Why I Let My Daughter Say No to Homework

Why I Let My Daughter Say No to Homework

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How a mother stood by her daughter’s decision to stop doing homework.

For years, our oldest daughter did her schoolwork diligently, no questions asked, until one day she informed my husband and me that she would no longer be doing homework.

We did not know how to react besides being stunned. We asked her why she had made that decision, and with the wisdom of a child beyond her years, she said, “If I can sit in class and listen, understand the material, and still get good grades, then I should not have to do homework. I am only a kid once.”

Those were profound words. Our first inclination was to say, “Of course you are doing your homework! Every bit of it! Every night!” But her words struck a chord of truth and we told her we would think it over.

We observed our nightly ritual of two to three hours of homework per child, and we noticed how much family time was being wasted on work they didn’t need to be doing. The more we thought about it, the more we realized she was on to something. We could understand having some homework when it reinforced something newly learned in class. We soon came to realize, however, that homework seemed to be handed out on a daily basis, willy-nilly, often for no particular reason, and that’s when we took a stand in our daughter’s defense.

My husband and I were asked to bring our daughter in for a meeting with school officials, who told us we should insist she do her assigned work. They were dumbfounded when we said we support our daughter’s decision, and that she would not be doing homework as long as she maintained honor roll status. We made the argument of, “Why should kids spend two to three hours every night doing homework? Why shouldn’t they be allowed to have time to be a child and enjoy life?”

When you think about it, schoolchildren are putting in a full day of work just like adults, and then come home to work another “part-time job” in the evenings with all of their homework. Sometimes children come to school the next day so tired that they fall asleep in class because they had to stay up past their bedtimes to get all their homework done. Other times, children don’t have time to get it done and they come to school stressed.

If I had to do it all over again, I would make the same decision. My daughter turned out just fine. In fact, it helped her. Her free time allowed her to become immersed in books, movies, puzzles, and toys that interested her, and she learned about all kinds of things homework cannot teach, from using tree branches to make baskets to painting Aztec symbols on homemade walking sticks. She maintained her honor roll status and started concentrating on her future. As a teen, she saved her money for a year then flew to Utah in the summer and worked with wolf-dogs at a no-kill animal shelter. She now lives in Germany, helping veterinarians with farm animals.

After giving up homework, she was able to spend hours doing things that children should have time to do: swing on the swing set, blow bubbles, plop down on the grass and watch clouds go by, catch fireflies, and make wishes upon stars. She could wonder about things. She could think about the world around her and the possibilities of the universe. She was able to go to school every day feeling rested, refreshed, and eager to learn.

Most importantly, she was able to be a child. And that, more than pages and pages of homework, is the most important thing. You only get one childhood.
 

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