Children don't need hours of homework time to succeed in life.
Last week Bunmi Laditan, the genius behind “Honest Toddler,” posted a screenshot of an email she sent to her daughter’s school along with an extended rant about the stupidity of homework.
Children do not need hours of homework time to succeed, yet we act like sitting at a kitchen table after a full day at school somehow makes sense. It does not. IT DOES NOT. IT. DOES. NOT.
Children need downtime after school the same way adults need downtime after work. They need to play with their siblings. They need to bond with their parents in a relaxed atmosphere, not one where everyone is stressed about fractions because — SURPRISE — I’m not a teacher. Children need time to just enjoy their childhoods or is that just for the weekends (although we do homework on Sundays also).
This is how every other parent I know feels. It is insane for children to spend 8, 9, or 10 hours a day at school only to come home and have even more hours of work to do. There is no possible way that their brains can continue working for that long! And even if they are somehow still capable of sitting still and learning for hours upon hours, it comes at the expense of other equally important aspects of life — family time, physical development, social interaction, extracurricular activities, and even doing chores.
Lest you think that Bunmi and I are just disgruntled moms who hate making their kids do homework, here’s a fun fact: no study has ever proven any academic benefit to assigning children homework before they are in high school.
That’s not to say that there is a lack of studies on homework, quite the contrary. There is simply no study that proves it’s beneficial. In his book The Homework Myth, Alfie Kohn said “the stubborn belief that all of this must be worth it, that the gain must outweigh the pain, relies on faith rather than evidence.” In fact, there is growing evidence that homework is having a negative impact on kids in every area of life.
The best thing that happened at my kids’ school this year was when my son’s first-grade teachers got rid of homework. He came home one day and announced that he didn’t have homework for the rest of the year and I almost wept in gratitude.
This particular child is the only one of mine who loves homework. He was actually disappointed, so he got a new Brain Quest book to keep him busy. Now instead of copying out spelling words he already knows or doing a mindless math sheet, he’s teaching himself how to multiply.
All kids are not like this, I know. If my oldest was liberated from homework she definitely would not voluntarily do math. But she would have more time to read, since she reads slowly and never has time to finish before we have to move on to dinner, taekwondo, and bed. Or time to play outside, or paint, or help me with dinner, or just relax and tell me about her day. She never has time to do those things during the week, because she spends over an hour on homework every day.
That’s crazy. She’s already in school for eight hours a day! That is plenty of time to teach her whatever she needs to learn academically, because there’s a lot more to learn about life than how to get As.
I want my kids to learn how to cook, fold laundry, ride a bike, play an instrument, and jump out of a swing without breaking a bone. I want them to have time to be bored, and to use their imaginations to come up with something to do. I want them to play games and have conversations and make friends. But if they spend most of the year in school for eight hours a day and then have two or three hours of work to do at home, when will they do any of this? On Saturdays and during the summer? That’s not enough.
Kids should be expected to learn, but they shouldn’t be slaves to education. They’re children. Forget the homework and let them have a childhood.