Can You “Opt Out” of Homework?

We get a lot of phone calls from parents of elementary students, complaining about the volume of homework their child gets from school. We specialize in study skills and homework management, so it’s natural that parents would call us.

We can help parents of these youngsters facilitate more peaceful homework sessions. We can also help students in upper elementary, middle, and high school get organized, do homework quickly, and learn more easily…in less time.

However, when elementary kids get too much homework, well then… they have too much homework! I have always been an advocate of parents setting boundaries for what they will and will *not* tolerate in terms of homework.

When those boundaries are crossed, parents should stop the problem from progressing, even if that means “incomplete homework.” Then, they need to communicate with their children’s teachers immediately.

I have done this for my children on a few occasions. It’s not a comfortable feeling to approach my child’s teacher, but I write a kind note explaining my boundaries and describe what is happening at home. In almost all situations, the teachers have been very gracious! They usually thank me for the feedback.

Teachers almost never get feedback on homework, but their intentions are never to create havoc in the home! I know this was my experience as a classroom teacher; I never knew what was happening at home, so I never knew how to gauge homework. Once, I received a note from a parent who had obviously been suffering with her child for a long time.

At that point, I realized just how much parents keep bottled inside, so I attempted to open the lines of communication and specifically asked parents for more feedback. The response from parents was overwhelming appreciation! Unless you say something, however, teachers don’t know what they don’t know.

Last week, I discovered a blog post from a woman who has completely opted her children OUT of homework, until age 11. She laments that the after-school hours are so very short, so that time should be reserved for family bonding, chores, and the all-important time for the child to dig into the things that most interest him. She writes a very compelling case. click here to read it.

I read her post last week, just moments before stepping out of my home office for dinner. Directly in front of my office door was a huge Lego® village. My son had been working on for days.

One building is a Lego Ninjago® temple he first assembled with a 212- page book of instructions several months ago. Shortly after he completed construction, however, disaster struck. His then two year-old sister Madison, who had already earned the nick-name “Mad-zilla,” fell on it and destroyed his temple. That was a bummer day!

Last week, Mark decided to rebuild it. This time, however, he’s not following the directions because several parts are missing. So, he’s looking at a picture online… and improvising.

His accompanying village is his own creation… derived from the depths of his endless imagination.


My son’s Lego “temple” that he’s been working on for several days during his after-school hours. (By the time I got around to taking this picture, Mad-zilla destroyed his accompanying village.)

This display of creativity was literally the first thing I saw as I swung open my office door. It was as if Mark was flashing neon sign for me to take this woman’s advice.

Nurturing the creative spirit in our children is NOT optional. It is essential! This lesson was made heartbreakingly clear to me over the summer when Mark’s first-grade teacher lost her 18-month-old daughter, Kenley, in an accident. (Details about Baby Kenley’s legacy are available when you click here.)

You may not have to opt out of homework to honor your child’s spirit, but you do have the *option.* You are your child’s #1 advocate! Sometimes their spirits’ are nurtured in school, but often, they are not. It is your job to endlessly protect and develop those things that bring “life” to your child’s soul!

Occasionally, it can feel a bit lonely to stand up and do the right thing. But, that’s of the sign that you are being a leader for your child.

If homework is sabotaging your family, or holding back your child’s “whole-child,” then talk to the teacher immediately! Don’t suffer in silence… and don’t let learning become a “bad thing.”

Click here for the SOAR® Learning and Soft skills App!

-Susan Kruger


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