Teacher, Revised had an interesting interview with Sara Bennett about homework.
I'm not necessarily as anti-homework as Sara Bennett is, but I do think there's an awful lot of homework that doesn't contribute to anything. I think that a lot of teachers feel pressure to assign homework. And all of that pressure adds up to a lot of kids having a lot assignments, often non-contributing to actual academic achievement. It's also interesting to me that Sara Bennett gives math as an example where homework is unnecessary, while other people have said to me that they think that math is the one class where homework is necessary. (That tends to be the side I fall on.) But in fact, a lot of homework assignments are given in the hope that the students will learn to "organize" themselves. Do lots of small bits of homework (a worksheet here, a worksheet there) make you organized? More importantly, do they make you learn? What about "read half an hour a night" homework?
I really liked Sara Bennett's description of how she negotiates with teachers/affirms her role as a parent. Being a successful parent in the schools requires negotiation skills. Although I have to admit that my older kids almost never want me to talk to their teachers, I realized the other day--when a teacher actually called me--that that teacher had not gotten much feedback from parents, or kids. [The reason for the phone call had to do with my child giving this teacher some feedback. Yes, she was polite. It's just that I don't think he had heard that feedback before.] Schools like to create an aura of invincible power, and when we question that, we take back our power as parents, and also open up a line of communication that is important.
In other words, don't leave your critical thinking skills at home (and don't let your kids leave theirs at home, either) when you engage with the schools.
My favorite types of homework are project-based and more holistic in nature. In other words, the point of homework should be to integrate knowledge. What do you think about homework? Did you find it essential? What kinds of homework are most essential?