Losing my daughter to homework

My daughter is 6. Isn’t that way too early to have her trying to finish her homework, teary-eyed and frustrated because it’s past bedtime and she just wants to go to bed?

I think it is.

I’ve heard other parents complain about homework loads for their older children, but I honestly didn’t know it would start so young. Nicole started first grade this year and she gets a homework packet each week along to complete by Friday along with nightly math homework and nightly reading quotas.

By Thursday night I am exhausted, she is exhausted and we are both overjoyed that a homework-free weekend beckons. I live for the weekends because I feel like I get my daughter back.

I can’t help but feel her childhood days are being consumed by schoolwork. A friend of mine and I recently had a similar conversation about how our children are spending their childhoods in classrooms. I understand schools need to stay competitive and homework helps reinforce lessons, but I also feel that playtime, family time and just plain old downtime are essential to learning and maturing, too.

Unfortunately, I don’t think I am the kind of mom who could homeschool. I wish I were that organized, talented and patient, but I’m not. I also think my daughters gets invaluable social benefits from being in school.

So what’s the recourse? My friend suggested some sort of shorter school day, although I can already hear the outcry from parents whose schedules would be royally messed up by an early release. My daughter went to full-day kindergarten last year thanks to a cadre of working parents who pushed for the longer day in our neighborhood school last year. When I sent my 5-year-old off to a seven-hour day of kindergarten, I felt like I was being cheated out of time with my daughter.

Now, I feel I’m being cheated again of my evenings with her. Instead of reading together, playing a game or just enjoying the fall weather, she is sitting in a chair, working on homework. And I, dutiful mother that I am, am pushing her right along. My kid has to do the homework or she falls behind and then becomes disengaged from learning. Then the 7-plus hours she spends in a classroom really are a gigantic waste of time.

What I really want to do is throw down her pencil and just be with her. She is in school all day; can’t I at least have those few precious hours before bed?

What options are there for moms who want to reclaim their children from a childhood of school and homework?





  1. Momof7

    AMEN! I’ve thought about homeschooling just so my kids could be kids. I’ve chosen not to homeschool for other reasons. I wish school could just be school not part day care. However, some schools/school districts do have a policy about how long a child is required to do homework and if it takes them longer than a certain amount of time, parents can discuss other options with the teacher.

  2. Cat

    Maybe is isn’t that there is homework but that the homework expectations are too high. It shouldn’t take more than 20 min to finish homework for a 1st-3rd grader. Maybe you and several other parents need to talk to the teacher and let her/him know that the homework is taking up too much time. I’m on my 6th first grader and it only takes him 20 min to get through the homework most nights. Last night he did the whole packet so “he didn’t have to do homework the rest of the week” (his words). I also only make them read the minimum amount of time that needs to be recorded for school. I, like you, believe they need free play time and family time. Plus with 4 kids in school I often feel like I’m chaseing homework all the time.

  3. Dawn

    My daughter is in half day kindergarten right now but is advanced so they would allow her to skip kindergarten and start attending 1st grade. I want her to be challenged academically, so we’re looking into it, but I’m also concerned about a 5-year-old handling school for 7 hours, not to mention the worry that homework will take up loads of family time. She is the first of our children to enter school and I am surprised that she is expected to learn math in first grade that I didn’t learn until 3rd grade. Wow!

    Thanks for the article Erin; I’m glad to know there are other moms out there who are concerned with this issue. You’ve given me some things to consider.

  4. MeToo

    I agree! I have a son with ADHD who struggles in math, and he stays after school an extra hour 3 days a week for a special math group. He still has his normal homework load on top of that. By the time he gets home, he is frazzled. I let him play for a little while, but when we sit down to do homework it takes a very long time to complete because he has such a hard time concentrating that time of day. I have considered homeschooling him as well because I don’t think a 10 year old should be doing school basically 8 1/2 hours a day plus homework time (so 9 1/2 hours or so). It really negatively impacts our family time.

  5. ThoughtfulTeen

    As a teenager currently attending high school, and with siblings ranging from high school to second grade, I agree that they give way too much homework in early elementary. It’s one of the reasons I plan to homeschool my future children if at all possible. Not everything schools do is bad, and with their resources they do a remarkably good job, but they’re still very limited. They have the children for a set amount of time each day, and try to cram as much information as they can into their heads. But I think it’s better to intersperse learning with life and be able to move at their pace, fast (I was the clever kid always trying to read a book, and never getting behind because I already knew what was going on most of the time, and I grew to dislike school because of it.) or slow. (No personal experience here, but I have some friends with dyslexia, so I know a bit of what goes on.) And the huge class sizes create problems, which is really only a problem in Utah, but that’s where I live. Probably a reason why teachers assign so much homework is so they can identify who’s struggling, because they don’t have enough face-time with each kid to tell.

  6. Kenneth Goldberg, Ph.D.

    I would actually say that it is the homework, not failing to do the homework, that runs the risk of your child falling behind and feeling disengaged. I’m a psychologist and it is my belief that unending homework pressure does more to kill interest in education than anything else. I believe strongly in setting time boundaries, rather than insisting that the child gets all the work done, and that these time boundaries should be determined by the parents. I explain this in my book, The Homework Trap, and on my website, http://www.thehomeworktrap.com.

  7. Lynette

    This is why I homeschool. There are facebook groups and yahoo! e-mail groups all in support of homeschooling. You wouldn’t be alone. 🙂 I had my daughter in ps for 6 months when she was in second grade. On top of the 90 minutes of math instruction in the classroom, she had math homework (timed drills) every night and reading homework (beyond the 20 minutes all ready required). I hated it and she hated it, too. It got to the point where I quit making her do her homework. It sucked the joy of learning right out of her. I get, though, that homeschooling is not for everyone and may not be a valid option for you. It happens to work for me and there are no more tears over homework. 😉

  8. Danny Chipman

    We’re having kind of the opposite problem right now; we’ve had so many family and extracurricular things going on that my first-grader doesn’t have time to do the homework! I’ve been having to wake her up early every morning to get it done. The load doesn’t seem much right now–a math worksheet and spelling words to go over every night. Both are a piece of cake because we spent the summer homeschooling. Then there’s the obligatory “read 20 minutes with your child” but we don’t do that most of the time because my daughter already devours chapter books without needing any encouragement from me.

    I remember times in high school and especially college, though, where I did nothing but go to school and do homework until it was time for bed, or work extra shifts at my job and then go to bed. Dinner was my only break. Times like that will come as an adult, and we ought to prepare our kids to face that reality so it doesn’t come as a total shock to them. We also ought to teach them to take care of themselves, too, mentally, physically, and emotionally. So good luck figuring out where to draw that line.

    As the homework increases, I’ll keep a finger on my kids’ pulse and know I have the options of talking to the teacher or homeschooling, which I already do with them during the summer. I remember times when I was a kid and my mom would actually do my homework for me, if she knew it was just busy work.

    As a last note, perhaps kids wouldn’t have to do so much homework if teachers were actually allowed to teach in the classroom instead of spending all their time doing standardized test practices, disciplining unruly students, and conforming to every stupid new regulation disengaged “experts” think will improve student performance. Gee, we might even see the school day shorten by a couple hours!

  9. Shannon

    Amen. I too dread the homework that comes home for my 1st grader. When is there time for play and fun? We spend 1.5 hours nightly completing all that is required. She is bright and wants to do well, but really? She is six-years-old.

  10. Gayleen Gandy

    As president of the Granite Board of Education, I would encourage you to take your concerns first to the classroom teacher. If that does not help the situation, the next step is to talk with the school principal. If you still feel that the problem is not being addressed, you can then contact the school district or school board member who represents you. I believe strongly that parents need to be able to give input regarding any educational issues that affect their children. While teachers and educators have expertise in educational methods, parents are the experts when it comes to their own childrens’ individual needs.

    As a parent, I’d like to share a couple of insights that I’ve received after having six children go through our public education system. First of all, I have learned that, in the elementary grades, there is no need whatsoever to have a parent or a child stress over letter grades. The most important thing is whether the child is developing the skills needed to progress academically. Letter grades are only valid to the degree they reflect accurately the students’ actually proficiency in a subject. (For example, I seriously question the validity of letter grades that reflect primarily the number of homework assignments completed and turned in.) Children are very different in their needs when it comes to amount of practice or type of practice as they build these skills. When attending parent teacher conferences, I have always focused on two things: 1) Is my child learning the skills needed to progress to the next level in each subject and 2) is my child experiencing school in a way that they can enjoy the process of learning and exploring new knowledge. These are both very valid questions to address when meeting with your child’s teacher.

    My second major insight came when my oldest child was in 5th grade. My husband (an elementary school teacher himself) and I were very concerned when, one week, my son was spending every waking hour at home on an assignment that was due on Friday. We were ready to go in and meet with the teacher about the appropriateness of his homework burden when my husband decided to question our son about the requirements of his project. We learned that he had determined that he wanted to be sure he had the very best project in the class and was spending considerably more time on it than the majority of the class. In other words, he was putting pressure on himself and choosing to spend every waking hour that week on the project. I have learned through the years that many times there are communication issues involved and both students and parents may not really understand what the teacher actually expects when giving an assignment. This is the reason it is so important to talk with the teacher first to address your concerns.

  11. Lisa Jackson

    I highly recommend this book. Read it! It is so wonderful! I am a homeschooling mom, but first, I had my kids in school until 4th and 2nd grades. I know exactly what you are going through. I felt the same way about homework “steeling our evenings together.” I read this book, because I was searching for a book on the topic. This book has research which shows that homework does not help, but harms, the kids’ learning. I tried what it recommends, which is to explain to the teacher that we will not be doing homework, because you get the child this many hours a day, and the other hours are mine, to choose what to do with my child. The results? My kids started coming home having enjoyed school!!!! They came home saying, “Guess what I learned today??!!” instead of the previously common, “I don’t remember what we did today.” They started retaining what they learned in school hours, better. Their test scores even improved. Their interest in reading went up. They started wanting to read in the evenings (not because it was homework, but because they enjoyed it). It was amazing! This all happened because kids are meant to have a break in the after school hours! They need to play catch, ride bikes, and have some rest. They need to have hobbies, and they need to learn to help around the house. They need love, chit-chat, and cuddling (when they are 6 and under). The older kids need good one on one conversations with parents. They need to get a chance to play games, have fun, and hang out with family and friends! Truly, the after school hours should be yours, not theirs. Reclaim the hours! Take them back! Warning: I got a lot of fighting back from the teacher and then the principal. I asked for evidence that homework would help. The principal sent me a long e-mail. There was no evidence in it. There were links. I followed them. The links had no evidence (they were all non-fact, non-study, opinion based). I told her this. I asked for evidence with good, concrete support evidence. (Actual research). She could not find any. She was still mad, though. The teacher began holding my daughter in at recess, to punish her for not doing her homework. I did not find out about this until she told me after I had started homeschooling her. I was shocked and apalled. Just so you know, you do not have to be organized or awesome to homeschool. All of us, who do it, do it on a wing and a prayer. Prayer gets us through it. What you lack, God will make up for. I promise. http://www.amazon.com/Homework-Myth-Kids-Thing-ebook/dp/B009G1T43I/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1381948866&sr=8-1&keywords=the+homework+myth

  12. Carita Larson

    Finland’s schools score consistently at the top of world rankings, yet the pupils have the fewest number of class hours in the developed world.Children in Finland only start main school at age seven. The idea is that before then they learn best when they’re playing and by the time they finally get to school they are keen to start learning.

  13. Mom of 5

    Re: Dawn
    Dawn, I’ve had the same problem with my oldest being too advanced in school. After being frustrated with the school not challenging her enough, I finally felt better after hearing some words of wisdom from my sister-in-law. She also has advanced kids and said that she’s glad that they’re so advanced so they can get their homework done quickly or at school and have time for other things. She takes that time to have quality time or to teach them things like how to load the dishes or whatever. It made me want to appreciate the extra time they have because of it and just make sure that they are reading challenging enough books and still learning from me at home in other ways.

  14. Julie Farnbach

    Do yourself and your daughter a favor–pull her out of public school. You do NOT have to be organized, talented or patient to succeed at homeschooling. You do not have to know everything or even teach her everything. (I am living proof of both of these concepts!) YOUR mission, should you choose to accept it, is to 1) love her like only a parent can, and 2) manage her learning and socializing opportunities. Imagine getting to CHOOSE what she learns and who she learns with! Imagine your child wanting to learn everything simply BECAUSE SHE CAN, and not because someone is demanding that she do it, on their schedule. Imagine your daughter spending her social time with kids who are well-behaved because they feel secure, kids who have time to play because they aren’t doing hours of daily homework to supplement what couldn’t be taught in the crowded classroom at school. Imagine your daughter NOT learning bad words and bad behavior because she’s hanging out with kids who have never been exposed to them. Imagine her having a real, old-fashioned childhood where she learns the value of work, and honesty, and kindness. Imagine the strength of a child who has had the influence of her mother for hours a day instead of minutes. Her possibilities are endless!!

    In all honesty, it took me years to make the 180-degree turn in my attitude toward homeschooling. I thought it was crazy, irresponsible, definitely not for me. Then, slowly, my eyes were opened to the reality that I was sending my sweet sheep out to play with wolves every day. They started to come home wounded. They began to lose their zest for life and learning. After months of multiple failed interventions, we brought them home out of sheer desperation. What was supposed to be temporary became permanent because as they started to revive, they started to thrive! Our talented and gifted children who had been attending top-ranked schools in a safe, wealthy area were happier and more productive while learning at home with mom! Weird, huh?!

    Looking back now, it is clear that our family life and our children’s lives have been saved, literally and figuratively, by homeschooling. Child #1 is on a mission. Child #2 is at BYU. Numbers 3 & 4 are still works in progress. PLEASE stay open to the possibility that what’s best for your family might be waiting for you in a scary-looking, awkward-shaped package of freedom called “homeschooling.”

    • Cat

      Julie – I’m so glad that homeschooling is working for you, however, it’s not the answer for everyone. Yesterday I didn’t get home from work and other things (not fun stuff BTW) until 7:15. When was I supposed to do the homeschool stuff with my kids for the day. Then there’s the fact that my entire family says that I am a terrible teacher. I think I’m being nice and helpful but according to them, I’m not. So as much as I would love to homeschool, it’s just not the answer for me. It’s also just not the answer for everyone. However talking to the teachers about the amount of homework is a great solution. Most teachers are aware that kids need play time and family times and welcome input. If you have a teacher that doesn’t, it may be time to get a new teacher.

  15. citygrrl

    Great post, Erin, and thoughtful responses. I’m glad to see a highly-placed school official chimed in. Aside from the pressure on teachers and schools to meet standards in order to preserve their livelihoods and careers, I think another reason for the intense pressure on scholastic achievement at young ages is related to the points Erin brought up in a previous post about competitive motherhood. The expectations on parents seems to have multiplied exponentially, and kids pay the price. Erin wrote, “We are smart talented women and many of us left successful careers where were encouraged to be the best. Now we are home with our kids and we still want to win.” Somewhere along the line, the expectations shifted. It’s not OK anymore to raise children who become self-supporting adults who have a moral compass; now every single one has to have a shot at an Ivy League education, become an Olympic athlete or a nationally-elected official.

    I know that parents don’t want to pass up a shot at opportunities that will enable their kids to develop their talents and have skills that will help them create a fulfilling career. But even Gordon B. Hinckley once pointed out that most people aren’t going to achieve greatness as measured by what I mentioned above, and that’s OK.

    So while parents understandably are upset that their kids are overwhelmed at young ages with homework (and yes, I think we can all remember that some of the homework was just busywork), I don’t think this results solely from the education sector or politicians who got on the bandwagon about reducing education to a test score. I think it results from anxiety among parents that there’s a future president in all young children, and with enough push — enough soccer drills, math test and spelling bees — they’ll reach the top.

    • Momof7

      I totally agree. We move quite often and have seen that schools in more affluent areas where the parents are wealthy professionals tend to give more homework in the younger grades. I learned long ago that sometimes homework for younger children just has to take a back seat to some other family activities. For example, yesterday’s weather was the nicest we have had in a very long time. We decided a trip to the park for a picnic was more important than going over spelling words. My 1st and 3rd grade boys may not ace their spelling tests today but that’s OK.

  16. Ann Bonner

    It was through homework that we discovered that 2 of our kids have ADHD. Homework time was excruciating for them, and they were not thriving in school. With the best help we could offer, we still couldn’t accomplish what was expected of our 4th graders. We had to do the testing and get the diagnosis, but because we have that, the school will work with us to adapt classwork and homework expectations to meet the needs of the children.

    I wish we didn’t have to get the kids “diagnosed” in order to help them succeed in school, but that seems to be the state of things in the education world right now. And I am grateful that instead of labeling these kids as “dull” or some other old-fashioned idea, the schools are recognizing the special needs of these students. I’m sure the schools are under tremendous pressure to get results from all of the students. Having that diagnosis likely protects them (to some extent) from blame if kids with special needs do not meet benchmarks.

    Homework remains a big challenge for some of my children and it’s going to be tough for us for a while. But it helps that we are able to work together with the school somewhat. Having that diagnosis is necessary in order for us to get expectations adapted to the needs of these kids.

    Our school is as good as they get. They are trying to provide an outstanding education. I think there’s no simple answer. I would just advise that you learn how the game is played as best as you can, so that you can play well the hand you’re dealt.

  17. Amanda Bass-Glassford

    Pray about it. Follow the Spirit. Have Faith. Our children, and we, are in a time that requires us all to be at the top of our game and hold on to the Gospel. I personally have dealt with similar frustrations as the Mother writes about in the original message here. After prayer and fasting, what I needed to do as a parent to my children, became clear. I know that if you consider the Gospel in all matters of your life, you AND your posterity will be blessed!

  18. citygrrl

    This month’s Atlantic Monthly has a good article about too much homework. The child is older than your daughter, Erin, (middle school, I think), and the author decides that he will do the homework along with her to see how long it takes. It takes hours every night! Obviously, you are not alone in questioning the impact of homework on family life and just the overall quality of kids’ lives.

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