to homework or not to homework

Prior to my entry into parenthood, I had a lot of judgements about the right and wrong ways to raise a child. I especially judged parents who always complained about school being too hard and teachers giving too much homework. When I was young, I had a shitoad of homework consistantly from kindergarden through high school. If I had to guess, I’d say about 10 hours a week. And guess what? I turned out fine. I felt prepared for the realities of college and the professional world, so this new generation can handle the pressure too, right?

Now that I am a parent, I am re-thinking this previously held attitude. Maybe it is because I can reflect upon my youth and I see how homework really did nothing for me. I also know, based on the great work of many social scientist, that the hours logged doing homework doesn’t equate to any form of success. The reality is that socioeconomic factors, race, family dynamics, and emotional intelligence all seem to be correlated with the likelihood of a student’s success in college and future careers, not the number of hours doing homework.

A recent article about a teacher who stopped assigning homework for elementary students and instead ask parents to “eat dinner as a family, read together, play outside, and get your children to bed earlier” really hit home and articulated my evolving attitude about homework. He perfectly summarizes what we really should prioritize as families. Life is not about the hours of homework completed, its about learning how to eat healthy, be a family, have mature conversations (aka develop emotional intelligence) and just enjoy living life and embracing every second of your family and your environment.

It’s hard to admit that my pre-parent self was wrong, but I am proud to evolve. We only get one life, and who wants to spend it doing homework after an 8 hour day of classes? Lets face it, if you “make it” in this world, you will most likely be have professional “homework” for the rest of your life, so why start at 5 years old? I wish I had those 10 hours a week of homework back from my youth. Instead of doing those useless assignments I could have learned an instrument, learned a trade, pursued my arts, learned another language, or most importantly, just been with my family and friends.

And from a parent’s perspective- most parents work one to two jobs and are exhausted. They barely get any time with their kids. So why spend it fighting about homework or even working on homework? You want to hear about your kids day, tell them about your day, connect with them and be with them. We only get 18 years with these kids, so let’s milk every drop of it we can. We will never get this time back. We don’t need that time spent sitting at the kitchen table learning fractions, but instead we should spend it teaching our children life skills that we cannot expect a school to teach. Financial intelligence, how to cook, how to grow food, the importance of hobbies, how to manage relationships, how to set boundaries, the importance of down time, etc. are the important skills parents should be passing to their children. But to do so, they need time too.

Maybe my shift in attitude has more to do with my own redefining of what success looks like. I used to think it was your job title, your income, your home’s square footage, and overall social status, but now that I am #adulting, I couldn’t disagree with my past self more. My hope and wish for my son and his generation isn’t that he finds a good job that pays well, but instead I want him to do something he loves. I just want him to experience the world, have a full heart, be compassionate, have intimate and meaningful relationships that give him joy. I want him to have the freedom to go after his dreams, regardless of earning potential. Or better said, I want him to pursue life, liberty and happiness. Cliche, I know, but let’s be honest, the founding fathers words of wisdom are profound even hundreds of years later. Its just too bad we lost sight of them over the past generations.

I am not saying there should be a total ban on homework for life, it’s important to hold kids accountable, its important for parents to engage in their childrens academics, but the point is that we should have a balance. If we are fortunate enough to live long lives, parenting young people is a very small sliver of our life, so let’s make the best of it for them and us. Lets embrace every moment we have together and mostly, let’s let our kids be kids and teach them the coping skills needed to surivive this world. God knows, it doesn’t get better with age. Life only gets harder, the stakes only get bigger and the work only gets harder.