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  • The Costco Connection, August 2016

Should Homework Be Eliminated in Elementary School?

Some elementary schools have eliminated homework because of complaints that it disrupts families, overburdens children and has little or no effect on student achievement. Others argue that homework can give children learning opportunities beyond the school setting and enhance family life. What do you think?

YES from our Readers

*Children are still practicing their social and problem-solving skills that will get them further in life than any worksheets or tests ever will! -Samantha Stobbe

*I feel kids are naturally curious and want to learn, so if their day is administered properly there is no need for homework at this age. From my experience with elementary-school-age kids and homework, it causes a lot of frustration for the entire household. -Cathy Sanford

*We never had homework when I was in grammar school, but we did do a lot of work during class, which is the way it should be. -Benay Nielson

*I'm a teacher and have researched this; the best school systems in the world do not use homework. It is ineffective and leads to more frustration and family-time stress than benefit. -Mary Marek Holman

YES from Experts in the Field

As parents, most of us don't ask if there is, in fact, an academic benefit to homework in elementary school. All the research points to the answer being an emphatic no. Even Harris Cooper, the Hugo L. Blomquist professor in the Department of Psychology & Neuroscience at Duke University, the strongest homework advocates, has changed his view over the years. He now acknowledges that, at the elementary level, homework has no academic benefit and can be detrimental to kids.

Beyond the research findings, which are clear, the real issues with homework are family issues, and it's time to acknowledge those. You need to ask, "Who controls my child's out-of-school time? Who determines how my family should spend their time? What happens to my educational agenda for my own child when schoolwork crowds out our family time?"

While most parents are willing to turn their kids over to a school each day for schooling, should they turn the kitchen table over to the school too? Parents want to build rich family life, and homework interferes with that building process. Parents have things they want to teach their children, whither it's cooking or fixing cars, and homework gets in the way of those parent-driven educational experiences. Kids have passions they want to pursue, and homework diminishes or eliminates time for those activities, as students must complete the unfinished work of the school day. (Etta Kralovec is a Distinguished Outreach Professor at the University of Arizona and co-author of The End of Homework: How Homework Disrupts Families, Overburdens Children, and Limits Learning)

NO from our Readers

*Absolutely not. In elementary school, homework is meant as practice for what they have learned in school that day. It's a good measure to find out whether the student understood the lesson. Keeps the teachers and parents/adults accountable, too. -Veronica Carter

*No. But it should be limited to no more than 15 to 30 minutes of reinforcement, or a one-page current events report. -Rosalie van Putten

*Americans are too badly educated as it is, compared with other countries. -Charles Fortier

*Why? So kids can come home and do more of nothing? They're already glued to their electronics. - Marlon O'Reilly

*Absolutely not! Repetitive work helps them learn. - Marcia Snapp

NO from Experts in the Field

Keeping homework, but making it relevant and interactive for families, is an excellent way to give children richer, more meaningful learning opportunities beyond the school setting.

Too often, homework is merely more schoolwork that is sent home with limited family involvement.

Some parents may value a heavy does of nightly homework as a way to help their child get ahead in their education. But I argue that the best homework assignments encourage family engagement to nurture children's curiosity while making their schoolwork relevant to their lives. Homework should provide an opportunity for families to reinforce the lessons taught at school and personalize learning with their children, but it should not dominate time after school. Children need time to play with friends, participate in sporting and artistic experiences, and enjoy recreational reading to and with family.

Homework assignments at the elementary school level should be planned with an emphasis on quality over quantity. For example, homework can bring the family together for valuable real-world problem-solving opportunities, such as:

-reading and implementing a recipe to prepare food for the family meal

-writing and addressing birthday cards to send via mail or the internet

-computing how much paint to buy to redecorate the child's bedroom

-clipping coupons to go grocery shopping and calculating the savings

-searching the internet for driving directions or needed information for a trip

Time is short. How we spend each precious moment with our children is important. By not eliminating homework, but instead rethinking what's assigned and considering why it is sent home, teachers can encourage parents to pursue quality one-on-one family time with their children as they take part in activities that enrich the parents' and children's lives and strengthen the family. Through this personalized learning time, children can be nurtured to become caring, compassionate adults who will similarly work with their children in years to come. (Nancy Steffel is a professor of teacher education and director of elementary education at the University of Indianapolis School of Education.)

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