The Facts on Homework

Homework is an outdated demand that we continue to place on our children. In this post I’m asking why?

You may be a teacher. You may be a parent. Either way homework is a topic that’s relevant to you. And that’s because the majority of Australian students are being set academic tasks to complete after school, from as young as age five.

Long ago I made the decision to resist this ancient ritual. After school my children are free to play, move, connect, cook, read and do as they please. In 2015 I shared the story of my homework rebellion on 60 Minutes. And it struck a chord with many of you.

What I’ve realised since that time however, is that the majority of you won’t stand up and say no without a big push in the right direction. You will keep setting homework, you will keep enforcing homework, until you see the facts in black and white. So let’s dive in.

 

Two Crucial Questions

When considering the necessity of homework, we need to ask ourselves two key questions:

  1. When devoting time after school to homework, what experiences are children missing out on?

  2. By doing homework, what are children gaining?

 

What children stand to lose

Freedom, choice, relaxation, joy, connection, movement, play, rejuvenation, life-skills and time to process the day.

“Most kids hate homework. They dread it, groan about it, put off doing it as long as possible. It may be the single most reliable extinguisher of the flame of curiosity” Alfie Kohn

 

What children stand to gain

According to the research, zilch.

That’s right. There are no benefits from children engaging in homework in the primary years of school and very limited benefits in the secondary years of school.

Want to go deeper? Let’s look at the specific findings from researchers.

  • Children don’t understand the purpose of homework. “Young students mostly said they did their homework to avoid punishment or the anger of their parents and teachers” (Coutts, 2004)

  • There is no significant relationship between the amount of homework a student completes and their performance on tests or assessment tasks (Cooper, 1998).

  • Homework has a negative impact on the intrinsic motivation of students (Patall, Cooper and Wynn, 2010).

  • Parent involvement in homework promotes its completion but at a high emotional cost, such as increased pressure, tension in the parent-child relationship, “and the belief by students that they have no control over their own achievement outcomes” (Patall, Cooper and Robinson, 2008).

  • Students who are self directed learners and performing well academically, are those who may benefit marginally from homework (Patall, Cooper and Robinson, 2008). This is not the case for children being given homework to ‘catch up’ (they are the least likely to benefit).

  • There is greater perceived competence in homework tasks that have been self selected, however this choice does not reduce the pressure or tension experienced during its completion (Patall, Cooper and Wynn, 2010).

  • Correlation has been found between how much time high school students spend on homework and their feelings of anger, depression and anxiety (Kouzma and Kennedy, 2002)

 

Lots to lose and nothing to gain

If homework is stressing out families, if it’s not actually achieving what it intends to, why do we persevere with fulfilling these expectations year after year? Why do we continue to support irrelevant school policies?

You are well within your rights as I have, to stand up for your children and say no to homework. In fact, I urge you to. But beyond you and I, I’m seeking bigger change. I want schools to scrap their homework policies. I want teachers to stop setting it. I want parents to stop requesting it. I want children to experience afternoons full of freedom, play and laughter. To feel refreshed and ready for the new day of learning tomorrow.

In closing, I can’t say it better than Alfie…

“If homework persists because of a myth, we owe it to our kids-to all kids-to insist on a policy that’s based on what’s true and what makes sense”. Alfie Kohn

And homework simply no longer makes sense.

 

Want to learn more about homework?

I have a four part series on the podcast devoted to the topic. You can listen in via the links below or by doing a search for the ‘Thriving Children Podcast’ in iTunes.

You can also get a copy of my Homework Fact Sheet delivered to your inbox, which includes action steps for saying no.

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