficult to deal with some things like somebody else being chosen as good kid for the day (even when he felt like he was really trying). There were tears and fights and I ultimately felt as though I was losing my son. That is the point at which I got heavy into reading some authors on disabilities and the appropriate role of parents and the schools and decided that my priority needed to be on being a parent rather than a teacher and that school discipline needed to be dealt with in school not at home. That was the year that my son started to learn how to cook. When we came home and I was fixing dinner, I made him my helper–instead of giving him his worksheets or trying to impose a punishment as desired for whatever bad report came home that day.

    I have absolutely no regrets about this set of choices–although it didn’t win me any points at school. Over a decade later, my son still cooks, and we still talk.

  6. I also don’t understand the 52% who say the amount of homework is ok. For my oldest child, 90% of her homework was useless busywork that made her miserable. If she knew how to spell the spelling words on the Monday morning pretest, of what possible use was it to do spelling busywork for the next four nights? Eventually, we took the Margo/Mom path. She came home, we cooked, I wrote a note on her homework saying she already knew the words, would the teacher please call me. In six weeks, I never got a call.

    How in the world did spending 20 hours constructing a mission teach her anything about California history? She ended fourth grade not knowing who Father Serra was. The math homework is mostly incomprehensible. I have Ph.D. in economics and I couldn’t figure out what the homework math questions were asking. What is a “number sentence” anyway?

    My youngest gets homework sent home that says practice these words. What sort of practice? Spelling, writing, reading? I have no idea. I also know that the teacher doesn’t look at the homework when it goes back. I often volunteer in the classroom and check in the homework. I make a note in a binder whether the homework was done, then it all goes in the circular file. Teacher never sees it. He has some sort of learning disability. We don’t quite know what it is, but it is clear that something isn’t quite right. We would work with him at home if we had any idea what to do.

    It seems like someone told the teachers “Assign something”. So they assign something. With no thought or followup.

  7. I don’t work on weekends, so (with very few exceptions) I don’t assign homework on weekends. And I definitely don’t assign work over the holidays. I’m amazed when teachers assign work (such as required reading lists) over the summer.

    I’m a dad, and I don’t want *my* kid having homework over any of those time periods.

  8. I think there should be homework over the weekends, for middle school aged children, and older. Part of the point of homework is learning to use one’s time well, so you don’t end up doing everything at the last minute. Also, many extracurriculars meet after & before school, and students need time to sleep. Packing all of the homework into the week makes it difficult to function well in all areas.

    I’m not in favor of excessive homework. My middle schooler receives more homework than his age mates, but he’s in a school with a very demanding curriculum. The homework is carefully chosen, and teachers are understanding about family emergencies which come up. Students are taught from a young age to speak up when they have problems with the homework. Teachers welcome feedback.

    For my younger child, well… I don’t take homework in the early grades too seriously. If the child is reading at grade level, not being disruptive in classroom, and not having problems with math, then I’m not worrying. We do supplement the math instruction, as the school uses Everyday Math. We make certain that the homework gets done, and that it’s all the child’s work. I don’t worry if it isn’t perfect, but I know parents who do.

  9. The survey was very disappointing as it did not disaggregate by grade level. Should children from kindergarten to third grade have any homework at all?

    For you non-Californians, 4th grade social studies = California history. Commonly, students are required to build a model of one of the Spanish missions. Jane’s point about the missions = parents do most of the work, or buy a model which the kids paint & decorate. The teaching value is very low.

  10. After four kids, if we never see another diorama it will be too soon. All of my kids hated the artsy stuff, I hated it and it’s a wonder we don’t all have shoebox phobias. At that, it was inevitably the least painful book report option; light years better than acting out a scene, with costume, props and friends. (at least 45″ of wasted class time, per student) Book reports and any other homework, should reinforce content and skills in the most efficient way possible. Writing a book report in a specified format actually helps writing skills.

    I agree with the post above that the artsy emphasis seems to be – yet another – levelling attempt across the ability, interest and effort spectrum. It’s also likely to be a reflection of the (anti-intellectual) interests of (too many) teachers, especially at the ES-MS levels.

  11. Margo/Mom says:

    mo4–actually, my son–who as it turns out is actually gifted in the area of creativity and the arts–went through his entire elementary school career with nary a project. Not a diorama, not a scene acted out, not even a science project. I did manage to bully his way into one middle school social studies class part time that offered some project expressions of learning. For the most part, his teachers seemed to assume that worksheets were the heart of special education. I hear the folks who really hate projects–everybody hates something. But, oh, I would have loved if we could have done that sometimes.

  12. Margo – I am against the one-size-fits-all model of almost anything and everything. Even within the same family, kids can have different needs and desires. That’s why I was driving one of my kids across the county to a big school, while a friend was driving her kid across the county in the opposite direction, so that he could attend the small school to which my kid was geographically assigned. I am for charter schools, vouchers and school choice; all with the goal of many different educational opportunities.

  13. Don Bemont says:

    As Liz Ditz says, the poll does not disaggregate by age of student, so it is of limited use. Interesting, though, that whites seemed to object to homework the most, Hispanics the least… and that mothers object a lot more than fathers.

    I went to school myself from 1959 to 1971, and a pile of the worthless busywork I completed (at my parents vehement urging) would undoubtedly fill a large filing cabinet… Yet, I know perfectly well that, if all homework had been eliminated, I would have graduated with far less of an education.

    As a high school English teacher, I really don’t see how I could possibly give students enough time during class to do enough reading and writing to constitute a quality education, a situation exacerbated by pressure from all quarters to interrupt class or pull students out of class for quasi-educational purposes.

    So I admit to despair at the rising chorus opposed to homework. A lot of it seems to come from school administrators, although, I notice, not the ones who used to be successful math, science, history, and English teachers. The poll give me a little hope that maybe the voices against homework are more shrill than numerous.

  14. Don-
    Your response makes a lot of sense. My eighth graders currently read on a fifth grade level. If they do not read outside of class it will be impossible for them to keep up, let alone catch up to their peers across the country. It’s rough going though, as I don’t have enough books for all of my students to take home.

    If you feel the homework your students gets is busy work, demand until you get it homework that will challenge them. If their teachers flat refuse and there is no other course of action, assign the homework yourself- like learning to read cook books.

  15. Great comments.
    How has the quantity or quality of homework changed over time?
    Homework is meant to reinforce what was recently taught in class. Why are some students having difficulty when most teachers provide multiple methods of teaching the content and providing learning opportunities for the various levels and learning styles of various ability students? Humm?
    Many studies have shown that studying material (such as homework) that was recently learned magnifies retention significantly. Homework from recent material in class should be assigned regularly regardless about how it falls on a calendar. Yes, time management is a skill that everyone needs to learn.
    As a high school math teacher, I assign homework about 4 out of 5 days. Most homework assessments are about 4 problems resembling work from the recent 1 or 2 classes. With 4 children, I have seen 50 problem math worksheets where all the problems are the same type. What’s that about? You are either frustrating the kids who do not know or boring the kids who know how to do that type of problem. With short homeworks, teachers and parents get to see if the student knows the material and the student hopefully reflects on his/her ability to do that specific work.
    What’s this about parents having to help the student do homework? I do not get it. Occasionally helping a child with any task is good, but how is the child to learn independence and self-reliance if a parent is constantly hovering over the kid? If the child took notes and the homework is appropriate the child should be able to do the homework on his/her own. A parent, like a good teacher, should guide the child to learning (not doing it with him/her or for him/her).


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