Down with homework!

English: Homework
In my opinion, homework = housework. Schoolwork should be completed at school. | English: Homework (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My 7-year-old started second grade this year. Recently, he brought home his very first list of vocabulary words. The assignment – which is to be repeated every week with a new set of words for the remainder of the school year – was to write down each word with its definition. Which therefore meant looking up definitions for him to write down.

At first, I was tempted to use the app on my phone to look up each definition and have my son copy the words from there. Then it occurred to me that no child of mine will ever get away with not learning how to use a real-life, hard-copy dictionary. So, I pulled out my mammoth Webster’s New World College Dictionary, and we set to work.

Teaching a 7-year-old how to use a Dictionary is maybe not the easiest task in the world. In fact, like much of my son’s homework that ends up being my homework as well, it’s a little annoying. How can a teacher tell a second grader to write down definitions without first teaching him how to find those definitions?

I spend a lot of time helping my son with his homework. I can’t help but wonder what happens to those students who do not have a parent at home most days when they get home from school. What happens to those children whose parents simply do not have the time or the resources to provide the type of assistance that so many teachers seem to expect?

What happens to the kids who, for whatever reason, do not have anyone at home to teach them how to look up their vocabulary words in the dictionary? Furthermore, what happens to those children who don’t even have a dictionary at home? I could be wrong, but I doubt there are many children whose mothers maintain a complete reference library in their home offices like I do.

I have two master’s degrees. My business degrees required that I take many advance-level math courses. My English/creative writing degree has made me a bit of a writing expert. Even with all of this education, I am sometimes mystified by some of the homework my kids ask me to help them with. If it is this difficult for me, then how must all of those parents who never made it past high school feel? Furthermore, what happens to the children of high school dropouts?

We talk about education equality a lot in the United States. Everyone has his or her own opinion on how to make this happen. To me, the first step is to make sure every child has the same level of assistance with their homework. This means that schools need to incorporate homework assistance into every school day and make sure that every child has someone to help them with their assignments.

The children of uneducated parents can never hope to achieve education equality as long as they are forced to rely on those same uneducated parents to help them with their homework. We cannot withhold access to homework help and then expect those children to do as well as the children of educated parents.

If you ask me, homework should be eradicated. All schoolwork should be completed at school, under the tutelage of teachers who have been trained to teach. I may have two master’s degrees, but I am not qualified to teach grade school, middle school, or even high school. If the school system does not think I possess the qualifications to teach at this level, then why should they expect me to have any success with teaching my children at home?

My children have an advantage over many of their classmates when it comes to having access to someone who can effectively help them with their homework. (Although my teenager may not take advantage of this access as often as he should.) However, I live in an apartment complex where many of my neighbors are low-income and/or uneducated. Some work long hours and do not have time to provide their children with homework help every day. Others are just ignorant and do not seem to care if their children do their homework at all.

Are any of these circumstances the child’s fault? No. Nevertheless, it is the child’s problem. Moreover, it will have a major impact on the child’s entire future, which then impacts our society as a whole. If you think this is not your problem, then you are wrong.

I see my neighbors’ children come home from school and head straight outside to play instead of doing homework. I hear them asking my son why he has to do homework every day, and it makes me sad. Because I know they should be doing homework every day as well, but they are not. Their parents are not making sure they sit down and read twenty minutes every day, as I know every teacher at their elementary school requires. I don’t know if some of these kids even have books in their house to read. How is that fair?

What do you think should be done to improve the educational system in the United States? Please share your ideas in the comments below.

~Amanda L. Webster

4 thoughts on “Down with homework!”

  1. I can’t speak for the US but I am in complete agreement about the homework. Homework should be something a child can’t do in school: something like ‘write a creative story based on your journey home’ – something every child has the capacity (if not the willingness) to do. They spend enough hours learning the written stuff – time outside school should be for learning who they are as people, how to interact with others, how to take responsibilty for their own time etc – all things they can do regardless of the education of the parent. Sometimes having a parent to help can even be a disadvantage – I recently went to a curriculum evening that partly was to teach the parents the right way to help their young kids with phonics and maths partitioning: both things that weren’t taught when I went to school. I’m likely to do more harm than good if I help my kids learn (assuming they’d even listen to me, which is unlikely). I don’t find facilitating their learning but I’m not a teacher, despite my various degrees and quailifications. That’s why I send them to school rather than home school!!

  2. Thank you so much for letting me read this. I loved it. The fact that you are being forced to become your son’s teacher at home speaks to the problems inherent with our educational system today. Teachers should be teaching your son how to look up those words on line – what a great 21st century skill. The teacher should also be providing a dictionary that matches your son’s reading level. Having him write words that don’t mean anything to him isn’t going to help him retain the information.

    I think that we should start embracing the idea of less is more. Teachers shouldn’t have to rush through a topic or a skill – or worse yet – expect the parents to teach it. Instead, we as teachers should decide which skills and information are important and then take as long as we need to in order for them to master the material.

    1. Oh, I agree on providing students with dictionaries to meet their reading level. We are using my college dictionary until I can get to a bookstore (40 minutes away) to buy something more age appropriate. Until then, I am translating the college-level definitions into simple terms my son can understand. It is a LOT of work! Having a child in school is almost like having a part-time job on top of your regular job.

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