Assessing the Trend toward Increasing Parent Involvement in Homework

I am both a teacher and a parent. My stance on homework has always been a bit of a trend bucker. Homework shouldn’t cause undue stress on children and parents who are already overloaded, but sadly, it often does. Teachers are under pressure to complete ever expanding curricula and parents are under pressure to help their children do well and compete in an achievement driven society.

Something I have been amazed by when walking down school corridors is the extremely polished appearance of what is supposed to be children’s work on display. I don’t honestly think a third grader can independently create a three dimensional replica of Rapunzel’s tower, complete with long golden plait and model stained glass window. At least not to the architectural standard sitting in that hallway. The worst part was the praise given by the teacher. I wondered if she had handed the mark to the parent or the child, because clearly the former earned it.

Why do parents feel the need to be overly involved in their children’s homework? Time constraints can play a huge factor. Isn’t it quicker to give them the answer? None of us have the time we used to as our lives become faster paced. The sheer volume of homework means that the little time we have with our children is being eaten into by what should have been done in the six hours they spent at school that day.

The level of expectation has also reached new heights. In my day, a perfectly designed fairy tale tower would have stood out like a sore thumb, immediately recognisable as adult work. Popsicle sticks and craft glue would have been the accepted norm. Now, with the increasing use of technology, simple child-produced projects don’t cut it.

Why are children getting more homework? Again, time constraints are felt in classrooms as well as in homes. Teachers have larger, more diverse classes than they did even ten years ago. It’s not possible to cover as much in the same amount of time when there are more disruptions and distractions in classrooms. Gone are the days when pupils sat obediently in rows, working steadily for hours at a time. What cannot be accomplished in class must go home.

I firmly believe that too much is piled on the plates of children, their parents, and their teachers. As a teacher, I’ve given as little homework as I could get away with and made it as child-friendly as possible. I’d rather parents could spend the time talking to their kids, stimulating them in ways that cannot happen in a classroom. The time we have to spend with our children is ever shortening. I’d rather it wasn’t intruded upon by relentless homework assignments.