The Homework Conundrum

I grew up always hearing my father say “If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.” I never really appreciated that until I started having to help my kids with their homework. I tweeted the other day, out of frustration, “Homework is cruel and unusual punishment….for parents.”

The problem with homework is either it’s painfully simple and boring, or far beyond your ability to recall arcane crap you learned over 30 years ago. So for the first kind, say your 8 year old son has about 40 multiplication problems for homework and you have to sit with him while he spends 5 minutes on each problem and gets every two out of three wrong. How long before you start just giving him the answers? 9, 12, 15? Painful right? Because it’s so easy to just say “Eight times seven is 56. Now remember that.” #baddad

And the next one….My daughter actually asked me other day what is the second layer of earth beneath the topsoil? Is she fucking kidding me? This made me realize that either she really is still young enough not to understand the world at all or thinks I’m a fucking genius. I’ll go with the former. Or lots of questions about rock…igneous, metamorhpic. See, I know this crap now because I had to “test” her on it. Apparently there is no way anymore to test yourself. It probably has something to do with every kid getting a trophy.

I don’t think I EVER (that’s for emphasis) asked my parents for help on homework past elementary school. I was on my own. If I had trouble I called a friend. A smarter friend. Why is it that every parent spends so much time on homework now? Are our kids all dumber than we were? Is there more homework? Were we just bored, because we didn’t have iPhones, so we didn’t mind? I don’t know what’s going on, but it sucks.

If I were president, I would outlaw homework.

Four Hours of my life I will never get back

Four Hours of my life I will never get back


3 thoughts on “The Homework Conundrum

  1. Hi Marc,

    My experience with homework with my daughters (now 20 and 12) hasn’t been as mind numbing as you’ve described. I’ve never been a teacher, but I’ve done some tutoring over the years, so I gained some insight into what works and what doesn’t. I am accessible, but I don’t hover as they work on each problem. In your multiplication example, I’d slide the homework aside and reintroduce the multiplication table that we drew up previously, or we start to craft a new one. “Oh no, we’re not doing that again, are we?” Initially, this increased the time to completion of assignments, but the exercise of reinforcing the foundation knowledge made things easier going forward.

    We want them to work it out on their own and usually they can — we just have to allow for there to be some struggle. Reviewing their completed assignments and then focusing on the problems that they get wrong, allows for the struggle and pinpoints the areas where further instruction is needed.

  2. That’s interesting. I’ve never asked my parents for help. Probably not even in elementary school. It just wasn’t something anyone did.

    I don’t know how I’ll be when my kids are older. Maybe I’ll fall into the trap of doing their homework, because it’s all a competition to get to the best schools now… I hope I’ll be able to do less than that, though. It’s a thin line between being involved and pushing kids to reach the answers themselves, and answering their questions because, “Come on! It’s easy! Look, give me the pen–“

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