“Do your homework!” “No TV/playing games/going outside to play… until your homework is done!”
How many parents find themselves nagging their children to complete their homework while their children tell them they are too stressed, too tired, too overwhelmed, or too confused to complete their assignments?
It turns out there is some thought-provoking research that suggests homework may be more detrimental than helpful.
Some research suggests there are no benefits at all to homework. Some critics have even gone so far as to call homework a “sin against childhood”.
According to author and lecturer Alfie Kohn, the positive effects of homework are “largely mythical.” He says homework in most schools is set just for “the sake of it.” Kohn’s research found there is “absolutely no evidence of any academic benefit from assigning homework in elementary school [5-10 years old] or middle school [11-13 years old].”
“At the high school level [14-18 years old], the correlation [between homework and academic success] is weak and tends to disappear when more sophisticated statistical measures are applied. Meanwhile, no study has ever substantiated the belief that homework builds character or teaches good study habits.”
The article goes on to say the following. “Despite the evidence, homework is still a global practice. In China, 15-year-old students spend, on average, 13.8 hours per week on homework. At the other end of the scale, students in Finland spend 2.8 hours a week. As Finland is regularly used as a positive example for its outstanding educational standards and practices, this highlights a failed link between time spent on homework and academic achievement.”
A 2009 documentary entitled Race to Nowhere presents data further condemning homework along with all the standardized testing schools are required to do resulting in the enormous stress on children with little or no benefits. According to a post by Huffington Post describing the impact of the documentary “Race to Nowhere” conveys important messages with power. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-merrow/race-to-nowhere-its-no-wa_b_751330.html
Our obsession with test scores is dangerous and counterproductive. When parents and schools treat young people like automatons, they not only kill their childhood, but they are not preparing them to lead healthy adult lives.
The 2013 book The Smartest Kids in the World and How They Got That Way by Amanda Ripley provides a fascinating journey into the ways nations all around the world address education and which of these countries had the top scores in standardized tests. It turns out that at the very top is Finland, which put little or no emphasis on homework.
“Finland’s edge in education appears to derive not so much from excessive studying, but from its very high quality of teachers—which begins with Finland’s exceptional teachers’ colleges. Specifically, the country’s few accredited teachers’ colleges are very selective in terms of who they accept, and the teacher education programs in Finland are themselves very lengthy and rigorous. [http://newbooksinbrief.com/2013/09/12/42-a-summary-of-the-smartest-kids-in-the-world-and-how-they-got-that-way-by-amanda-ripley/]
I think that many parents know intuitively that homework seems to be the source of extreme stress in children as well as being very stressful on parents. Some of this research indicates that homework may also be much less important than allowing kids time just to be kids after school. Anything that reduces stress in kids, parents and their relationship should be considered valuable to explore. Parents may want to engage their schools in conversations about the research on the value of homework. They can use some of this information to lobby for decreases in the amount of homework kids are given and even discuss the elimination of homework in the lower grades.
If you want more to think about around the subject of homework, check out some of the websites that address reasons why homework is a bad idea. https://wehavekids.com/education/Why-Homework-is-a-Bad-Idea provides a lot of information and some excellent videos.
Invitation to reflect:
- What you believe about the value of kids having homework?
- How stressed-out are your kids about their homework?
- Does this information inspire you to have some conversations with your child’s school?