After over 25 years of studying and analyzing homework, Harris Coopers’ research demonstrates a clear conclusion: homework wrecks elementary school students. In his book, The Battle over Homework: Common Ground for Administrators, Teachers, and Parents, the homework guru gives details about the relationship between homework and success at different grade levels. While homework has a significant benefit at the high school level, the benefit drops off for middle school students and “there’s no benefit at the elementary school level,” agrees Etta Kralovec, an education professor at the University of Arizona.
Why teachers shouldn’t assign homework to elementary school students
According to research, there are a number of reasons why teachers shouldn’t assign homework to elementary school students:
- Homework can generate a negative impact on children’s attitudes toward school. Children who are just beginning at school have so many years ahead of them. The last thing teachers should do is to turn them against school. Instead, young kids should have fun while learning.
- Premature homework can damage personal relationships in the long term. While homework is meant to reinforce the relationship between parents and children and get parents involved in their children’s education, with elementary school kids this can have the opposite effect. At that age, children need to be reminded by their parents about their homework. After a long day at school, something that includes the word “work” is not exactly what kids want to do before going to bed. This ends up too often in a sorrowful battle that can be extended to the later years when homework does have benefits.
- Homework gives a false sense of responsibility. Those who support homework will say that daily homework helps kids become more responsible, but this is only true at a later age. When parents have to remind their kids to do their homework every night, this purpose completely fades away.
- Homework leaves less time for kids to be kids. According to the information gathered by Open Colleges and presented in their article The Tyranny of Homework: 20 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Assign Homework Over The Holidays, many kids don’t get enough exercise. All students, and especially the youngest ones, should use their evenings and holiday time to do more physical activities, playing outdoors and participating in sports with friends. Both teachers and parents can encourage children to do these kinds of activities more often.
- Kids need to rest to be productive in school. Another problem with elementary school homework is that it often takes time away from their 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.
Alternatives to homework for young students
As an alternative to overloading young students with homework, there are so many things that teachers and parents can do to make sure that students are motivated and open to learning more:
- To encourage fun reading. According to research, at the elementary level what works way better than homework is reading. Parents and teachers may find subjects that kids are interested in and either stimulate them to read themselves or read out loud and let them listen. Although personalizing this activity for each kid will require more effort than homogeneous homework, the benefits of fun reading will be noticeable.
- Teach responsibility with daily chores. Instead of relying on homework to develop a kid’s sense of responsibility, there are so many everyday habits that can teach them to be responsible, such as getting up and ready in the morning, making the bed, helping out with chores, or even looking after a pet.
- Teach them that they are always learners. Elementary school students are continuously learning, so when parents and teachers make sure that children understand this concept, doing homework to learn more becomes secondary.
- Take them to visit a museum. So much can be learnt in a science or art exhibition. More importantly, the knowledge and experience acquired in this kind of field cannot be learnt in any other way. Parents might look for upcoming exhibitions or activities that will awaken their children’s interest.
Overall, administrators, parents, and teachers may leverage after-school experiences where creativity, sociability, and learning converge to enhance elementary schools students’ educations.