Growing Bookworms Newsletter: March 9
Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: #ReadingAloud + Women's History Month + #Nonfiction

Is homework wrecking our kids? If so, what do we do as parents?

I've been reading (and sharing) quite a few books and articles that address the impact of homework on kids' joy of learning. This weekend I ran across a Salon Magazine article by Heather Shumaker that I thought summed up the situation in a direct and action-oriented manner. The article is called: Homework is wrecking our kids: The research is clear, let’s ban elementary homework. Here's the part of the article that stood out most clearly to me:

“(A) comprehensive analysis of multiple research studies found no evidence of academic benefit (of homework) at the elementary level. It did, however, find a negative impact on children’s attitudes toward school. This is what’s worrying. Homework does have an impact on young students, but it’s not a good one. A child just beginning school deserves the chance to develop a love of learning. Instead, homework at a young age causes many kids to turn against school, future homework and academic learning. And it’s a long road. A child in kindergarten is facing 13 years of homework ahead of her.”

Also this, from the end of the article:

"What works better than traditional homework at the elementary level is simply reading at home. This can mean parents reading aloud to children as well as children reading. The key is to make sure it’s joyous. If a child doesn’t want to practice her reading skills after a long school day, let her listen instead. Any other projects that come home should be optional and occasional. If the assignment does not promote greater love of school and interest in learning, then it has no place in an elementary school-aged child’s day.

Elementary school kids deserve a ban on homework. This can be achieved at the family, classroom or school level. Families can opt out, teachers can set a culture of no homework (or rare, optional homework), and schools can take time to read the research and rekindle joy in learning.

Homework has no place in a young child’s life. With no academic benefit, there are simply better uses for after-school hours."

[Please do go and read the full article at Salon. I'll wait. I'm also looking forward to reading Shumaker's new book, It's OK to Go Up the Slide. My husband and I both liked her previous parenting book It's OK Not to Share and Other Renegade Rules for Raising Competent and Compassionate Kids.]

I strongly agree with Shumaker's conclusions that a) what kids need instead of homework is reading aloud at home and b) that this should be a joyous experience. My daughter is in kindergarten, and I am have already seen homework, in the form of required book reports, negatively impact her joy of learning. I've heard my crying five-year-old say that she "hates" book reports, and it was devastating.

From everything that I've heard from other parents, homework levels at our elementary school increase significantly after kindergarten. So here I am with this kid who loves books and is just starting to read, and who enjoys playing around with math and numbers, and likes doing little experiments. Just like most five year olds, she is a curious and engaged learner. I'm wondering how quickly her school is going to quench that love of learning via excessive homework. And I'm wondering what I can do to keep that from happening, for my own daughter and for other children. 

One small thing that I did was share the Salon article on Facebook, where I am friends with a number of other parents from my daughter's school. Another thing that I did was forward the link to the school principal. I'm considering starting a Facebook group or something similar for people from our school community who would like to discuss this. 

What I'm doing at home is putting in extra time to counteract the negative impact of the book reports by making reading with my daughter as fun and cozy as possible. Inoculating her against the book reports, so to speak. So far, her dislike of book reports is completely separate from her feelings about the books that we read at home for pleasure. But what happens next year when there are accelerated reader quizzes?

I just can't help feeling that it shouldn't have to be like this. I would truly welcome feedback on this topic. Thanks for reading!

© 2016 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook.