What’s Up With Homework?

Yehudis Goodman, a mother for close to two decades, shares her frustration at dealing with homework.

By Yehudis Goodman for Binah Magazine

For more on the subject: anash.org/too-much-homework/

Homework, you are the bane of my existence. 

No, I am not a struggling third-grader, an overloaded high-school girl, or a sixth-grade boy who is waiting to go ride his bike. 

I am a mother. 

A mother who can deal with dirty dishes that need to be washed. Who is fine scrubbing out a greasy oven. Bleaching bathrooms on a daily basis, making supper after supper that all garner complaints, 1:00 a.m. reminders about tomorrow’s trip or no clean tights — also fine. It’s all part of the package called motherhood.

But homework? If only I could banish it from my life. 

I’m not being dramatic. I have been a mother for almost two decades and I still have not heard one decent reason to give homework. Oh, I’ve heard many, many reasons — but none of them good enough to justify giving children who just sat through some seven and a half hours of school another 20 minutes of homework. Or ten, or five. 

“Students need that quick review to solidify what they learned that day in class.” If that’s so, here are your options: End class seven minutes early and say, “Okay, now it’s homework time.” (You know how teachers say, “It should never take more than five to ten minutes?” Let’s see if ten minutes at the end of the school day is enough time for all the kids to do their homework…) Or begin each day’s lesson with a review of the previous day’s work. 

What’s that you say? The teacher cannot make her rounds around the entire room helping each child with his homework? Appropriate homework should not need outside help — if the average student can not do the homework unaided, the homework is inappropriate. Yet my second-grader cannot give himself a spelling review test or review his math flash cards alone. (One teacher actually told me, “Let one of your older kids do homework with the younger ones!” My older kids? Like the daughter who can’t even eat supper with the family because she is too busy doing her homework???)

I have a neighbor who has been teaching for 25 years. She is required to give a requisite amount of homework. She is scrupulous in her mission to only give her third-graders homework that does not need parental supervision. But that is not the best part. From Rosh Chodesh Adar and on, there is no homework. None. Because no matter how much teachers say homework is the child’s responsibility and not the parents’, we all know the truth. It is a pressure for parents. But the amazing thing is… she does not see the academics in her classroom suffer during that time. How telling. 

I currently have seven children in school, ranging from Pre-1A though high school. One or two of them can do homework on their own — most of the time. Other times they cannot — research papers, reports that need to be typed… (A seventh-grader typing a report will spend an average of one hour typing three paragraphs with her right index finger. Multiply that by a six-page report — how many hours will it take her to type?) And the older boys who are chazering cannot chazer alone; the Rebbi wants Tatty to give the boys only 10 minutes, not more. 

The little boy who struggles so to sit still all day, climbing out of his own skin, comes home and needs to let loose — run, play, bike ride… and then comes supper, shower, bedtime. Do the math: these little kids are coming home close to 5:00 and need to be in bed before 8:00. The majority of their waking hours are spent in school — working. Then they get home and are expected to sit again to do their homework. And if it’s a struggling child, it’s likely that everything is a struggle: getting dressed and eating and brushing teeth and showering and getting into pajamas and putting clothing in the hamper and and and… So instead of encouraging that child to make his bed, Mommy has to pick her battles and homework is a non-negotiable one. So homework it is! 

There is a very chashuve Mashgiach whom all the schools love to quote on various chinuch issues. Our principals quote him constantly. Funny, he has said time and time and time again that homework should be abolished. Yet that is one area where he is never quoted.

Schoolwork is for school. Please don’t send it home. HOME-WORK for children is the work they need to do at home, like setting the table for supper, clearing up afterward, making their beds, helping for Shabbos, peeling soup vegetables. I do not send my child to school with a toothbrush and a note saying, “Chani needs to reinforce her tooth-brushing skills, please help her brush her teeth after snack time.” I don’t expect the teacher to sit with my son and review with him age-appropriate personal hygiene habits because what I teach him at home needs reinforcement in order to stick. Please don’t send my child home with school work that needs reinforcement at home either. It disrupts the precious few hours that we get to enjoy each other. 

“Homework is a great thing, my child really gains from it!” said no parent ever

Reprinted with permission from Binah magazine. Subscriptions to Binah magazine are available through subscriptions@binahmagazine.com

Discussion
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  1. I hear your thought process. And unless your child needs the extra support or practicing you are right there shouldn’t be homework. Besides for 1 point you seem to forget. Teaching our children הגיע בו יומם ולילה. We learn Torah by day and night. The learning in school is definitely good for the day but it’s important to teach our children that Torah learning is not only in school and in Shul but that we learn on our own time as well at night (or as close to night before bedtime) the lesson is very powerful. So even if it’s only 5 minutes or even less but the lesson is there. Hatzlacha rabba.

  2. Here are the top 14 reasons why Homework is important:

    It improves your child’s thinking and memory
    It helps your child develop positive study skills and habits that will serve him or her well throughout life
    Homework encourages your child to use time wisely
    It teaches your child to work independently
    Homework teaches your child to take responsibility for his or her work
    It allows your child to review and practice what has been covered in class
    It helps your child to get ready for the next day’s class
    Homework helps your child learn to use resources, such as libraries, reference materials, and computer Web sites to find information
    It encourages your child to explores subjects more fully than classroom time permits
    It allows your child to extend learning by applying skills to new situations
    It helps your child integrate learning by applying many different skills to a single task, such as book reports or science projects
    Howework helps parents learn more about what your child is learning in school
    It allows parents to communicate about what he or she is learning
    It encourages parents to spark your child’s enthusiasm

  3. Bs”d

    I very much agree with Chaim

    B’H we have 7 children ranging from Pre1a to High School.
    for a couple of years we were not on top of their homework.

    That changed, when recently 2 teachers at PTC mentioned that the kids were not turning in their homework, and they suggest we start doing the homework with the children.

    We started immediately. Now my wife and I spend less than 20 minutes a few days a week doing home work.

    The results is very rewarding. We get nachas, on a daily basis!

    For all these children, it sends a message, that we take their school work seriously.

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