Writer’s Workshop: Homework: Yea or Nay?

Let’s start with some appropriate music: Otis Rush, “Homework.”

The J. Geils Band did a version of this on their live album, 1972’s Full House. It was the version I heard first, because I didn’t have access to the Otis Rush version until… well, just now.

But that’s neither here no there.

I have never been a parent, so I don’t know what it’s like having to be like Simon Legree and stand over kids while they do their homework under duress. But I was a kid once and remember what it was like having to do my homework under duress, and believe me, I hated it. There were better things to do at night, like watch TV, listen to a White Sox game, play my guitar, read a book besides a textbook, read the newspaper or magazine, or even go to bed early.

Evidently, quite a few teachers have stopped assigning daily homework. They’ve come to the conclusion that the kids have better things to do than yank out their schoolbooks after spending six hours with it and do more of it. A lot of teachers now look for their students to do twenty minutes of reading, then fill out some kind of a log that their parents have to sign of on, that goes to the teacher, but that’s still homework, even if it’s not a textbook. So they’ve stopped demanding a reading log, too.

Believe me, I would have loved it as a kid. So much of it was just busywork (“for homework, do the hundred problems on this page”), and if the teacher didn’t check it, I was more likely not to do it. I was a pretty lousy student. I was smart and got good grades through grammar school (grades 1-8), and was usually able to bluff my way through most assignments, which was what I did nine times out of ten. That wasn’t so easy when I got to high school, and by the time I went to “university,” it really became a struggle to keep my head above water.

So, I can see good things about not having daily homework, but can also see some undesirable things happening. Still, if it means that kids have more time to read or get some sleep, I’m all for it. Mom, who taught for 37 years, always said if you could read, you could learn anything. I had a friend in college who I learned later had my mother in fourth grade. He couldn’t read, so Mom told him he had to read a book every week and turn in a book report every Monday. He ended up going to medical school, so I guess he learned to read.

I don’t have kids, so I’ll have to defer to the mothers here: what do you think? Do your kids get homework every day? Do you have to stand over them with a whip to get them to do it? Does homework help or hurt? To quote Ross Perot, I’m all ears…

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Author: John Holton

I'm a writer and blogger who writes and blogs about things that interest me.

28 thoughts on “Writer’s Workshop: Homework: Yea or Nay?”

  1. I’ve homeschooled my kids, so all their work is literally homework–which really gets old. Now that my youngest is in middle school, he goes to outside tutorials that meet once a week, so he has work to do for each of those classes, and that “homework” takes priority over whatever work he does for our homeschool. Kind of takes the “home” out of “homeschool.”

    My daughter teaches at a private school, and those kids get a lot of homework. No idea about public school kids and homework.

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      1. At one time, my children were privileged to take Latin, English, and history tutorials (once-a-week group classes, really) from a very gifted teacher; he was a professional in every sense of the word. He retired a year ago, but I am so grateful that he orchestrated AP tests and wrote recommendations for my four oldest kids’ college applications. I may actually have to teach my youngest son high school English and history (I’m qualified, I guess, but . . . I’m no Mr. Minick).

        The tutorials that my son is taking now are taught by other homeschool moms; many of them were public or private schoolteachers before starting to homeschool. Tutorials are starting at a younger and younger age for homeschoolers, though, which is a trend I don’t love—yet I’ve participated in it despite my doubts. Peer pressure exists even among homeschoolers.

        Really, my son’s work that I assign him should be considered “schoolwork.” The tutorial work I consider homework in the traditional sense of the world.

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  2. As a kid I would have loved it! I don’t agree with this though because, it doesn’t teach the discipline we need later on as adults to hunker down Nd do things we don’t care for but is needed if we wish to accomplish things. It also gets our /Rains working on things we normally don’t go to so it expands our minds especially when we dislike what we have to do. Kids, nowadays are reading less due to all the ins5ant gratification that the internet provides. So, I say homework is important, if the te@cher doesn’t go crazy, and br8ng back cursive so kids can read all the letters thattheir parents and grandparents have written.

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    1. A lot of people (kids, in particular) equate “no homework” with “come home from school and play video games until bedtime.” While a teacher might not assign any homework, they need to make it clear that being prepared for class is mandatory, which could entail reading the textbook or other material (e.g. literature for an English class), working problems in areas that give them trouble, preparing for quizzes and tests (that could arise at any time), or working on long-term assignments. It’s the whole “time management” thing. Too often a teacher will assign a lot of busywork just so the kid has something to do in front of their parents…

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  3. I hated homework, but, I think some homework is good because it teaches responsibility. With that said, I don’t believe it should be overwhelming. Some teachers would give us so much homework, that we didn’t have family time, which I feel is as important as homework. I don’t have kids so I don’t know what it is like today.

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    1. That’s the point the teacher was making: she’d rather the kids spend time with their families and read on their own rather than grinding through worksheets and filling up notebooks with repetitive calculations. That doesn’t mean they don’t do any of that at home, but that should be the focus of wht they do in school.

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  4. Some of the homework my kids had felt excessive to me and they each went through periods where they were getting poor grades because they weren’t turning in said homework. I would rather see them doing homework though than playing those video games.

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  5. When I was in high school I was taught by the Jesuits. They had this crazy philosophy that for every hour of school work a student should spend an hour of work at home. Think of that: you spent, say, 5 hours in school and somehow you were to spend 5 hours that night on studying! I never came close. Your Mother , in my opinion, was correct about reading. If you learn to read well you can learn practically anything. Our father, who was a teacher as you know, had me read as a young man a book by Mortimer Adler entitled, “How To Read A Book.” He also had a philosophy that you should read important material at least twice; skim through first (which he felt was very important) and then reread after in more depth.

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    1. So that’s where Tex got “1 hour in class, 1 hour out of class” from… I had no idea…

      I don’t think I’ve read Adler’s book, but I’ve heard about it. I have heard that, when working with a textbook, you should start at the end and read the chapter summary and questions, then go through the chapter and read the headings and subheadings. That way, when you actually read the text, you have some idea what you’re reading and what to look out for. There are times I think I should have gotten the Cliff’s Notes for the books I read in English classes and started with them before tackling the book itself, because I would have an idea going in about what to look for. I can see the rationale for skimming the material first.

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  6. My middle child, the girl, has a bit of homework at times. She stresses but gets it done. Her grades are decent so I don’t hover over her. My youngest son only has homework because he does not do his work in school. I do hover over him, especially after I saw a 50% in one of his classes because he didn’t turn in an assignment. Trust me, that assignment got done and I did not take any of his excuses. The teachers at the Sixth Grade Academy are good at keeping the school work at school. The older you get the more you seem to have though.

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    1. There are good reasons for homework, but it should be mostly for finishing things from earlier in the day and for longer-term assignments, not to do a lot of unnecessary busywork just for the sake of filling up the hours between when the kid gets home and bedtime. I think sometimes it’s a case of teaching time management skills where they learn to do something every day instead of letting it all pile up and trying to do everything in one night, probably letting things slide through the cracks and forgetting to do them.

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  7. Good question. The way I see it, we always had homework and we survived. Kids also have access to answers and knowledge that we did not have. So…it seems to me that they will survive if given homework. It is a better use of time than gaming. Just sayin’.

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    1. For sure, it’s a better use than gaming or watching TV, but at the same time assigning so much homework that the kid is spending every moment from when they get home until bedtime is excessive. I also think it needs to be more than busywork. But yes, I think it’s generally a good thing.

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  8. Are you serious? Here in Tennessee, they are loading kids down with so much homework that they don’t have times to be kids. I know of kids who are staying up until well after midnight to get their homework done, and sometimes they are in tears. This is happening in public schools and private schools. My friend (who has a son in private school) has stressed so much about it. I wonder why it’s different in your state?

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    1. I can’t say how they handle homework here. The article I linked to was about a teacher in North Carolina.

      I can see the value of homework, but giving the kids so much of it that they’re up untill all hours of the night is excessive. If it isn’t a time management issue and they aren’t spending more time griping about having to do it than actually doing it (both of which were my specialties), the teacher’s expectations are out of line with reality. And kids are different: it might take some kids 45 minutes to do what other kids spend several hours doing.

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  9. I think homework has its place, as a way to practice what is learned in class. But many teachers assign way too much. I would prefer they leave time during the class period to practice.

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    1. I think that’s the idea, to use the time during the school day to work on the lessons and not have to spend too much time outside school to complete the lesson. For certain, a student needs time to practice what they learned, and what better time to do that when the teacher is available?

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      1. Exactly! I enjoyed helping my kids all the way through high school with English papers, taught them silly mnemonics for biology, and could usually pull enough my weight in geometry and algebra. But if they had questions about history, geography, physics, or chemistry they’d have to wait for the teacher the next day! And don’t get me started on those “projects” that include plonking down $50 at the nearest craft store and 75% of the work being done by parents. Not an educational experience for anyone!

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  10. I see what comes out of the no homework school system training with the kids that join the Air Force requires them to read and study to pass a pile of workbooks relevant to their job, but they’ve had no hard studying demanded of them. So some figure it out as they go and other’s get kicked out because they don’t know how to cope with such an expectation. I see it at our Bible studies we have for the Airmen: they don’t want to do any extra reading or writing or even filling in easy blanks in a simple workbook on their own time because they haven’t ever had to do any homework before and aren’t used to doing so. The public school teachers may be saving themselves and uphill fight in the moment, but, having seen the end product, I don’t think it’s serving the kids adult futures. Kids in the Air Force who were home-schooled fair much better.

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    1. At some point, the focus of homework needs to change, from something they do because they’re told to do it, to something they do to prepare for the next day. Just because they don’t have worksheets to fill out or papers to turn in doesn’t mean they “don’t have homework”; there’s reading (and taking notes), things they have to do for, say, a paper that’s due in two weeks, and studying, which become more important as they get older. If they get used to the idea that homework is more than busywork, you don’t run into the problems you’re running into with your airmen.

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  11. My kids have all had a few teachers, classes, or YEARS where the homework was too much. I actually spoke to the teacher and principal about my son’s homework in 2nd grade. I told them flat out that if he could test and get a B, there was no way I’d make him sit for hours at a time doing ‘busy work’ to get an A.
    The reading logs are okay. I’ve always had readers. It got a bit tricky when they started making sure the reading was in a specific Lexile (level). That was annoying when kids read over their levels and some snippy cows were like, “But is it appropriate?” Pffft.
    Now that they’re teens, I don’t think they have too much homework, and most of it’s on a computer, which brings certain parenting styles to a halt. You can’t say “no screen time” when the work is on the computer. sigh They read mostly on devices, too. It’s nice to see them curled up with an actual book. Does my heart good.
    I like Moo’s math teacher, she’s had the same one for two years. She gives them the 20-30 problems in class and expects them to ask questions as they work, and shows the problem problems on the smartboard. Then they get 3-5 problems to take home and work on. Pop quizzes. She seems dedicated to teaching, to really making sure they understand. I wish all math teachers, especially my own, had such thorough methods.

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    1. That’s a very good way to teach math. I had an excellent math teacher in grammar school. She’d have been even better if she didn’t find it necessary to lecture us on what a bunch of silly geese we were at least once a week. Everything she knew ablout teaching math, she learned from my grandfather, who taught math at Loyola for years. He didn’t lecture his classes on what silly geese they were, though; I think that was her addition.

      Homework should be about preparing for the next day, not performance art for the parents to watch every night. Your story about your son demonstrates Pareto’s Principle, that 20% of the work gets you 80% of the results, and it goes down from there…

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        1. I was born to Gypsies, but was kidnapped at an early age by a band of Irish schoolteachers… XD

          Mom and two of her sisters, Fabulous Auntie Jill (my godmother) and Carol (better known as Bitsy) taught full-time, and her sister Alice subbed a couple of times when I was in grammar school. My grandfather, of course, taught Math both in high school and college. On top of that, Mom’s second husband, Tex (Pat’s dad) had several master’s degrees and taught theology, history, and Latin when he was a Jesuit. Yeah, we have lots of teachers in the family…

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