Why children don't need homework
Homework: as a parent do you love or loathe it? Parenting psychologist and father of five, Justin Coulson has written this story on the downside of homework. Read it along with The Great Homework Debate and Homework tips for parents and join our chat on the subject over at Kidspot Social!
Why kids don't need homework - By Justin Coulson
Homework is seen by many as being essential for children’s scholastic development. But there seems to be more substantive arguments against homework for kids under the age of 14 than there are for it.
Here's a scenario: As a typical parent-teacher meeting concludes, the Grade 5 teacher thanks parents for attending and asks for any questions about how the class will operate during the year.
One mother asks the teacher to ensure the children receive plenty of homework to help them prepare for the upcoming NAPLAN test later in the year.
Heads nod in agreement and the teacher confirms the state Education Department requires homework to be assigned to all students. But is homework as useful as we like to think?
No science backs up homework benefits
For young children (under 14-15 years) there is absolutely no scientific research which supports the inclusion of homework in their extra-curricular activities. Indeed, “there is no evidence that any amount of homework improves the academic performance of primary school students”, according to Cooper, one of the most respected homework researchers in the world. Cooper indicates that while he is personally pro-homework, there appears to be no academic advantage for children to do homework. In many studies the relationship between homework and “learning” (often defined as grades or standardised test scores) is negative.
Homework is a burden on teachers
Teachers acknowledge that they do not enjoy the ongoing administration and follow up homework requires. There is a lot of work associated with homework outside the regular classroom teaching requirements, including coordinating homework, marking homework, giving homework feedback, and so on.
Homework creates stress for children
It might be tough for teachers, but it may be even tougher for children, even when only in small amounts. After a full day of class work, children might find their learning enhanced if they could truly call it a day when they get home, rather than re-opening the books and doing more.
Research has demonstrated that it “overwhelms struggling kids and removes joy for high achievers.” A 2002 study found a direct relationship between time spent on homework and levels of anxiety, depression, anger, and other mood disorders and issues.â€¨â€¨
Homework creates an extra burden on parents
Many families find that homework occupies a significant component of their afternoons. An education involves more than just schoolwork. Extra-curricular activities provide teaching opportunities for children as well as the chance to develop other skills, talents, and intelligence. Homework impinges on the possibility parents have to expose their children to activities such as music lessons, cycling, swimming, church activities, and more.
Additionally, kids enjoy being kids - swimming in the pool, playing with friends, having free reading time, going shopping, contributing to the home with chores and cooking, and so on.
Homework is not inspiring
Homework may be the most reliable extinguisher of the flame of curiosity. â€¨â€¨Homework, according to the best research available, neither enhances children’s depth of understanding, nor does it increase their passion for learning. If children understand the work at school, mindlessly repeating it at home may not have any useful impact. And if they have not understood the work at school, then repeating it at home may only make things worse.
And as indicated above, some research actually indicates that the provision of homework actually impacts negatively on some standardised testing.
Kids can learn the habits when they NEED them
There is no evidence to support the belief that homework helps students develop the characteristics it is often suggested will be useful, such as ability to organise time, develop good work habits, think independently, and so on. It doesn’t seem to prepare them for “later” either. Children have demonstrated that they can usually adapt pretty well when they turn 14 or 15 without having eight years of practice under their belt before it all starts.
Indeed, if we were to run with the 'better get used to it' logic, there would be little point raising children with love because sooner or later life in the real world will not be loving. Hence they’d better get used to it. Obviously this is absurd, but hopefully it illustrates my point.
Homework may have a negative impact on learning
A respected US professor of education stated: “Most of what homework is doing is driving kids away from learning.” In spite of the significant concerns about homework, there are two important exceptions to the research and statements outlined above. These are:
The exceptions to not doing homework: reading
Research powerfully demonstrates that reading should be strongly encouraged at home. Children should read every single day after school and before bed.
There should not be any timing of the reading or dictating the number of pages to be read. This removal of autonomy turns reading into a chore, rather than a pleasure. Instead, guide your children toward books that they can genuinely enjoy and learn from. They will gladly immerse themselves in books and often only resurface when it’s time to eat! Also note – research abundantly demonstrates that the best way to make students hate reading is to make them prove to us or others that they have read.
On a related note, the use of rewards for reading – such as stars, goodies, money, and so on has been clearly demonstrated to have a detrimental effect on motivation for reading. Children will read easy, short books to obtain rewards, rather than books that they are interested in and that challenge them. However, you may wish to let your children know that when they have completed a book they are reading, you will gladly buy them another one immediately. Research indicates that this is highly motivating.
The other exception to not doing homework: projects
Another form of “acceptable” homework – or homework that does not appear to reduce motivation for learning or interfere so much with family activities – relates to projects from school that interest the children.
Actively encourage research, projects, and writing speeches. This helps the children in information gathering, critical thinking, logical formatting of content, and presentation skills. Plus it gets them actively “discovering” in their learning, and sinks much deeper than much other “busy” work.So, this afternoon, let the kids play. Wrestle with them, cook with them, READ with them, sing with them. Play Monopoly if you can't bear to see them not doing some kind of maths. Teach them checkers or chess, or how to play Mary had a Little Lamb on the keyboard or recorder. Take time to enjoy them rather than confining them to their room to do homework. They'll learn more in 20 minutes with you than in an hour revising homework sheets.
- The Homework Myth: Why our Kids Get Too Much of A Bad Thing by Alfie Kohn.
- The Case Against Homework: How Homework is Hurting Children and What Parents Can Do About it by Sara Bennett and Nancy Kalish.
- The End of Homework: How Homework Disrupts Families, Overburdens Children, and Limits Learning by John Buell and Etta Kralovec
Find more homework articles:
- The hands-off homework strategy for parents
- Homework tips for parents
- Teach your child to manage their own study
- Understanding learning styles
- Preparing your child for success at school
- Decoding the homework debate
- Discover Kidspot's Study Buddy for homework answers
- Tips to make homework happen
- Improving school success
- 5 ways to keep school kids organised
- In favour of homework
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This article was written for Kidspot by Justin Coulson, Ph. D. Justin is a relationships and parenting expert, author and father of five children. Find him on Facebook, Twitter, and at happyfamilies.com.au.