What Fresh Hell: Laughing in the Face of Motherhood

a podcast with Margaret Ables and Amy Wilson

Tag: homework

Episode 27: The Homework Slog

Do our kids have too much homework? Yup. Agreed. But since moving to a yurt and living off the grid may not be an option for your family, here’s how to make the homework slog a little quicker and less painful at your house. Perhaps even tear-free. (We can dream.)


In this episode we discuss

  • whether the kitchen table is an acceptable homework location (one of us says yes)
  • whether you– or your kid– should be checking the nifty new school website with every assignment listed  (one of us says no)
  • how to help your older kids ignore the distractions of the internet when most of their homework– and many of their textbooks– are online
  • how to invent a system that supports your kid… and then back away from the oversight

Our favorite advice on this topic (besides our own) is from KJ Dell’Antonia, who provided these “three cardinal rules of homework” in her most recent newsletter:

1. It’s not yours.

2. What kids learn from homework is rarely on the worksheet.

3. You don’t want to make tonight’s homework better. You want to make ALL the homework better.

Here’s links to some other advice and research discussed in this episode:

KJ Dell’Antonia (she’s good at this) for NYT Motherlode: Creating a Homework Habit

Bruce Feiler for the NYT: The Homework Squabbles

The Learning Habit Study (American Journal of Family Therapy)

The Learning Habit: A Groundbreaking Approach to Homework and Parenting by Dr Stephanie Donaldson Pressman 

With this episode we celebrate our podcast’s first birthday!

Thanks to all of you who listen, laugh, and tell your friends. It’s been a wonderful first year for us and we look forward to continuing the conversation! 

This episode is brought to you by SheBee Jewelry. Women who wear SheBee (like us) love to express an individual sense of style. SheBee jewelry adds a touch of chic to elevate the everyday. Get a little something for yourself— or create some hints you can not so subtly drop for your next birthday– at shebee.com and get 15% off with code FRESH.

Episode 4: Do Our Kids Have Too Much Homework (Yes)


Some experts say we’re drowning today’s kids under nightly tsunamis of homework. Others disagree— but one thing’s for sure: our kids have more homework than we did at their age. And more stress. And more “projects,” a word sure to strike terror in any mother’s heart.

In this episode, we take on homework, and discuss

  • whether kindergarteners should have it in the first place
  • how to avoid the nightly wailing and gnashing of teeth by setting your household’s “reasonable limits”
  • whether we’re supposed to help our middle-schoolers with their assignments
  • whether we are smarter than third graders (spoiler alert: sometimes)

Here’s links to some of the research discussed in this episode:

The National PTA recommends ten minutes of homework per grade: in other words, ten minutes a night for a first grader, an hour for a sixth grader. We heartily agree.

Karl Taro Greenfeld, writing for The Atlantic on what happened when he tried to do his middle-school-aged daughter’s homework for a week.

The University of Michigan’s study finding that the average time spent weekly on homework increased from two hours and 38 minutes in 1981 to three hours and 58 minutes in 2004.

The Brookings Institute study on homework in America, arguing that the homework load has not actually gotten larger at all— except for nine-year-olds.

and finally, the Texas teacher hailed across the nation after announcing she would be assigning exactly zero homework to her young students this year.

Does homework cause nightly struggles in your home? Do you wonder whether you’re supposed to do that “project” with your kids, or for your kids, or blithely ignore it? Let us know in the comments…

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