If your kid’s teacher isn’t assigning homework, it’s for a good reason.
If I could change one thing about my past teaching, it would be homework. As in, I would never assign it. I’m just not convinced that the positives outweigh the negatives, and I’m not alone. Many teachers (even entire districts) are getting on the no homework train. Not everyone agrees, and some of the most vocal opponents of homework bans are parents. In fact, many parents seem to positively associate homework with teacher and/or school quality. I have school-age kids, and I can understand the discomfort around uprooting tradition.
But since when has “that’s the way we’ve always done it” been a good reason to continue with a practice? Fellow parents, it’s time to take a long, hard look at homework.
~ Homework just isn’t that beneficial ~
Repeat after me: There is no conclusive evidence that homework improves student achievement. The research (not to mention how it gets interpreted) is mixed at best. But what stands out to me from the research is this: There is no correlation between academic achievement and homework for elementary students and a moderate correlation for middle and high school, which diminishes as more homework is assigned. So while you can probably make a case that there are benefits for older students doing homework (but no more than one and a half to two hours a day), there’s no reason your kindergartner should be coming home with it.
~ There are other ways of finding out what your child is learning ~
“How else am I supposed to know what they’re teaching my child?” It’s a valid concern. But homework isn’t your only window into what your child is learning. Familiarize yourself with the standards for your child’s grade level, which are readily available online. You can also learn about what’s normal for your child’s age (cognitively, social-emotionally, and physically) with a book like Yardsticksm. Make sure you read the communications that come home via class newsletters or are posted by your child’s teacher on school apps, as those typically have “what we’re working on” information. Reviewing the corrected work that comes home is also a great way to see what’s being taught and how your child is performing.
~ Parents aren’t experts on content or pedagogy ~
You are your child’s first teacher, and that’s important. However, unless you have an education degree, you don’t have the same level of expertise as a trained teacher. Non-teachers sometimes make the mistake of assuming that because they went to school, they know how a classroom should be run. And that’s just not the case. You have only to attempt “new math” to see that. So another benefit of not sending homework home is somewhat of a protective one. For example, we don’t want you introducing the traditional algorithm for addition with regrouping before we’ve had a chance to ensure that our students understand what’s going on mathematically in the process using manipulatives and visuals.
~ It sets kids up for poor work-life balance ~
Given its lack of proven benefit, homework is an unnecessary stressor. And it is stressful. Stephanie Donaldson-Pressman, clinical director of the New England Center for Pediatric Psychology and contributing editor to a study on homework, cites “a plethora of evidence that it’s detrimental to their attitude about school, their grades, their self-confidence, their social skills, and their quality of life.” It also sends the message to kids that it’s normal to work after school hours, setting them up for having their boundaries abused when they enter the workplace.
~ Homework is a burden on many families ~
If you’re a parent who’s clamoring for more homework, try to remember that not all families are in the same situation as you. Many parents are concerned with meeting their families’ basic needs. Not everyone works a 9-5 schedule. Even for those who do, not all of us are thrilled about coming home after a long day at work and having to fight with our kids to get their homework done (much less complete some elaborate science project or book report diorama that we all know they’re not doing on their own). By pushing your own agenda, you’re potentially marginalizing other families in your own school community. If it’s that important to you, come up with your own, but don’t drag everyone else with you.
~ What families can spend their time on instead ~
* Reading to and with your children and listening to them read
* Encouraging them to pursue passion projects
* Providing space for unstructured play
* Participating in extra-curricular activities that boost social-emotional skills and well-roundedness
* Eating dinner together as a family
* Keeping consistent bedtime routines that help everyone get a good night’s sleep so they are ready to work and learn the next day
Written by Kimmie Fink for We Are Teachers ~ October 5, 2023