If your kids started school in August, you’re probably already knee deep in this.
If your kids started in September like mine this is probably just starting to become an issue.
Homework for preschool and elementary school kids.
Homework in pre-school, meaning either actual preschool or kindergarten, and elementary grades.
First, let’s put this in context:
A 2004 study from the University of Michegan found that homework time for elementary aged students has risen 51% from 1981, and a University of Maryland study put it at 145% over a similar period.
That’s as of 2004 which at the time of recording this is almost 20 years ago.
That is an astronomical jump!
It also means that, most of the people who are currently “the best and the brightest” were not subject to these insane homework standards.
This is mind-blowing considering the peer-reviewed research very strongly shows that elementary homework does not actually benefit students.
It does not result in better academic outcomes.
Harris Cooper, a neuroscientist and psychologist from Duke University, did a compilation of over 120 studies on homework in 1989 and revisited it in 2006.
The result of compiling all that research was that time spend on homework had no correlation to elementary school student’s academic achievement.
In fact, it’s been shown to hurt kids’ attitudes towards school and learning.
It’s not until grade 7 that there are moderate advantages to doing homework, and those advantages are mainly in forming habits, not academically.
It gets middle schoolers in the habit of carving out time for studying and developing systems to keep track of assignments.
Even in highschool, more than two hours of homework isn’t beneficial.
If there’s no evidence to homework has any academic benefits for young kids and in fact hurts their love of learning and participating in school…
Which is incredibly dangerous given that at the end of elementary school kids still have about 6 years of school left ahead of them.
WHY ARE WE DOING THIS?!
I could rant for hour about the contempt modern society holds for rest and relaxation and joy and play but you’ve heard it all before in various episodes so I’ll spare you.
Basically it boils down to:
We genuinely beleive as a society that the harder you work, the bigger the benefit. Even though the research and evidence say that correlation does not exist.
Grab the scripts for crazy-making behaviour and know exactly what to say next time your toddler, preschooler, or kindergartener isn't listening.
What do you do if your child comes home with a homework packet?
First, email or message your child’s teacher.
Thank her for the homework packet, and then state that given the research that homework does not validate an academic benefit to elementary students, you’re opting your child out of homework.
They’re welcome to send the packet home if they wish, and if your child demonstrates a desire to do it you’ll of course allow them to and send whatever gets done back but this will not be a regular part of your nightly routine.
Most teachers who have been educated in the last decade already know this, but they’re stuck in very outdated education systems that demand homework be made available so they have to send it home.
Once we push back, they can safely blame us if the administration gets on their back.
There’s also generally a very vocal minority of parents have not read the research, are determined that drilling their child on their academics is the only route to success, and are demanding more homework than the teacher is providing…which I just find odd.
There’s so many academic programs out there for children that if you really want your kid doing 2-3 hours of homework a night.
There are so many resources available to do that.
The idea of opting your child out of homework is a lot scarier than actually doing it.
Over the last 5 years my clients have gone from getting epic amounts of push-back to almost none.
I’d say 90% of my clients get none at all.
Those of you who are in that 10% who do get push-back, you will have to gather your evidence.
If you’re in the States, you’re actually lucky because a “free and appropriate” education is enshrined in your federal education law.
Which means the onus is on the school to prove that what they’re doing is appropriate, the onus is not on your to prove to them that what they’re doing is not.
Most schools are well aware of the research showing no correlation between academic achievement and homework, generally once you provide your evidence, they back off.
We have a resource list in ParentAbility of peer-reviewed research so that when this comes up for my clients they don’t have to go poking around the dark corners of the internet looking for that evidence.
Heather Shumaker has a good reference list in her book “It’s Okay to Go Up the Slide.”
Alfie Kohn has some good references in his books too.
Google scholar is your friend.
If your child is in a private school you should have even more leverage because you’re literally paying for a service and it is your discretion whether or not to take full advantage of that service.
Here in Canada elementary homework is becoming rarer and rarer.
I haven’t heard of kids who are in general education receiving homework in elementary school recently, it seems to be relegated to kids in programs like International Baccalaureate and Cogito.
What should our kids be doing other than homework after school?
Running around outside, building snow forts, playing sports, doing art, listening to music, extra-curricular activities, spending time with their family members and friends.
The only kind of “homework” that shows any benefit at all for this age group is reading whether that’s being read to, or independent reading.
This expands their horizons by exposing them to new ideas and perspectives, exposes them to a much higher number of words in a day- expanding their vocabulary, promotes bonding with those reading or being read to, and cements early literacy skills.
When I speak to new clients who hare screwing up the courage to opt their child out of homework, they often say that the first thing to go in an evening is reading time because homework is taking too long.
If you’re worried about your child’s academic performance, swap your priorities! Spend that hour reading instead.
I hope this has given you something to chew on, and I really really encourage you to take a deep breath and send that email if it’s warranted.
Generally, in my experience at least, once one family stands up and says no we’re not doing this, more families follow suit and before you know it homework is gone for the classroom as a whole…much to the relief of their teacher.
While it might be scary to draw that line in the sand, you may be the one who is able to spur a culture change for your child’s entire school.
If you need some encouragement or support- make sure you come join us in the Parenting Posse where we have over 10k parents who are ready to support you.