The value of homework in the elementary school years is a contentious issue among parents. No-homework policies are being integrated in many American schools where the shift to Common Core curriculum has required educators to rethink how students spend their time and to what extent doing homework equates to actual learning. The past twenty-five years of educational research demonstrates a surprising conclusion: homework provides no measureable benefit at the elementary school level. Even more surprising is that premature and improper homework can hinder the development and academic growth of children under the age of twelve.

The relationship between homework and academic success varies among different grade levels. While homework has significantly positive benefits at the high school level, the benefit drops off for middle school. Dr. Etta Kralovec, Associate Professor and co-author of The End of Homework: How Homework Disrupts Families, Overburdens Children, and Limits Learning says, “There’s a huge philosophical divide between parents who want their kids to be very scheduled, very driven, and very ambitiously focused at school, those parents want their kids to do homework. Then there are the parents who want a more child-centered life with their kids, who want their kids to be able to explore different aspects of themselves, who think their kids should have free time. The research says the latter is the better option.”

Children are at school seven or eight hours a day, which comprises a full work day. To what extent should our children simply be kids after school?

According to research, homework can generate a negative impact on children’s attitudes toward school. Young children need to be connected and intrinsically motivated within the learning process. We do not want to send the message that learning is chore. Instead, young children should have fun while learning. Most children love school, they approach class with wide-eyes and enthusiasm. Yet, somewhere around age seven, school starts to become work and that is when we see learning interests diminish.

Moreover, research indicates premature homework can damage personal relationships in the long-term. Homework is meant to reinforce the relationship between parents and children. However, with elementary school kids this can have the opposite effect. After a long day at school, an activity that is “work” is not what children want to do before going to bed. Often parents have to enforce homework which can interrupt the connection with home-life.

Another problem with elementary school homework is that it often takes time away from responsibilities at home and sleeping hours. Children need, on average, ten hours of sleep a day. For kids to be 100% the next day at school, they need to have a proper rest. Having time to be a kid, play with family and neighbors, watch parents cook and help with house responsibilities are invaluable moments of childhood. Where is the balance between homework and being a kid? Are there conditions where homework actually provides a positive benefit for elementary age children? Read next month’s issue to find out.