there is very little correlation between the amount of homework and achievement in elementary school and only a moderate correlation in middle school. Even in high school,“too much homework may diminish its effectiveness or even become counterproductive,”writes Cooper in his latest research review [Harris Cooper, The Battle Over Homework, second edition, page 26, and Does Homework Improve Academic Achievement? A Synthesis of the Research 1987–2003,the Review ofEducational Research(Spring 2006)].
Nonetheless, our schools - the public schools in particular - send home piles and piles of homework. Some nights, my 2nd grader (yes, 2nd grader) can spend several hours on her homework and she is one of the better students in her class. Even she is tired of it, shrugging her shoulders this afternoon and proclaiming, "Ms. 'X' gives us too much homework." How much is too much? At least six different assignments. She had math worksheets, grammar worksheets, spelling and vocabulary assignments and reading.
Some nights, rather than sitting together as a family, I am on the cell phone with other parents, desperately trying to decipher homework assignments. Was it page 23 or 32? Were they supposed to write sentences with all of the spelling words or just ten? My daughter didn't have a math worksheet in her bag - was she supposed to?
Of course, to get all of this homework down takes a lot of paper and a lot of books. Sometimes, her backpack is packed so full that she can barely lift it. Most days, she carries more in her bag than I carry to work.
It would make sense if she were learning something extra from her homework but she isn't, really. I would argue that she learns more by playing outside with her friends and taking walks with us in the City. On chilly days, you can't pull her away from a book; she's learning more in the pages of those books than copying her spelling words over - again. And frankly, it's taking the fun out of school for her.
This week, my younger daughter's teacher announced a sort of homework moratorium - no more homework through the end of the year. She is thrilled, as am I. Today, we walked home and she immediately went out to play. By dinnertime, she was ready to eat instead of itching to go outside. It's a much less stressful environment.
I remember hardly ever having homework as a kid. If I did, I did it on the bus on the way home. Remarkably, I still managed to get through school and move onto college. My mom didn't sign "homework logs" or initial worksheets. There were no special "family homework assignments" (the current thorn in my side) or long projects over the weekend. We did most of our work at school.
Getting your work done at school makes sense. These days, many kids stay far too late after school with sports and clubs. Others take one, and in some instances, two buses to and from school. To accommodate working parents, other kids stay with sitters or participate in afterschool programs at school. There's virtually no time for homework at home. Rather than be a positive in our kids' lives, it's becoming a stress point.