In 2018, our school district was one of the few who put restrictions on homework. The limits for the elementary schools are as follows: for kindergarten through second grade, 10-20 minutes of reading. Third to fifth grade, 25-35 minutes of reading, and sometimes a 10-minute assigned task. Parents all over our district had one of two reactions — shocked and horrified, or elated.
I couldn’t be happier.
Our school day is long. Because of our busing system, our elementary school has one of the latest starting schools in our district and the hours are from 9:10-4:00. My children are early risers and get up around 7:00 a.m. We use this time to our advantage and they play, eat a nice breakfast, and sometimes we even walk to school. There’s no rushing around, which is nice.
When they get home from school, we have one of two types of days. Either we have nothing to do which means a little TV, dinner, reading and bed; occasionally a play date if they’re lucky. Or we have activities which means driving three kids around to piano, baseball, karate, soccer or dance. I become a shuttle, getting everyone where they need to be by certain times, with equipment or uniforms and then back again. On those days, we’re lucky to get home by 6:30, eat dinner quickly and get to bed by 7:30, a time I consider reasonable for children under the age of eight.
I am so grateful that I no longer have to sit and do homework with them. Because yes, for children in elementary school, the homework burden falls on the parents as well. And with my husband working long hours, that means it falls on me. So in addition to being the mom shuttle, the chef, and the person responsible for family hygiene, I also would need to sit and explain math, science, and reading.
Homework restrictions have been a source of disagreement among parents for years. Some argue that without homework, children will not learn to budget their time, the parents won’t know what the kids are doing in school, and the students will be woefully underprepared for the next level of schooling. Meanwhile, the parents who support the timed restrictions argue that there are no proven benefits for assigning homework to young children and that if anything, it’s detrimental to their love of learning and puts stress on the family. I have to argue the latter.
When my children come home from school, they’re too tired and mentally exhausted to do much of anything. They need to decompress and relax. They sometimes play outside or harness creative energy to do something they enjoy like color or play imaginative games. Or they are so busy with extracurriculars that they don’t have time to do homework. It would be a huge burden to find an extra thirty minutes to write down math problems.
Reading I understand and support fully. Reading is a quiet, personal activity that can always be squeezed into our days before bed. At a young age, parents can read to their children, and as they get older they can curl up in bed with their favorite novel. Nightly reading alone supports a development of healthy habits and a life long love of learning. Vocabulary, comprehension, and stamina are the goals here.
I encourage my children to get an education in ways they won’t get through homework. Spending an hour learning an instrument is proven to help you have faster reaction times and a sharper focus. It aids brain development and improves long term memory. Karate helps increase your self control and cardiovascular health. Basketball is good for balance and coordination. Each of these activities has its own benefits.
Wanting our children to come home from school and be active via team sports seems like a great way to relieve stress, burn calories, and promote teamwork instead of just simply starting their homework. But even if you skip the activities — if they don’t work for your family or your child isn’t interested — just having the time to decompress in a stress-free environment seems critical to our over-structured youth. To send our children home to sit at a desk and do homework, after spending seven hours in a school, is counterintuitive. We should be nourishing our youngest in ways that they don’t get in a classroom.
I am thrilled my children can’t get unlimited amounts of homework assigned on a nightly basis. I look forward to seeing them enrich their lives in other ways. As we head back to school, I am excited to see them shine in ways that they won’t get to in a classroom.
Goodbye, Homework. We do not miss you.
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