Sharon DeVellis: Inside Scoop


Why I Stopped Making My Kids Do Their Homework

And No, It Didn't Screw Up Their Entire Education

My son got more homework in grade one than he did in grade seven.

He, in fact, got so much homework in grade one that it made him hate school. For seven months we would sit together and do math, spelling, writing, and whatever else was sent home. Sometimes those "ten minutes" of assigned homework translated into sitting at the kitchen table for HOURS. Oftentimes there were tears—mostly mine. It's all a bit of a blur as I took a liking to absinthe that year.

Don’t even get me started on reading journals. Reading journals kill the love of reading and should be banned, along with internet pop-ups and glitter.

By March my fun-loving child who had been indifferent to JK and SK loathed grade one. And you know what? I don’t blame him. After being in a classroom for 6 1/2 hours a day the last thing a six-year-old wants to do is sit at the kitchen table doing more school work.

The mouse house was my breaking point.

It was near the end of the school year and the kids were asked to build a house that would keep a mouse safe from the elements. Our son came up with the design and we got the supplies he required, only helping him with the sharp scissors because, you know, six. But the building of the mouse house was done by him.

We brought it to school to be put on display with all the other mouse houses where it would sit until judgment day. Would the mouse get blown away? Would it get wet? Oh the anticipation!

That’s when we saw the Taj Mahal of mouse houses built entirely from popsicle sticks. Either this child was

(a) a popsicle stick prodigy or
(b) the parents were involved to an extent that went well beyond not allowing their child to be impaled by sharp implements.

I’m guessing option B.

I was done. Done.

If other parents were doing projects for their kids, what was the point? Why were we enduring cryfests and creating an environment where the only thing my child was learning was how much he hated school?

I implemented a “you only have to do homework if you feel like it” rule in our house that lasted up until Grade 3. If you were a kid in my house you didn’t have to do any homework in JK/SK, Grade 1 or Grade 2.

Yep. You read that right. No homework and no reading journals. Although I did make my kids read every night they simply weren't required to record it.

But come Grade 3, it was time to sharpen your pencils and crack open the school books because homework was back in session.

I remember when my older son was in SK and his teacher called me over to the fence at pick-up. The conversation went something like this:

Teacher: Mrs. DeVellis, I’m concerned with your son. He’s having a very hard time naming three words that begin with the letter C.

Me: Call me Sharon, my mother-on-law is Mrs. DeVellis. Ha ha ha….

Teacher: Silence.

Me: Well *shrugs shoulders* he’s four. If he’s still having this problem when he’s 16, then I’ll be concerned.

After we implemented our no homework rule, it took the pressure off and guess what? My son may not have done every piece of homework but the ones he did do weren't fraught with arguments and tears.

The thing is I do feel there’s a place for homework. Both my kids now do projects at home and if either of them doesn't finish work at school and has to bring it home, they need to do it before bedtime. But stressing out young kids and, by proxy, their parents by sending spelling lists, math sheets and enforced reading journals three to four times a week not only isn’t helpful it can hinder.

It can kill the love of learning and a love of school.

My kids are now older and both are pretty good students in their own right. Is there room for improvement? Absolutely. But that would have been the case even if I had enforced homework in the younger grades. And for those of you concerned that I was basically teaching them to be irresponsible and that they don't have to do things they don't like, my older son has owned his own business since the age of 11 - I'd say he's pretty responsible, and both kids have chores they need to do around the house - none of which they like doing at all. 

Hindsight gives you 20/20 vision. Looking back the only thing I would have done differently was to have started the no homework rule sooner because it took another three years for my son to start liking school again (thanks to an amazing teacher!).

And guess what? He’s now entering Grade 9 and can name three words that start with the letter C—four years ahead of schedule.

p.s. Popsicle sticks don't hold up well against wind and rain. That poor mouse got drenched.

Learn what this teacher thinks about homework and why my kids cry over string.

You can learn even more ways to get organized and transition from summer to school on our Back-To-School 2014 page.