Why Homework is Necessary

Elementary School Hw

I come to you in defense of homework. It seems homework has gotten a bad reputation, and some believe it should be banned from elementary school. I beg to differ.

The Today Parents website posted an article by Heather Shumaker entitled ‘Here’s why I said no to homework for my elementary-aged kids.’ Ms. Shumaker makes a persuasive argument. She noted a review conducted by Dr. Harris Cooper, a psychologist and neuroscientist at Duke University. Dr. Cooper reviewed 180 research studies and found that homework has no evidence of academic benefit for elementary school students.

This seems overwhelming. However, not all homework is created equal. There are many instances when homework is mere busy work with no clear educational goal or purpose. Often times, school administration and parents look askance at teachers who do not give homework. After all, teachers are constantly reminded about ‘rigor.’ The question goes – How could a teacher be challenging his/her students to reach their full potential if he or she does not give homework?

So, if teachers could give homework as they see fit without fear of administration and parents, the amount and frequency of homework would lessen. However, the homework that remains would have an educational benefit. I’m confident future studies will confirm this.

Ms. Shumaker also argues that her 6-year-old needed to time to play after school and simply be a kid. Point taken – childhood should be a fun time full of all kinds of growth.

Some of this need used to be filled in school. Remember when schools had recess? Today, there is less time for recess, and some schools have canceled it all together.

What has caused this dubious decision? I believe a contributing factor is the mass amount of standardized testing. Preparing students for tests is an addition to the already growing list of learning requirements. The added workload leaves teachers scrambling to find time to get to all the requirements. Besides the time crunch created by excessive testing, teachers and administrators are under intense pressure to raise test scores. Using my own children as a sample study, excessive testing also causes stress on the students.

Due to the time crunch, teachers may simply need to assign homework in order to ensure their students keep up with the curriculum. Sadly, this is a double whammy when it comes to kids being kids: it has forced some schools to cancel or reduce recess and made homework even more necessary.

Ms. Shumaker also says that homework delays development of responsibility, and it’s a theft of time. I beg to differ.

Homework can help a child learn about responsibility. A child, with the help of his/her parent, can learn how to manage his/her time. They want to go out and play or watch their favorite youtube video or go to soccer practice. All fine and good. However, homework needs to be taken care of as well. Together with a parent, the child can decide when each activity will get done. Of course there will be bumps along the way and maybe even a tantrum or two, but that is part of the learning process.

I believe that teachers have a right to give a reasonable amount of homework that serves an educational purpose. The amount of homework might have to grow due to the ever rising learning requirements and excessive standardized testing.

Ultimately, if we as a society want to be rid of homework, then we must re-evaluate other choices we have made.

9 thoughts on “Why Homework is Necessary

  1. I don’t mind reasonable amounts of homework. It gets kids used to real life, where sometimes we have to stop having fun to get a job done.

    What’s surprising to me is how homework affects our kids very differently. Our daughter just opens up her book and plows through what little she doesn’t get done in her seminar class, where our son has a fit and it ruins his evening. Sometimes it’s actually very challenging work in a subject he already struggles with, but sometimes he’s just being a goober and refusing to do with work.

    I have a feeling this is how they will approach most things for the rest of their lives. 🙂

    • Responsible amounts is definitely up the alley I am referring to.
      It’s interesting that they react to it differently. It’s certainly possible that it is how they will handle responsibilities later on.

  2. I don’t mind a reasonable amount, but the problem is that when you start taking the advance classes, there is more homework – and when school gets out at 4:45, and you have a sport, you don’t leave – and (for example) you practice, change, eat, perform and get home at 9 or 10 pm, and then you have a couple hours of homework.
    So, let’s go back to when they are younger, they get picked up from school by the day care van, who takes them back for a snack and then play time, mom/dad picks them up at 6, and feeds and bathes them and gets them in bed by 8/8:30 even… when is there time for homework?
    Sure, homework can be vital – but several hours a night is a luxury not everyone has.
    Reasonable amount is fine – but when you have 7 teachers all assigning “reasonable” amounts, it can quickly become unreasonable.

    • I get what you mean. I tried to keep this in mind when teaching h.s. but know some teachers seem to forget that their class is no the only one.The advanced classes are more challenging in so many was.

  3. I agree with the responsibility that the task of doing homework can create. It helps build time management skills (but so do other activities/chores that we have to navigate). I disagree with the amount of homework, which, like you, I believe stems from too much class time dedicated to prepping for standardized tests, so teachers have to pile on the homework to make sure students keep up with the curriculum. This is my biggest sticking point with homework in the early grades. There should be no prep for standardized test. It defeats the purpose of the tests. I don’t disagree with standardized testing, per se. I think the tests are necessary for measuring students, teachers, processes and patterns. But prepping for them distorts the results and interferes with children’s lives on so many levels (i.e., family life due to too much homework to keep up, recess time at school, too much stress to perform well, etc.)

    I like homework as a review of what was done in class, and I do that with my kids anyway, in a way that doesn’t take away from family time (i.e., family chats about school subjects over dinner, math practice while taking a walk by the river, math and writing games with the family after dinner, read-alouds before bedtime). I know a lot of parents don’t do those kinds of things (my sister comes to mind), preferring to leave the schooling to the teachers, but we do, and loading homework on top of that makes for a stressful evening.

    To your point…”The amount of homework might have to grow due to the ever rising learning requirements and excessive standardized testing. Ultimately, if we as a society want to be rid of homework, then we must re-evaluate other choices we have made.”

    I think it’s time to re-evaluate. Halt the “ever rising learning requirements and excessive standardized testing.” Let kids be kids. That’s how they learn best.

    • Thanks for your reply.
      I like the way you handle the homework review in your house. It’s cool way to help your kids and foster conversation.
      I think standardized tests and curriculum need to be closely aligned so that merely teaching the curriculum is a way of preparing for the test.
      Let kids be kids sounds good to me.

  4. There is a lack of balance with homework that makes me grumpy. When it reinforces what was learned and helps to prepare the kids for the next step it is fine with me.

    I just can’t stomach the busy work aspect.

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