Blink—And They're Grown

Parents, Families and Child Care

Homework Can Be Stressful for Parents, Too!

homeworkHave you heard about the no homework letter one teacher sent home at the beginning of the school year? The letter was first shared on Facebook by Samantha Gallagher, whose daughter is in Mrs. Young’s class, and it quickly went viral. The response to this letter has been overwhelmingly positive. Parents everywhere have shared comments agreeing that student success is less reliant on nightly homework and more dependent on children spending their evenings playing, eating dinner and reading as a family and going to bed early.

As a mom of school-age children this letter really hit home for me. My children are now in sixth, third and second grades.

I often find myself resenting homework. My children are at school roughly 7.5 hours a day. My husband and I are at work between 7-9 hours a day. At the end of the day I want our family to have the freedom to decompress from the day’s events, relax, and enjoy time talking, watching TV together or going for a walk. The National Education Association recommends the “10 minute rule,” 10 minutes per grade level per night. That translates into 10 minutes of homework in the first grade, 20 minutes in the second grade, all the way up to 120 minutes for senior year of high school. According to CNN Health, a recent study published in The American Journal of Family Therapy found students in the early elementary school years are getting significantly more homework than is recommended.

My sixth grader spends 1.5 to 2 hours on homework almost every night. My second grader’s homework includes 20 minutes of reading, 10 minutes of math facts practice, and completing one sheet in his homework packet. That is about 30-40 minutes of homework a night.

I’m not saying that my children should never have homework. I believe that homework can help students develop and strengthen responsibility and time management skills. It also helps parents to see what their student is learning. I am saying that homework can be good or it can be bad depending on the volume and the quality of the assignment.

What can parents do to lessen the stress that homework can create on the family?

I have found that having regular communication with your child’s teacher is helpful for school success. Most of the time they don’t realize until you talk to them that the amount of homework is overwhelming and causing continued family stress. Work together to come up with a plan that will work best for your child and family while respecting the teacher’s needs. Most of the time my children’s teachers’ homework expectations were the right fit. So far this year we are struggling, but I am hopeful that with the teacher’s help we will find the right balance.

What do you think of the no homework letter? Do you feel your child has too much homework? Too little? Just the right amount? What are some things you have tried to lessen the stress homework can create?

Showdown at Sunset

As a young girl, even into my adolescence, I had a hard time getting to sleep at night. I would toss and turn, talk to myself, occasionally draw on my wall with crayons (that always went over well!) and in general did everything I could think of to entertain myself until I could fall asleep.  Sometimes it took an hour. Sometimes three. When I was in high school my mom bought me a small black and white television for my room and even though it only had three stations, apparently it had magical powers because suddenly I was able to fall asleep. To this day, my mom still credits that TV for helping me sleep and saving our relationship!

So it only seems fitting that my daughter has inherited my childhood insomnia. Somewhere I can hear my mom laughing… loudly. I have done my best to establish a nighttime routine for Maddy, but often she is still awake long after the lights have gone out. Our nighttime ritual consists of a bath, a few minutes of Disney Junior, a snack, teeth brushing and finally, story time with Daddy. She may not be tired when these activities are over, but my husband and I are exhausted!

Last night was no exception. We completed our bedtime routine per usual and all seemed to be going well, until around 11:45 p.m.. I heard her soft, sweet voice calling to me asking me to rub her back. My husband and I looked at each other in disbelief. How in the world was she still awake? I’ll admit that my first instinct was anger and frustration. But while that is a natural response, it is neither effective nor productive for me or for helping my daughter sleep. I took a deep breath and then went to her to rub her back.

Within 15 minutes she was finally asleep. Unfortunately, unlike my mom, I have not found a magic pill to help Maddy sleep. There may not be one. The best that I can do is learn how I can help her and lessen the frustration of not being able to sleep. That starts with patience and understanding, two things often in short supply after 10 p.m.!

If all else fails, knowing my mom, that black and white TV is probably still in her attic.