All Homework and No Play

Boy Underneath BookIs Homework Worth It?: According to an article in the Washington Post, one of the nation’s leading researchers on homework has once again concluded that homework does not offer as many benefits as people seem to think it does. The homework that is most helpful is reading. Many students, unfortunately, bring home overloaded backpacks each afternoon. Schools are pressured to give homework because of state policies. Many people mistakenly believe that lots of homework will make students smarter and teach them self-discipline. The research, however, suggests the following limits on homework:

Elementary school: only short homework assignments on basic skills
Middle school: less than 1 hour per night
High school: less than 2 hours per night

The Importance of Play: While homework can be useful up to a certain point, children also need time for physical and recreational activities, hobbies, and unstructured leisure time. All of these play an important part in healthy emotional development. When children are so busy and overscheduled that they don’t have time to be bored or experience moments of spontaneity, they lose out on opportunities to grow to their full potential.

Question about Your Homework Experience: We would love to know what your and your children’s experiences with homework have been like. How many hours per night? Do you feel it is too much or too little? Please note whether you or your children are Deaf or hearing and whether the school is a Deaf one or a public one. Look forward to hearing from you!

  1. Jenn September 16, 2006

    Always hated homework, although it is key for some classes such as math.

    The big problem with homework is for the time put into it, it’s not always that relevant or enriching to the grades.

    In college it is very different because it’s more time self-study and less time in class. It can be less time than in HS if you manage time wisely.

    I continually enjoy reading neuropsychology research on learning. I learned a few facts.

    1) If you sleep right after you study, you retain it better.
    2) Right after you wake up from a dream, your brain is very sharp and you can do rote tasks like math better.
    3) Sleep deprivation affects repetitive work first before it will affect more complex thinking skills (such as conversational skills)
    4) When stuck: switch to something else for 5-10 minutes, then try the material again. Your brain will be fresher and sometimes it has solved the problem already.
    5) To keep a better attitude to hard material, work until you have succeeded in doing it right. Then take a brief break and do something else.

    I apply this rule to my dog because he hates repetition of skills he has only recently learned. I need to keep it varied and give his brain a chance to process what he did RIGHT before I rush him to do it again and again. If I push him too much, he often will start making mistakes or try and do something else instead.

    6) Review and repetition are useful for memorization– the three-time rule. But you cannot learn a rule and apply it fluently at the same time.

    7) The teacher needs to observe what core skills are missing and then go back to help the student over the core skills, otherwise homework can be very slow torture for a young student.

    I used to miss some recess almost daily in 2nd grade because I was a year younger than everybody else and my writing skills for numbers just weren’t that fast yet. My teacher started telling me I didn’t HAVE to finish the work and just go play. I still can do math just fine for missing a few in-class exercises. I remember how frustrated I was that I couldn’t just write as fast as everybody else. I had just transferred in and I was catching up to the class.

    Well I missed some classwork but I still learned anyway.

    8) Schools schedule themselves to be stressful and they lack enough break periods.

    I used to be running to locker and to next class in HS. Lunch was more like 10-15 minutes for me because of the lines. I can’t believe the TV shows that show students chatting away between classes.

    If you want to add time to student’s learning experience, increase time in between periods by a couple minutes or 5, and schedule all lunchtime classes to be split by lunch.

    A special ed teacher tells me in that a class she teaches which is interrupted by lunch break, that the student do much better in that class with the lunch break, they go to lunch and come back and they’ve assimilated what she taught before lunch and they’re brighter. Breaks work better than constant repetition.

  2. Anne Marie September 16, 2006

    I agree. I had that amount of studying time as listed above when I was in elementary to high school. Looking back, I know I won’t get any better if I had to spend more hours. I had extra time not only to play but to read many great books that are irreplacable.

    I was worried about my 6 year old son’s and was relieved to learn his school has been following research and are doing at this amount.

    Anne Marie

  3. Carl Schroeder September 16, 2006

    Aloha All!
    My children (Justin-hearing and Vivienne-Deaf) enrolled in Montessori Children’s House when they were young. As parent, I did not believe in homework for them because it’s a lot of work to do at school. I want them to be home when they are home. I never, ever regret enrolling them where homework is not very much a part of the school curriculum. Homework is an excuse!

  4. GoAwayAnxiety September 16, 2006

    Great article!!! It makes me think about my website relate to depression/anxiety… Wonder if with all of this homework and that could create more stress for students I wonder if it would be any chance that they will also developing some mental issues include depression/anxiety! I had the feeling it would. Because children are so young they need some free times and do things they enjoy, include physically activities.

  5. Mom of 2 September 16, 2006

    I was glad to see this article. My children go to a deaf school (now in hs) and have too much homework. When they have sports games they get home after 9:00 and have to study for 2 or 3 hours. It is too much!! I hope schools read your article.

  6. Poorna September 17, 2006

    We have two hearing sons in elementary school. We agree with the researchers that kids should have leisure time after school. My older son spends more time on homework than expected (1 1/2 to 2 hours). Because of that, we chose not to enroll him in extracurricular activities such as sports. We want him to enjoy being a child with simple life. Later when he is older and asks to join sports or other lessons, we will support his wishes and work with him on balancing them with school.


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