An article called “My Daughter’s Homework is Killing Me,”( The Atlantic, October 2013) is provoking a lot of comment on Facebook. The author, Karl Taro Greenfeld, decided to do his eighth-grade daughter’s homework assignments along with her for one week.
In the Atlantic article, Greenfeld describes the homework from hell. I’ll summarize the assignments for only four of the five days as the writer did not do the Friday homework.
11 algebra equations
79 pages of Angel’s Ashes (reading plus three sentence analyses of three quotations)
study for Earth Science test on minerals
The daughter goes to bed a little after midnight.
Time: 5 hours
12 algebra equations
45 pages of Angela’s Ashes
1-2 page writing assignment
study for Spanish test on irregular verbs
Time: 3 hours
7 algebra problems
study for a test on industrialization
study about minerals for earth science
read from Angela’s Ashes; unspecified number of pages
Time: 3 hours
practice multiplying a polynomial by a monomial
translate Spanish song lyrics to English (used Google)
Time: a little over one hour
With the exception of Thursday, the eighth grader spent about three hours a day doing homework and went late to bed.
I agree with the father that a regime like this represents too much homework.
I disagree with his conclusion that his daughter must put up with this mindless approach to homework because that’s the price of attending “a selective public school.”
Homework Should Not Be Detrimental
The student described in the article spends hours studying Spanish verb conjugations without learning their meaning. She goes to bed “a little after midnight.” Not only does this horrible homework regime not contribute to the child’s learning, it’s harming her health and giving her an incorrect idea of what learning is.
Sufficient sleep is vital to health. Children between the ages of 7 and 12 require 10-11 hours of sleep per day. Children between the ages of 12 and 18 require 8-9 hours of sleep per day. The brains of sleep-deprived children aren’t going to function at their peak during school hours, let alone at the end of the day.
So what’s the answer? Shall we, as some teachers and parents urge, abolish homework altogether?
Of course not. Homework can contribute to learning, but it must have a purpose, and it must not be so onerous as to make the child hate the process.
As with anything, there’s “good” homework and “bad” homework. Unfortunately, not all teachers and parents understand the difference.