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Moms Talk: At What Age Should Children Have Homework?

Our question this week deals with homework and whether it is beneficial or too much for young children.

Just the other day, a member of our Moms Council said one of her children who attends kindergarten was sent home with what she believed was too much homework for someone so young.

So that got us thinking about our question for this week:

At what age should children be assigned homework? Also, is it OK for adults to help or should the children be left to their own devices?

Hope Stevens April 13, 2011 at 06:51 PM
In my opinion, I think homework can be a good bridge from home to school, but I also think that kids need time outside of school to explore other activities and have some "down time"-definitely don't think kids as young as 5 should have to complete homework...parents can read to their kids and complete other fun activities for learning at home.
George Stockwell April 13, 2011 at 08:17 PM
Although I am not a mom, may I jump in here? Homework should be a part of the overall school experience from kindergarten on PROVIDING IT IS AGE APPROPRIATE. Every school has a homework policy. Find out what it is. Homework builds responsibility and strengthens skills for a given day--or week. Now, here's another somewhat related question: Is it a teacher's responsibility to provide homework assignments for a child who's missing school due to a vacation?
Suzy DeYoung April 13, 2011 at 10:43 PM
I think homework is a waste of time - especially in elementary school. There is little to no evidence that homework is beneficial to elementary school students. It frequently takes kids away from opportunites to connect with themselves and the real world such as, unstructured outdoor play, solitary time, "hanging" with the rest of the family, sleep or imaginative play. Often meaningless and rote, homework often causes un-needed tension for both the child and the adult. Kids are no different from adults - they come home to be home - not to have to sit and do more work. Luckily "Race to Nowhere" is drawing much needed attention to this issue. Also worth checking out: www.thecaseagainsthomework.com.
Lee Elkins April 14, 2011 at 12:36 AM
Homework has long been a sore subject in many households. I do believe the kids need some homework. However, the busy work that I see come home can be annoying. What I have enjoyed watching my kids think about are the projects they are assigned. Many of these cause them to think outside of a worksheet mentality, which seems to just restate facts, and actually apply what they've learned in a tangible way. This may not be everyone's favorite learning method, but it has worked well for us. At the end of a project, they actually see what they've learned and have had a chance to present it to their class, which also helps with public speaking. I'm sure worksheets have their place in the learning process, but making that information come to life is how those facts stick for some kids.
Will Jones April 14, 2011 at 01:22 AM
My thoughts are exactly those of Ms. DeYoung. My kids aren't in school yet, but once they get there, I certainly don't want them doing worksheets at home while they're still in elementary school. They'll be reading books, playing games and sports, spending time outside and time with friends, and most importantly, time together with their family.
Sandy Hook April 14, 2011 at 01:40 AM
I think the 10 minutes per grade is a good rule of thumb. No more than 10 min for 1st grade, 20 for 2nd, etc. It's just a good habit and teaches them the responsibility, so they are not shocked in the older grades. Fortunately most teachers that I have met are very flexible and reasonble. They have/had kids and know that there are other things in life that get in the way. I don't thinks teachers should have to give homework for kids on vacation, but many of them want to, so that the student keeps up with the class.
Adria L. Henderson April 14, 2011 at 02:19 AM
I believe that some homework is appropriate, if, as George mentions, its age appropriate and doesn’t interfere with the child’s family time. I have seen my 8 year old granddaughter put in close to an hour and a half completing assignments. To me, that’s way over the top. That type of time commitment interferes with parent-child time. Once kids get home from all their after-school activities, there’s virtually no time left for family time. Why can’t assignments be limited to ½ hour during the week for elementary age kids, with longer assignments due after the weekend? Since most of a child’s time during the week is spent in school, there should be enough time at home for parents to spend quality time with their children – other than helping them complete homework assignments.
Dr. Dana Martinez April 14, 2011 at 01:33 PM
I agree with Suzy. Time with family and unstructured activities are as important as school work. After many hours in school, kids should be able to change gears and develop all those other skills that are critical - social, physical, artistic, etc.. Race to nowhere started the process by creating awareness; now we need to take the baton.
KCNewtowner April 14, 2011 at 07:01 PM
I agree with Suzy and will take it one more step. No home work on weekends, holidays and school vacations for all grades with the excpetionof HS where the kids may need the extra time. I spend alot of time doing home work other then school days. It is very hard to get anything else done.
Douglas Brennan April 15, 2011 at 03:39 AM
If a child gets it they should not have any homework; they were attentive in class and mastered the subject matter. The converse is also true. A child that has not understood the instruction during class should have homework to reinforce the subject. Having time limits does not create understanding only frustration as part of learning is for the child to understand when they know the subject and don't require further practice or reinforcement. This is easier for people to understand when you remove subject from the idea and use sports as the model. Some kids are natural athletes. You give them a ball and they know how to throw it; you give them a basket and they can shoot the ball in the basket. Others will struggle. Should you let them and let them build character through the struggle or tell them they that can't master the sport. Unfortunately we let time dictate the mastery of the subject since we have abandoned the advantages of having many grades within one classroom. (the one room school house). However time should not limit the amount of homework but the mastery of the subject's building block should. Most poor learners have not learned to have realisitc pace in their absorption of material and were pushed early on in school through a series of frustrating superficial learning exercises. They never really internally mastered anything. Setting the right pace is vital to any real learning and letting them master it takes time and struggles.
Douglas Brennan April 15, 2011 at 03:50 AM
All kids can and will learn if you set the right pace for them as an individual. Many classrooms have a pace that is too fast or too confusing for the children that are stuggling. Rather then put them in a environment where they can be successful and learn at the proper pace most parents want them to be the best, smartest and compete when all they want to do is learn and be sure of what they learned. The same struggle occurs with kids that are mastering the subject squickly. They are bored, they get inflated opinions of themselves that are reinforced by the parents and they become frustrated when after several years of running in place they are finally challenged in school. Unfortuately for many this occurs so late that by that time their brain has not been exercised and has turned into mush. This is one of the reasons that there is such underachievement during the middle school years in the United States as the subjects start to get a little more challenging and the "top" students have not been properly prepared to exercise their minds during their previous years in school.
Susan McGuinness Getzinger April 18, 2011 at 01:21 PM
How was thie PAC meeting?
Lauren Milano April 19, 2011 at 01:52 AM
I agree with Lee. I see a lot of busy work that comes home in kindergarten. I think my son gets a lot more out of the projects, rather than completing dittos. I also feel like a huge part of this is the fact that we only have 1/2 day kindergarten in Newtown. I think the work is sent home because they don't have time to get to everything in school.
Sandy Hook April 19, 2011 at 11:03 AM
Actually, not all kids can learn. Even with a snail's pace and a tutor after school and over the summer, there are some that cannot learn a subject. Practice, Practice, Practice and still can't get it. I know a child that could not get through more than basic math in high school. Now B+ student in college, but cannot pass a math class and needs to go an extra semester to graduate. Poor thing.
Becky April 19, 2011 at 11:49 AM
As a mom of a 1st grader I think that homework is really important. It reinforces the lessons that are taught throughout the day as well as letting me know what they learning in school. I usually get a very brief summary of the entire days activities that has more to do with social situations than any of the learning that took place. However, with homework, I see what she is learning and then can carry it over into the regular day to day things we do, like playing, etc. I actually think that the homework should be a little harder and they should have activities to do on school vacations. I'm surprised that so many parents on here are against homework. I think that the American educational system has gotten extremely lax and really needs to be beefed up....obviously I am a minority in my thinking. I'd be curious to know of the parents who are "against" homework, do you allow your children to play video games and how many extra curricular activities do your children participate in?
Hoa Nguyen April 19, 2011 at 01:14 PM
I think some of the moms who object to homework are saying that they object to what they see as "busy work" and would rather have more meaningful assignments. One thing that I would say about kindergarten and first grade is that the one thing that I can remember about being at that age and homework -- and that's going back pretty far -- is that most of us wanted homework! We wanted to be just like the older kids.
Suzy DeYoung April 19, 2011 at 04:19 PM
In answer to Becky, the reason I feel there should be no homework in the elementary school years is that in both my personal and professional experience, I have come to see that young children learn best through play. Imaginary play especially is a key component in a child's social, congitive and even academic development. Learning how to understand one's self and the world in which we live does not come through academics- it comes through unstructured play. My kids get half hour of video games per day. We do not have cable so televison is not an issue. They do one sport which requires little time. I cherish the notion of down time - time to be "bored" once in a while apart from the constant hustle and bustle. There is a "wiseness" that develops from this that no amount of work can provide. If a child enjoys their homework and it is not a time of angst I see little problem - Alot of children, however, do not respond well to homework and may be missing out on opportunities to discover aspects of themselves that school work does not encourage.
Becky April 20, 2011 at 12:12 AM
I don't think that 10-40 minutes (from grade 1-4, given the 10 min per grade rule) of homework would in any way inhibit the ability of kids to lear to play. In my personal and professional experience, children develop their imaginations about age 2-3, much earlier than school even begins anyway. I think that not having the habit and discipline of homework in elementary school would create a big problem in middle school when kids are much more resistant to learning new habits.
Douglas Brennan April 20, 2011 at 09:53 AM
Parents are still in charge of the process. If you want your child to have homework you should be able to opt in and if you don't you should be able to opt out. The trouble is that is not the system. The system is that the child that mastered it two years ago is getting the same practice that the child that did not yet master it is getting. Does ths make any sense? And since homework counts the child that is bored dreams of becoming an air traffic controller on the evening shift. In the "one room school house" they would be able to learn at the appropriate level.
Sandy Hook April 20, 2011 at 10:42 AM
Many of my coworkers from a dfferent culture assign their kids EXTRA homework, a lot. They also take their kids to tutors, even when they have no problems in class. This is just so they get the extra practice and can be ahead of the class. They also get extra schooling on weekends of art or music or foreign language. Apparently our schools don't give enough work and kids should not have so much free time. Guess which kids are always at the top of their class and don't do oxycodone?
Becky April 20, 2011 at 12:09 PM
I totally agree! The homework my daughter gets is pretty easy for her but she does it anyway and then I supplement on weekends, vacations, etc with workbooks or museum trips, etc. She is home afterschool for 4-5 hours before bedtime. Doing 15-30 min of additional work to reinforce the school day certainly does not interfere with playing. I mean, really, kids do not need to play for 5 hours daily! There needs to be balance and encouragement from parents that school is important. Homework is one way that parents get involved in what the school is doing and can facilitate continued learning. Teaching our kids that homework is dumb or not important while they are young (whether it is through overt or subtle communication) will simply ensure that they become underachieving adults or do not value a solid work ethic. I bet that allowing your child to not do homework until middle or high school and then trying to instill the educational values in them will lead to failure. It definitely is not an experiment I would be willing to try on my kid, but feel free to do so on yours and please get back to us in 6 years and let us know how its going!!!
gwen evans April 20, 2011 at 12:50 PM
Avoid the time it takes to build real family connection by saddling kids with so much work that they won't have time to fall into destructive habits? I don't think so. I want my kid to make good choices because she has a strong bond with herself and her family - not because she is laden down with mounds of work. Being at the top of the class is not necessarily a good thing. Cultures in which kids consistently perform at the top have an alarming rate of teen dropout and psychological issues. Also, whether a parent encourages or discourages homework does not lead to "failure." Little in life is so black and white. As long as we take the time to know, and support our kids and to be aware of signs of stress, whatever homework philosophy we have is not going make or break them. It's disturbing when these issues get mean-spirited and cloud the fact that we all, regardless of our opinions, care deeply for our children - there is no "right" or "wrong", only what works best for our own children.
Douglas Brennan April 20, 2011 at 12:58 PM
Dear Becky: There are acts of Omission and Comission. Do not fall into the trap that the act of Comission is somehow a superior choice. Actually you suggest that someone else might be doing an experiment on their child. Did you consider that the choice you are making is also an experiment? Much of the homework assigned is busy work. But what each child needs differs depending on the child. Don't worry we have done our experiments, chosen our own paths and made our good and bad decisions. But what you have chosen is the "safe, conventional" way. It is also an experiment. All of my children are independent thinkers. When they had homework that was helping them learn I made sure that they understood that it was important and that it should be done and done well. However when they got busy work I indicated to them that this was busy work and it was not worth their time. In this way they began to separate the wheat from the chaff, they developed self awareness and self control. They formed opinions which they needed to support with facts, logic and reasoning. Yes these were good skills for them to acquire when they convinced me that about half of the stuff that came home was just a lot of crap and nonsense. They also knew that not doing homework had consequences that might be grade related but not learning related.
Douglas Brennan April 20, 2011 at 01:14 PM
Thank you Gwen. Well said. however I would not attribute "some culture" to being at the top. I know that you are not prejudicial. All these "cultural" sterotypes are rather amusing. But you are correct that certain cultures do better then others in school. Maybe because there are fewer single parent households? Maybe because there is more discipline? Maybe because there are fewer children and therefore the parents can focus more on those that they have? Maybe because the parents valued education and have passed their values onto their children? Maybe because the parents have a good work ethic and have passed this quality onto their children? Etc. Etc.
Ann April 20, 2011 at 06:08 PM
All have very valid points! I feel that homework can reinforce difficult concepts, but have also seen so many assignments that are really just busy work. The discipline of doing assignments in the younger grades does prepare students for a much more difficult program in middle and high school. The comments left about family time and time to "just be a kid" are quite valid, but remember we all live in a town where most of the parents read to their children and involve them in other enrichment programs like Odyssey of the Mind, sports, art etc. Not every school system has families who do this in CT, so the mandates that come from the state for our schools pertain to the general population in many cases. Great points everyone! This is a really nice place to share thoughts and ideas!
CT Yankee April 21, 2011 at 12:48 AM
This fact can also be beneficial! For kids that don't do well on tests and quizzes the homework can be a godsend. Many kids choke when formally tested but their homework is perfect. So screwing up the tests can be saved by perfect homework and they can now bring home a C or better instead of failing the class.
Susan McGuinness Getzinger April 22, 2011 at 02:35 AM
Here's some homework for the taxpayer/parents and for the children to learn about government and civil rights and the law...http://newtown.patch.com/articles/cutting-it-close-but-with-a-possible-cushion

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