A second-grade teacher from Texas recently made headlines after she sent home a note to parents, informing them that their students’ homework would only consist of materials they did not finish in class that day. Instead, she encouraged families to spend more time together rather than spend hours on homework. So, what is the role of homework, and are kids getting too much?
As a former teacher and current educational consultant, I was recently asked for my reaction to this “no homework” approach, and wanted to share my thoughts.
This story has a lot of people talking. Do you think more teachers should adopt this “no homework” rule for their classrooms?
Homework is an area of stress and tension in almost every household. Unfortunately, some kids get so stressed and overwhelmed by homework, leaving them almost no time to enjoy being a kid. And when it creates too much stress, the parent/child relationship becomes all about academic performance.
The general rule of thumb when it comes to homework is about 10 minutes of homework per grade level per night. So, while this story may sound peculiar, it’s actually following the guidelines for a second grader.
Does homework really help kids become better students?
Homework truly helps when kids are efficient, organized and know how to find answers when they are stuck. But when kids don’t have a plan and don’t fully understand the subject matter, the amount of time it takes them to finish the work grows exponentially. Kids end up either spending far too much time working inefficiently, or they spend no time at all because they’re overwhelmed, unprepared and convinced they’re going to fail. Instead of trying, they would rather pretend like they don’t care.
Current research shows that homework for students younger than fifth grade is not beneficial. It doesn’t help them to be smarter or score better on tests. For older kids, about 90 minutes of homework is a perfect amount of time; anything more becomes redundant. However, parents at high-performing high schools across the country are seeing their kids working on homework for up to 3 hours each night.
What about teaching responsibility? Does homework help with this?
It depends on the student. If the student has a system for planning, organizing and completing assignments, then homework is an amazingly powerful tool. It’s not just about being responsible with homework, it’s also about packing up materials the night before and following a consistent process. And when parents help with that, they’re reinforcing the right types of behaviors.
Being in the competitive Washington, D.C. area, it is inevitable that your student will get homework. What are things parents can do to help their kids with homework?
First, understand your child’s situation, because one size does not fit all. So if your child is bright but disorganized, and lacks organization and planning, it’s necessary to set up structure in the home from the start of the school year.
Sometimes kids have subject struggles and get just a tad bit behind, causing them to lose confidence, which can trigger a downward spiral. If it’s caught early enough, and they know there is a support system available to help, they can overcome the hurdle. This can boost their confidence because they see they can conquer a challenge.
A growing number of kids are stressed from studying. And without the right strategies, these conscientious kids can expend more time and energy than they might need. The key for these kids is to not get overwhelmed early on and always plan ahead.
Ann Dolin is the founder and president of Educational Connections Tutoring. She and her team of tutors help students throughout Northern VA, D.C. and MD. Visit ectutoring.com for more information.