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Should Homework Be Banned?

By carolyncastiglia |

homework school workA poll of parents in Wales with elementary and middle school-aged children reveals that one in six moms and dads believe their kids should not be assigned homework “because of the need to switch off after a day at school.”  One in five said their children receive too much homework, but 29% think kids are sent home without enough work.

What’s most interesting to me, though, is that 30% of the parents polled describe their child’s homework as “quite boring and repetitive.”  I couldn’t agree more.  I think it’s time homework got banned, but not because kids are doing too much during the day.  Rather, because elementary and middle school kids don’t do enough work in class.

An informal poll of the Strollerderby staff reveals that most of us feel we learned very little during our public school educations.  I don’t remember anything about history (especially military history, ie the dates of wars, etc.), and I don’t know much about science.  In high school, I had an amazing math teacher who worked with me every morning on my “homework,” which became school work, since I did it in her room.  Because of the one-on-one attention she gave me, I was able to process the subject in a way that made sense to me.  And because I understood what I was doing, I was actually interested in it.  So often I think teachers feel bogged down by all the material they have to go through, whether or not students are actually processing the information becomes a secondary concern.  It’s no secret that the testing associated with the No Child Left Behind Act forces schools to cram information down kids’ throats, but are they really learning anything?  And if they’re not learning anything in class, there’s nothing for homework to reinforce.  Homework becomes the learning tool, which I think leaves parents with a skewed burden of responsibility.  (According to the Welsh poll, 44.3% of parents sit with their children to complete the work together.)

Alfie Kohn, who has been described in Time magazine as “perhaps the country’s most outspoken critic of education’s fixation on grades [and] test scores,” is a firm believer that homework should be banned.  He says kids become frustrated and exhausted and could develop a loss of interest in learning when they are bogged down with take-home assignments.  Kohn also notes that “there is absolutely no evidence of any academic benefit from assigning homework in elementary or middle school.”

Kohn is quick to point out that it’s not just parents who don’t like homework; plenty of teachers feel it’s unnecessary, too, but are worried that parents will think “a lack of afterschool assignments reflects an insufficient commitment to academic achievement.”  He says, “Such parents seem to reason that as long as their kids have lots of stuff to do every night, never mind what it is, then learning must be taking place.”  Teachers who would rather not assign homework may worry that their school’s administration will think they’re simply slacking off or don’t want to have to grade papers.

My fellow SD blogger Madeline’s kids attend a charter school with a no homework policy, and she’s thrilled about it.  She says her school believes “home time is family time,” and they simply ask that “starting in 3rd grade, kids read 45 minutes to themselves every night.”  Sounds perfectly reasonable to me.  How about you?  Do you think homework should be banned?

Photo: apdk via Flickr

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About carolyncastiglia

carolyncastiglia

carolyncastiglia

Carolyn Castiglia is a New York-based comedian/writer wowing audiences with her stand-up and freestyle rap. She’s appeared in TONY, The NY Post, The Idiot’s Guide to Jokes and Life & Style. You can find Carolyn’s writing elsewhere online at MarieClaire.com and The Huffington Post. Read bio and latest posts → Read Carolyn's latest posts →

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15 thoughts on “Should Homework Be Banned?

  1. bob says:

    I benefited from homework where practice mattered (spelling) and having concepts re-explained by my parents helped (math). I also had some take-home projects that my parents were able to help with that were memorable and good experiences that reinforced learning. In high-school, take-home research papers were tortuous, but ultimately vital, because concentrated effort is impossible within hour-long class sessions. My parents carried a big burden helping me though many of these, but they were capable and willing, luckily for me. But I also had plenty of pointless time-sucking garbage that hurt my attitude, and my impression is that my be increasing for today’s kids. Overall, I think homework has it’s place — especially as kids get older, beyond elementary school. I also think it should be assigned judiciously. Only an occasional project in elementary school and perhaps some flashcard-type learning reinforcement. Maybe some very small worksheets intended mostly to keep parents involved and aware of progress. By the time high-school comes around, though, homework should be a regular part of life that kids need to manage. But it should still be assigned with real purpose, not just to assign something. And something should be done to make sure the load across all classes kept under a predetermined, age-appropriate average, because kids do need free time and families need time together.

  2. Cheree says:

    Assigning homework for the sake of having homework is a ridiculous concept with no research to show it is helpful. Projects, papers, etc that are grade appropriate that are given class time and home time seem to be much more effective teaching tools. When my children start elementary school, with apologies to teachers everywhere because i do admire many in your profession, i will challenge the entire concept of homework for homework’s sake.

  3. NC Mom says:

    Really the Strollerderby crew believes they learned very little in school? This is shocking, since you at least are a writer and I’m guessing you learned that in school. I bet you know what the civil war was, can point to the US on a map and can add numbers too, so I think you probably did learned more than ‘very little’.

    Anyway, homework for elementary students to learn how to do homework is a waste of everyone’s time. Once children enter middle school, projects and homework start to make sense, but before that I fully support banning it.

  4. diera says:

    I fully support banning homework at the younger ages, when there is *no* evidence that it is educationally helpful and it just leads to dread of school.

  5. Patricia Oaklief says:

    In the U.S., before we can answer the question of homework, we need to answer whether we’re having them study the right things. In all countries that beat us in math and science, the number of concepts taught per grade is about 5-7. In the U.S., it’s 35-50. Our curriculum is a mile long and an inch deep. We’re not focusing with enough depth on the right things.
    See: http://blog.amigram.com/parenting-and-grandparenting/even-students-in-slovenia-and-russia-do-better-than-ours-in-math-and-science/

  6. BlackOrchid says:

    I could not agree more with this! Homework is the bane of my existence. they start in Kindergarten – stuff that is impossible for the children to complete alone. I feel for parents of more than two kids!

    btw I want the name of that charter school! I think I’d MOVE HOUSE for that! what a great approach they have.

  7. jenny tries too hard says:

    I agree with bob, here. Homework that is practice, especially the copying of spelling words and multiplication tables and the like, is very beneficial. Those things are repetitive and boring, but so what? Things like our crazy English spelling (we laugh in the face of phonics) and multiplication tables have to be done with rote memorization…it makes sense to have the kids do that sort of stuff at home, taking probably 20-60 minutes a night, and leave class time for actually teaching concepts.

    I do agree that kindergarten doesn’t need homework…the kids can’t even the instructions, so the homework is really work for the parents. But midway through first grade I think kids can start to benefit from homework.

    Projects and research papers are something kids should all know how to do well before high school, too, so I totally support the quarterly projects my third-graders are expected to do. It’s very structured work this year, they tell the kids when to do each part and guide them through it, then fourth grade is slightly less structured than that, fifth less structured than fourth and so on until each part of a decent research project is familiar and they can do it on their own.

  8. TC says:

    Kids learn through repetition and practice. Banning homework to be convenient for parents?! Why not, let’s dumb down our educational system even more.

  9. LooLoo'sMommy says:

    I dont think banning homework entirely is the best decision. However homework is getting out of control. Projects, studying, spelling, reading I think theses are acceptable. Worksheets are not. If A teacher can not put the effort into coming up with a real assignment and review each students work rather than just check for correct answers, than homework should not be assigned. last year my brother was in fifth grade, I remember sitting at the table with him doing his homework. Starting right after school, then break for baseball practice. Then back to homework. Break for dinner, and back to homework. Then he needed to shower and go to bed. That’s insane.

  10. Rebecca says:

    I wouldn’t support banning it, but teachers need to realize they can’t assign as much busywork as many tend to. My little sis just graduated from high school. A typical day for her was wake up, finish one or two assignments, go to school, go to band practice, homework, often drama practice, dinner, and homework until bed which was usually between one and four a.m. Even if she didn’t have drama or band (though it is stressed that colleges want kids who have done extracurriculars) she would have still had homework until very late at night. At a certain point, homework becomes excessive and not helpful. My sister’s h.s. is way beyond that point.

  11. Tanya says:

    Every time I read another article about how much nonsense is expected of school age children I grimace at the amount of trouble my son and I are going to get into. I don’t follow rules I think are stupid and unreasonable and I suspect he’ll learn the same bad habit. Hopefully he’ll get my obsession with reading and learning by doing too though so it will all balance out in the end.

  12. Share310 says:

    I totally agree that homework should be banned for, at least, the primary grades. Not only is it a continuation of school work for the kids but it is also a dread for parents who are also wanting to have a little family time. Basic stuff like spelling words, reading and multiplication tables are necessary, of course, but other assignments often make kids dislike school.

  13. Katie says:

    I think that they give kids far to much homework to do every night. All of the homework takes up so much time that we rarely have time to do any of the actual studding that he needs to do. Homework just turns into something to keep the kids busy. I have a six year old for instance he gets off the bus at 4:00 and comes in and has a quick snack while he gets started on his homework and only stops to eat dinner get a bath and get ready for bed at 8:00 so he is doing his homework for prob 3 -3.5 hrs a night after being at school all day and still very rarely do we ever finish a nights worth of homework. There is no time for kids to be kids. There is not enough time for the kids to study and work on the areas they need to improve on they have to rush threw the homework to even get close to finishing any of the homework which leaves very little time for them to process what they are even doing. I would love for them to ban the homework (the way it is now) just send the kids home with a small amount of study materials or a weekly newsletter letting the parents know what the kids are doing so they can work with their kids in the areas they may need help in. Do away with all the busy work they send home for homework every night so our children can focus on the areas they need to improve on.

  14. Tiffany Johnson says:

    As an educator and a parent, I believe homework is a way to reinforce subjects taught in class. It also helps make a connection between home and school. This way parents see what their child is learning and if they are understanding it. I teach 1st grade and every Friday, the students took home a Friday folder whick contained notes to home, graded assignments, spelling words, and 1or 2 pages of homework that would be due by the next Thursday. the homework was concepts taught and practice in class all week, never nothing new. This was a great way for me to assest what I needed to revisit.

  15. Cheung Chit Long says:

    In our school, we have very few homework to do, so I think you guy should come to my school. But one thing is bad, we need to pay quite a lot of money to stay in the school.

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