Homework: Concerns with Overuse for Younger Students
Erika Christakis, an early childhood educator and New York Times bestselling author of The Importance of Being Little: What Young Children Really Need From Grownups, recently discussed in article in The Atlantic, how elementary education is too focused on excessive homework focused on achieving a mastery of very basic, test-friendly skills. (1) This is despite the growing wealth of evidence suggesting that homework (other than nightly reading) for elementary-school children offers little benefit, if any. (2)
A 2010 survey showed that 40% of teachers said they believed that “homework should be given to kindergarten children almost every day” (3) even though there is no evidence in favor of the practice as no experimental study has ever been published in a peer-reviewed journal, even though there is evidence of the difficulties that homework can pose for families. (4)
A study published in the Journal of Educational Psychology found that middle school students doing more than 90 to 100 minutes of homework a day showed a decline in their test scores. (5) There is a line where homework stops being effective and ends up being detrimental. The study also noted that when students need frequent or constant help with homework the results are worse. (6)
Dr. Daniella Montalto, pediatric neuropsychologist and clinical director of the Institute for Learning and Academic Achievement at the Child Study Center at NYU Langone, states that “Homework at a young age isn’t necessary, but I think it can be used to build skills,” and goes on to say that elementary school children ages 4 to 10 need at least 20 minutes of reading time per day, as well as some time carved out to practice their motor skills such as handwriting and cutting with scissors. (7) Drawing and painting are also two very beneficial activities that help develop fine motor skills, as well as writing, reading, creativity, and boosting self-esteem, among other things. (8)
There is more benefit to focusing on these areas than traditional homework (9) and this is backed up by a 2013 study that found if students aren’t proficient readers by the third grade, they’re less likely to succeed academically and graduate high school. (10)
This is a topic that is not news to us and we have addressed it countless times. Even while homework can be, and often is, beneficial for upper grades, too much for the sole sake of homework alone is not beneficial. Understanding that too much homework can be counterproductive and take away from family time, minimal homework is required at Brookwood Christian, and this has been a long standing policy.
Many of our students attend church, are involved in sports, belong to clubs, and go to therapy or tutoring appointments after school. These activities have great developmental benefits, and are encouraged. However, they can make completing homework difficult or too much homework prohibits participation in these activities.
For students who need homework, it will be assigned based on their individual needs and abilities. When students do not finish their work in class, they will be asked to complete it at home. However, if your child is in a college prep high school program, more homework will understandably be expected.
Next we will discuss Mixed Age Learning: Benefits in Academics and Child Development, and why it is part of our educational philosophy.
1. Christakis, Erika. “School Wasn’t So Great Before Covid, Either.” The Atlantic (November 10, 2020).
3. Dewar, Gwen, PhD. “Homework for young children: Is it justified?” Parenting Science (2019).
5. Fernández-Alonso, Rubén, Muñiz, José, Suárez-Álvarez, Javier. “Adolescents’ Homework Performance in Mathematics and Science: Personal Factors and Teaching Practices.” Journal of Educational Psychology (2015, Vol. 107, No. 4).
7. Frere, Jackie. “Is Homework Bad For Kids: The Answer May Surprise You.” Redbook (March 2018).
8. “The Importance of Art for Child Development.” Exploring Your Mind (August 15, 2019).
10. Fiester, Leila. “Early Warning Confirmed: A Research Update On Third Grade Reading.” The Annie E. Casey Foundation (2013).