Let’s start with this zinger:
“There is no evidence that any amount of homework improves the academic performance of elementary students.” – Harris Cooper, Duke University
Then why are millions of kids across America coming home with packets and workbooks and other busy assignments, you ask?
Well, some argue that homework teaches responsibility and helps keep parents involved in what’s happening at school.
And researchers are calling, NAH.
There’s been a longstanding “rule” that ten minutes of homework per grade level you’re in is the sweet spot. That’s the amount of time spent on homework that will reap the greatest rewards. Too little and its ineffective. Too much and it just becomes a time-sucking burden.
Starting in the 7grade, studies do show a positive correlation between homework and better grades and standardized test scores. But before then? Nothing.
Leading researcher Harris Cooper says he can’t find anything positive about giving ANY homework to children below a 6-grade level, and, in fact, may cause them to have negative feelings about learning and school.
And as for the parent-student-school connection? It looks like it causes more friction in families and more dependence on parents to actually get the homework done, rather than warm, fuzzy nightly check-ins.
While some parents and teachers may scoff and fear children are losing an academic edge by not having take-home assignments, others took a hard look at the research and ran with it.
Remember in 2016, when Texas elementary teacher Brandy Young sent home a note saying she would not be assigning any homework that year? Like, ZERO. Instead, she encouraged families to use that time to eat dinner and read together and get kids to bed early.
While some of the students did still want some homework, and others needed further practice on specific classroom topics, she says that, two years later, she still believes in the policy.
"Kids can conquer mountains when given encouragement, choices, and support!" said Young. "They want and need to be nurtured as a whole child. I believe the no-packet theory supports that effort." – Brandy Young, Teacher
I love the idea of supporting our kids’ growth as “whole” people. It’s not just about pounding home a Physics concept or knowing exactly what Pythagoras has to do with anything. This is where I think some European countries are really getting things right, educationally-speaking.
By offering more time for free play at recesses, classes focused on building emotional intelligence, and more time for teachers to collaborate with colleagues on best practices, Finnish schools in particular are rising to the top in reading, mathematics, and science.
What? You mean that not forcing after-hours busy work is actually making kids smarter?
Yeah, feels like a big duh to me, too.
Kids need space and time to let their brains relax in order to grow. They need plenty of play and outdoor time. They need the chance to be with family and friends. All of these things contribute to happier, healthier, and yes—even smarter—humans.
So, the next time your kid comes home with what feels like unnecessary busy work…what will you do about it?