The recent viral Facebook post about how one second-grade teacher from Texas decided to ditch homework assignments this school year has ignited a national debate about how much is too much homework for elementary school and beyond. While many parents find excessive homework assignments a family frustration, younger students also suffer the consequences.
How to tackle the problem? Start with knowing the facts and research.
Denise Pope, senior lecturer at the Stanford Graduate School of Education and founder of ChallengeSuccess.org, an accessible resource that connects the dots between academic research in education, parents and teachers, says there are no studies that prove the 10 minutes of homework per grade level per night guideline that many school districts follow effective. The famous Harris Cooper study from 2006, from which the 10-minute rule was derived, mostly examined secondary-school students as opposed to elementary schools. Pope said: “The Harris Cooper study says that in high school [through 12th grade] kids benefit from about 120 minutes [two hours] of homework – and middle school [grades 7-9] about one and a half hours [90 minutes] – so that is how the 10-minute rule was derived. Somewhere along the line, the education system broke it down to create a guideline that elementary teachers could follow. There is no research that says 20 minutes of homework for second-graders is effective.” Pope instead cites recent academic studies that have proved what kids truly need during the early elementary school years to succeed, and it’s affectionately known as P-D-F:
P – Playtime
D – Downtime
F – Family Time
Before the fourth grade, homework assignments are not proven to have increased study habits or increased positive academic performance. For grades K-4, research does support that free reading does positively affect students.
Homework assignments are intended to act as reinforcement and practice for lessons learned in the classroom, an extension of what’s already been taught. Homework can also teach responsibility and accountability to younger children for bringing an assignment home, finishing a job and returning it to school, but parents, pay attention to the quantity and resist finishing your child’s homework in an effort to get it done. If your child has trouble finishing the assignments in a reasonable amount of time, indicate to your child’s teacher how far your child got in a period of time (30 minutes, 1 hour) so that the teacher may gauge how effective the assignments are.
Mandy Redfern, kindergarten teacher at La Canada Elementary School suggests respectfully approaching your child’s teacher about how you feel your child’s homework amount is excessive for their age. “Always approach your child’s teacher with a positive attitude and talk about the homework from your family’s perspective. Be honest about what homework is like for you and your child. Your child’s teacher will have many ideas of ways to make homework a more positive and meaningful experience for your child.” Redfern also recommends breaking up the assignments. “Keep in mind that young children have short attention spans, and homework should be approached in small, five-minute chunks. Add fun breaks in to make homework enjoyable. You can make a favorite snack, have a dance party or even race around the back yard during your break. When they see you having fun, your child will learn to love doing their work.”
Pope also adds: “Assume best intentions on both sides, talk to your child’s teacher and inform them what’s going on in your own household to try and solve the problem; very few teachers actually get instruction about assigning homework, so most will be open to a respectful conversation.”
And if you still require extra help with homework, know that your Los Angeles County library card gives you free access to online homework help. Visit www.lapl.org/lhh
More homework help: http://lfla.org/what-we-fund/helping-students-succeed/live-homework-help/
Jill Simonian is a Parenting Lifestyle Contributor, appearing on CBS Los Angeles every Wednesday on News at 5pm and Friday mornings at 6:45am. Her personal blog is TheFabMom.com. Follow Jill on Twitter @jillsimonian and connect with her on Facebook.