What kids can learn from doing homework
August 2010 (perspective of a Ph.D. student)
Kids should view homework as preparation for running errands as an adult. Errands are the adult version of homework—unavoidable, boring, tedious, mind-numbing chores. If kids view homework like errands, then they can better cope with having to do it every day.
If you're a kid who has to do homework every night after school, chances are that you aren't thrilled about it. Sure, some homework assignments might be interesting if you squint hard enough, but for the most part, homework is a boring, tedious, mind-numbing chore that you cannot avoid doing. So what can you possibly learn from doing homework (besides the lessons they're intended to teach)?
By doing homework every night after school, you are learning to mentally prepare yourself for doing errands every night after work when you are an adult. Read that sentence again, because I am totally serious. When you grow up, you will be running errands each day and on the weekends for at least as much time as you currently spend doing your homework. So it's best to be mentally prepared as early as possible.
What are errands? They are often-boring, tedious, mind-numbing chores that adults cannot avoid doing. Sound familiar? Errands are like homework for adults. Instead of doing 5 pages of algebra problems, you are going to be calling 5 different plumbers to ask how much they charge to fix your upstairs toilet. Instead of writing an essay on Hamlet, you are going to be writing emails to complain to your Internet service provider because your service was slow last month. Instead of doing fill-in-the-blank history practice questions, you are going to be at the bank asking about your home loans.
You have a dozen years of your life throughout elementary, middle, and high school to prepare yourself for adulthood. No matter what profession you choose to pursue, no matter whether you are poor or rich, no matter whether you are shy or ultra-social, you cannot avoid doing errands as an adult. So next time you think that homework is simply a boring grind, think of it this way: The process of doing homework is simply practice for the rest of your life that you are going to spend running errands.
Adults must find ways to do a 'good enough' job on their errands so that their lives are kept in order and, most importantly, so that they have time left over for recreation. As an adult, if you neglect errands or handle them badly, then you risk being late on your bills or taxes, forgetting to register your car, not filing out the proper paperwork for your apartment or house, and getting fined and maybe even in trouble with the law.
Errands are unavoidable, but let's not take such a bleak outlook on life. One way to maintain happiness as an adult is to figure out how to efficiently get all of your errands done so that you can truly enjoy your small nuggets of free time each day.
Similarly, homework is unavoidable if you're a kid. If you neglect your homework or do it badly, then you risk getting bad grades, failing classes, and not being able to graduate on time. Sure, the stakes are much lower than, say, losing all of your money or getting arrested, but there are still real consequences for neglecting your homework.
Thus, I suggest that you adopt a similar mindset as adults: If you view homework simply as errands, then you can figure out a way to get them done efficiently with 'good enough' quality so that you can truly enjoy your free time each evening.
If you can get in the mindset of, "okay, I'm going to do my homework first and then I can have the rest of the night to play video games without my parents bothering me", then I guarantee that your video game time will be far more enjoyable and also your homework time might even be bearable.
Lastly, don't think that your days of homework are over after you graduate from high school or college: They're just now going to be called errands. You won't fully understand what I'm talking about until you reach adulthood (maybe in your mid-20's); despite what my parents repeatedly told me, I didn't start to understand until I reached that age. Happy homeworking, kids!