Democratic School Benefit – Zero Arbitrary Homework

I remember homework. Barely. I didn’t do much of it when I was in elementary through high school. I thought it was boring and a waste of time. Plus, after sitting all day at school, the last thing I wanted to do was sit some more. I did all my college homework by the way, likely since I was in college by choice (longer story for another time).

Anyhow, I think one of the best things about my own son attending a democratic school is that there’s no lame homework. That said, I didn’t fully realize how cool no homework is until I saw homework in action in my own house. Sure I’d seen friends with kids in public school deal with ongoing homework trauma, but it’s not affecting me much when the trauma happens at a pal’s home.

Then I moved in with someone and he had kids in public school. Thus, I got to see homework in action with my own eyes. It’s not pretty. Here are some of my major pet peeves about homework.

It’s a total time suck: There are weekends when all that happens at my house is homework. I’m not kidding. Forget family time. Forget trips to the bookstore on the weekends. Forget hiking. It’s completely unreasonable that kids are expected to sit 5 days a week in school, then sit all day on the weekend doing homework too. It’s not just weekends either, kids are also sitting all day after school doing homework, in many cases claiming that they need to forgo sleep and meals to even get somewhat close to finishing.

It’s not about learning: Homework isn’t about learning<. It's about getting one task done as quickly and as minimally as possible so you can move on to the next task. It's for sure not instilling a love of learning in kids.

It’s all on the parents: When I saw Race To Nowhere, the one major statement that stuck with me in that film was a dad who said something like, “Homework makes us (the parents) feel like jail wardens.” No kidding. In most homes it seems like homework is parents begging and or bribing kids to do it. It’s parents having to put aside fun to force kids to do homework. It’s parents asking over and over, “Did you do your homework?” It’s parents suggesting topics, typing, reading assigned books and doing research for their kids. It’s even, in many cases, parents 100% doing their kids homework. The jail warden statement is true to a fault. Schools use homework to turn parents into nagging jail wardens or second time students (or both). Also, most parents have jobs and responsibilities all day long – how fair is it that schools expect a second school day to take place with parents heading it up.

Kids hate it: I haven’t met many kids who like homework. I know parents who say their kids cry over homework. I know kids get frustrated and depressed about homework. I’ve met kids who say the worst thing about their life is that they can’t eat or sleep – all they do is homework. Kids don’t have to like everything. My own son doesn’t want to wear a bike helmet, but he’s not loosing sleep or getting weepy about it. The homework deal is hands down unfair to kids.

What on earth are kids gaining from homework? That parents will do their work for them their whole life? That doing the minimum is a-ok?  That learning is a terrible experience full of anxiety and stress?

Having seen homework in my house, I honestly can’t see one benefit of forced homework. Not one. I’m not sure why it exists.  Are schools are so bad at teaching that they have to send topics home to taught by parents? Do schools truly consider homework a learning experience? I really don’t know. When I asked one young girl what homework is for she said, “The teacher gives homework so that their grade books look better.” I’m not sure the teacher would agree, but that’s what the kid is getting from homework.

Coming up soon, some research about homework and what it really accomplishes (or doesn’t).

What do you think about homework? Obviously if your kid attends a democratic school it’s not an issue, but what do you remember about homework? Was it worthwhile? A pain in the neck? So so? Tell us in the comments.

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  1. Brandy Henry says

    This is a great article. I’ve talked to public school families who agree that the homework is repetitive busy work. One friend simply won’t help with homework. She feels if its the right level then she shouldn’t have to – it’s up to the teachers to motivate the kids to do it. For us, it’s weird to think of a stranger telling me how to spend my time with my kids.

  2. says

    I agree with your friend, I don’t agree with doing homework, or really helping much at all with it – too often I see helping turn into doing it. I’ve been researching why parents do their kids homework and it’s fascinating. Most parents have loads of excuses, some rational, like the workload is too big. Some parents say stuff like I want my kid to get into college or get As – both of which make no sense. What’s the kid going to do in college, bring mom and dad? Take their parents to work with them later in life? It’s nuts.

    IMO if you subscribe to the whole idea of public school then really subscribe to it – take a stance. If public school is your ideal, then homework is part of it. If you’re going to do your kid’s work, find another path, one without homework. Doing it for them sets them up to believe cheating is a-ok. It’s frustrating what some people think is okay.

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