YES FROM EXPERTS IN THE FIELD
NO FROM EXPERTS IN THE FIELD
AS PAREN TS, MOS T of us don’t ask if there is, in fact, an academic benefit to home-
work in elementary school. All the research points to the answer being an emphatic
no. Even Harris Cooper, the Hugo L. Blomquist professor in the Department of
Psychology & Neuroscience at Duke University, the strongest of homework advo-
cates, has changed his view over the years. He now acknowledges that, at the elemen-
tary level, homework has no academic benefit and can be detrimental to kids.
Beyond the research findings, which are clear, the real issues with homework are
family issues, and it’s time to acknowledge those. You need to ask, “Who controls my
child’s out-of-school time? Who determines how my family should spend their time?
What happens to my educational agenda for my own child when schoolwork crowds
out our family time?”
While most parents are willing to turn their kids over to a school each day for
schooling, should they turn the kitchen table over to the school too? Parents want to
build a rich family life, and homework interferes with that building process. Parents
have things they want to teach their children, whether it’s cooking or fixing cars, and
homework gets in the way of those parent-driven educational experiences. Kids have
passions they want to pursue, and homework often diminishes or eliminates time for
those activities, as students must complete the unfinished work of the school day.
We are seeing increases in childhood obesity, stress in children as they get older
and increased pressure to achieve academically. Homework contributes to this downward health spiral because kids can never escape schoolwork, even over the summer,
when required-reading lists come home in June.
At the end of the day, it’s about how parents want to balance work, family and
educational goals. And they should be free to define those boundaries for their family. Absent compelling research that supports homework’s prowess as an engine of
academic growth, parents need to work with their child’s school to start a schoolwide
discussion about homework. Families interested in clearing the kitchen table can find
support and advice from the growing Healthy Homework movement (racetono
KEEPING HOMEWORK, BUT making it relevant and interactive for families, is an
excellent way to give children richer, more meaningful learning opportunities beyond
the school setting.
Too often, homework is merely more schoolwork that is sent home with limited
Some parents may value a heavy dose of nightly schoolwork as a way to help their
child get ahead in their education. But I argue that the best homework assignments
encourage family engagement to nurture children’s curiosity while making their
schoolwork relevant to their lives. Homework should provide an opportunity for
families to reinforce the lessons taught at school and personalize learning with their
children, but it should not dominate time after school. Children need time to play
with friends, participate in sporting and artistic experiences, and enjoy recreational
reading to and with family.
Homework assignments at the elementary school level should be planned with
an emphasis on quality over quantity. For example, homework can bring the family
together for valuable real-world problem-solving opportunities, such as:
• Reading and implementing a recipe to prepare food for the family meal.
• Writing and addressing birthday cards to send via mail or the internet.
• Computing how much paint to buy to redecorate the child’s bedroom.
• Clipping coupons to go grocery shopping and calculating the savings.
• Searching the internet for driving directions or needed information for a trip.
Time is short. How we spend each precious moment with our children is important. By not eliminating homework, but instead rethinking what’s assigned and considering why it is sent home, teachers can encourage parents to pursue quality
one-on-one family time with their children as they take part in activities that enrich
the parents’ and children’s lives and strengthen their family. Through this personalized learning time, children can be nurtured to become caring, compassionate adults
who will similarly work with their children in years to come. C
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is a Distinguished
at the University of
Arizona and coauthor of The End
of Homework: How
Families, Overburdens Children, and
2001; not available
is a professor of
and director of
elementary education at the University of Indianapolis
( uindy.edu) School