(Attention: Parents of school aged kids) Don’t write off homework until you read this

The great debate over homework has been going on for decades. As a member of a family of educators from college level professors to elementary school teachers you may be surprised about my opinion on homework.

Even with my educational friendly background I’m not a stranger to recognizing excessive amounts of homework. Out of all the matters that are connected to the subject, the amount of homework always seems to be something to argue about.

WHAT EXPERTS ARE SAYING ABOUT HOMEWORK

Again and again articles like Is homework a necessary evil? bring up the following questions to test whether the amount of homework being given is valid.

What’s the purpose of homework? 

I grew up in a household where my mom would come home from school and grade papers each night.  Like her, many teachers argue that take-home lessons are key to helping students learn. 

With an education system that has relied on homework for so many years people often have bought into the idea that homework seems like common sense. Spend more time practicing multiplication or studying Spanish vocabulary and you should get better at math or Spanish. But it may not be that simple.

Last year my son’s first grade teacher who recently retired after 44 years of teaching used homework to reinforce ideas that they learned in class.  Most assignments were reading related since first grade is the year to push kids to learn to read.  She constantly would check in with me to ask whether the work was too hard or too easy and always stressed that homework must have a purpose.

Why are we giving it? 

Homework can indeed produce academic benefits, such as increased understanding and retention of the material, says Duke University social psychologist Harris Cooper, PhD, one of the nation’s leading homework researchers. 

Along with the “practicing to perfect our skills” thought Homework proponents also cite the nonacademic advantages it might confer, such as the development of personal responsibility, good study habits and time-management skills.

Who is it serving? 

It’s a common argument that socioeconomic status is a big determiner as to the advantage a kid has in their education.  Kids from wealthier homes are more likely to have resources such as computers, Internet connections, dedicated areas to do schoolwork and parents who tend to be more educated and more available to help them with tricky assignments. 

Who is it not serving?

On the other end of the spectrum and after seeing it first hand as distance learning has taken ahold across the country due to the COVID pandemic.  Kids from disadvantaged homes are more likely to work at afterschool jobs, or to be home without supervision in the evenings while their parents work multiple jobs, says Lea Theodore, PhD, a professor of school psychology at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia.

Grade level is also a determining factor in the benefit of homework. In a review of studies published from 1987 to 2003, Cooper and his colleagues found that homework was linked to better test scores in high school and, to a lesser degree, in middle school. Yet they found only faint evidence that homework provided academic benefit in elementary school (Review of Educational Research, 2006).

HOW MUCH HOMEWORK IS THE RIGHT AMOUNT?

There is a 10 minute rule that many experts refer teachers to.  This rule goes that there should be 10 minutes of homework for each grade level.  1st graders would be at 10 minutes while 12th graders would be at 120 of homework a night.

“A good way to think about homework is the way you think about medications or dietary supplements,” he said. “If you take too little, they’ll have no effect. If you take too much, they can kill you. If you take the right amount, you’ll get better.” — https://time.com/4466390/homework-debate-research/

Clearly moderation definitely is the key.  Researchers have cited drawbacks, including boredom and burnout toward academic material, less time for family and extracurricular activities, lack of sleep and increased stress.

SOME KIDS EXCEL AT HOMEWORK AND SOME DON’T – WHICH ONE IS YOUR KID?

All kids are different.  Different attention spans, different abilities, different learning styles.  I feel for the kids who are outside the mainstream bunch of kids that educators want to help by assigning homework.

My son is one of those kids that isn’t quite mainstream.  I’ll talk about it alot, but I can’t stress enough how hard school is for a dyslexic kid.  The boy is smart. He participates eagerly in school, but the mainstream reading and writing assignments he gets are a stressful thing for him to take on.  His ability is a little slower than grade level right now but he’s holding his own with a tutors help. 

A friend of my daughter finally moved to a school with no homework after a few disastrous years of trying to do it the way the public school system wanted them to do it.  The boy, who is now 10,  had a hard time focusing on his work in and out of the classroom.  His mother would tell me how they would struggle to get through what at the time didn’t seem like excessive work assigned by the teacher.  Four years, and a charter school with no homework later, it was a good fit for him to go to a school where homework wasn’t causing the whole family to have high anxiety.  Sometimes mental health is more important than following mainstream protocol.

My daughter does well with homework. I feel like she gets an assignment and takes it on as a challenge to get it done. I’m very hands off with her and her work assuming sometimes probably too much that she’s “getting it”. From time to time I reassure her that I’m here for her when it comes to work and I’ve gone above and beyond to help her figure out how to research things online and contact her teacher in times of real need.

What type of kid is your kid?

MY STANCE ON HOMEWORK

I’m empathetic to both sides of the debate.  As an educator influenced person I see how and why teachers are assigning work.  Teachers are judged in their jobs a lot of time by the scores of their students.  If students don’t excel the teacher is named as the reason for this.

On the other side of things as a former student and a parent I see how much time homework eats up.

In elementary school one year I had to read a book a week and write a book report on it. If you aren’t up to date with home many weeks of school there are, that’s around 40 book reports in a school year. Even with that experience in my past, I don’t let that cloud my judgment when it comes to the subject of after school work.

I think that homework is the connection between the teachers, students and parents. By working on homework with my kids I can see where they are at in their learning process. It’s one of the ways we realized that my son was dyslexic and how I know that my daughter struggles a bit with reading but excels in comprehension.

Without work going back and forth between home and school I fear that some parents would have no idea what their kids were learning.

I side with the idea that some work should be done at home.  

For older kids it’s a lesson in time management and responsibility.  You must be able to do all your academic work and your after school activities by managing your life the way you will be asked to as an adult.  While learning these skills under the supervision of a teacher and parent your child is sure to excel into adulthood.

Balance is the key though and it must be purposeful work. Reading requirements for homework I think should be a must. 20-30 minutes of reading is beneficial for kids not only for the practice minutes but also because it opens up kids to worlds in books that they don’t often see on television or in real life.

What’s your stance when it comes to the great homework debate?


Published by Patty Gordon

I’m Patty Gordon, a 40+ year old school lunch lady married to a crane mechanic. Our days are anything but normal as he works “construction worker hours” and I take care of our two elementary school aged kids, Chihuahua Mr Biggs, Pitbull Cali, and French Bulldog MooMoo. I blogged a few years ago under different names but have landed with the 365MomMe name this time around. The term 365MomMe comes from the idea that I’m a mom and I’m me 365 days a year. Kids call me Mommy but I see myself as MomMe.

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