An unnecessary evil

“First, no research has ever found a benefit to assigning homework (of any kind or in any amount) in elementary school. In fact, there isn’t even a positive correlation between, on the one hand, having younger children do some homework (vs. none), or more (vs. less), and, on the other hand, any measure of achievement. If we’re making 12-year-olds, much less five-year-olds, do homework, it’s either because we’re misinformed about what the evidence says or because we think kids ought to have to do homework despite what the evidence says.”

Often, I come across parents who express joy at the thought that their kindergartener came home with homework, and more often than not, this is the case starting the first day of school. While visiting family in Toronto, Canada, we all thought it was so cute that my then 2 and half year old son would do ‘homework’ mimicking his much older cousins. And he’d play the role of the studious little guy for all of five minutes and then start tossing pillows.

As a teacher, and specifically, a teacher of special education, I’ve always wondered about the benefits of homework and, in particular, what purpose does it serve for children, especially at a very young age. I am a firm believer against homework or having homework with no purpose besides completing what you already know. If it adds to the learning, I’m all for it. But if it serves simply to appease the parents – “Yes, my child’s school is excellent. Homework from the first day.”   – then it makes me wonder, who really is benefitting from all this ‘busy work’. For such a young age it seems to take away from the learning at home that can enrich and enhance the learning done at school.

I also believe there needs to be a period where children are allowed to let what they’ve learned simmer. Give them opportunities to reflect on their learning, rather than moving to the next item on the list. In the growing trend that is the standardized testing environment, that is easier said than done.

When I came across this article by education expert, Alfie Kohn, I was more than intrigued. What are you thoughts about homework and its purpose for elementary-aged children?

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~ by Omaira on November 27, 2012.

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