I love our family evenings. Most nights we have dinner together, unless DG is traveling or D is at a late hockey practice, and reflect on our day. We read books, snuggle on the couch, talk about what worked during our structured learning time, and what did not. Sure, occasionally someone has a meltdown, or the kids complain about dinner or argue with each other, or I feel too tired to deal with things in a calm and patient manner (as in I holler and yell and then feel like I behaved worse than my children). But for the most part our evenings are enjoyable and unhurried.
One thing we do not do at night is homework. By late afternoon my kids are pretty much spent. They've been learning and playing all day and are ready to relax, or head out to an activity. The last thing in the world I want to do at 4 or 5 o'clock is more work - it is simply not an opportune time for learning. Of course, my kids are only 3, 6 and 11, which is still relatively young, but sadly I hear of more and more kids in elementary school who are saddled with homework after school. One friend recently explained to me how she often has to wake her nine year old up early before school to finish the work he was unable to do the night before. Parents I know feel frustrated that the two or three hours they have with their kids after work and school is spent threatening, coaxing, or bribing their children to do more work, and the kids feel exhausted and frustrated. There is something wrong with our current system if kids are unable to do the required ammount of work in the six to seven hours they are already at school.
Interestingly, a new study shows that homework generally does not improve elementary and middle school students' ability to learn, or their test scores. It seems math is the only subject where, students in this study benefitted from some small ammount of homework. This study was recently debated on Radio Boston, with Alfie Kohn as a guest speaker. He argues that instead of eliminating homework, perhaps those hours after school should be geared toward inspiring children to learn. It was a great program, and you can hear it here: