How We Escaped Homework Hell Homework HellIt’s 7pm.  You are elbows deep in dish water scrubbing pans from cooking dinner.  The TV is loudly blaring from the family room and you are hollering that your oldest kids need to finish their homework.  Your littlest is peeling around the kitchen in messy clothes with remnants of macaroni and cheese stuck in her hair and on her chin.  She needs a bath.  You call to your husband to run the water and again request that your kids turn off the TV and get to their homework.  With whining and complaining, they get out their books and take seats at the kitchen table.  You step on a lego as you race over to the table to wipe it down before they set their books in a puddle of chocolate milk.  Your son says he needs help with math and your daughter says she needs to interview you for a project then make a presentation of your answers on the computer.  Your inner monologue says, “Are you kidding me?  Who has time for this?” but in a plea with yourself to be positive tonight, you agree, with a smile on your face.

You call your husband to come grab your littlest, who is now attempting summersaults down the hallway and she is whisked away for a bubble bath, excited for some solo play time with daddy.  Your son shows you his math assignment and, again, in an attempt at positivity, you deny yourself the instinctual response of complaint at his 30 questions due tomorrow, and ask, “How can I help you?”

“I don’t understand how to do it.”  He crosses his arms and slouches down in his chair.  “My friends are on Minecraft.  I want to play too.”

You skim his math lesson.  You’re relatively familiar with how to solve the equations.  Nevertheless, you’re frustrated with the hours worth of math ahead of you.  Your daughter is (not so patiently) reminding you that she needs your help with her project and your first failure comes all too soon.  You snap back, “OK!  Just a minute!” and you can’t hide your frustration any longer.  The happy night you envisioned is over.  You realize that not only are you going to be doing homework for the rest of the evening, your kids probably aren’t going to get enough sleep.  They won’t get to talk to their friends tonight.  They won’t get to read books to their little sister.  They won’t get to simply enjoy a night of togetherness with their family.

You know how this ends, I don’t need to finish the story for you.  There will be voices raised, likely tears from your kids, and shouts to a spouse to come help that are bitter and frustrated.  Now, everyone is on their own team because everyone is upset with each other and no one is happy.  Your littlest, disappointed because playtime with dad was cut short, has wet, unbrushed hair and is begging for someone to read to her and you desperately want to… but can’t.  You ask her to go to her room and look at books by herself for awhile.

And this is your experience, night after night.  Fellow parents, let me tell you this:  I only had one child and felt this same amount of chaos.  It isn’t your lifestyle that creates this, it isn’t that your kids are doing too many things (although that might be part of the problem), and it isn’t that you are a bad parent who can’t keep their emotions and their children in check.

It’s the homework.

It’s the constant busywork and test and projects.  It’s the home invasion that the state says they have the right to make.  It’s the teacher’s assault on our time and schedules.  It’s the expectation that our kids should spend their evenings working.

As homeschoolers, we sometimes do school work in the evening instead of the morning.  Sometimes its during a regular 9am to 3pm school day.  Sometimes, it’s not at all, and we make it up on the weekend, or double up another day.  But we live in a world where homework doesn’t exist.

Let me repeat that.  We live in a world where homework DOES NOT EXIST.

Can your children relate to this scenario?  Class begins at 9:00.  It takes everyone 5 minutes to get seated and quieted down.  The teacher takes attendance. 9:06.  She asks them to take out their homework, and everyone listens for 3 minutes as various people give excuses to why it isn’t completed.  9:09.  They take up yesterdays homework, and a few students come up to write answers on the board.  9:20.  Learn a new lesson.  Depending on your child’s learning style, they may or may not understand. 9:35. Assignment is given out.  Your child may complete it, or may not understand what is going on and raises their hand for assistance.  With only 10 minutes till the end of class, things aren’t looking promising.  9:39.  Teacher arrives to give assistance.  9:42.  Your child has less than 3 minutes to complete assignment.  9:44. Teacher writes additional homework assignment on the board. 9:45. Bell rings, and your child moves to class 2 to essentially experience the same thing.

In 45 minutes, your student had 15 minutes worth of lesson time, and maybe as little as 10 minutes to complete work, and they were assigned more work to complete at home.

In our homeschooling scenario, if we have 45 minutes to do math, we have 45 uninterrupted minutes to do math.  Sometimes that’s enough time to complete more than one days work, and we aren’t held back by the rest of the class.  Other days, we only complete half a days work, and we aren’t rushed by the rest of the class.  Most importantly, when the allotted time is over, we put the books away.

The idea that kids should spend 6 to 8 hours a day at school followed by a few hours of work at home seems absurd to me, but even more fundamentally, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of value in it.  In this article by Alfie Kohn she outlines that not only is homework not beneficial, but it can actually be damaging, and can certainly splinter relationships between parents and children, and husbands and wives.

When children are frustrated and exhausted, without enough time in the day to relax, learn and instrument, play a sport and see friends, something is out of balance.  I’m not opposed to the occasional purposeful assignment being sent home, or a few meaningful projects throughout the year.  It seems, though, that it is decided that homework will be sent home every night.  Every night.  Something to do, every night.

I think we need to reclaim time with our children.  Our family time should be ours to do with how we please.  If we want a few extra assignments for our children, we can request them.  If we want to know what they are working on at school, we can look through their books.

The article attached is written for principals as an informative plea – I would encourage you too, if your children are drowning in homework, to take your concerns directly to your teachers and principals.  I would encourage you to set limits on the time your kids spend on projects and assignments, even if it means they don’t complete all of their work.  Schedule a conference, or write a note to your child’s teacher and explain your feelings about your homework situation.  I believe that if we reach out loudly enough, our concerns will be addressed.

I think of it this way:  If I put in an entire day at my job, and brought home a few hours of work every single night, I would quit.  If we overwork our children, eventually, learning won’t be natural and desirable anymore. It will be a chore, colored with negativity and frustration.

Issues surrounding homework are just another (of many more) reasons why we choose to homeschool. However you choose to educate your kids, I hope you are finding ways to keep your heads above water when it comes to homework!  As always, I enjoy discussing education strategies and welcome your comments and opinions.  How do you handle the homework battle?

If you want to take further action and become more involved in the movement to transform the landscape of traditional education and change homework policies, take a swing by the official page of Race to Nowhere, a film that encourages community action to create education reform.

4 comments on How We Escaped Homework Hell

  1. Kamra
    May 30, 2014 at 9:43 am (4 years ago)

    Thanks. We are finishing our first year of Homeschool. This is exactly our life before. You have expressed exactly how I feel about homework. I love the comment about work. If I had to bring home 2 or 3 hours of work. I’d quit. 🙂

    • amygarwood
      June 2, 2014 at 12:30 pm (4 years ago)

      Totally! None of us would put up with what is expected of our kids, I don’t think. And some can handle it, but others can’t… maybe none of them should though. Thank you so much for dropping in and leaving a comment 🙂

  2. Sandy
    January 31, 2014 at 8:36 pm (5 years ago)

    My sons teacher sends homework home often and sometimes I think it’s too much. I want him to do well in school and think he needs to do it to keep up, so I’m sure we will keep doing it. Have you succeeded in discussing homework policies with teachers?

    • amygarwood
      January 31, 2014 at 9:09 pm (5 years ago)

      Since we homeschool I don’t have to deal with it anymore 🙂 When my daughter was IEP’d in 6th grade her homework was slightly modified in some classes, mostly math, but otherwise she did homework like everyone else. There were times when we struggled for hours (like 3+hours) to get it all done, and other nights when we threw in the towel. She had some awesome teachers who didn’t really give her a hard time about it when she didn’t get it all done, mostly because they could see her effort, I think. But homework made for some horrible evenings and afternoons for our entire family. I would talk to the teachers, perhaps set a cap for your own family (whatever we can get done in 1hour, or 30 minutes – whatever you feel comfortable with) and let the your sons teacher know ahead of time what your family has decided. Good luck!


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