What?! No Homework is Good for Kids?

Math HomeworkI like to think that I’m as open to new ideas as they come but I must confess that even I hesitate over this one…

Kids are Better Off Without Homework

Or so they say, according to an article in the Daily Telegraph

Well, okay, let’s be more accurate – the stance is that is that “there are no academic benefits from homework for children in primary school“. Secondary school students are not off the hook since research actually supports homework for secondary school students.

The postulate is that homework “overwhelms struggling children and is boring for high achievers”. The article makes reference to various unlisted sources that indicate:

  • homework increases anxiety, depression, anger, and other mood disturbances
  • as homework increases, national student achievement decreases
  • homework increases family conflict
  • homework reduces the time available for other activities that provide balance and variety to a child’s life
  • homework places unnecessary burden on parents and teachers
  • homework drives children away from learning and makes them less successful in school

What should children be doing after school if not homework?

  • relaxing and playing and being children
  • extra-curricular activities, such as sport, art, or music
  • reading for fun
  • completing projects of interest through self-directed learning

Why Homework is Necessary Sometimes

Is it really true? Are kids really better off without homework? Not always, it would seem. Here’s the gist of it:

  • homework for younger children is more about forming good habits – learning responsibility and time management.
  • there is currently no conclusive evidence that homework improves the academic performance for younger children.
  • homework helps students with disabilities as it offers them extra time to reinforce the skills they have learned during class.
  • too much homework, especially for younger children can be a bad thing – they’re clear on this much.

The Case Study of Public School 116 in New York City

An elementary public school in New York has taken a big leap of faith by abolishing homework for all students up to and including 5th grade. This may be the school to keep an eye on to observe the effects of doing away with homework.

What Does the Science Really Say?

If you’re interested to read the research on the effects of homework, the Center for Public Education offers a review on the literature covering the value of homework. While the jury is still out on the matter, these are some recommendations from the findings:

  • Homework for older students offers more academic benefits – the amount and type of homework is also important.
  • Homework for younger students is more about improving study skills and learning structure and responsibility rather than the academic lesson.
  • Homework does not appear to benefit students from low income households the same way as it does for students from more financially secure households.
  • Homework is beneficial for students with learning disabilities and it should be with parental supervision.
  • Homework seems to be of greater benefit to Asian American students than for students of other ethnic and racial heritages.
  • Homework that prepares students for upcoming lessons appears to be more beneficial than homework that simply continues the school day’s lessons into the evening hours.

The bottom line:

homework is not a strategy that works for all children. Because of its possible negative effects of decreasing students’ motivation and interest, thereby indirectly impairing performance, homework should be assigned judiciously and moderately. Heavy homework loads should not be used as a main strategy for improving home-school relations or student achievement.

There is an article from the Positive Times that sums it up really well:

…the real issue is not so much about whether homework is a good idea or a bad idea, but rather, what we consider a good use of a young learner’s time to actually be.

…out of school activities that encourages finding your passion in life or building on your existing strengths, could be a great idea for supporting life long learning and wellbeing.

In other words, if your child is making good use of after school time to further his interests and building his strengths, then homework is unnecessary. On the other hand, if your child is spending all his free time after school on social media or watching TV, then homework can be helpful.

Published by Shen-Li

SHEN-LI LEE is the author of “Brainchild: Secrets to Unlocking Your Child’s Potential”. She is also the founder of Figur8.net (a website on parenting, education, child development) and RightBrainChild.com (a website on Right Brain Education, cognitive development, and maximising potentials). In her spare time, she blogs on Forty, Fit & Fed, and Back to Basics.

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