Too Much Homework Is Bad For Kids -- And Their Parents

by Mike Julianelle
Originally Published: 
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There’s no good reason for young kids to have a ton of homework

First things first: there is literally nothing most parents would love more than for children to spend four hours in their rooms, quietly busying themselves with something, with anything, and giving us some elusive, desperately-needed “free” time.

Alas, we’re not really allowed to lock our kids in their rooms, or to soundproof them. (At least, my wife doesn’t let me.) Not even if we pad the walls and use a sound monitor JUST IN CASE! But it would be nice if our kids occasionally had a reason to not be all up in our business because they have nothing to do but be all up in our business.

So when articles like this one in TheWashington Post come around, in which parents of older children bitch about how busy their kids are with the insane amount of homework schools are pushing on them these days, part of me is all SIGN ME UP!

That said, there’s got to be a middle ground between chaos and confinement. In fact, I know there is, because when my generation were kids, we occupied it.

Homework is a fact of (American) life. It’s an essential part of our educational system, it teaches responsibility and independence, and besides, our already overworked and under-appreciated and underpaid and under-supported and under-everything-else teachers can’t be over our kids shoulders 24/7. Some things kids need to take on for themselves, and homework teaches them how to do that.

But I learned how to do that, and I don’t remember having much in the way of homework in elementary school. The occasional diorama project, maybe a book report or two, and some spelling and multiplication tables, but I never got home and sat at a desk for four hours memorizing Common Core principles. I got home and watched “Scooby-Doo” and played “Star Wars” and ate snacks and goofed around. Which sounds an awful lot like what my kid’s day is like, at least right now. He enters first grade next year, and from what I understand, the party is about to end. For both of us.

He’ll be in first grade, and he’ll have legit homework. Which means I’ll have homework too. Because first-graders can only do so much by themselves, and by so much I mean “almost nothing”. I’m still wiping this kid’s ass and he’s supposed to understand concepts that make little sense to adults? And sit still for hours until he properly ‘shows his work’? Come on.

Last week, kids hit their “100th Day” of school, an amazing milestone that I’ve never heard of before. And every parent I know had to “help” their kids put together some silly project featuring 100 somethings. And every project I saw was basically, clearly completed by the parents. Because our kids are five. My wife and I spent hours gathering up items for this assignment; the only thing our five-year-old has 100 of are boogers in his stomach!

It’s only the beginning. Today’s kindergarten is yesterday’s first grade, and today’s elementary school homework is yesterday’s middle school workload. The need to teach the habits and values that are part and parcel with homework is understandable, but do children under third grade need to do it? Our kids’ lives are more regimented than ever. Once they start school, it isn’t long before we barely even see them before dinner time, what with all the after-school activities and pre-scheduled play-dates they’ll have on the calendar. They need time to play, and we need time to play with them. That time all but disappears when they’re forced to finish a handful of assignments and we have to sequester them in their room to make sure it gets done.

It’s bizarre, this world in which our kids are too young to play outside by themselves but are simultaneously old enough to handle hours of homework on their own. Are they kids, or not?

My son will be working most of his life, he doesn’t need to start now. And he certainly doesn’t need the stress that comes with it. He’s already nervous about sitting next to Alice — what if she asks him to marry her again?! Our kids have a lot on their minds already. Can’t we wait a little while longer before we crush their spirits?

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