Is homework for elementary students excessive? Some parents believe it is.

October 14, 2015
Chelsea Hamilton spends time on her afternoon homework.

Chelsea Hamilton spends time on her afternoon homework.

By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief.

Some parents believe the amount of homework their elementary school-aged children receive is excessive while others take value in the chance to bond with their child and help them learn. In this day of Common Core and pressure from the state and federal governments to constantly test children, some parents are questioning if students are strictly statistics for the government who are no longer being taught cognitive skills that will help them become productive adults.

Shannon Hamilton of Amber Township was so discouraged with the amount of homework her daughter, Chelsea, received in kindergarten that she pulled her from public school and homeschooled for the next two years. Shannon decided to re-enroll Chelsea in Mason County Central’s Scottville Elementary as a second grader this year. The homework load has lightened up but still not to her satisfaction.

“When she was in kindergarten, which was all day, she had a lot more homework. She also had an early lunch and then was on the bus for over an hour each way,” Shannon said. “After a month we decided to pull her and homeschool her until this year.” She said the homework load caused anxiety and stress on Chelsea.

chelsea hamilton homework_3Shannon said Chelsea’s homeroom teacher doesn’t give as much homework but she thinks the physical education homework assignments are over the top.

“We received a letter from the school and it stated that there will be homework for PE. Once a week we get a small slip of paper with three tasks on it. This week I think it was for her to walk 20 minutes two or three times, kick a small ball at a target 20 feet away three times and leap over something 24 inches a few times.”

Shannon said she also received a “contract” that states the household will be a homework friendly space and that parents will make ample time for homework and limit screen time.

“Schools have no business trying to control what happens in our home,” she said. “The schools only seem to care about funding and test scores and not much about the children. Kids are forced to hurry up and eat and hurry up to play so they can get right back to learning to test.”

Shannon said her daughter is taught how to fill in circles on tests and is corrected by the teacher if she doesn’t fill in between the lines.

Kevin Kimes, principal of Mason County Central’s Scottville Upper Elementary, said homework for elementary children should be looked at as practice.

“Research has shown the benefits of homework at the elementary level,” Kevin said. “If it is for practice, it is effective.” Kimes said students in the lower grades are given homework that should only take up short periods of time each night. As children get older and enter the middle school and high school levels, they are given homework that can take up to an hour or longer each night. Those homework lessons contain problem solving topics that the students may need to figure out by researching an issue, Kimes said. Elementary students are given homework based on topics they were taught in school that day in which they can practice in the evening to retain the knowledge.

Regarding the physical education homework, Kimes said the completion of such homework is typically not graded.

“We have a PE teacher who loves to get kids engaged,” he said. “She wants kids to get physically active at home. That’s a motive for them to grow. The more active their bodies, the more active their minds. She wants kids to learn how to be active. There’s not a huge penalty for kids not participating in such at-home activities but being physically active certainly keeps children healthier.”

Shelley Jabrocki said expectations are too high.

“It is sad that adults work their jobs and get to come home and get a break from their jobs but kids go to school all day and then between bussing and class time they are in school for nine-plus hours and then it’s practice if they are in sports and then home for three hours of homework. This system is getting ridiculous and their expectations are too. Kids will have plenty of time being adults after they graduate. Let them be kids and teach them while at school and let them do the majority of their work there. Teachers are paid to help the students with their work. A lot of parents don’t have a clue how to do the work that is being sent home nowadays.”

“I honestly hate the school year more than my children,” said Tangy Melonas, whose children attend sixth and fourth grade at Foster Elementary in Ludington. “The amount of nightly homework and time doing it leaves little to no time for other things. I feel so bad about the kids in sports, they have so much already on their plate. There is too much pressure on our children.”

“The only thing homework is really teaching is hate,” Shannon Hamilton said. “Hate for school, teachers and learning. Kids go to school all day to learn, not to gather necessary supplies to take home to learn.”

James Peck disagrees about the amount of homework children receive. “Education is the most important topic. We are raising an era of students who are not able to think for themselves. Now people are considering eliminating homework? Why? Because it’s ‘too hard on them socially?’ What about all the homework for teachers? Many spend four to five hours above and beyond their school day each night correcting papers, reading reports and entering grades.”

Kelly Berdnt, a mother of four, said she believes homework hinders the family.

“For the parent with more than one child this is a daily struggle to help all with their homework, cook supper, daily house chores and family events,” she said. “Many children come from single parent homes, making homework more of an unpleasant task and causing frustration during that family time. Family is the most important value we have in life, homework takes that away and often causes tension. I would like to see schoolwork done in school and family time being left for families to bond, have fun at events, relax and enjoy life.”

Michelle DeKuiper said she sees homework as a time for her to bond with her daughter, a first grader at Scottville Elementary. 

“In kindergarten she had regular weekly homework which was broken up into nightly assignments,” Michelle said. “We spent between 15 to 20 minutes each night doing homework. We did math, social studies and reading preparations, mostly. She also had PE homework, which included soccer type practice, walks, tying shoes and learning about health. I enjoyed getting that glimpse into what she was learning each day and watching her demonstrate mastery while showing me what she was learning.

“I also believe that by being an active part of her homework I was letting her know that I am proud of her and that I feel that her homework is important.”

Michelle said her daughter, who is now in first grade, does not get as much homework except for some PE homework.

“She brings home papers that she’s worked on at school and we do look them over and talk about them,” she said. “But, I miss that bonding over the short time frame of actually working out problems together, projects about herself and/or family and the games we made up with reading sight words. I know it was only kindergarten but I never felt her homework was burdensome or took up too much time, or cut into family time. It was her opportunity to show off her knowledge and for me to lend a hand in helping her discover the joy of learning.”