In their study, more than 1,000 parents were surveyed and said while they like the good work habits homework promotes, as well as how it helps parents be involved in their children's academic lives, the amount students are getting is interfering with family time, play time, causing stress and even marital troubles.
I've felt for a long time that with 6 hours a day, 5 days a week, schools ought to be able to give children the basic education they need. After all, as a homeschooling parent, my children generally get the basic subjects out of the way in 2-3 hours a day. Even my 6th-grader manages to do English, math, history, and science, along with logic, Latin, and Bible, in no more than 3-4 hours 4 days a week; the remainder of her school topics are covered in outside classes and activities and include: P.E. (swim team), music (keyboard lessons), art, band, drama, and sign language.
Unfortunately, most schools spend much of their time doing a lot more than giving children a basic education. Many schools seem to think it's their job to feed our kids, keep them off drugs, motivate them to care for the environment, provide them with s-x education, prevent them from becoming prejudiced, cure them of any religious notions, and generally counteract the careful training in values their parents are giving them at home. Little wonder, then, that they can't find time to teach them such insignificant things as reading, writing, math, and a love for learning during school hours, but have to send those things home for the parents to teach.
I have a friend who told me she started homeschooling when her son was in first grade. She found she was teaching him most of his "schoolwork" as homework at night. She finally decided if she was going to have to teach him at home, she might as well do it during his best hours, rather than in the evenings when he was exhausted and wanted nothing but to eat, play, and rest.
The study also found:
- Not only does homework cut into family time, it becomes a primary source of arguments, power struggles and is disruptive to building a strong family, including putting strain on marriages. Bruni said it even negatively affects family holidays.
- A large number of children in kindergarten are assigned homework, most of it "drill and practice."
- 28 per cent of Grade 1 students and more than 50 per cent of Grade 2 students spend more than 20 minutes on homework daily.
- More than three-quarters of parents with children in Grade 4 and under help their children with homework. But, by Grade 4, only half of parents feel they are competent enough to do so.
- Parents are unsure about the benefits of homework; by Grade 5, just 20 per cent of parents feel it has a "positive effect on achievement."
- Half of children in junior kindergarten are enthusiastic about homework; by Grade 6, it drops to just 6 per cent and by Grade 12, just 4 per cent.
The elementary-school children in our neighborhood get on the bus at 7:45 am and don't get home until close to 4:30 pm. During all of that time, they are almost completely structured. "Don't talk," "Stay in line," "Wait for the rest of the class," "Sit quietly," "Listen," "Raise your hand," the list of admonitions goes on and on. By the time they get home, they are exhausted and ready to be unstructured for a few hours. But at 4:30, how many hours do they really have? By the time they do homework (even if it's only half an hour, and for many it's a lot more than that), eat dinner, and get a bath, it's almost bedtime. When are they supposed to play, spend time with their families, or just sit and think?
As homeschoolers, I feel like our kids are so incredibly blessed. They have the one thing most kids today lack - the luxury of time. No wonder so many of our society's greatest achievers were homeschooled - they are the only ones who have time to really ponder how life works. Maybe it's time for parents to rebel against the workings of the machine - to say, "No, we are not going to run our entire lives by the values of the educational establishment." There's more to life than school!
We need to give our kids back the gift of time. Homeschool is one great way to do that, but even if you can't homeschool, you can set boundaries. You can tell teachers, "This far, and no further." A single parent alone may have trouble accomplishing this, but if we band together based on the research, maybe we can make a difference.