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Does homework insanity lead to future workplace success?

I was sitting on the soccer field, reading a story in the Wall Street Journal, when I commented to a dad sitting next to me that somehow, this woman I was reading about had managed to get her kid out of doing homework.

"Wouldn't that be nice?" I sarcastically asked.

His answer surprised me. "I think homework helps with work ethic and career success." This dad, who sells printing services, went on to tell me about how much work he brings home and how he must respond to client calls and requests at all hours. "In our workplaces today, we bring work home and our future workers need to be prepared to handle it."

Hmmm....that got me thinking....below is the column that resulted from our discussion. I mostly hear from parents who consider homework a burden. I'd love to hear your thoughts on whether you think volumes of homework has benefits for future workers of America.

Coping with homework insanity


Does homework overload or help shape the next generation for what’s ahead? Or should we be providing some balance for kids (and their parents), too?

Debbie Regent, 48, center, assists her children Haley, 10, left, and Brooke, 14, with their homework at their kitchen table. Weston resident Debbie Regent, 48, working parent with two girls, supervised her children homework for several hours in Weston on Sunday, September 16, 2012.
Debbie Regent, 48, center, assists her children Haley, 10, left, and Brooke, 14, with their homework at their kitchen table. Weston resident Debbie Regent, 48, working parent with two girls, supervised her children homework for several hours in Weston on Sunday, September 16, 2012. 



The words slip off the tongue of the dad who triages a math assignment from his corner office or the mother who darts home from work to review dozens of spelling words: Stop the homework insanity!

I’ve uttered those words myself, often late at night after my daughter is melting down from hours of math problems on top of essays and chapter outlines. Ask almost any parent and they will tell you that the volume of homework that fills their kid’s agenda is overwhelming.

To rebel, books and websites have been dedicated to the Stop Homework movement, urging letter writing campaigns and teacher confrontation. Last week, I read about a woman who bragged that her grade school daughter had never done a lick of homework. Each year, the mom sits down with the teacher and principal and explains that her daughter will pay attention, get stellar grades and perform well on tests but she will not do homework. She tells the school they can alert her if intervention is required. Somehow, this has worked.

Yet, I’m wondering if we’re taking the wrong approach. Is the homework insanity we complain about as working parents the key to preparing our kids for the workplace of the future?

One father I know convincingly argues that homework, even volumes, is critical preparation for career success. “It’s not realistic for us to raise kids to think they’re going to work 9 to 5, leave and they’re done,” he said. “These kids are going to need to be well prepared to handle all the meetings and projects and emails that come at them in the workplace.”

Clearly, there are new rules we play by in the workplace today. If you want a decent job that will lead to a decent life, you have to work harder and smarter. Workplace experts say the next generation of workers will need to be innovators, problem solvers, open-minded risk-takers with the ability to learn new things, adapt to new work situations and maintain high productivity.

“The onus will be on workers to structure their time,” says Lynn Karoly, a senior economist with RAND Corp. who has studied the future workforce. From her own kids’ homework experience, Karoly says she’s seen a shift, with teachers giving short and long-term assignments, team projects and verbal presentations. “That’s indicative of the way students are expected to learn and the skills they will need in the workforce.”

Tell that to Debbie Regent, a mother of two girls, 14 and 10, who says homework stress is ruining her life. After a day of work, she arrives home to several hours of homework supervision. “There is a value to reinforcing what you learned that day through homework. There is not value in torturing a kid with five pages of math problems, when they have other classes with homework assignments as well.” Regent, a campaign executive with the Jewish National Fund, asserts that homework, much of which is just busywork, not only keeps kids from needed down time, it burdens parents, too.


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As with anything in life, moderation is key. To some extent, homework reinforces what you learned and gives kids the opportunity to ensure that they actually understood what was taught. Schools/teachers could do a better job of coordinating workload so that it doesn't become unbearable. Parents also need to take a step back. Maybe it was just how I was, but other than making sure I got my work done, my parents weren't that involved in my homework - particularly the end of middle school and onto high school. At most, they proofread my papers. A generation of parents have become involved to the point of doing their kids' homework. That's not the point of homework. Parents should be there as support. When a kid struggles, help or point them to a resource (like a tutor) to get better. I agree strongly that work life balance is important. But the earlier people learn when to put life above work and when work above life, the easier and more confident they will be as adults prioritizing work responsibilities with what matters most at the end of it all: the time spent with family and friends.

Cindy Goodman


You said it well, moderation is key!

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