There is currently a plague upon our houses that has nothing to do with COVID-19. The plague is homework. (To be clear, COVID-19 is also a health problem we must take seriously, but this article is not about that.)
Homework is taking a serious toll on parent-child relationships. When parents and kids log off after a long day of Zoom or come home from work or school, the last thing they need is another stressor. The scramble to put dinner on the table, walk the dog, clean up, remember the laundry, have the kids bathe occasionally, and get the bedtime routine underway is already stressful enough.
What parents and kids desperately need at the end of a long day is a chance to reconnect. Spend a little time outside. Have dinner together. Clean up together. Read books. Play games. Laugh together. Relax.
Prioritizing homework over these activities misses the boat in a big way. Many studies have looked into the academic benefits of homework in the elementary schools years. These studies generally find that homework has no academic value for young kids. On the other hand, plenty of research shows that the quality of parent-child relationships and parental warmth are significant predictors of academic achievement. Parental warmth can be difficult to define, but involves infusing our interactions with our kids with empathy, humor, and patience instead of yelling, shaming, and power struggles. As every parent knows, warmth often goes out the window pretty fast when we are under a lot of stress.
Some stressors in life are inevitable and no parent is always perfectly warm. That’s fine — kids don’t need perfect parents. But they don’t need parents who are unnecessarily stressed out trying to meet a goal that has little to no value.
If homework is taking a toll on your family life, consider opting out. The first step is talking to your child’s teachers. They may be happy to see your kid engage in family-based activities instead of homework. The vast majority of teachers want to see the kids in their classrooms thrive not just academically, but as human beings, and most are well aware that family life plays a huge role in this.
Family time is not a sideshow to squeeze in only if there is time after more pressing school-based activities have been completed. Family time is the foundation of childhood. Don’t be afraid to reclaim your time.