Every day, Monday through Friday, promptly (and sometimes not so promptly), the bus drops my 8 year old off at our neighborhood bus stop at 5 p.m. Because he goes to a charter school, his school days are a bit longer, lasting from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m., and then there's the commute home afterwards. All those hours in school and in transit boil down to this: Our kid is exhausted by the end of the day. As I stand there and wait for him, I bounce my 5-month-old daughter in her baby carrier and start to feel the pangs of anxiety rising inside of me. I check my watch and make small talk with the other moms, but ultimately I’m preparing myself mentally because I know what’s ahead of me: our nightly homework battle.
Without fail, my son comes running off the bus and into my arms screaming, “Mooommmmy,” as the freedom washes over him. I smile from ear to ear, always so happy to see his sweet face, but know that during our four-block walk home I need to start laying the groundwork for our evening. If our routine somehow gets disrupted, his hour of homework (on top of his already long, academic-heavy day) will turn into three. It’s the worst.
Here's the truth: I hate everything about homework. It does nothing but bring stress and frustration into our lives. My little guy is burnt out by the end of the day and just wants to relax. I want him to relax too, but I'm stuck reinforcing something I don’t stand behind. After all, his grades depend on it. My heart actually hurts to have him come home to complete even more work when I feel so strongly that nighttime should be family time. But because he pretty much only has enough time each evening to do homework, eat dinner, take a shower, and then get ready again for school the next day, I’ve been slowly watching his love for school deteriorate.
Even further, with the increased emphasis on academics due to the fact that his school receives extra funding when students' test scores are high, my son’s school is cutting back on things like gym class (which now happens only once per week) and recess (where they aren’t even allowed to run around). Getting home from school so late with a mountain of homework to do each night means that we're only able to participate in weekend extracurricular activities together.
Students are still sent home with more work every day — so much work, in fact, that I feel like it's often enough to crush a child’s stamina and love of learning. And the worst part of it all is that it weighs heavy on my whole family.
Don’t get me wrong, I want my child to have the best education as possible, and we’re overjoyed that he was accepted into the charter school program he’s in back in kindergarten, which saved us from the crappy public school he would have otherwise been sectioned for, but I feel like it’s coming with a price tag.
I know that it’s not just me who feels this way. Etta Kralovec, an associate professor of Teacher Education and the program director of Graduate Teacher Education at the University of Arizona South told NYMetro Parents:
I couldn’t agree with this more.
“Homework is one of the most stressful parts of a family’s day,” said Elizabeth Garraway, principal at P.S. 118: The Maurice Sendak Community School in Park Slope, Brooklyn, who shared with NYMetro Parents: “Families argue about homework and instead of being something that kids enjoy or something they learn from, it becomes a source of stress for parents and for kids.” I get this with every cell of my being.
Because of this, there are schools, such as P.S. 118, considering getting rid of homework completely or working towards finding better homework alternatives, such as projects, homework packets instead of daily assignments, or more hands-on activities that touch on different profiles of learning.
Look at it like this: Not every child learns the same way. Teachers know this, parents know this, and because of this, there are many different types of programs in school with aides to help children along the way. But students are still sent home with more work every day — so much work, in fact, that I feel like it's often enough to crush a child’s stamina and love of learning. And the worst part of it all is that it weighs heavy on my whole family.
I'd love for nothing more than for my son to come home from school and be able to attend a physical activity or heck, even have some screen time to decompress from his day of learning. He deserves it. More than that, he needs it. My little guy is in school so much that it’s comparable to working a full-time job, except as adults we have more options and say in the time and ways we can relax. My 8 year old doesn’t.
A Stanford study published in 2014 looked at this very subject and concluded that students are “not meeting their developmental needs or cultivating other critical life skills,” according to the researchers. Students were more likely to drop activities, not see friends or family, and not pursue hobbies they enjoy.
And if he "slacks" off and homework isn't finished, it honestly leaves us in a tricky place. At school, the punishment is that he misses recess to makeup the homework, and at home we try to be as aligned with school as possible, even if I don't think he deserves to be punished twice for missing an assignment. So, if it becomes a regular thing: My husband and I ground him from any screen time but I think the poor kid deserves a break here and there.
Yes, I’m one of those parents pleading for schools to lighten up on the homework. I want my son’s appetite for learning to pick up again and I’m sick of seeing him so burned out. In my eyes, homework isn’t actually necessary and instead of reinforcing what was learned during the day, it’s tearing my son down. Learning should be fun and right now, it’s hard to find the excitement in something that's so draining every night.
So if you need to find me, I'll be in the corner waving my “please, no homework tonight” pom poms — and sneaking in a few extra minutes of fun whenever and wherever I can.