At the beginning of the school year, a second grade teacher in Texas sent this letter home to her classroom parents:
After much research this summer, I am trying something new. Homework will only consist of work that your student did not finish during the school day. There will be no formally assigned homework this year.
Research has been unable to prove that homework improves student performance. Rather, I ask that you spend your evenings doing things that are proven to correlate with student success. Eat dinner as a family, read together, play outside, and get your child to bed early.
Thanks, Mrs. Brandy Young
A parent posted the letter on Facebook with a hearty thank you to the teacher. It went viral as parents nationwide expressed frustration at the amount of homework their children had, along with the stress it created in their home.
Stephanie Donaldson-Pressman is a clinical director at New England Center for Pediatric Psychology who contributed to a study published in the American Journal of Family Therapy regarding homework. She has serious concerns about the amount of homework children have and its impact on them.
“One study found kindergartners were given 25 minutes or more of homework,” says Donaldson-Pressman. “Homework for kindergartners is supposed to be nonexistent. Children at this age need to be playing outside, experiencing the early stages of socialization, learning how to play, how to share so they are finessing their motor skills. Family activities and play are more important than homework at this age.”
Donaldson-Pressman believes parents have a lot more control than they realize. Parents can set limits for how long their child does homework.
The National Education Association recommends only 10 minutes per grade level per night. The same study that found kindergartners spend too much time on homework also found that first graders spent 25 to 30 minutes. By third grade, kids spent more than a half-hour per night. Donaldson-Pressman noted that in her practice, some third graders spent two to four hours on homework – and their parents can’t help them.
According to Donaldson-Pressman, the data shows that homework over the recommended time is not beneficial to children’s grades or GPA. Evidence actually suggests that it’s detrimental to their attitude about school, grades, self-confidence, social skills and quality of life.
If homework creates stress in your home, Donaldson-Pressman says you can help decrease the angst if you:
- Create a quiet place to do homework.
- Try to do homework at the same time every day.
- Set a timer for 10 minutes for a first-grader, and then have them stop. Fourth graders need to move on to something else after 40 minutes.
As a parent, you probably already know how important it is for children of all ages to get enough rest. Plus, you want them to have time to play, develop friendships outside of school hours and engage in family activities.
In addition to managing the homework situation, assessing your child’s activities and how much pressure kids feel to perform can help. Hopefully, these ideas can allow your family to enjoy more quality time together after a long day at work and school.
This article was originally published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on January 22, 2017.