I’m a mom of four kids: One of whom has anxiety and one of whom has sensory processing difficulties. Three of my four children are in school, which means like many parents, I’m absolutely overwhelmed most days with the number of papers that come home in their book bags, demanding our time and attention.
And I’m not the only one.
Two of my three school-aged kids cannot tolerate homework. And no, it’s not a matter of effort, parental discipline, or even desire. It’s not laziness, either. What a night with homework boils down to for us was a whole lot of unnecessary stress, frustration, and dwindling self-confidence.
So that’s why we skip it. Eighty-percent of the time, anyway. (For my daughter, who has anxiety, I’ve spoken to her teachers — unless she’s in a healthy place, we aren’t doing homework. For my kindergarten son, homework is optional.)
Now, our homework-free evenings are filled with playtime, peace, and positivity. And if we do attempt homework during the school week, it doesn’t involve learning. Instead, I keep things light, adopting a “check it off the list” attitude motivated only by the meager prizes the school offers, like a sticker or a play dollar to spend at the school reward store.
Many of my friends say the only way they can handle homework is to set their kids down immediately after school (or after one of their kids’ many activities) and have the children “get it over with.” It’s torturous, but the later they wait in the day, the worse the homework experience gets.
If the skipping homework thing seems a bit out-there, believe me, it’s catching on: In recent months, many schools have opted to eliminate homework altogether. Several teachers have even written viral letters on why homework isn’t just unnecessary, but detrimental. As a former educator myself, I’m a longtime proponent of not giving homework until a child is in high school — especially since learning to do homework at that point prepares the child for the realities of college, where much of the student’s academic work is done independently.
But assigning hours of homework to kids as young as 7? Please.
Instead of agonizing over a math worksheet or a tracing page, my kids and I do things that instill the skills and lessons they actually need to learn — giving them self-confidence, reassurance, and joy in the process. The attitudes they have bleed over into the evening, affect how they sleep, and making them happier the next next morning when they head off to start a new school day.
Here are just some of the ways we spend our homework-free nights:
- Sipping hot chocolate while I read a library book to them.
- Riding bikes in the driveway.
- Showing up at a local park and make new friends.
- Attending a weekly gymnastics class.
- Following a recipe and baking muffins for the next morning.
- Facetiming with Dad at work.
- Getting into our PJs and reading bedtime stories.
- Eating popcorn and watching a holiday movie.
- Playing catch.
- Drawing with sidewalk chalk on the driveway.
- Eating dinner together, talking about our day, and what weekend plans we hope to have.
- Visiting a store so the kids can spend their allowance.
- Doing chores like picking up and sorting toys, gathering trash, and putting dishes in the dishwasher.
- Writing thank you notes for a thoughtful gift or to someone who went above and beyond for us.
- Playing in our sensory rice bin (that we made together!), with molding clay, or Playdoh.
- Putting on a fashion show with our dress-up clothes or putting on a concert with our musical toys.
- Busting into an impromptu dance party in our kitchen.
- Jumping on the trampoline outside.
- Snuggling in bed and playing made-up games.
They may sound simple, but believe me, these are not futile activities. Baking with my kids teaches them how to follow directions, weight and measure, and patiently anticipate the finished product. Eating dinner together and talking about our day builds social skills, manners, and empathy. Having popcorn while watching a favorite movie helps us all de-stress and relax after a long day. Allowing the kids to visit a store and spend their allowance teaches financial literacy. Involving our kids in household chores teaches them about responsibility and community.
The most important thing at the end of the day is that all of these activities are done as a family and promote the kinds of attitudes my children need to have in order to have a great day at school tomorrow. And so far, our “no homework” policy is working like a charm.