The Case Against Homework: How Homework Is Hurting Children and What Parents Can Do About It


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It portrayed homework as an intrusion on family tranquility and as just one more stressor in an already overstressed life, especially for two-career families.

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The article also cited a University of Michigan study showing that homework for 6- to 8-year-olds had increased by more than 50 percent from to As homework increased, especially for the youngest students, and parents began feeling overwhelmed, stories detailing the struggle appeared widely in the popular press.

Now the mood was one of concern for overworked students and parents. In , Piscataway, New Jersey, received national attention for implementing a homework policy that limited the amount of homework, discouraged weekend homework, and forbade teachers from counting homework in the grade Kohn, Unlike the story about Half Moon Bay only six years earlier, this story was given serious media coverage, and the school district was deluged by requests from schools seeking a copy of the policy.

Since the first edition of this book was published in , the debate has continued, with a strong anti-homework movement emerging, similar to the anti-homework cycles of the s and s and the late s to early s. Canada and the United Kingdom were two of the earliest countries to sound the alarm: a ban on primary homework was recommended in the United Kingdom in , and in , Toronto's school policy prohibited homework in kindergarten and on weekends and holidays. Around the same time, a smattering of elementary schools in the United States began limiting or eliminating homework.

In , a particularly influential article appeared in The Atlantic. Titled "My Daughter's Homework Is Killing Me," the piece chronicled one New York dad's experience doing his 8th grade daughter's homework for a week, about three hours of work each night Greenfeld, Internationally, concerns about homework, especially for elementary students, have arisen in many countries, including Ireland, the Philippines, Greece, France, India, Japan, Singapore, and Australia. Even the government of China, a country long revered as the paragon of educational achievement, has warned schools and parents that excessive homework is not in the best interest of their children's health.


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In the United States, there has been a move to more precisely examine the practice, to reduce the amount of homework, and to question the validity and quality of the homework tasks we ask students to do. Although the loudest voices are calling for a ban, the more centrist voices are simply asking schools to assign homework more thoughtfully and to consider the broader effects excessive homework has on the well-being of students and their families. The most consistent trend in the United States has been the adoption of policies that either ban elementary school homework or limit it to reading.

A small but growing number of U. The trend line is clear: momentum has shifted in the direction of the "less homework" movement. But trends do not tell the whole story, and not everyone has "joined the church" of less homework. Among those opposed to homework reform, a rather simplistic view has arisen mislabeling today's reform efforts as flat-out anti-homework and claiming that there are only two positions on homework: for or against.

Although this is clearly a false dichotomy, attempts by schools to diminish the homework load do often provoke kneejerk opposition and accusations of "dumbing down" our children's education. Those of us in favor of such reform are labeled whiners and slackers. The pro-homework forces continue to tout the virtues of homework, claiming that evidence of the negative effects of excessive homework is anecdotal and not indicative of a general problem, as with this headline from the Dallas Morning News Floyd, : "Sorry, Parents, Your Child Probably Doesn't Have Too Much Homework.

Like religion and politics, the arguments surrounding homework stir intense emotions among parents, teachers, and administrators. To fully understand today's debate, we must examine the beliefs about homework that have developed during the last years and the cultural forces that have shaped them.

Beliefs about the inherent goodness of homework are so entrenched, so unshakable for many parents and educators, that they seem almost cultlike. For many, these beliefs are unexamined. Kralovec and Buell said it best: "The belief in the value of homework is akin to faith" p. The true believers hold homework in such reverence that many educators are afraid to recommend eliminating it completely.

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Too many people just won't accept the idea. How can anyone be against work? It's as if the tradition of homework has been so romanticized as to be accepted as truth. Parenting magazines and newspaper articles accept without question that homework is part of school life and then continue to give advice on how to help kids complete it Kohn, Freelance writers have learned that writing that is too anti-homework will probably not be published in the mainstream media. To understand the cult ure of homework and how it developed over the last years, it is necessary to dissect the dogma, which can best be summarized by five largely unexamined beliefs about children and learning.

How many of these beliefs are based on fact, and how many are based on faith, tradition, or moral judgments? Many believe that it is not only teachers' inalienable right but also their obligation to extend learning beyond the classroom. Inherent in this belief is the assumption that teachers have the right to control children's lives outside the school—that we have the right to give homework and that students and parents should comply with our wishes more about this assumption in Chapter 2.

Many teachers claim that homework keeps children out of trouble and is better for them than television or video games. This view is rather dismissive of parents' ability to make good decisions about their children's use of free time. Is it really our job to be the morality police of our students' personal lives? Perhaps our role in extending learning outside the school is to instill in students the value of learning and the joy of learning and to expose them to the vastness of the universe—how much there is to learn.

Perhaps our role is to help students find something in life they feel passionate about and to help them find their purpose in society. Many homework advocates believe that intellectual development is more important than social, emotional, or physical development.

Intellectual pursuits hold an implied superiority over nonintellectual tasks such as throwing a ball, walking a dog, riding a bike, or just hanging out. This belief presupposes the limited value of leisure tasks. Concurrently, some worry that too much unstructured time might cause children to be less successful, less competitive with others. As with Belief 1, this view shows a distrust of parents to guide children in the productive use of free time and a distrust of children to engage in intellectual pursuits on their own. In reality, physical, emotional, and social activities are as necessary as intellectual activity in the development of healthy, well-rounded children.

One of the most resilient beliefs is that homework promotes responsibility and discipline. Even though there is no research to support this belief, many people continue to tout homework's nonacademic virtues Kohn, Responsibility is often a code word for obedience. When we say we want students to be responsible , are we saying we want them to be obedient —to do what we want them to do when we want them to do it, to be mindless drones, blindly obedient to authority?

One teacher said she thought not doing homework was a sign of disrespect for the teacher! When we say homework promotes discipline in students, does that mean being self-disciplined enough to do something they hate to do because it's their duty? Many teachers are fixated on homework as the way to teach responsibility, as though we have no other avenues. Even in the task of homework itself, children are rarely given responsibility for choosing how they wish to learn, how they might show what they have learned, or how they might schedule their time for homework.

True responsibility cannot be coerced. It must be developed by giving students power and ownership of tasks Anderson, ; Azzam, ; Vatterott, Chapter 4 presents more about how to do this. Another supposed virtue of homework is that it teaches time management. Does time management really mean the ability to delay gratification—to work when we want to play? Homework does not reinforce time management if adults have to coerce children into doing it; if children are coerced, they are not in charge of scheduling the time or making decisions about the use of the time.

If we are using homework to teach responsibility, won't 10 minutes of homework work just as well as 60 minutes? If we are using homework to teach time management, don't long-range projects that require scheduled planning do a better job of that than daily assignments? Many people equate lots of homework with a tough school, regardless of the type or length of assignments Jackson, ; Lythcott-Haims, Parents will often brag, "My child goes to a really good school—he gets lots of homework.

If some homework is good for children, then more homework must be even better. If 10 math problems for homework is good, then 40 problems must be better. This belief, more than any other, is responsible for the piling on of hours of homework in many schools today, and it is especially entrenched in high-achieving high schools in wealthy communities. We all know that those assignments could be busywork of no educational value Jackson, If it were only that simple. More time does not necessarily equal more learning. The "more is always better" argument ignores the quality of work and the level of learning required.

Rigor is challenge—but it is not necessarily the same challenge for each student. Given the diverse nature of students, challenging learning experiences will vary for different students. Probably the most disturbing belief is that homework is inherently good, regardless of the type or length of assignment.

Homework advocates have believed it for years, never questioning whether it's true. This certainty is born from the assumptions that homework teaches responsibility and discipline and that "lots of homework" equals "rigor. This mindset is so ingrained that teachers apologize to other teachers for not giving homework! Yet we know that some very good teachers don't give a lot of homework or any at all.

Instead of being apologetic, teachers who don't give homework should simply explain that they do such a good job of teaching that homework is not necessary. The danger in believing that good students do their homework is the moral judgment that tends to accompany this belief. To children who dutifully complete homework, we often attribute the virtues of being compliant and hardworking.

To children who don't complete homework, we often attribute the vices of laziness and noncompliance. But is a lack of virtue the reason many children don't do homework? Therein lies the problem.

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Students without supportive parents or with single parents overburdened trying to make ends meet , with parents who don't speak English, or with inadequate home environments for completing homework are less likely to complete homework Vatterott, Are these less advantaged students bad?

Of course not. The five beliefs discussed in the preceding section form a dogmatic homework culture. The foundations of that culture are a trinity of very old philosophies: our moralistic views of human nature, the Puritan work ethic that is embedded in our culture, and behaviorist practices that still reside in our schools. These three philosophies are so entwined with the five beliefs that it's hard to tell where one idea ends and another begins.

An exploration of these philosophies will illuminate the dogma that underlies homework culture.

Historically, one mission of school has been to instill moral values. Unfortunately, much of traditional schooling operates on the theory that children are basically lazy and irresponsible, that they can't be trusted, that they have to be coerced into learning, and that they must be controlled and taught to be compliant. Therefore, it follows that it is necessary to use homework to teach responsibility. If students have a natural tendency to do evil, then they cannot be trusted to use time wisely. Idle hands are the devil's workshop, and therefore children should not be idle.

This philosophy assumes not only that children don't want to learn but also that learning is inherently distasteful.

In other words, we don't trust students to be in charge of their own learning; instead, we believe that we must tightly control the task and method. No one would dispute that we want to encourage students to work hard. After all, hard work built America, right?

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The Puritans believed hard work was an honor to God that would lead to a prosperous reward. That work ethic brings to mind the stereotypical stern schoolmarm, rapping a ruler against the desk and saying "Get busy! Hard work is good for you regardless of the pointlessness of the task. Hard works builds character. Hard work is painful; suffering is virtuous. Here we see the origin of Belief 4, that more work equals rigor, and Belief 5, that "good" students do their homework and "good" teachers make students work hard. Unfortunately, when it comes to learning, the bleaker side of the Puritan work ethic has also taken hold.

Kohn called it "the cult of rigor and the loss of joy": "If children seem to be happy in school, then not much of value could be going on there" p. If it is 'rigorous,' or better yet painful, then it must have merit" p. The work ethic is obvious in views that homework is a way to train students how to work—that homework trains students how to study, how to work diligently and persistently, and how to delay gratification:. As students get older, they will be called upon to delay gratification perhaps more than they would wish to.

This is part of the learning process, and it is to be expected. Indeed, all manner of adult work demands persistence in the face of boredom. Homework is work , not play. So it helps to have the right attitude. Homework means business, and the student should expect to buckle down. As in the workplace, careless efforts and a laissez-faire attitude are likely to make the wrong impression … homework is, in part, an exchange of performance for grades. The premise of Corno and Xu's article is that "homework is the quintessential job of childhood"—as though children need a job.

Which raises a question: Is our job as educators to produce learners or workers? No philosophy is more firmly rooted in education than behaviorism. The idea that behavior can be controlled by rewards and punishment is so embedded in the day-to-day practices of school, one rarely even notices it Kohn, Discipline, grades, attendance policies, honor rolls, and even the way teachers use praise and disapproval—all reflect this philosophy that behavior can be controlled by external stimuli.

So it's no surprise that teachers believe rewards and punishments are the way to make students do homework. When punishments don't work, teachers often increase the punishment, as if more of the same will accomplish the goal. If we believe that good students do their homework and lazy students don't, then it becomes morally defensible to give failing grades for incomplete homework, thereby punishing the vice of laziness and rewarding the virtue of hard work.

Behaviorism is most evident in the use of late policies and zeros for uncompleted homework more about that in Chapter 4. Homework culture is so firmly entrenched in these moralistic, puritanistic, and behavioristic philosophies that traditional homework practices may be accepted without question by both teachers and parents, as if a sort of brainwashing has occurred. To use a s metaphor, "if you drank the Kool-Aid," you may not realize how the cult ure affects your attitudes about homework.

Homework beliefs and their historical influences affect the debate today in insidious ways. Contemporary arguments are strongly reminiscent of the earlier arguments for and against homework, yet something is different. This time around we face new and unique challenges. Education's increasing focus on college and career readiness and the adoption of the Common Core State Standards by many states have upped the game.

Even states that chose not to adopt the Common Core have revised their state standards to raise the bar in a similar fashion U. These templa…. January 19, Today we spent sometime going through our archive looking for special needs apps we have shared here in the past and ended…. Earlier this year we wrote about web tools teachers can use to for their classrooms. This post turned We have selected for you today a host…. Recent Posts. Free delivery worldwide. Bestselling Series. Harry Potter. Popular Features. New Releases. Description Does assigning fifty math problems accomplish any more than assigning five?

Is memorizing word lists the best way to increase vocabulary--especially when it takes away from reading time? And what is the real purpose behind those devilish dioramas? The time our children spend doing homework has skyrocketed in recent years. Parents spend countless hours cajoling their kids to complete such assignments--often without considering whether or not they serve any worthwhile purpose. Even many teachers are in the dark: Only one of the hundreds the authors interviewed and surveyed had ever taken a course specifically on homework during training.

The truth, according to Sara Bennett and Nancy Kalish, is that there is almost no evidence that homework helps elementary school students achieve academic success and little evidence that it helps older students. Yet the nightly burden is taking a serious toll on America's families. It robs children of the sleep, play, and exercise time they need for proper physical, emotional, and neurological development. And it is a hidden cause of the childhood obesity epidemic, creating a nation of "homework potatoes.

The Case Against Homework: How Homework Is Hurting Children and What Parents Can Do About It The Case Against Homework: How Homework Is Hurting Children and What Parents Can Do About It
The Case Against Homework: How Homework Is Hurting Children and What Parents Can Do About It The Case Against Homework: How Homework Is Hurting Children and What Parents Can Do About It
The Case Against Homework: How Homework Is Hurting Children and What Parents Can Do About It The Case Against Homework: How Homework Is Hurting Children and What Parents Can Do About It
The Case Against Homework: How Homework Is Hurting Children and What Parents Can Do About It The Case Against Homework: How Homework Is Hurting Children and What Parents Can Do About It
The Case Against Homework: How Homework Is Hurting Children and What Parents Can Do About It The Case Against Homework: How Homework Is Hurting Children and What Parents Can Do About It
The Case Against Homework: How Homework Is Hurting Children and What Parents Can Do About It The Case Against Homework: How Homework Is Hurting Children and What Parents Can Do About It
The Case Against Homework: How Homework Is Hurting Children and What Parents Can Do About It The Case Against Homework: How Homework Is Hurting Children and What Parents Can Do About It
The Case Against Homework: How Homework Is Hurting Children and What Parents Can Do About It The Case Against Homework: How Homework Is Hurting Children and What Parents Can Do About It
The Case Against Homework: How Homework Is Hurting Children and What Parents Can Do About It The Case Against Homework: How Homework Is Hurting Children and What Parents Can Do About It

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