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I’ve been overwhelmed with a lot of things for a lot of years. Last year I realized I’d had enough of the chaos and decided to take control of my life. I began taking steps to eliminate anything and everything that I deemed unnecessary. This included scaling back on items in my home, things on my schedule, and people in my life. One of the steps I took was to boldly announce to my children’s elementary school teachers that we would no longer be doing homework.
I don’t recommend this approach.
I was convinced I was doing the right thing. I had read research that showed homework was often counterproductive. I had seen social media posts about teachers who stopped giving homework and parents who wrote letters proclaiming their children would be opting out.
I had a lot of good reasons for telling my kids’ teachers that we would no longer do homework. I have kids with anxiety who become excessively burdened by its pressures, dissolving into tears by the sheer overwhelm of all they have to do every day. They’re already at school for six hours a day and we all know that kids need more unstructured play time. When will they get it if they go straight from school to homework to soccer practice to bed?
This had to be the right thing to do. I’m my kids’ advocate. I stick up for their needs. I need to do what’s best for my child. So I wrote a letter to my kid’s teachers telling them that my kids would not be completing any more homework.
I told them that I understood the value of homework in teaching kids to be organized and work hard, but we were already teaching them the value of hard work and organization at home through chores, reading, service, church, sports and family activities. I even conceded that I would have my kids do homework occasionally if there was something they weren’t understanding and that they would do nightly reading and any necessary projects. But I informed them that we would not be doing worksheets or regular nightly homework. We were maxed out, so we were opting out.
This did not go over well.
They called me in for a meeting. It was terrifying. They were friendly about it, but they really didn’t want to take “no” for an answer. There was much back and forth and in the end, we came to an agreement that we would spend 10 minutes on homework each night and the teachers would give the kids a pass on the rest of it.
But that didn’t last long. There were always extra projects to be done and sometimes the math was difficult and took more time. Eventually, one child’s teacher wanted her to start doing more of the worksheets she’d been skipping and we ended up giving in and just doing it all.
My other daughter was determined to get all her homework done every day from the start, because in her class, the kids who got all their homework done got to go to a movie party at the end of every month. This drove me nuts because her teacher and I had agreed that she could be excused from doing more than 10 minutes of homework a night, but that meant she wouldn’t get it all done and would miss out on the party. I told my daughter that we’d have our own movie party at home instead, but she was determined to get that school party. There were many nights filled with tears and hyperventilating, but she got her homework done every night and she earned those dang movie parties.
I told my daughter that we’d have our own movie party at home instead, but she was determined to get that school party. There were many nights filled with tears and hyperventilating, but she got her homework done every night and she earned those dang movie parties.
I’m proud of her for going after what she wanted even though it was difficult, but I still hate homework with a passion.
Now that school is starting up again, I won’t make another announcement that we won’t do homework. Last year it did not turn out the way I expected. And after that meeting, I was embarrassed every time I saw their teachers for the rest of the year. But I also can’t bear to be a slave to the never-ending homework. It consumes our lives from August through June and makes all of us miserable.
Taking my kids out to homeschool them isn’t an option because that involves all homework all day long. I’ve tried that before and I simply can’t handle it.
So this year I’ve decided to take a different approach.
Instead of obsessively completing all the homework, and instead of asking for permission not to do it, we’ll just do as much as we can and bail on the rest. No announcements. No permission. We will just live our lives the best we can and leave it at that. If my kids want to get it all done so they get rewarded, great. If they are too overwhelmed and need a night off, fine. We’ll do what we want and not make a big deal out of it.
I don’t regret wanting to scale back on homework, but it was a mistake to expect everyone to be on board with our plans. I can’t make their teachers approve of us not doing homework, but I can decide when and if we decide to do it, without sending any letters. Hopefully, they won’t call us in for any meetings either.