by Risa Green
I have never been so excited for spring break in my whole life. (Okay, maybe I was more excited the year I went to Cancun with my sorority sisters, but this is a very close second). I’m looking forward to not having to get up at 6:30 every morning, to not having to drive two rounds of carpool every day, to not having to get dinner on the table by 5:30 every night, and to not having to pack lunchboxes and bus snacks. But most of all, I’m looking forward to not having to deal with homework.
I hate my daughter’s homework. I think I hate her homework more than I ever even hated my own homework when I was in school. And my daughter is not difficult when it comes to homework. I don’t have to nag her to do it, she can complete it pretty much by herself, and she takes her time and does it carefully and thoughtfully, without complaining. I’m lucky, I know. But still, it makes me nuts. It’s not that I’m against the idea of homework. I actually think that it’s a useful tool for kids as they learn to budget their time and take responsibility for themselves. And if the right work is assigned (and if parents don’t correct it), then it can also be a valuable way for teachers to determine whether new concepts are really being understood. In second grade at my daughter’s school, homework is only supposed to take fifteen minutes a night. And it does, if you only count the actual math or phonics worksheets that come home. And if that was all my daughter had to do every night, then I would be writing about an entirely different topic right now, like how I’m so excited to not have drive carpool for two weeks, or whether I should get a spray tan before we leave for vacation next week.
But lately, however, I think my daughter’s homework has been a little out of control. On top of the fifteen minutes a night of worksheets, she also has to read for a minimum of twenty minutes a night, plus answer a total of five questions about her reading over the course of the week. She also has to study twenty spelling words every night for a spelling test each Friday. And, since they’re working on biographies right now, she’s had to read her biography book, answer questions, and write down key facts about the life of Jane Goodall every night for the last two weeks. I’m sorry, but for a seven year-old, that’s a lot. And in case you missed it the first time, I hate it.
I haven’t seen the movie Race to Nowhere, about teenagers who feel inordinate amounts of pressure to do well in school, and who are cracking left and right under the weight of it all. But when I worked as a college counselor, I saw it every day. My students routinely stayed up until one or two in the morning doing homework, because by the time they got back from swim practice or play practice or whatever else they did after school to keep themselves competitive for college, it was already nine o’clock and they had four hours of homework ahead of them. And you have to wonder, why? Why is it necessary to push kids that hard? Why does homework have to be that intense? And why do I feel like it’s already starting when my kid is only in grade school?
I don’t know what the answer is. Well, that’s not true. I do know what the answer is. The answer is that schools need to recognize the ridiculousness of what is going on, and they need to collectively stop assigning so much homework. Or, kids need to unionize, and negotiate a homework contract or something. But since neither of those things are going to happen, then yeah, I don’t know what the answer is. I just know that for the next two weeks, I’m going to very much enjoy hanging out with my family, without having to utter the words, “have you done your homework?”
Also on Mommy Tracked about The Race to Nowhere and school pressures:
The Pressure for School Success 
Cheating on Homework to Get Ahead in Life