Why My Elementary School Kids Won't Be Doing Their Homework

by Elizabeth Coker Brandt
Originally Published: 
RyanJLane / iStock

Dear Kindergarten/Second-Grade Teacher:

You may have noticed that we haven’t been handing in our “homework packets” for the last couple of weeks. I’d like to explain why this is, in case you thought we were merely careless or hadn’t noticed your nicely stapled copies of worksheets.

I’d like for my kids to have more time to be kids right now.

I don’t blame you personally for the homework. I know that thanks to various educational policies our state has adopted, you have few choices when it comes to what you teach my children, when you teach it, and how it is assessed. I wish you had more say in the matter than you do.

I also don’t mind homework. In fact, as a professor, my students often complained about how much homework I gave them. But they were college students. I only had them in class a few hours a week, which is not enough to learn a subject in depth. Therefore, they had to do much of the learning on their own through reading and writing; that’s how college education works.

As you know, my kids are in school for more than just a few hours a week. Even with recess, special classes (PE, art, music), and lunch, they are still getting about 35 hours of instructional time per week. At our last conference, you noted that my sons were hard-working, cooperative, and on-track or ahead academically in reading and math. I’m not worried about their academic progress. But that’s not the only reason why my kids aren’t doing their homework anymore.

Study after study shows that homework in early grades is unnecessary and does not contribute to a child’s long-term academic success. Nor does it “teach responsibility” at a young age; in fact, too much homework too early can backfire and create early burnout.

I know this, but my kids like doing their worksheets, so we’ve spent most of the school year encouraging them to complete their packets. But our lives right now are very busy, and the kids are starting to show signs of academic fatigue. They need a break.

Let me tell you what we do at home instead of homework so you don’t worry about them.

My kids read books.

As soon as they get new books from the library, they devour them. We talk about what they read. They tell us the stories, and we ask questions.

Our kids read with us.

We read to each of them separately, and we talk about these books too. (We’re really into reading and talking about what we read.)

Our kids talk about math.

My 6-year-old likes to ask us math problems, like “What is 300 + 400?” We explain that he can add 3 and 4 and then the two zeroes to get 700. We also talk about numbers and measurements as they relate to real life by letting them cook with us (measuring ingredients), work on projects, and estimate how large something is or how much something costs. We count money with them every week when we pay them for chores.

We talk to our kids about the world around us.

On our walks home from school, we note the seeds and pollen that have dropped from the trees and discuss how these become new trees. We listen to their questions about how things work (cars, computers, their bodies) and answer them or help them find the answer if we don’t know it.

We talk to them about geography.

They love to ask where things are and how long it would take to get there. We have large maps in our hallway at child’s eye level (state, country, world), and we look at the maps together to discuss distance and climate.

Don’t misunderstand this letter. I don’t actually want to homeschool my children. I believe the experiences they are having at school with academics and with their peers are invaluable. But when they get home, they get to be smart, inquisitive kids with engaged parents.

These are just a few of the reasons why our kids aren’t doing their homework anymore.

Our kids also play outside to explore the natural world and play video games to exercise their problem-solving skill. And they create art or make up their own games with Legos, action figures, and cardboard boxes.

You have laid a wonderful foundation for them and taught them the mechanics of reading, writing, and math more efficiently and with more success than I could have. For that, I’m grateful. But for the remaining few weeks of school, we’ll be passing on the worksheets.

We’ve got this covered.

This article was originally published on