Katie Allison Granju has a problem with homework. Her kid’s homework, that is:

Children today have so much homework every night, much of it very boring and/or quite demanding, that it certainly will become your problem… a problem you will dread and wrangle with almost every single night of your life for nine months of each year until your child graduates high school. Yes, it really is that bad. And it’s even worse if you have a HRK (homework-resistant kid), as two of mine are. If you wind up with an HRK of your own, you will spend many hours each week – at a time of day when you and your child are tired and ready to wind down and enjoy family time – cajoling, encouraging, threatening, and isolating your HRK in an ongoing battle of wills. It’s exhausting and irritating.

Seems like a part of the problem in the Granju household is the homework-resistedness of her kids. Not knowing her personally, it’s hard to say that the problem is that she is holding their hands through it, but it could be. Even for kids that aren’t HRKs and even if she wasn’t helping them, at what point does it become too much to ask kids to go to school for 7 hours a day and then come home and spend more time on school-related tasks?

Whether there is “too much homework” is a value-judgment. And it seems to differ from individual to individual. I remember I had a friend when I was in high school that never had time to do anything because she was always working on homework. It was ridiculous. She went to a good school but it was no better than mine. I don’t know if she was just assigned that much more of the stuff or if it had to do with time management. That’s another part of the problem. What’s too much for some is not enough for others. Not just because of different levels of intelligence, but different levels of conscientiousness and different levels of discipline.

I managed to avoid copious amounts of homework a few ways. First, my friends and I had to get to school about 90 minutes before the first bell to get a good parking space. Second, we had 30 minutes of “homeroom” that I spent working on homework. Third, I did homework during lunch. Fourth, I ignored the teacher and did homework while she was talking. So with all that, there usually wasn’t much that I had to take home with me.

A lot of the homework was pretty needless and the manner in which they would give it out irritating. For instance, when I was doing homework while the teachers were talking, I wasn’t doing their homework most of the time because they wouldn’t give us the assignment until the end of class. Instead, I’d do math homework during science, science during history, history during something else, and so on.

I’ve never been good at sitting there and being taught. I’m much better by having something briefly explained, showing me some examples, and giving me some problems. It would have been nice if I’d been able to work on math while the teacher was talking so that I could run into my problems and check with her at the end of class. Instead, I would only discover the question when I was in science class. Maybe I could have avoided if it I’d listened to the teacher, but even if I hadn’t been working on my homework my mind would have been wandering and I would have been thinking about comic books or TV or something.

Some people, though, aren’t like me. They need to be taught. I understand that. But the practice of teachers of assuming that we were all like that was really quite aggravating. I’m sure, though, it saved them the aggravation of people doing their homework during class and asking questions that were already covered while the teacher was being ignored. Even so, I think that there ought to be some sort of balance between instruction time and trying-to-figure-it-out-on-your-own time. At my school there was next to none.

I am reminded of a couple of friends that got In School Suspension for one reason or another. The basic premise behind ISS was that you would be isolated from the general student population. Day-long study-hall, basically. My friends loved it. Not only were they not being pestered by bullies and distracted by classroom attention-seekers, but they’d get all of their assignments and homework at the beginning of the day and would be done within two or maybe four hours. Then they could do whatever the heck they wanted. No homework!

It’s pretty sad when it’s more desirable to be isolated from one’s classmates and stripped of teacher instruction than to have homework and listen to the teachers talk. And it just goes to show how much time is being wasted day in and day out in school. That’s the big problem I have with homework. It’s a symptom. President Obama wants to lengthen the school year. I’m not opposed to the idea, but I would feel much better if our schools made better use of the time that they have.

Category: School

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2 Responses to Homework Bound

  1. ? says:

    In this respect, I gotta put in a plug for homeschooling. The entire day is devoted to “homework,” with just enough instruction to allow its completion, no more, no less.

  2. trumwill says:

    To me, that’s the most (only?) compelling reason for homeschooling unless the public school is just atrocious. The “Dumbass Clause” (which states that the class can only move as fast as the slowest contingent of students) that I enjoyed in school doesn’t apply. You can either let them get through the daily lesson quickly or you can have longer days where a lot more gets done.

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