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The Hills are Alive (With the Sound of Homework)

My kids won’t be Rhodes Scholars like Pat Haden (the rare 1970s NFL reference). They won’t attend Ivy League schools unless I win the lottery. And since I never play the lottery, their chances are not looking good.

While they’re both honor-roll students, neither will likely win a Pulitzer, Nobel, or cure cancer, although I’m holding out hope for a nicely written story by one of them on the virtues of being raised by the world’s most spectacular father. Not holding my breath on that one either.

Like their dad, they’re blue-collar students, meaning they’ve got to work for every A they get. Nothing comes easy for them, but that just makes me more proud when I see their report cards. Of course, as a good helicopter dad, I’m happy to help with any of their homework that I still understand (i.e. English, Reading Comprehension, Texas History, Sports Jersey Numerology, Fantasy Sports Draftology and Dallas Cowboys Trivia … no math or science, please).

But while sifting through the avalanche of homework assignments trying to locate my kids, an alarming realization occurred. Our kids are getting a stupid amount of homework. The raw tonnage of worksheets would choke a mastodon and overflow a landfill. Look, I’m all for practice. What I don’t understand is this: My kids spend six hours at school five days a week and yet bring home so much homework that you’d think all they do is go to lunch, recess and watch movies while their teachers update their Facebook status. (Uh, no comment.)

Now I did some research on the matter. I found the following literature that opens the proverbial can o’ whup-ass on homework: The Case Against Homework, The Battle Over Homework and The Homework Myth. Each book analyzes the tremendous – and that doesn’t mean good – amount of homework that’s dished out to our youngsters and looks at whether it’s making us more competitive vs. the rest of the world. Kind of like our diets, the answer is a big fat nope.

In The Battle Over Homework, the author found that the correlation between time spent on homework and achievement for elementary school students was zero. I agree with what Harris Cooper says about the 10-minute rule: 10 minutes of homework in kindergarten and first grade, with 10 more minutes for each additional grade level. That would mean 70 minutes of homework for my seventh-grader. The actual number is at least two hours a night, which gives us a stressed-out little girl around bedtime every weeknight.

So am I advocating more Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 or Real Housewives Beverly Hills when the kids come through the door after school? No, of course not.

Am I advocating less homework and more class work? Yes. Make that Y-E-S!! I’m cool with teachers applying more pressure to our students in the classroom. I’m also good with applying more pressure on ourselves. I need to do a better job expanding my kids’ minds by challenging them not only to know, for instance, that Lee Harvey Oswald assassinated JFK in downtown Dallas, but to take them to the Sixth Floor Museum and let them experience history for themselves.

I actually did the unthinkable and handed out my own homework assignment to my daughter, who’s been begging, pleading, praying that we buy her an iPhone 4S. I challenged her to produce a PowerPoint presentation in order to convince me. It took her five revisions, a couple of new musical scores and tons of exploding graphics. I can only hope she’s using her new superphone to save small animals and learn Latin like she explained in her presentation.

If you’re a teacher and reading this while sharpening your Ginsu knife in preparation for slicing my tires and scratching naughty words on the hood of my car, please know that this isn’t an indictment of your profession. We all have to pull together to teach our kids. We have to be creative. We have to keep pushing without pushing too hard. But let’s chill on the homework, OK?

Rudy lives in Flower Mound, works in Fort Worth and plays everywhere in between. He has one wife, one daughter, one son, one published book, one obsession with sports and 20 million observations on marriage and children. Follow him on Twitter: Manifesto10.