When I grew up, I thought that one of the advantages of being older would be that I had left behind the endless schoolwork of elementary school, but I was wrong. When you are a mother, you go back to primary education with your children. Don’t get me wrong; I get the point of homework: kids need to practice the new skills they learned in school; I’m okay with that. The problem is when homework is excessive and clearly beyond what children can do independently. My dislike is when the task is for the parents.
I’ll give you an example: when my daughter was five years old, her art teacher asked her for a model in which she captured her neighborhood. She asked for it a week in advance, ok, but when both parents work and come home late, it is difficult to make a 1.5m long by 1m wide model. Mainly because it is not the only task, every day, they gave her -and they continue giving her- pages and pages of all the other subjects.
I have many reasons why endless homework drives me crazy. I want to expose my disagreement and know your opinion.
I do not have the patience
I accept it; I have no patience. This is not the fault of my daughter or the teachers. After a long day of work, it is easy for me to despair. I become a train without brakes: the math pages, the dinner, the repetitions of verbs in English, the dishes that I couldn’t wash in the morning, the brochure about the whales, the reading summary, the cutouts… I breathe, and I manage to contain the screams, but… the damn model!
I’m not the only mom who feels this way. Through her Facebook account, the blogger, Sour Mom, also expressed her discomfort when her little one had for homework to make some puppets and a stage (in addition to the daily exercises).
“I know that it is not the teacher’s fault that I have no one to help me wash, cook, clean, make beds, clean the bathroom, dishes, etc. Even if I hired a tutor for my son, a 5 to 7-year-old boy who only keeps his attention for 30 to 45 minutes maximum, he is in his world the rest of the time. Children can’t complete the tasks alone. Who do you think will end up doing the puppet activity? Me, of course!” she explains.
Her post garnered more than 1,500 comments. Hundreds of mothers are exposed to the stress they feel due to the avalanche of schoolwork, which is added to the daily work of the house and the office. In the end, I understood: Today’s moms gain independence by going out to work, but we do not stop carrying most of the responsibility in the education and upbringing of children. Add to this the household chores. The work tripled.
It’s up to us to make our hubby collaborate simultaneously, but the “tsunami” of activities that some schools give to children is unreal.
Many schools give excessive homework
According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), four hours of homework a week should be the most homework students take home. In the report entitled, Does Homework Perpetuate Inequities in Education? The agency explains that spending more time has a negligible impact on academic performance, but it affects children’s free time for leisure activities and plays.
I will be clear in what I think: the main job that children should have is to play and get to know the world through play. Little by little and, at their level, responsibilities must be incorporated, but let the children enjoy their childhood! With this, I do not mean that the remaining time is spent watching TV or playing video games, but that they have more space to run, ride a bike, exercise, take some music lessons, paint, draw, or whatever they like.
The pandemic made the situation worse. Mara Estrada, Camila’s mother, assures us that with the online classes, the homework also increased. “My daughter cried when we returned to lockdown Mexico City because the workload at home was greater. The teacher explained less and compensated with assignments. She is eleven years old and is in fifth grade. She gets very stressed. We finish later”.
The pros and cons of homework
Homework certainly has its benefits. It teaches responsibility, time management, and perseverance. In theory, it should reinforce independent learning because the child practices his learning on his own. It also allows us, parents, to find out what children are learning at school and get involved in their education. So far, so good. But one thing is that they give simple things to reinforce knowledge and another to ask young children for too much workload or very elaborate tasks.
“Why are you telling me that the key is to let the child do the homework independently? Let’s evaluate: A six-year-old boy, who has never had face-to-face classes, is learning to write, read, add, subtract, etc. Today’s homework: Solve pages 96 and 97 of the math book, including finishing the activity by watching a video, drawing, and writing in the notebook. Language: Page 90 of the book (a drawing) and learn the dialogues of two or three characters from the story he chose and make sock and yarn puppets and a stage. Literacy: Dictation of 20 words and using them to make up five sentences of at least six words each. Each notebook page should include a margin and date. In addition, he must read 20 minutes a day”, indicates Sour Mom in her post.
Obviously, parents should watch their children, but where is the quality time if they spend the afternoon and evening doing homework? An activity that should be fun, like making sock puppets, becomes an ordeal.
“Family and school are a binomial that cannot be separated. For the child’s learning to be successful, families must comply with the share of responsibility that corresponds to them. That should not be negotiable. The family must always be aware of the learning of their children. Parents should not see themselves as clients; as they go to the educational institution to look for a service, they must realize they are collaborators. It is a shared job”, says Ángeles Grajales, a primary school teacher.
I agree with the teacher; however, there are studies by researchers like Harris Cooper, professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke University and author of the book, The Battle Over Homework, which show that homework has minimal academic benefits for children in the early years of primary school. On the contrary, the researcher maintains that they are the main reason for stress and friction between families and between parents and schools. The children, of course, are in the middle. Homework, yes, but according to the level and age of the children, without excesses. As simple as that.
How much homework should children do?
The National Association of Parents and Teachers of the United States (PTA) recommends applying the 10-minute rule for children’s homework.
If a student is in first grade, he should spend 10 minutes on homework every afternoon. If he is in sixth grade, he should spend 60 minutes. Perhaps we should rethink the tasks and apply such a model. Instead of endless papers, why not short, simple assignments that lead to an honest review?
Honestly, I think homework in elementary school is a waste of time for all parties involved. In high school, it depends on the child. I remember that, for example, in my case, I did need homework to reinforce the information that was taught during the day, but I had classmates who learned very well with just the teacher’s explanation. That is why I say that homework is helpful from that age, and without exaggeration.
When I entered college, my relationship with homework improved substantially. Gone were the summaries and rote learning. At last, I found meaning in the task, the essays, the analysis, and the understanding of the subject. But many of my classmates from elementary school fell by the wayside; plain and simple, they got fed up with school.
Quality over quantity
The PTA sets its position on homework through a letter entitled, Resolution on assignment: Quality over Quantity.
While acknowledging that when homework is used appropriately, it has the potential to help students maximize their learning, it also points out its drawbacks:
“Homework can negatively affect interactions between family and children. A large number of tasks increases stress and does not lead to better results. It has been shown that students who spend more time on homework than is recommended for the appropriate grade do not experience an increase or decrease in academic achievement”.
The association adds that if we consider that children’s homework depends heavily on parental supervision, this “increases the achievement gap in schools and creates inequity when the diversity of the academic capacity, availability of time, and resources of parents or caregivers to support learning at home adequately”.
The PTA’s conclusion, which we should take seriously, is that schools should design assignments that promote a focus on quality rather than quantity. Doesn’t that sound wonderful? Unfortunately, there is a long way to go before we get there in Mexico and throughout the world.
And you, what do you think of the endless tasks of children? Write your opinion in the Facebook comments.
Translated by: Ligia M. Oliver Manrique de Lara
Other topics of interest: Low school performance, causes, and how to help our children