Don't Bother Sending It Home, I'm Not Forcing My Grade-Schooler To Do Homework

by Maria Guido
Originally Published: 

Studies show homework doesn’t benefit young children, so why are we forcing them to do it?

No, my elementary-aged children will not be doing homework. Why? Because they don’t have to. Schooling is mandatory, homework for elementary children isn’t. And forcing my 5-year-old child to sit down and concentrate on homework after he’s already spent six hours at school is something I actually have control over.

There are plenty of things parents are complaining about these days, and they have every right to. Recess is vanishing and high-stakes testing is putting a strain on teachers and students alike. Art for art’s sake is disappearing and so are daily physical education classes. Kids in my local school district get one 20 minute recess a day and a P.E. class every four days. Maybe we can’t physically go into school and force administrators to give our children more time to play. We can lay down the law in our own homes though, and refuse to take any more of our child’s precious free time away by forcing them to learn “responsibility” for completing homework at age five.

Anyone who’s done homework with a kid in elementary school knows that it’s basically just an extended period of begging them to focus and finish. No thanks. I’m good. Is my kid going to be held back because he didn’t draw 14 triangles or circle a bunch of different trucks on a page? I don’t think so.

You may have had some fleeting thoughts about how ridiculous it is that your grade-schoolers were coming home with a ton of homework, but did you know opting out is an option? So often we fall into this “must follow the rules” mentality when it comes to dealing with any kind of bureaucracy that we forget that we actually have choices. What would happen if we followed the advice of basically every study out there and stopped asking our elementary school children to do homework? Pretty sure the earth wouldn’t spin off its axis.

In her article, Why Parents Should Not Make Kids Do Homework, Heather Shumaker — a self-described “advocate for play” — makes the point that parents should not be making their young children do homework: at least not for hours every night. “A comprehensive review of 180 research studies by Duke University psychologist and neuroscientist Harris Cooper shows homework’s benefits are highly age dependent: high schoolers benefit if the work is under two hours a night, middle schoolers receive a tiny academic boost, and elementary-aged kids? It’s better to wait,” Shumaker writes.

We’ve all heard the complaints about standardized testing. But with such a huge focus on it, students are being sent home with homework that will hopefully help them “prepare” for the tests. Oh, please. Parents are struggling with children and children are getting frustrated. Why don’t you try to take an informal poll at school pickup next week. Find out how many parents in your kid’s elementary school class have finished their child’s homework for them this week. Whoever doesn’t raise their hand is a liar.

After reviewing extensive research on the effects of homework on young children, Valerie Strauss, a reporter who covered education for The Washington Post, wrote:

“First, no research has ever found a benefit to assigning homework (of any kind or in any amount) in elementary school. In fact, there isn’t even a positive correlation between, on the one hand, having younger children do some homework (vs. none), or more (vs. less), and, on the other hand, any measure of achievement. If we’re making 12-year-olds, much less five-year-olds, do homework, it’s either because we’re misinformed about what the evidence says or because we think kids ought to have to do homework despite what the evidence says.”

So what are we doing? The answer to that is easy: what we’re told. We get that little homework folder and we’re told to make them do it. But why? If we know our elementary-aged kids aren’t even focusing on their homework, much less finishing it or benefiting from it — why are we making them do it?

The internet went crazy this week when a teacher’s no-homework policy went viral — proving we’re all dying to take this load off ourselves, and our elementary school kids. With research claiming it’s pretty useless at such a young age, why don’t we?

I’ll report in a few weeks when I inform my kindergartner’s teacher that he will not be participating in homework assignments.

I’m sure that’s going to go over well.

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