Health

Why One Mom Said ‘No’ To Homework For Her Kids

Research is showing little benefit to homework for elementary-aged kids.

Listen up! Everyone who hates homework, please raise your hand. Ooo!! Ooo! Me! Me!!!!

It seems as though homework is just one of those necessary evils in life—but what if there was another way? What if there were an alternative universe without homework? What if you just said no? And, not just “hey kids let’s have a homework free night!” I’m talking no homework—ever.

Heather Shumaker, is the author of two parenting books and an early childhood education expert who strongly believes homework is bad for kids. And, apparently she’s done her “homework” because her view is based on strong scientific evidence.

“Schooling may be mandatory, but homework isn’t,” Shumaker says. “Home time is family time. Kids need time to play and reboot for the next school day, not go into overtime.”

When her own son was 6, she said she knew instinctively what was best for him. “I told our teacher our family wouldn’t be participating in homework. We’d be supporting learning our own way.”

She suggests parents take a look at the research and then have a meaningful conversation with teachers and principals to discuss what is best for your family.

If you need a little motivation to have your own homework talk and get behind Shumaker’s message, check out these facts.

1. There is no evidence that homework improves the academic performance of elementary students.

Dr. Harris Cooper, a psychologist and neuroscientist at Duke University, conducted a comprehensive review of nearly 180 research studies and found that homework has no evidence of academic benefit for elementary school students.

2. Homework can actually cause emotional problems and negative attitudes toward school.

A study published in the American Journal of Family Therapy suggests homework is bad for kids’ health. According to Stephanie Donaldson-Pressman, contributing editor of the study and clinical director of the New England Center for Pediatric Psychology, the amount of homework kids receive is absolutely shocking.

“The data shows that homework over this level (10 minutes per grade) is not only not beneficial to children’s grades or GPA, but there’s really a plethora of evidence that it’s detrimental to their attitude about school, their grades, their self-confidence, their social skills, and their quality of life,” she told CNN.

3. Joy is part of learning.

“Kids are wired to learn just as they are wired to play,” Shumaker says. “But homework at a young age can squash that out. Learning gets a bad name. Learning gets equated with homework.”

4. Homework has benefits, but its benefits are age-dependent.

“Homework belongs in high school,” says Shumaker. “In middle school, there’s slight academic benefit, and none in the elementary years.”

Both the National Education Association (NEA) and the National PTA (NPTA) recommend setting a limit on after-school work. They support a standard of “10 minutes of homework per grade level.” So, for kids in first grade, that means 10 minutes a night, while high school seniors could get two hours of work per night.

5. Children need downtime to thrive.

“At all grade levels, doing other things after school can have positive effects,” Cooper says. “To the extent that homework denies access to other leisure and community activities, it’s not serving the child’s best interest.”

Denise Pope, PhD, a professor of education at Stanford University agrees. “Little kids and big kids need unstructured time for play each day,” she says. “Certainly, time for physical activity is important for kids’ health and well-being.”

If you want to find out more about Shumaker’s thoughts on homework, pick up a copy of her book.

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