Questioning homework: Is it worth it?

Our son goes to a public school and is about to finish first grade. It is a magnet school that enrolls students through lottery drawing.

He is at school almost for 6 hours, from 8:00am until 1:45pm. Unfortunately, within these 6 hours their lunch break is really short and they do not have a proper recess time where students can spend their accumulated energy in class. Two times a week, they have PE classes. Nevertheless, for an active boy like him, it is insufficient. Next year, school days will get longer but I am not sure how much of this will help extend their recess.

He is given weekly homework package on Fridays, which includes writing short sentences, writing paragraphs and simple math drills. He has until next Thursday night to complete his homework. If he finishes on the weekend, then he is free during the week days. But this is homework, instead of spending the weekend with play, you need to sit down and concentrate and think. He also needs to read every day, on top of the homework.

After school, he attends a program at one of the city parks close to his school called “after school program”. This program’s schedule includes afternoon snacks, homework and daily physical activities including swimming, woodworking, a movie day and arts&crafts. Besides these activities, the program coordinators find other fun games to keep them entertained and have them run around, play to help kids burn their energies. My son loves it!

Depending on our work schedule, we pick him up between 5pm and 6pm. Some days, he has so much fun that he does not want to leave, which makes me happier (and less guilty).

After spending 5 hours of sitting in a classroom and learning and after school, we come home around 6pm. He goes to bed at 8:30pm the latest. So we have 2,5 hours to spend quality time as a family, play, prepare and eat dinner, get ready for bed and go to sleep on time. At the top of that he has homework to complete.

Now that brings me to my concern about homework. Which one from the above do you think we’ll sacrifice to complete his homework?

I have one, no wait, couple of small problems with the homework:

  1. My son, who is 6, sits through 5 hours of class time every day. Children should learn what they have to learn & repeat during 5 hours of learning time at school.
  2. Unless a child is ready and receptive to learn, the homework will not bring any additional value. In most cases, children do not like homework. I would agree. I do not like working after hours at home either.
  3. Homework steals time from quality family time. Forget about his play time. I finish work at 5pm. I go and pick up my son afterwards. We come home, make him to do his homework. Understandably, he complains. Thank God my husband is an expert on this. He eases my son into it. Helps him finishes his homework rather quickly. Then we feed him and put him to sleep.
  4. Homework causes tension between parents and children during the limited time that they should enjoy together.  During the 2,5 hours we have to spend together, most of it is wasted on arguing about homework. It would be more beneficial for students and parents to spend time with their kids playing and conversing on a topic that is picked by themselves instead of an assigned homework.
  5. Drill homeworks do not help learning, they help memorizing. I went to a grade school where homework was beyond the limits of mind and logic. I never got to play outside or at home. Only thing I remember were the 50-question papers that I had to answer in full sentences. This is my memory of my grade school. My mind was all scattered, I was in the la-la land. It took me a hours to finish my homework. I missed play, fun and sleep but I finished my homework despite all the pain. I went to a great high school, because I tested well. Ask me if I remember anything useful.
  6. I do not oppose home learning, I oppose “homework”. We all like creative projects such as “bare book project” where children writes and illustrates their own book, or research projects on an animal or plant they pick from a category. I am fine with those. Kids love those and don’t see them as a burden. We all love reading. The ones that annoy me are the spelling and math drills, more mechanical, memorization type of stuff instead of assignments to encourage research, real learning and creativity.
  7. Learning without “homework assignment” is possible. The Montessori school my son was attending last year didn’t assign any homework after school. Despite the lack of homework assignments, he could read very well, knew his times tables and he knew all about planets, stars and space at the end of Kindergarten. During school hours, they could work with students one-on-one. There was no homework, no test, and no exam.
  8. Children learn best through play. They memorize through drills. I want him to be able to learn the things he picks after school hours, instead of the things that are assigned to him. We can go to the park, play with neighbor’s kids, play instruments, listen to music, dance, do arts activities (which they get to do only 1 hours a week), play sports outside or cook together. Possibilities are endless.

If I haven’t experienced that learning without homework is possible, I wouldn’t have argued against it and actually would believe homework is beneficial is necessary like so many parents including my parents.

What do you think about homework? Are there any parents out there in the traditional school system, who keeps their children at school (instead of home school) but voice their opposition to homework? Do you give in? If you don’t believe homework will benefit your child, do you let them skip it? Has anyone had the courage to tell the teachers, that you prefer that your child has fun at home instead of homework because he should enough time to learn what he has to learn at school? Please chime in.

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