Homework Is Bad For Families. Here’s Proof.

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Mar 25, 2016

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Here we were, voices raised in the house yet again. The Kurukshetra War was about to commence — just as soon as my daughter opened her homework folder. My wife and I would struggle to get her to finish her umpteenth assignment. There would be desperate protests of “But I can’t!!!” and “We’ve done this so many times now, how is this still a problem?”

But homework-scarred parents, rejoice: Our feelings and suspicions that our kids’ nightly homework is relatively pointless might actually be true! This is a most welcome, if somewhat ominous, development, given the centrality homework plays in our school-aged daughter’s life — and, increasingly, in our four-year old daughter’s daily tasks.

Yes — a 4-year-old actually gets homework.

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As it turns out homework has a terrible impact on kids. Per Heather Shumaker, reporting for Salon:

“… homework at a young age causes many kids to turn against school, future homework and academic learning. And it’s a long road. A child in kindergarten is facing 13 years of homework ahead of her. Then there’s the damage to personal relationships. Instead of connecting and supporting each other at the end of the day, too many families find themselves locked in the ‘did you do your homework?’ cycle.”

Yet again, I found myself nodding in complete and vehement agreement about a core parenting issue as discussed by a stranger on the Internet. Researchers are now coming around to confirm that the pitched battles to do schoolwork at home are having a negative effect on all members of the family. Exasperated parents are berating their children. Exhausted children are learning to despise learning.

But wait, say apologists, doesn’t homework teach values like education, grit, responsibility and commitment to learning? Maybe, notes Shumaker. But so does the rest of the child’s life.

Shumaker again:

“Non-academic priorities (good sleep, family relationships and active playtime) are vital for balance and well-being. They also directly impact a child’s memory, focus, behavior and learning potential. Elementary lessons are reinforced every day in school. After-school time is precious for the rest of the child.”

I couldn’t agree with this more. As I have discovered from coaching one of my daughter’s competition groups, children are terribly over-scheduled. Getting seven children together to work on a project is a Herculean feat of agenda management for everyone involved. Parents scramble to get the kids to our meetings and then scramble to get home with enough time to complete kids’ schoolwork.

In our house, homework can start as late as 7 pm, depending on what’s been going on during the day. And by that point, my nerves are good and well shot. I can only assume my daughter’s are, too.

So, what’s the solution, you ask, dear reader? Something close to heretical: I simply let her do her homework on her own, as best she can. I have stopped grading it or checking it. If I can’t stop the tide of homework, I can, at the very least, remove the nightly battles that reduce us to yelling over some ridiculous question.

I can also make sure she takes the right lessons from it. By letting her do it unsupervised, at the very least, she learns the responsibility of trying her best on her own — and that homework is not the full extent of our relationship. We simply remind her to get it done, but it’s up to her actually to do it. Sure, it wracks my nerves not to be checking if she has all the answers right. But it wracks my nerves, and hers, more to go into battle every night.

At some point, you have to give the bird a chance to fly out of the nest. You might be surprised to see that its wings actually work, when given a chance. I only wish homework didn’t have to be the impetus.

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Written By Rajat Soni

Rajat is an Indian-American stay-at-home father of two girls, aged 7 and 3, one of whom was born in India. After working as a lawyer and raising his girls for several years in Mumbai, he moved to the U.S., where he became the primary caretaker for his daughters while his wife started a new job. He’s interested in exploring the role modern fathers play in the lives of their young children.

See all articles by Rajat
  1. Sonali Gupta

    Absolutely love this article! On some days all of us want to hear this. Thank you for writing this.

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