If you homeschool and use workbooks, it’s like you’re recreating the homework scenario. In fact, 96% of parents say they help with homework, so doing fun, innovative learning in the morning and workbooks in the afternoon is similar to sending kids to school and doing homework after school. So the research about homework should be really important to you.
If you think about the school day, only a small percentage of it is kids doing the type of work they will do as homework. Most of the time, kids are listening to a teacher, doing administrative stuff, doing socialization stuff (whatever that is!) and going from class to class. (In high school this consumes a full hour of the day.) Unless they are doing experiential learning in the classroom (unlikely) they are learning at night while doing their homework.
This means that if you take your kids out of school, what they are missing is learning from homework. The problem is that homework doesn’t work. Here’s why:
1. Until 7th grade chores are more beneficial than homework.
The only benefit to homework is teaching kids time management and commitment.
This is why a study at Duke found that there are benefits to homework up to ten minutes. More than ten minutes of homework a night does not increase learning. (note: I got this wrong. See the comment below.) Surely you can think of something more rewarding to do than worksheets for ten minutes a day if you want to teach kids about responsibility and commitment. Like, taking care of the family pet (or in our case, the farm animals.) Also, if you are lower-income, take note: A very long-term study from Harvard shows that the biggest differentiator between who is happy later in life and who isn’t, among smart, low-income kids, is who did chores at home as a kid. So use the ten minutes for chores instead of homework.
2. Teachers don’t know how to make homework effective.
There’s a lot of research about homework for older kids. What works, what doesn’t, how much, what kind. But teachers do not receive information about this research in their teaching courses, according to Alfie Kohn, author of The Homework Myth. The result is that teachers are winging it when they assign homework, which increases the likelihood that it’s a waste of time.
3. Too much homework makes kids crazy.
While there is scant evidence of positive correlation between homework and student achievement, studies show that too much homework decreases kids’ test scores. It’s hard to say that homework makes kids stupid, and that’s why the scores go down, but I can imagine that the scores go down because doing nothing but homework after school makes kids crazy.
4. The best kind of homework is impossible for schools to assign.
Of course, the baseline research is that the best homework is self-directed learning. But that would requires that teachers give each kid a different assignment and there would be no way to grade kids relative to each other, so schools can’t give that sort of homework. Additionally, homework requires that parents are on-board, and increasingly, parents are opting out.
5. Homework banishes kids to second-tier schools.
Top schools look for kids who are particularly good at one thing. Admissions officers call this a hook. Developing a hook takes time, which your child cannot do if there are hours of homework each night. Homework in each subject each night creates, at best, well-rounded kids, which is an anachronistic goal.