Writen by Michelle M. Yetman, Phd
Associate Professor, School Of Allied Health Professions
Lsu Health Shreveport
Sitting with your child at the kitchen table, guiding them through homework has reduced many parents, along with their child, to tears. Homework, which has been a staple part of education for generations, often generates feelings of dread, misery and debate among educators, parents, and students alike. Educators have historically argued that it reinforces learning and discipline. Increasingly, many parents have begun to question its value, raising concern that it adds undue stress and infringes on a child’s free time. Most children would vote for the elimination of homework altogether. Reviewing the pros and cons of homework can help to shed light on the controversy and understand the role of homework in education.
The Pros and Cons of Homework
1. Reinforcement of Learning: The school day can be busy and there is a lot to cover. In addition, transitions such as lining up, recess, P.E. art, etc., while valuable, cut into academic skill development time. Homework can serve as a means of reinforcing what students have learned in class. We all need practice and repetition to master a new skill. Homework allows students to practice the skills and test their understanding of concepts introduced during lessons. This repetition can solidify understanding and aid in memory retention, helping students grasp complex subjects more effectively.
2. Extended Learning: Every teacher will tell you sometimes there just is not enough time in the school day to cover everything adequately. Homework can allow children to work at a slower pace until mastery of a topic is accomplished. In addition, homework can extend learning beyond the classroom, encouraging students to explore topics of interest or research questions they may have. This self-directed exploration fosters curiosity and a deeper understanding of the subject matter.
3. Testing oneself: Before the actual quiz or exam, students can test their own knowledge of a subject by completing independent homework. Students have the opportunity to ask the teacher for additional help or clarification if they have any trouble. For this reason, homework is often assigned ‘completion’ points rather than grade points.
4. Responsibility Development: Keeping up with and completing homework assignments teaches students about time management, accountability, and discipline. Such skills are critical for independent learning, which is emphasized in college. Beyond school, such skills help students prepare for future responsibilities such as in the workplace.
5. Involvement of Parents: Homework is one way parents can be involved in their child’s education. By doing homework together, parents can see what their children are expected to learn and notice any difficulties their child may be having. Regular parent-teacher communication can strengthen a child’s learning. Spending time with your child in a supportive manner can also promote the parent-child bond and send a message that learning is valued. Children who have parents involved in their education tend to do better.
1. Overwhelming Workload: One of the most common criticisms of homework is the potential for an overwhelming workload. Students often have multiple subjects with assignments due on the same day, leading to stress, exhaustion, and a reduced quality of work. Many children are tired by the end of the school day and staying up late into the night doing homework can negatively impact children and teens.
2. Limited Free Time: Homework can infringe on a child’s precious free time, leaving them with little opportunity for extracurricular activities, hobbies, and relaxation. It is important for kids to develop skills outside of school. Many students need sports, music, or art activities in order to thrive and support their wholistic development. Excessive homework can cause imbalance, which can contribute to burnout and hinder overall well-being.
3. Family Time Disruption: Every parent who has spent hours at the kitchen table nagging, cajoling, and pushing their child to complete homework knows what a stressor homework can be. Tired parents often don’t want to begin their second shift after coming home from work and supervising homework. Positive family interactions and quality time are vital for a child’s emotional and social development and excessive homework can detract from this.
4. Inequity and Disparities: Every parent who has had to drive to the store late at night for poster board or a pumpkin that their child “has to have for tomorrow” knows that homework can sometimes cost more than just time. Purchasing supplies for the Myian temple that required 100 popsicle sticks and a pound of glue adds up. Homework can exacerbate educational inequalities. Students with access to resources, quiet study spaces, and parental assistance may have an advantage over those who lack such resources. This can perpetuate disparities in academic performance.
5. Lack of Engagement: No one likes ‘busy work’. When homework becomes monotonous or too repetitive, it can lead to disengagement from learning. Assignments that are not meaningful or relevant can diminish a student’s enthusiasm for education.
Solutions: Finding a Balance
Striking the right balance between homework’s benefits and potential drawbacks is crucial for creating an effective and healthy educational environment. Here are some strategies that schools, educators, and parents can consider:
1 | Quality Over Quantity
Instead of overwhelming students with numerous assignments, educators can focus on providing high-quality homework that reinforces key concepts and encourages critical thinking. The goal should be to reduce mundane repetition and focus on reviewing key concepts.
2 | Individualization
Recognizing that students have varying learning styles and capacities, educators can tailor homework assignments to suit individual needs. This approach ensures that tasks are both challenging and achievable. For example, students with disabilities or learning differences, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) should have assignments shortened or reduced.
3 | Time Management
Similar to knowing the purpose, kids and parents should know realistically how long homework should take. A general rule of thumb is ‘ten minutes per each grade’ which the National PTA and National Education Association support. This means a 1st grader should have roughly ten minutes of homework while a 6th grader would have an hour. Teaching students time management skills can help them handle homework effectively without sacrificing their free time. If you feel your child is spending too much time on homework each night, you should communicate this concern to the teacher. Parents and teachers can provide guidance on planning, prioritizing, and breaking down tasks into manageable steps.
4 | Vary Assessment Methods
Educators can explore alternative ways to assess student understanding, such as projects, presentations, and group discussions. Rather than writing a book report, kids could create a diorama depicting key themes in the story. These methods can reduce the reliance on traditional homework while promoting active learning. Active learning is an approach to teaching that involves actively engaging students with the course material, such as through discussions, presentations, etc. Active learning has been shown to be superior to traditional learning and reduces frustration, burnout and fatigue for the students.
5 | Open Dialogue
Schools should foster open communication between educators, parents, and students regarding homework policies. Regular discussions can help identify issues and collaboratively find solutions. If a student is having trouble completing homework, a home-school notebook could be helpful. The child writes down the homework assignment in the notebook and packs any necessary materials into their bookbag. The teacher then initials the notebook to indicate the assignment has been sent home. Once the child completes the homework and re-packs materials into the book bag, the parent initials in the notebook to indicate that the assignment was complete.
Homework continues to be a fact of life for most children. While it can have its drawbacks, homework plays a role in the education of children and teens. Striking a balance between too much and too limit is always the goal; like the ancient Greek Philosophers said, “Everything in Moderation”. More is not better when it comes to homework. By focusing on quality, individualization, active learning strategies and clear communication, educators and parents can ensure that homework contributes positively to a child’s educational journey.
If you or your child’s teacher have any concern regarding their development or the possible presence of learning difficulties, feel free to contact LSU Health Shreveport Children’s Center (318) 813-2960. The Children’s Center provides a variety of assessments for children who may be struggling in school.