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Is Homework Driving You CrAzY (—or is it just me)?

Melissa Taylor

I’m going to flunk first grade, there’s too much homework.


We still have more than a month of school left and I don’t think I can take it!


Technically, it's not my homework. It's my first grade daughter's homework. To accomplish it, I have to sit with her, read the list of homework tasks for the week, break it into steps and help her stay focused enough to complete it. 


She (and I) would rather be . . .


. . . playing, reading, napping (okay, that’s just me,) running outside, swinging outside, . . . 


Can you relate? I feel like it's up to me to "sell" the homework in order to get it done and frankly, I'm just over it.


Did you know that some preschoolers even get homework? And according to Edutopia, many middle and high school students are getting four to eight hours of homework


When are kids supposed to have downtime, free playtime, creative time, outside time, and time to do activities outside of school? Not to mention a good night's sleep?


Here's the interesting thing -- I looked up the research on homework and it's very contradictory. See for yourself. It's hard to draw a conclusion from the research. I can just conclude from common sense that . . . well, I'll tell you in a second. Keep reading.


The Case For Homework

  1.  More homework increases academic achievement. (Cooper, 1989a; Cooper, Robinson, & Patall, 2006) ASCD 
  2.  Homework develops good study habits.  (Cooper, 1989a; Cooper, Robinson, & Patall, 2006) ASCD 


The Case Against Homework

  1. Busy-work homework is not helpful to student achievement.
  2. There’s no evidence showing early elementary homework is beneficial.  (Cooper, 1989a; Cooper, Robinson, & Patall, 2006) 
  3. Homework is detrimental to student achievement and makes children depressed. (Australian Institute of Family Studies following 10,000 students.)
  4. Too much homework affects a child’s sleep; lack of sleep lowers brain functions. (Wolfson, 1998) 


Homework Recommendations from Research

  1. Too much homework is not effective. (Give less.)
  2. 5 to 10 minutes per subject might be appropriate for 4th graders, whereas 30 to 60 minutes might be appropriate for college-bound high school students.
  3. Homework, when assigned, should be related to school work and meaningful. See Daniel Pink and Kathleen Cushman’s recommendations below.
  4. Consider a child’s age and home activities when assigning homework.

Exerpted from Edutopia --> Daniel Pink, the author of Drive, asks teachers to consider homework assignments through these three questions:

  1. Does the assignment give your students autonomy? (Do they get to decide how and when to do the work?)
  2. Does it promote mastery of a skill by offering an engaging task?
  3. Will students understand and believe in the overall purpose of the assignment?

Kathleen Cushman, researcher and author of Fires in the Mind, What Kids Can Tell us About Motivation and Mastery, asks teachers to consider these questions when assigning homework:

1. Does this homework ask each student to practice something that the student hasn’t yet mastered?
2. Does the student clearly see its purpose?
3. When students are asked to repeat or rehearse something, does it require them to focus? Or can they do it without really paying attention?


As for me, I'm not in favor of so much homework. Here's why . . .

As a 5th grade teacher, I assigned homework very rarely. Kids who used their time in class wisely hardly ever had homework. That left them free to do sports, play, read, and have some down time. Did I have any trouble keeping my kids achievement high? Never. My students worked hard in class and didn't need more than those seven hours. 

As a parent, I want my child to have unstructured play time - which research clearly says is critical for creativity and brain development. I want my child to be able to get lots of sleep. I want my child to have a nutritious dinner with the family. I want my child to read books for fun. And, I want my child to have the time to take classes, play an instrument, and / or do sports if she wants. School gets my kid for almost eight hours. Can't I have the four after school? 

I think less amount and more meaningful homework just makes good sense.

What about you?