Some kids breeze through it. For others, it's a daily struggle. Where does your kid fit in?
- Dana Villamagna, Toca Magazine Writer
When Jamie was in fourth grade in a Wyoming school, she sometimes stayed up until midnight to complete her homework, crying from frustration and exhaustion.
“No child should have to spend 12 hours a day working when adults are not expected to do that,” said Jamie’s mom. “They need rest and they need creative time.”
Some parents think that homework takes an unnecessary toll on free time, while others think it’s necessary for academic success. Whatever side you’re on in the homework debate, chances are at some point your kid will have to do it.
Homework proponents suggest that it helps kids develop study skills and good work habits while reinforcing skills learned at school, and it keeps parents in the loop about what kids are learning. Homework opponents say that it’s the equivalent of making kids work a second shift, and that there’s no research that proves it benefits children academically until the high school level.
“The more one understands about learning, the less inclined one is to support homework,” said Alfie Kohn, education advocate and author of “The Homework Myth: Why Our Kids Get Too Much of a Bad Thing.”
What kids really think about homework
So what do the people who have to do the work in homework say about it? When Toca Magazine asked kids what they think about homework, kids candidly shared their views.
Rose: Third-grader gives up gymnastics because of homework stress
In third grade, Rose, age 9, typically completed about 30 minutes of language homework every evening, in addition to computer-based work and some math practice.
“I think they gave us a little too much,” she said.
With newly extended school hours at her North Carolina school, Rose’s days became so stressful that she decided to give up gymnastics in order to have more time to complete homework.
“I felt really nervous and wasn’t really thinking as much as I usually do,” she recalled.
Rose’s mom said parents petitioned the school to reduce homework loads when the district extended the school day, but the request failed.
I felt really nervous and wasn’t really thinking as much as I usually do.
Izzy: “Flipped” classroom changes homework time
Some schools are taking the “flipped” approach to homework, which means that kids watch their teacher’s lessons at home via computer in the evening and then use classroom time to ask questions, practice skills and build on what they’ve learned.
“(Homework time) is almost like one-on-one time with my teacher,” said Izzy, age 12, who attends a private school in New Jersey where math and science are taught via flipped classroom.
Will: Completes homework as soon as he can to get more play time
Whether in a flipped or traditional environment, pragmatic kids like Will, age 11, take a get-it-done approach to homework.
“I like everything about homework,” says Will, who is entering sixth grade in a Texas public school. Will said his fifth-grade teacher only required students to take home work that they didn’t complete during school, which helped him to stay on task. While he often finished his work at school and then had no homework, Will completed any homework as soon as he got home so that he was free to play.
I like everything about homework.
Stella: Sixth-grader tries to support struggling classmates
Yet even kids who don’t mind homework know that today’s typical workload doesn’t suit many students’ personal learning style or after-school schedule. As a sixth-grader, Stella always completed her homework, but she had classmates who struggled to do so, including one homework-averse kid that she advised often.
“I always say to him, you’re really smart. You just need to be like me and get your homework done and then you can get better grades,” she said.
Stella’s teacher gave students a weekly homework plan that allows them to choose when to complete the homework, anytime before Friday. She chose to finish it all on Monday so she could have time for her own interests the rest of the week.
Indeed, most of the kids interviewed for this article spontaneously mentioned that they do homework as early and quickly as possible so they can have more time to play. Given enough time, kids will often make, create, pretend, read and invent their way into the most engaged learning.
“Homework persists in part because of adults’ distrust of children and how they’ll spend their time if given a choice,” said Kohn.
The NEA suggests that schools include parents, teachers and kids when setting a school’s homework policy, and practical, kid-style wisdom may be just what’s needed to change the world of homework.
“Homework would be OK if we didn’t have so much of it,” says Stella.