Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Homework Struggle Part 2 of 3 (Elementary and Teen)

If you have any of your elementary children reading over your shoulder, you may want to switch to another screen right now.  This post will probably bring a rebellion on your hands if the truth came out.  And the truth is this: elementary kids do not score any higher on standardized tests if they have homework.  If the students were given homework or if they never had homework, they score the same.  If you don’t believe me check out these sources.  The Canadian Council on Learning concluded that with the exception of students who struggle, there is “little evidence”  that homework is even effective. [1]  In another article it stated that the benefits were much greater for older students than for younger.  It also concluded that students who were economically disadvantaged did not have much benefit from homework.[2] The findings for older students are different.  They show that middle school and high school students do benefit from homework.  [3]  The consensus seems to be that older students benefit from homework, but elementary students do not.  I have to then ask the question.  Why are we still giving elementary students homework?  I have a couple of theories as to why administrators encourage teachers to assign homework. 

I think one is just plain old fashioned public relations.  For the most part parents of elementary students believe that homework is beneficial for their students.  Most of them were in school during the 80’s when the big push for homework was in vogue.  They sat for many hours a week doing homework and they expect their children to do the same.  Another reason is the benefit for older students.  The belief is that if we start the students young then they will be trained to do homework when they are older and will reap the most benefits of it.  The third is that students are not doing homework to increase their scores on their standardized achievement tests.  They are doing homework for other reasons.  They are learning responsibility, discipline, and time management.    I showed this research to my two daughters who are now in middle school .   They were surprised that the science said that their elementary homework was a waste of time.  They both insisted that their homework helped them.  Obviously science does not support this, so this “helpfulness” was perceived.  As educators we all know that students have emotional learning needs as well as mental and physical. Another reason for doing homework is that it may give students a perceived feeling of being helped, when in reality they are not being helped.  But the perceived feeling is powerful enough to produce a measure of academic success even though in and of itself it cannot be measured.   

As parents I would like you to reflect on some of the feelings you get when you think about homework.  What were your feelings growing up doing your homework?  Were they good feelings?  Are they helping you today to do your job?  Are they helping you to give back to society? What are your feelings towards your children’s homework load?  Is it assigned fairly?  Is it helping your child to do better in school?  Does it give your child positive experiences about school and learning?  Is it helping your child to become a lifelong learner?  Do you feel that homework is the best way to teach your child self discipline, responsibility, and time management?  Do you feel that if a student only had reading homework  and studying for spelling tests until middle school that it might hamper the academic benefits of  their homework? 

Even though the research does not appear to support learning from homework for elementary students , we still have teachers who assign homework.  We still have impossible assignments and struggles to get homework completed on time.  In my next post I will share some things we have done to survive the homework struggle.  

I would love to read your comments and ideas!

[1] What The Research Says About Kids And Learning by Carly Weeks ( Nov 2009) as published online The Globe and Mail Online.
[2] What Research Says About The Value of Homework At A Glance a review published by researchers at Edvantia for the Center of Public Education.  (Cooper 1989; Hoover-Dempsey et al. 2001; Leone and Richards 1989; Muhlenbruck et al. 2000 ;McDermott, Goldmen and Varenne 1984; Scott-Jones 1984) published online at Center For Public Education.
[3] Home Work Pays Off by Richard Sousa and Hanna Skandera published online at Hoover Digest.


  1. Homework is of the devil. Our kids get rushed into school and pressured into learning things at a "standard" for all kids when many times if they are struggling its because they are not ready. Pushed through classes with comprehension, facts pushed upon them without a broad understanding of the "whys" and then the fun continues with after.school activities and homework and further.distractions to prevent them from time to explore, have fun, stretch the imagination which of course are very necessary and of course...less time for family which is destructive. No homework, no homework.

  2. We have a family policy. Work is work, home is home. We do not bring work home. Whether it be weeknights, weekend or vacations. This is our time after doing our job. We come home to relax and be a family without the pressure of the outside world. But society is not like this. We are nation of work alcoholics. Maybe someday we will find out we are wrong. But as far as I'm concern. All work, all school belongs at the workplace and at the school. Occasionally we brought work home. I worked from home. It did not work for me, none of us. I realized this after I quit the CM job. My husband step down from a position to lesser pay to stop bringing work home. It was not good for our family.
    Growing up I did better in the school environment. I learned better at school in the classroom with the teacher there. Homework at home in upper grades did not prepare me for who I am today. I have learned every job I have had on literally on the job from retail to claims clerk to CM Director to Health assistant. I did go to college for a degree in ECE, but most of my training/experience was the job. I have learned more from work experience than school. I think this is who I am and the way my DNA is designed.
    The other thing is I cannot teach the stuff he is learning or help him. It is way beyond me. I often feel helpless or dumb and I know I am not. May have learned it a million years ago but don't remember half of what I learned in school, except for the basics. I love to learn, always will. What school gave me was the love of learning & reading. They have not done that for my son.