With school starting up for the fall, homework once again becomes a hot topic. The only subject that makes both parents and kids simultaneously groan in agony is sure to be talked about, complained over, and negotiated in more than one household across America over the next nine months.
At least one mother and her daughter are already celebrating the promise of no homework for the year with fellow classroom peers and parents. Samantha Gallagher publicly shared her daughter Brooke’s teacher’s letter regarding her classroom homework policy on Facebook. It said, in part, that “research has been unable to prove that homework improves student performance.” In short, the only homework she wants her students to do is to enjoy their evenings at home. At this writing, the letter has over 60,000 shares and more parents doing some investigative research into whether it’s feasible to move their entire families just so their kids can be in Mrs. Young’s classroom.
As the collective clamoring for equal “no homework” policies to be put in place across the nation’s classrooms swells, I’m left wondering what parents and teachers really think about this “no homework” policy. So, of course I asked on Facebook. Parents responded in all caps: “AWESOME!” “LOVE IT!” “I WISH WE WOULD DO THIS!”
And some of their schools do. Anna, the super organized mom blogger behind My Life and Kids, says it’s already a policy at her kids’ school, and she loves it. “It gives us our evenings back,” she stated. Other moms who said their teachers also had a policy like this agreed that at least in the elementary grades this is a good idea. The teachers are providing the students who want it with extra enrichment work.
Other parents clearly stated their reasons for wanting a no-homework policy in their child’s classroom. One mom said, “Homework is overrated; and for a lot of kids, stressful.” Several others mentioned that there are very few adults who work a full day and then bring more work home to do at night. Another pointed out, “If 6-8 hours isn’t sufficient time to complete the elementary level work that needs to be done then something needs to change – a close examination of student, curriculum, time management… Something.”
Janel, a working mom who writes about raising her three young daughters, said, “I am 100% behind this. I have so little time with my kids in the evening that I really resent spending any of that time battling with them to do homework, after they’ve spent six hours during the day on academics (with only a fifteen-minute recess and thirty-minute lunch break). At the elementary level, I feel like kids have too much homework dumped on them, and need more time for play and interaction.”
Not totally unsurprisingly, there were some dissenting opinions which came from teachers themselves. A high school science teacher threw this out, “How would you feel about your child’s coach telling them not to practice their sport between contests (games)? Homework, in moderation, does a number of things: 1) it is practice for the big dance (test), 2) homework holds students to deadlines and 3) keeps them accountable to their studies.” She added that she only gives homework about once a week.
A former first grade teacher offered this well-thought nugget of advice, “I used to tell my parents that I would appreciate them spending fifteen to twenty minutes on MOST but not EVERY weekday practicing some basic skill (math facts, spelling words, reading sight words); but the family time activities should always come first–IF that really happens! There were always those who asked for extra practice homework, but I cautioned that it should never be excessive!”
So, what does the research say? It’s inconclusive.
You can find research studies to support schoolwork done at home and you can find studies that prove homework has no bearing on academic performance. These two facts are true: there is no evidence to show that homework benefits students below high school, and the correlation between homework and test scores is very small. Even the non-academic benefits of homework that were touted by some on Facebook – responsibility, time management, self-discipline, and independence – were seen as mere myths.
So what does this former fifth grade teacher and current mom of school-aged students think about homework? As all things in our children’s lives, I think it needs to be a balance. It breaks my heart to see my son struggling all night long with homework on a beautiful day when he should be out riding his bicycle. It infuriates me when my child is spending an hour on a crossword puzzle that has nothing to do with the subject he is studying while he still has a science project to complete. It frustrates me when my son has double the amount of homework to do because he was pulled out of class to get help in reading.
However, I made my sons do workbook pages over the summer and we read and practiced math facts. There isn’t an adult among us who doesn’t sharpen their work skills from time to time. As far as homework is concerned, it’s kind of a double-edged sword. As Jen, the mom writer behind People I Want to Punch in Throat, says, “I don’t mind bringing home work that didn’t get finished or one sheet to reinforce math that was already taught that day or spelling practice. I DO hate the huge projects that need tons of parental help/supervision and expense. I’d rather drop these giant projects rather than 20-30 mins of homework each night. But I loved those time consuming projects as a kid and those are the ones I remember, so I’m torn!”
What’s the answer then? I think it is up to teachers to decide what is reasonable and best for their academic goals, and parents to advocate for their children. If, as a parent, you are finding that your child is really struggling to get homework done, talk to the teacher and together discuss some reasonable guidelines.
One thing from the research is clear: homework that’s used as a tool to facilitate learning and reinforce concepts that have already been taught can be beneficial. Homework does have a purpose . . .but so does having a life outside of school.