What About... No Homework?
There are many reasons that you may decide that NO HOMEWORK is the right choice for your family. These are the homework complaints I hear most often from parents at presentations and online:
Kids are exhausted after school and need a break. Having to come home and do homework makes children miserable, stressed and hate school and learning.
Homework ruins family time. Millions of families spend their evenings worrying, talking and arguing about homework instead of hanging out. What about family fun, learning and togetherness?
Homework takes away from outside activities. Who has time for scouts, sports, music lessons?
Homework causes conflict between parents. One parent wants the kids to buckle down and do that homework; the other wants to let those poor kids off the hook.
Parents feel that they are being asked to teach school, not just help a little with homework. Their children's homework is their homework.
What Do the Studies Tell Us About Homework?
There are a lot of homework studies, but there are also a lot of problems with those homework studies.
First of all, most of these studies are simply not well-done. The are too broad, they look at the wrong things and have too many variables.
What's worse, when the studies tell us things we don't want to believe, we ignore them. For example, there are numerous studies that prove that TV is not always bad; in fact, sometimes watching TV can actually help students! However, this doesn't jibe with what we've been told and expect to hear again. So, the information is ignored.
There is something we can learn from all this research, however:
Except for reading, homework is generally
POINTLESS until middle school!
That's right! There is no (or very little) benefit from homework for elementary school students; minimal benefit for middle school students and some benefit for those in high school.
For some students, homework can be especially damaging...
Homework Really Hurts These KidsStruggling learners.
If school work is difficult, it follows that homework will be, too. The difference is that at school there are teachers, aides and other resources available for struggling students. At home, these students are often on their own. Not everybody can hire a tutor.
English-language learners. Keep in mind that speaking a language and reading it in a textbook are two different things altogether. How can a student complete her homework if she cannot fully understand the directions and examples or read the literature selection? What is she supposed to do if most of it doesn't make sense?
Young students. All students need time to relax, rest and clear their heads after working hard, but young students really need time to play! It is unfair to ask kindergarten, first grade and second grade students to sit down and do homework. They have already had had a long day of learning, and they need to rest their minds and use their bodies.
Those with few resources. Unfortunately, not every student has a quiet, well-lit place to do their homework or access to computers and resource and reference materials. It can be incredibly difficult, if not impossible, for these students to complete homework well or at all.
Students in many of today's families. Not every child has a parent at home in the middle of the afternoon able to help with homework. Millions of families have two working parents or parents that work at night or one parent at home. Homework is difficult to fit in after a long, hard day of work, and it becomes another chore, another burden for the family.
Kids that have to do chores or take care of their siblings. Many students don't have the luxury of coming home and being able to do homework; they have to work! Household duties (cooking, cleaning, laundry), caring for siblings, working the family farm or business... this is how they spend their afternoons. Even if they could, somehow, figure it out, should we expect these students to do homework?
Why Parents Are Scared to
Consider No Homework
Homework has little benefit for most children and hurts so many! When I first read this research, I was floored, shocked, guilty and then, angry.
Why in the world are we (parents, teachers, and students) suffering through this? Why don't more of us decide that our children will do no homework?
Parents worry- it's what we do. Sometimes our tendency to worry stops us from making the best decisions. For example, we know that too much homework makes our children miserable and unhappy, but we don't do anything. What, exactly, are parents so worried about?
Our children will be penalized by teachers. I am sad to say that I used to make students stay in at recess if they didn't turn in their homework. I would never do this now, but even back then, I never penalized a student if a parent sent in a no homework note or called.
Most teachers are reasonable and want to see their students succeed. Really, they are not trying to ruin your life! It wasn't until I had school-age children of my own that I understood how much homework affects the entire family. Please, let the teacher know how homework is affecting your family!
Our children won't be prepared for homework later on in life. Parents worry that if their kids don't get used to doing homework in the early grades, they won't be able to "hack it" later. Following that line of thinking, we should make our children get jobs so they'll be used to it when they're adults!
"People don't really get better at coping with unhappiness because they were deliberately made unhappy when they were young." -Alfie Kohn
Torturing them at a young age will not somehow make our children better able to deal with homework and studying later. If anything, they will be burned out and resistant! Homework and hours of studying is possible for older, more mature students when they are physically and cognitively ready to focus for hours and absorb material and information.
There is a reason why a 1st grader has trouble sitting still and focusing on homework after six hours in school- they aren't supposed to do it!
We'll look bad. Ever feel as though you are the only family in the world that can't seem to figure out this whole homework thing? There two problems with this thinking:
1. It's wrong! A LOT of families are struggling with homework every single night. Please stop thinking that you are the only parent unable to get your kids to come home from school, eat a nutritious snack and do their homework with no prompting! I cannot tell you how many times I have been in a room of parents, and one person admits something ("My daughter cries over her homework every night!" for example) and suddenly every one else is bobbing their heads!
2. It prevents us from speaking up and doing something to change the situation. Nobody wants to look like the Incompetent Parent, so we pretend that everything is going just fine at our house. If more people would speak up, ask questions, lobby for no homework, refuse to force their children to do hours of meaningless homework... oh, what a happy world it would be!
Here are the homework questions to ask your child's teacher at Back-to-School Night. Print them out, take them with you and ask every one! I promise, you will be doing everybody (teacher, parents and students) a favor!
Oh, and if a teacher ever tells you that you are the only person that is complaining about too much homework, don't believe it! Here are a few things you can say:
"No, actually, a lot of parents feel this way. I guess I am just the first to say anything."
"Oh, I thought you'd like to know how parents feel."
"I'm concerned about what's best for my family."
"Really? Well, it's not working for my family."
Here is an article about working with teachers.
Let Your Kids Decide If They Want to
Do Homework (I'm Serious!)
I've told both of my children that it is their choice whether or not they do homework. My daughter attends middle school
, and she is assigned homework in all of her classes. As I mentioned, homework in middle school can play a positive role- if it is assigned with care and restraint. In my opinion, my daughter's school assigns entirely too much homework, and I have let teachers and administrators know exactly how I feel about it.
My daughter's first inclination is to do the exact opposite of whatever I suggest! So, if I tell her that she doesn't have to do all of her homework- especially over holidays and vacations- she wants to do it even more! I feel so strongly that some days should be strictly NO HOMEWORK! that I put my foot down. Ah, teenage contrariness...
When I told my 2nd grade son that he no longer had to do homework, he was so shocked that he didn't say one word for a full minute (if you knew my son, you would realize just how shocked he must have been!)
"No homework, huh?" He was worried that his teacher would be angry. I told him that I would speak to his teacher.
He said he liked doing reports on dinosaurs and stuff. I told him that he could still do reports.
After thinking and talking about it for awhile, my son realized that it was doing homework right after school that he didn't like. Like most kids after six hours of learning and running- and most adults after a long day at work- he needed a break.
He decided to do his homework in the morning.
So far, this has worked out fine. And, let me tell you, the entire family's evenings are much more enjoyable!
See? No homework might not even be the answer for your family. But, I want you to consider it.
Is ALL Homework Bad?
Actually, I don't hate all homework (just most of it!) When it is assigned thoughtfully, carefully and minimally, homework can add to a student's educational experience.
Find out which homework is good and which is bad!
Here are the reasons why homework continues to be such an entrenched American tradition.
Want More Homework Peace?How to Study for Spelling Tests.
Homework Tips for Busy Families
Dealing with Vacation Homework