Why I Don't Mind Homework

by Brandi Jeter Riley
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Every afternoon, I pick my daughter up from school and ask the same question, “Do you have homework today?” Her answer each day is the same: “You know it, Mom!”

A couple of years ago when she was in the second grade and homework first started, I was totally against it. I enjoyed our time together when school got out. We would run errands, have snacks, and every once in a while go on an unexpected adventure. Between that and her after-school activities like gymnastics and choir, our afternoons were filled but it was all fun stuff.

When her teacher started assigning homework, all of that stopped. Our leisurely afternoons became overwhelming and stressful. We’d rush home so she had time to complete her school work and eat before her activities started. Some days she’d have to stay up late because she didn’t have time to finish her homework before we had to leave for her extracurriculars. It felt like overkill. Why didn’t they get all of this done at school? What are they doing during the school day that they have to send work home? These kids need time to decompress after school! I was so frustrated.

Then something changed. The homework became more challenging. There was much of it that I didn’t understand, especially when it came to the math. I would Google the concepts to try to help my daughter, and finally I gave the task of homework lead over to my husband and demoted myself to assistant. That gave me a new appreciation for students bringing work home.

Here’s how I look at it now. School is a resource. Teachers are there to instruct, for sure, but it’s our job as parents to know what are kids are learning, and how. Like, really know. Not just third-hand knowledge and incorrect information and assumptions. For example, I remember when I first read about Common Core. It seemed complicated and totally unnecessary. Why were we changing the way children learned? But once the homework started coming home and I saw that the goal was really to empower children to think creatively when it came to finding solutions for problems, I had to admit that I had it all wrong.

But you know what that was, though, right? That ability to have an opinion about something as big as Common Core without being fully informed? And the intense feelings against homework, and frustration over it cutting into my child’s downtime and ability to do extracurricular activities? It’s privilege. And I’m not alone with this.

All over the county, middle-class suburban parents are admonishing schools for doing what schools do — give homework — because it creates more work for us. Most of us aren’t thinking of the implications not having homework would have for the students who aren’t in the same situation as our children. There are so many homes where there isn’t a parent available to keep up with everything that’s going in school. Parents who work all the time and can’t get to parent conferences, so they’re not able to encourage their kid for fun. There’s no extra money so there are no after-school activities that complement what the child is learning during the school day. Homework is that complement.

Having homework helps level the playing field in a way, at least during the school year. Students get the same education in the classroom, and an opportunity to extend that learning to the home. Even still, my daughter will have an advantage. I’m fortunate to be able to be home to help her understand the assignments, and I have my husband as a back-up. We can hire a tutor for concepts that she doesn’t grasp. And then over the summer, we can extend her learning even further with cool vacations and activities. I have nothing to complain about.

So, no, I’m not against homework. I don’t mind that my daughter has it every day. While I still believe that kids need time to play and decompress, I also know that when they don’t have that time, it’s usually not because of homework. As far as the argument that our schedule was becoming overwhelming and rushed? Well, that wasn’t homework’s fault; it was mine. I was doing too much. My fear of my daughter not being well-rounded enough had me over-scheduling her, and now that we’ve dialed back, she has plenty of time to get her work done.

Homework is just what kids do. The more we change things, the more likely that we create entitled kids who feel like they shouldn’t have to work hard for anything, and create a bigger divide between the haves and the have-nots. I don’t want any part of that, so from now until my youngest child graduates, I guess my weekday afternoons are booked.

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