199 Days ’til 40: Homework – Good or Evil?

06 Aug


Home computers are being called upon to perform many new functions, including the consumption of homework formerly eaten by the dog. ~ Doug Larson

I like a teacher who gives you something to take home to think about besides homework. ~ Lily Tomlin

Sex education may be a good idea in the schools, but I don’t believe the kids should be given homework. ~ Bill Cosby

As we head back to school I have been thinking a lot about the homework debate.  At our school we give “light homework” starting in kindergarten and then 10 minutes per grade level (per night) starting in grade 1…. i.e.: grade 1 gets 10 min, grade 2 gets 20 min, etc.  By middle school a child could have 1-2 hours a night and by high school they could have 2-3 hours a night.  Is this too much?  Is this adding to the unnecessary stress we subject our children, particularly our high school students, to???

Is home work necessary?  This is a hard question for me to answer – as I tend to stand on a pedestal of lecturing parents and teachers for pushing our kids to overextend themselves, achieve and go straight to university.  I believe that this system is broken and we are missing many learning opportunities, yet I do tend to believe in the concept of homework.  Learning must be reinforced.

I may argue here that, like the educational system as a whole, the issue is not that homework is being assigned, but the type and quality and purpose of the homework must be addressed.  Mathematics must be practiced to be mastered, that is just the way it is – so if students need to learn Maths, then they are going to need to practice.  On the other hand, if a child is not going to use Calculus in their life or career, should we have them enrolled in a course and practicing mathematical equations when it may serve them better to enroll in auto shop and learn how to change their car oil?  These are some of the questions I struggle with on a daily basis.

One compromise we have made at our school is to ensure that teachers coordinate so that big projects are not simultaneously due for more than one subject area.  We also encourage teachers to collaborate with cross-discipline projects (projects that can be applicable and turned in for grading in more than one subject).  This is a learning process – a healthy one.

My girls diligently do their homework every evening – it is not hard for them to do, as they are stuck at the school for at least an hour after school waiting until I am ready to head home – this time is perfect for homework and they would be bored anyhow – it is their afternoon “entertainment” – I suppose I got lucky with this arrangement.  I think my oldest needs the learning reinforcement the homework provides – I think my youngest needs to learn the skills of responsibility that homework provides……  yet, I see how pressured they are and how much work is demanded of them each day – breaks are good.  Most of the teachers at our site do not assign elementary students homework on weekends – I think this has been one way to find a balance in it all – secondary school teachers cannot find the same balance, due to all the high school pressures (on the students and teachers) that I have shared in previous posts.

Today, 199 days ’til 40, I am still questioning when and where and how homework is valuable – I know it has its place and can be an important component of any educational plan, as long its integration is well thought out and planned.

What are your thoughts on homework???



Tags: , , , , ,

54 responses to “199 Days ’til 40: Homework – Good or Evil?

  1. walkwiththerabbi

    August 6, 2012 at 00:08

    If I could turn the clock back (which I wouldn’t want to do even if I could), I want you as my teacher!

    • 400daystil40

      August 6, 2012 at 23:30

      Why, thank you! (Although I also would not want to turn back time!!!) 🙂

  2. Another Thousand Words

    August 6, 2012 at 00:21

    Homework is a disciplinary measure, a good thing, but 2-3 hours will also take away from the family life, the balance that allows the child’s character to grow. Of course, some children have no caring family so yes, the whole thing becomes a bit of a dilemma.

    • 400daystil40

      August 6, 2012 at 23:30

      It is all about the balance, isn’t it???:)

  3. goodatbeingstupid

    August 6, 2012 at 00:30

    I think homework is good in moderation – on my blog I’m trying to bring back homework/extra-curriculars into my life! I’m not sure it’s really appropriate for those that are very young, even though some people might say that it gets children in the routine of doing things a certain way, there’s only so much an 8 year old really needs to do outside of school. Interesting blog, thanks!

    • 400daystil40

      August 6, 2012 at 23:29

      I wish more schools could learn moderation!!!

  4. tonyakerrigan

    August 6, 2012 at 00:35

    Honestly I don’t think homework should be more than an hour. Unfortunately, for my son that wasn’t the case. He’d come home at 4:30, spend a little free time, eat dinner, then spend the next 3-4 hours doing homework…and this was in middle school. It wasn’t much better in high school. He couldn’t work during the week because of so much homework. I can’t imagine how it would be if he’d been in sports. He would even have his friends come over and they’d sit around the table helping each other with homework and it still took them at least 3 hours!

    • 400daystil40

      August 6, 2012 at 23:28

      Oh no, 3-4 hours must have been completely overwhelming! 😦

  5. jensine

    August 6, 2012 at 00:40

    I always did my homework when I was small but then as I grew older I kind of got away with not doing it … was good in school so “faked” my way as much as I could … But i actually think it is vital for kids to learn how to learn, which I never did and suffered for it in Uni

    • 400daystil40

      August 6, 2012 at 23:28

      Yes, I was the same way…..

      • jensine

        August 6, 2012 at 23:59

        🙂 and we somehow made it

  6. rootstoblossom

    August 6, 2012 at 01:04

    I’m all for some carefully chosen homework, just wish there could be more individualization going on. There is no reason every student needs to do the same assignment every night. As a bright student with a great memory, I rarely needed any reinforcement from homework and saw it only as another hoop I must jump through before getting to things that interested me. I’m already seeing this in my children. So I try to think of it as teaching responsibility, but the useless factor leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I know teachers are busy and pressured. So are students and parents. I hope to see more teachers working together like you described, assigning projects that use more than one discipline, and that hour of homework would be practice for math, science and history combined. Or teachers meeting individual needs. Whenever I did that, the results were amazing. And even though the time put in at first was greater for me, it was well worth it, and eventually made my job easier as grading was not so boring either! (I have taught middle school)

    • 400daystil40

      August 6, 2012 at 23:27

      I think you hit the nail on the head – “carefully chosen” and “individualization” – when our schools learn these concepts homework will be treated differently!

  7. Long Life Cats and Dogs

    August 6, 2012 at 02:18

    Really can’t answer that question. Never did any homework. My poor, poor mother – how she suffered.

  8. annethecoach

    August 6, 2012 at 03:31

    I agree with all the points you just made about homework. It is useless doing it really if it is not related to the needs and interests of the child doing it. Relevant homework, related closely to the child’s skill-level and hopefully at times their interests, is extremely useful in reinforcing skills and knowledge they need to master. Above all, homework should not be stressful. Most of it should be practise of what they have already learnt in the classroom or exploration of something they are already interested in. In my experience children often enjoy doing relevant and useful homework especially when you the parent can help them effectively without taking over or standing over them. I have tips on how you can help children enjoy homework on my website http://www.excellyour if anyone is interested.

    • 400daystil40

      August 6, 2012 at 23:25

      Great points and THANK YOU so much for the link to your website!!!

  9. sahbinahvioletflynn

    August 6, 2012 at 04:48

    I agree that learning needs to be reinforced through homework of some sort. But sometimes what is assigned seems more like busy work and ill timed. After much complaining from parents, my son’s district opted to pull back on the amount of work at home given for the students to accomplish. Kids have so many outside activities these days that, by they time they finish homework, sports, lessons for music (or whatever), clubs, etc. they aren’t even getting to bed until 10 or 11 pm. We’re readying them to be burned out adults with this level of do do do. Once an English teacher gave a projet to do over the two week winter break. My son’s dad was in Iraq for work for three months and my son and I were travelling to visit family for the entire holiday for some much needed support for my son while his dad was in that war zone. I wrote to the teacher and told him to shove off. A holiday is a holiday. Balance…it needs have balance.

  10. A Nature Mom

    August 6, 2012 at 06:43

    I believe teachers only have time to introduce a subject during school hours. Mastery of the subject comes with practice at home. Busy work, however, is a waste of time… all work assigned should be quality, not quantity. Overkill only turns kids off to learning.

  11. dogdaz

    August 6, 2012 at 06:59

    So much depends on the method by which you are trying to teach. If the lessons in school are short soundbits of information that lack the time and repetition needed for learning, then practice after class is needed. But, if the teaching method allows for repetition during the day and the learner is continually involved in the process, then some time off in the evening makes sense to me. Traditional teaching methods appear to like homework a lot to reinforce the daily learning (or lack of). I am not sold on the concept. If a learner is living and applying what they learn, life is the homework, which will stay long after a worksheet has been crumbled on the bottom of a backpack. Just my 2 cents.

    • 400daystil40

      August 6, 2012 at 23:24

      Very good point – sometimes the repetition and reinforcement is needed, period – and in those cases, there is not much you can do other than encourage the student to put the time in to do the practice and learn the skills.

  12. mysweatyshirt

    August 6, 2012 at 08:07

    im a university stdnt and though assignment is a bit more different than school homework, the same thing is both are stressing. 😛 homework needs to be lighter, depending on the level of study and the capability of students. i still remember having homework to do during school break and i hate it. after all, holiday is holiday and homework is not in the list. 🙂

    • 400daystil40

      August 6, 2012 at 23:23

      I agree, homework during holidays is just not fun….. I also agree that the homework needs to be more tailored to individual students and their needs.

  13. simon7banksS

    August 6, 2012 at 11:06

    It was useful for me – never welcome, but a useful discipline and a degree of preparation for the greater freedom in preparing my work that I got at 16 and still more at university.

    One piece of homework is burnt into my mind. I was writing a sixth-form essay comparing the foreign policies of Castlereagh and Canning (early 19th century British Foreign Secretaries) when I heard president Kennedy had been assassinated.

    • 400daystil40

      August 6, 2012 at 23:22

      Wow, what a powerful image you just shared.

  14. mskatykins

    August 6, 2012 at 12:13

    A good question you are asking. As you know, I am a teacher. I teach high school and being a specific subject teacher, I think it’s important to remember that you’re not the only one who should be issuing homework. I like to challenge my students but I like to think that I try to vary the tasks so that there is diversity, a chance for creativity and more of a sense of enjoyment by doing it this way – that’s the aim anyway!

    I reckon it must be exhausting being at school all day. When I was a student I remember not being able to stay up for all of the programmes I wanted to watch on a Friday night. ‘Frasier’ would be on at nine of half nine and I would often fall asleep because I was so spent from the week. So I guess it’s important to get a healthy balance, because the line needs to be drawn somewhere so that children can enjoy having what should, surely, be a relatively stress-free childhood.

    Great post, 400! 🙂

    • 400daystil40

      August 6, 2012 at 23:22

      Great point! Yes, many teachers forget that the others will also be assigning homework on any given day…. as for the exhaustion – I think it is even worse as a school professional!!! I can barely stay awake on a Friday night (I feel so old and pathetic!) 😦

      • mskatykins

        August 7, 2012 at 16:23

        I can totally relate to that, I really can! Sometimes I just don’t know how my pupils manage – I feel exhausted marking at all hours, but it has to be done!

  15. akilollipop

    August 6, 2012 at 12:15

    I believe that homework helps kids revise everything they learned in class that day.Yes,it is boring,but useful.Though,teachers should try to spice things up and give kids a more interesting kind of hw.

    • 400daystil40

      August 6, 2012 at 23:21

      Yes, at times the review is critical (as you say, with something to hold their interest!)

  16. getbusyyall

    August 6, 2012 at 14:35

    I never was a fan of the whole “give the kids homework just so they have some homework to do” method; then again, I teach music. In general, elementary music class, homework is a bit pointless. However, with private instruction, I suggest my students do “homework” or practice, daily. Like math(s), they won’t master that guitar unless they get in there and develop that muscle memory.

    • 400daystil40

      August 6, 2012 at 23:19

      Yes, in the case of music there is just that reality that practice MUST happen. 🙂

  17. leftoverrecipes

    August 6, 2012 at 14:42

    “if a child is not going to use Calculus in their life or career…”
    This is something that puzzles me a LOT. I’m a physicist. I used lots of Calculus in my career. However, I learned how to use Matlab or Mathematica for that purpose. no one actually solves integrals any more with a pen, as most integrals are unsolvable (surprising, isn’t it? It’s usually simulated by computer and calculated for specific limits). Why isn’t this taught?
    My “ideal” plan – teach the basic of calculus – what it is, some basic examples and techniques so that children get the idea of calculus (with homework, unfortunately 🙂 ). This should take no more than a month. After that, teach them basic computer skills and the software of the school’s choice. That would be so much more useful.

    • 400daystil40

      August 6, 2012 at 23:19

      That made me laugh – so they need to know how to use the software, but not actually solve the problem – this will be a new challenge for the next wave of students coming up (and their educators) – understanding that there are things we no longer need to know in depth because something does it for us and that is okay (and the reality of our world today).

  18. iamnaia

    August 6, 2012 at 17:59

    Reenforceing(sp?) what was learned and teaching responsibility. My basic thoughts.

  19. Dorothy

    August 6, 2012 at 20:15

    I home schooled my daughters but I also assigned homework and gave them science projects to do and book reports to complete. They also got time off in between classes because just like an adult needs a break at work a student needs some time for a snack or to expel some energy. I found out that each child was different and the home work was handled differently too. One daughter did it right away and got it done. The other would wait until midnight and then do it until 2 am (teen years) but at least do it. I agree that many subjects need reinforcement and when tests were coming up the subject needed to be studied and prepared for.
    Honestly, I think kids can handle school and the studying but if they’re expected to compete in sports or dance or other extra curricular activities on top of it then it can become very stressful. I used to tell my neighbors when they criticized my decision to home school because they thought my daughters would be missing out on all the other activities, school is for learning not becoming a dancer or finding a boyfriend. As parents we have to choose what’s the priority here, education or something else.

    • 400daystil40

      August 6, 2012 at 23:16

      Yes, it does get to be too much when more extra curricular activities are piled in top of the schoolwork!

  20. viveka

    August 6, 2012 at 20:28

    So many years since I went to any school …. and I can’t say I was very good on doing my home works and not responsive in school neither – how I survived was that I was a good listener and I always listen to what the teachers said .. and remembered it – even if probably looked like I was somewhere else in my thoughts. Still I think that homework will bring some discipline into our young lives. Discipline is what lacks in many children’s existence today – because the parents don’t have time or too tired to deal with things … and also some of them don’t really care … to get an easier existence themselves.

    • 400daystil40

      August 6, 2012 at 23:15

      Very true!

    • amberwild

      August 7, 2012 at 04:24

      But the kids whose parents don’t teach them discipline are typically not going to do their work. It’s the kids who have parents that do teach them values and discipline that will be disciplined enough to get the homework done.

      • viveka

        August 7, 2012 at 10:05

        You’re right, but I still think that home work … give some orders to kids life – even those that don’t have any rules or discipline at home.

  21. amberwild

    August 7, 2012 at 04:17

    I hate that school takes up so much of my children’s lives. I wish we had more family time. Homework jut adds to the time we can’t spend together doing family things. I get that it reinforces what’s learned in class, I get that for some students it will teach discipline, but in the end I don’t think our kids will look back and say, “I wish I had spent more time on homework.” just like we, as adults, won’t look back on life and say we wish we had worked more. It’s quality time with family that will make the most difference in the end. Unfortunately, not all kids have good families and extra time at home for them would be undesirable. I want my kids to have well-balanced lives though, not lives centered on school only.

    And, if we had to bring work home with us, I think most adults would quit our jobs and find a less demanding one!

    • 400daystil40

      August 7, 2012 at 20:59

      Yes, the thing that is hardest about homework is that it does rob us of precious time with our children!

  22. amberwild

    August 7, 2012 at 04:22

    I dislike that school takes up some much of my kids lives, and homework just adds to time away from family centered activities. I understand there is value in homework, but in the general scheme of things, we have very little time with our children before they leave our homes. School takes a lot of that precious time away. And in the end we will look back and say we wish we had spent more time together as a family, not that we wished we spent more time working or on homework.

    And, if we as adults had to bring that much work home with us, most of us would quit and find another, less demanding job!

    • 400daystil40

      August 7, 2012 at 20:58

      Yes, I can understand the frustration- I think there needs to be a better balance…. I am actually bringing home as much work as my kids (and I work at their school) – so I am not sure what that says, but I really do enjoy my moments off!

  23. The Quiet Borderline (back in hospital)

    August 7, 2012 at 10:28

    I was born in ’85. By the age of 10, it was all about the calculator, the age of the calculator – we don’t need to learn our times tables! Cool! Then skip forward a couple of years in to high school, oh dear, needed to know your times tables also. The calculator was semi-still-‘in’ but there were battles going on against it.

    Still don’t know my times tables at the age of 27 -I admit!! How embarrassing.

    • 400daystil40

      August 7, 2012 at 20:57

      Wow, what a very good point! We need to remember the basics and realize that sometimes shortcuts cause great long-term damage.

  24. Julian

    August 7, 2012 at 18:15

    As a high school student, I personally don’t like homeworks. Our school has a very advanced curriculum and it’s the students’ responsibility to keep up with it. Also, we have a 7 AM – 7 PM schedule that drives us nuts. Giving homework puts our teenage body out of equilibrium. We have no time for leisure, family time and most importantly, rest. When Friday comes the teachers flood us with homework ergo stealing our weekend away from us. The plus side of this is that we learn time-management and decision-making skills as early as freshman year. Right now, I’m not even comfortable when I have free time because I always think that I have something to do. Nevertheless, since I’m a graduating student I’m very grateful that I underwent this kind of ‘training’ but I will never take away the time back.

    • 400daystil40

      August 7, 2012 at 20:55

      Thank you for sharing your student perspective – it is so important for people to hear – I wish you could have had the preparation AND the time to have fun and be a kid!

  25. Nikki

    August 9, 2012 at 18:31

    My mom is a teacher and retired principal and I see the debate from both perspectives, student/teacher. Like your daughters, I spent most of my afternoons hanging out at my mom’s school, playing and doing homework.
    I understand the purpose of homework but realistically know, even adults have a hard time focusing and learning anything worthwhile after 3 steady hours of information. And while homework is valuable, so is play time and free time and nothing time.
    You all remember days when you had nothing to do so you laid back on the grass staring at the clouds and thought about nothing?
    I think the old school model is broken, outdated and hardly time efficient in the 21 st century.
    Great post and discussion.

    • 400daystil40

      August 9, 2012 at 20:19

      Yes, I agree with you completely – We are getting ready to bring the kids back to school and I am averaging 14-18 hour workdays during crunch time – there are days when I need to do more work, but I just cannot – my brain and body will not cooperate…. we are doing the same to our kids…. all the time. I loved the days when I watched the clouds for hours or played in the rain… my kids are not really getting those experiences….


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: