Do you think homework is a beneficial tool to better your child’s early educational development?
Recently Duke University released findings from several studies conducted regarding children and homework. Of the over 180 studies, most of them seem to point to the same conclusion: Homework is not beneficial for children in elementary school, only marginally beneficial to middle school age children, and gives the most benefit to high school age students. Has homework become passé?
To break the study findings down further, let’s take each age group. For elementary school age children, those in grades kindergarten through fifth grade, (or roughly age five through eleven years) the studies conclude having homework does not increase these children’s performance in school. Dozens of children showed no added benefit in grades regardless if they had one, two, or even three hours of homework each night. It’s better for a child to be able to play and ‘be a kid’ at these ages than to sit doing homework.
For middle school age kids, those in grades sixth through eighth (or roughly twelve through fourteen years), the benefits in school performance for completing homework were marginal to the point of almost being none. In addition, these are often the students most involved in after school events such as dance, music, band, track, baseball, etc. With so many demands on time, is it useful for kids to participate in assignments which studies say do not help them achieve higher in school?
For high school students, those in grades nine through twelve, having assignments at home proved to lead to higher grades. High school students benefited more than in grades. However, according to the Duke studies, they learned invaluable life skills such as task management, multitasking, working as a team, and also completing assignments by the expected deadline.
So what does this mean for your child, regardless of his or her age? While parents have long been the ‘guardians’ of ensuring homework is completed, every parent has experienced those days when ripping the moon from the sky is easier than getting a child to finish assignments. The above studies seem to side with children who don’t want to sit for hours at home working on spelling words or math problems after six to eight hours in school. Should parents refuse to make their children do homework?
While the Duke University studies are eye opening, they really aren’t that new. As a parent, I often wondered exactly how writing a spelling word ten times really helped my children learn its spelling. Hours spent researching and writing reports on foreign countries resulted in project boards which after turned in and graded, went into the trash or the far corners of the dusty attic. I didn’t see the benefit in my children doing homework. I did see the benefits of them being able to play outside, participate in sports, or practice a musical instrument.
However, as my kids got older, having homework seemed to ‘ground’ them. This was especially true for my daughter, who was diagnosed at age ten with ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder). Having the nightly assignments gave her focus and also helped her ‘get in the routine’ of having to meet a deadline and ensure she finished a task. In her critical teenage years, she had something that led her to better grades: her homework scores.
Our children have the right to the best education we can give them. Maybe with the release of these findings, the way schools and teachers make assignments will change. Until that time, however, experts and especially educators will continue to advise parents to ‘grin and bear it’ with regards to homework.