I recently attended a school open house packed with lots of "useful" information and when the subject of homework came up, the presenter said "homework is checked for completion and not for accuracy".. mmm.. excuse me? You mean to tell me that my kid is "wasting" two hours a day on homework so someone can mark it "complete"? Talk about busy work to get a check mark!
I have always had mixed feelings about homework and have spent a great deal of time doing thorough research about the effects of homework on children of all ages and while you might be tempted to think that I'm one of those bitter moms whose kids struggle with homework and that's why I might hate it, that is certainly not the case, my kids are actually rocking school and rarely ever complain about homework. My views on homework have certainly changed through the years as I see my children growing up and developing study habits that don't necessarily come from doing homework every night, hence this post...
One of my all time favorite authors is Alfie Kohn, who famously writes about human behavior, parenting and education; he believes (as do I) in constructivism in which the learner makes meaning rather than absorb information; where things are taught in context and for a purpose....key word PURPOSE! Kohn published an interesting book titled "The Homework Myth", where he points out that there is no research that fully supports that assigning homework of any kind or any amount is ever beneficial to children in elementary school... I happen to agree! While I do believe that some sort of activity that promotes discipline is necessary, I don't believe that homework is such activity.
I have seen my girls (6th and 4th grade) come home from school exhausted only to sit for another hour (or two!) to do pointless homework...things like making a rainbow with spelling words, or doing a word search of 50+ words and doing math worksheets that are completely unrelated to what they're being taught in class... really? I find it idiotic to a point for a child to have to do this mundane, non productive activities after she has spent 8+ hours in a classroom supposedly learning. Some people would argue that homework is a great way of reinforcing what was taught..but if reinforcing is so necessary then it leads me to question whether or not the material was taught correctly. And then I go back to the "homework will be checked for completion but not for accuracy" idea, so if that's indeed the case, how can a teacher know that the student actually learned what she was supposed to?
I clearly remember one instance back when Olivia was in 3rd grade and struggling with a Math lesson; as I was helping her do her homework I suggested she discuss it with her teacher to make sure she was doing it right, to what she quickly replied "oh, my teacher doesn't have time for that!"... surprised, I replied "what do you mean?" and she went on to explain that her teacher never really checked the homework, and when she did and something was wrong, she never explained it because she was simply "too busy" making sure everyone had DONE their homework! That memory still blows my mind and the sad part is that I have many other similar stories...so what's the point?
Many studies suggest that homework in elementary school is completely pointless because for young children time is better spent by playing outside, getting involved in sports, having dinner with family, making friends with their neighbors, playing an instrument, etc...so why are our elementary children "punished" with unsurmountable amounts of homework that do nothing but promote negative feelings towards school in general? If you want your child to develop good habits and foster discipline, why not get her involved in a sport? why not encourage her to read books that would spark her interest and actually expand her vocabulary? why not plan an educational and fun family outing that would strengthen family ties? I can think of so many other ways to promote discipline and stimulate children to be better and do better and homework is NOT one of those ways.
And don't get me wrong, I get that some kids do need to complete exercises that are repetitive in nature and knowledge needs to be drilled into their brains, but I don't believe ALL children need that, therefore the ones that don't, end up being "punished" with homework, a learning method that I consider completely obsolete and unproductive.
My sister is a 1st grade teacher and her case for homework is that it can be a way to measure the involvement of parents in their children's education, I happen to disagree with that assessment, because the idea that a parent is "involved" simply because they make it a point to "force" their children to do pointless homework doesn't make sense to me. My own mother never did homework with me and I like to believe that she was rather involved in my education and my life in general, so the point becomes mutt with my own experience. I must also point out that I attended schools that had mostly "no homework" policies and I consider myself a well rounded and disciplined individual regardless of whether or not homework was part of my academic life (it wasn't, by the way!)
There are other studies that suggest that the amount of homework given should vary by grade, with an average of 10 minutes per grade (so a child in 2nd grade would get 20 minutes, a child in 3rd grade would get 30 and so on)... I find that pointless too.. why try to fill a time quota just to meet the requirement of giving that child homework regardless of her needs?
I know that this homework topic is very controversial and there are powerful and insightful studies on both sides of the argument, however I stand by the idea that homework (especially the mindless, pointless, repetitive kind of homework) does more harm than good; it makes the children exhausted, it shortens their time to do other more productive and enriching activities, it fosters negative feelings towards school, it affects family dynamics and keeps them occupied but not stimulated. I wish all teachers and school administrators came together to look at ways to improve the system, I wish they all took notes from other more successful educational systems around the world such as the one in Finland where students score significantly higher in aptitude tests and key areas such as reading and math. And while I don't suggest that some kind of educational activity shouldn't be part of a student's daily routine, I do believe that the kind of homework kids get these days isn't very beneficial in the long run.
Lastly, I'd like to share this article titled "Is too much homework bad for kid's health?", which explores the negative consequences of excessive homework on kids' mental health and suggests that the quality of the homework assignment is key and definitely way more important than the quantity.
What are your thoughts on homework? How much time does your kid spend doing homework on a daily basis?