Why I Dislike Homework and How the Research Backs Me Up

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Do your kids spend hours a night doing homework?

Mine do.

And I hate it– maybe even more than they do.

Seriously, I’d much rather that my kids get much needed down-time to: play, nap, read, run, swing, dance, twirl, build, create, draw, invent, or design.

Yet I sit inside with them, trying to pretend that I’m enthusiastic and supportive, helping them to stay focused, answering questions that come up. Ugh. (And don’t get me started trying to describe the melt-downs when you have a child with Sensory Processing Disorder and ADHD. Homework is that much more of a nightmare.)

Remember when I asked you on Facebook about homework? Most of you didn’t support homework either.

And to be clear, I didn’t care for homework as a fifth grade teacher either. My students rarely had homework unless they didn’t finish something in class. (Lesson to use your time wisely.) No homework meant that they could read, play, do sports, have family time . . .

The majority of research supports no homework. (So does common sense, one could argue, . . . at least, I’d argue anyway.)

what does the research say about homework and why I hate it

Homework Research

1. There is no evidence showing that early elementary homework is beneficial (Cooper, 1989 a; Cooper, Robinson & Patall, 2006) ASCD with the exception of  some studies showing correlation on math tests. (NCTM, 2008)

2. Too much homework affects a child’s sleep. Lack of sleep negatively impacts brain function. (Wolfson, 1998)

3. Homework is detrimental to student achievement and makes children depressed. (Australian Institute of Family Studies following 10,000 students)

4. Too much homework is not helpful to student achievement. (Cooper, Civey, and Patall, 2006.)

5. Mixed research showing homework developing good study habits – some research shows yes, some no. (Cooper, 1989a, Cooper, Robinson, & Patall, 2006) ASCD (Kohn, 2006 The Homework Myth.)

6. Time spent on homework for secondary students sometimes correlates to achievement but not with elementary students and not consistently for secondary. (Plude, Enns, and Broudeur 1994) NCTM and (Maltese, and Fan, 2012)

7. Many countries (Japan, Denmark and Czech Republic) with high test scores have instructors who assign no or little homework. (Mullis, Martin, Gonzalez, Kelly and Smith, 1998.)

You’ll find more research on two articles from which I learned the most and synthesize the homework research: Jane Bluestein’s blog and on ASCD.

Recommendations for Homework (if given)

While I’ll always believe that homework should be little to none, IF homework is assigned here are my recommendations.

Homework should:

– be able to be completed independently, without the help of an adult

– have been well-covered in class and is an opportunity to deepen knowledge

– promote mastery of a skill the student hasn’t yet mastered with an engaging task

– be clear and purposeful to the learner

– give students autonomy to learn a topic interesting to them

– be coordinated with other teachers so there isn’t an overwhelming amount

be differentiated (considering different abilities of the learners, different modalities of learning, etc.)

I think less homework just makes sense. 

But there’s the rub. What’s up with all the homework our kids are assigned?

What do you think?

Have you advocated for less homework in your child’s life? Or would you do so now that you know the research and know you’re not alone? Please elaborate in the comments. 

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  1. I believe in a moderate amount of homework. I’m not sure where your data about Japan comes from, but having nieces and nephews who attend public school in Japan, I know they have plenty of homework to do. In addition, the majority of Japanese kids attend tutoring sessions after school AND cram schools on Saturdays. Maybe that’s how they get those high test scores.

  2. I know our schools give too much homework; I’ve raised two boys who had project after project throughout their elem., middle school and high school years.

  3. The over loaded homework may affect students sleep. homework should be not over loaded. it may take minimum time to do homework in this way students may mot be fed up of homework.

  4. As a 5th grade science teacher, I give homework for 3 reasons:
    1) One night during the week they get a 5-sentence writing assignment.
    2) Every Friday my students have a (very short) quiz. I ask them to look over their journals nightly for 5 minutes.
    3) Anytime they don’t finish something in class – which is rare – it becomes homework.
    I agree that homework in lower grades is overdone.