Homework: Should Your Kids Be Doing It?
By: Zoe Crane, ellaslist
Daily battles over homework are causing parents to spend evening after evening, nagging, bribing, threatening and sometimes giving in and doing it themselves, leaving them wondering if there is a better way. While many parents are strongly in favour of homework, evidence has shown that there is no academic benefit to homework early on. So if homework isn’t helping our kids’ studies, why are we doing it?
Do kids really benefit?
Time magazine looked at the body of research that has been done on homework which showed that “Homework given too young increases negative attitudes toward school”. In fact, the benefits of homework have been shown to be entirely age dependent, with no benefit at all for primary school-aged kids and only a slight benefit in the first few years of high school. Authors of the book “Reforming Homework” said sound research has found that spending more time on homework is associated with lower student achievement.
The NSW department of education allows schools to set their own homework policies, noting in their own policy document that “there is no evidence that homework lifts academic performance”. A few schools are paying attention and offering parents the option to opt out of homework altogether.
So why is homework still being set?
There is an argument that homework teaches responsibility and good study habits. Researchers have that there is some benefit in self-directed learning skills, but only when parents are available to assist and only from upper-primary school onwards. Another benefit is the communication of learning between school and home, which is an important factor in education. For this to be effective though, homework needs to be a positive experience, and many families are finding this is not the case.
Teachers and Parents
As long as teachers keep setting homework, kids will keep doing it. Like parents, some teachers support homework while others don’t, however, most report that pressure from parents is often to give more homework, rather than less. The Sydney Morning Herald reported on helicopter parents “stalking” teachers, with one father ringing every bell of a teacher’s apartment building on the weekend to find out what homework task had been set.
Time spent on homework can be at the expense of sleep, and that could be causing students to fall further behind in class, particularly as they get older and loads increase. Teenagers need eight to ten hours sleep, but studies have found that only 15% get eight and a half hours on school nights. A lack of sleep has been found to limit our ability to learn, listen, concentrate and can cause poor test results and behavioural issues in the classroom. The Conversation published results of a study that “linked excessive homework to sleep disruption, indicating a negative relationship between the amount of homework, perceived stress and physical health.”
Here to stay
Whether or not homework is helping our kids, it looks as though it is here to stay. For parents that encourage homework that is good news, but those that oppose it have options too. Individual schools are free to set their own homework policy, however parents at any school are able to meet with their child’s teacher to discuss homework. Dr Misty Adoniou, senior lecturer in language and literacy at the University of Canberra, told news.com.au she had banned homework in her house. She said that parents could always tell teachers “the homework you’re sending home isn’t adding any value to our home life and they’re not doing it.”
ellaslist wants to hear from you, is homework a daily battle in you house?
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