When you were a kid, how much did you love homework? There were times that homework could be fun. There were also times that you’d rush through that homework, just so you could go play outside.
Assigning homework to students as early as kindergarten has become a divisive debate. There are those who believe that doing homework consistently allows for learning concepts, which are taught at school, to be reinforced at home. There are also those who believe that kids are distracted at home and that homework is a secondary priority.
The top pros and cons of homework help to outline the various key points of this debate.
List of the Top Pros of Homework
1. It can be fun, just like any other home activity.
Homework is often a distraction because it is allowed to be one. If parents become involved with the homework process and incorporate it into the family routine, it can become fun. Homework can be turned into games, into activities, or even family outings. It doesn’t have to be a formalized process where students sit at a table and memorize charts and formulas or complete busy-work.
2. It can take kids away from computers, TVs, and mobile devices.
Today’s students spend almost as much time at school as they do watching TV or using an electronic device. Students spend up to 4 hours per school night on electronic devices an up to 8 hours per weekend day. By encouraging homework, the amount of time being spend in front of screens can be reduced. In return, there is a lower risk of eye strain, myopia, headaches, and other issues that are associated with high levels of screen use.
3. It extends the learning process throughout the day.
Most school subjects are limited to 30-60 minutes of instruction per day. Specialty subjects, such as art and music, may be limited to 1-2 hours per week. Sending homework allows students to have their learning process extended in these areas, allowing them to develop a deeper knowledge, interest, or passion about certain matters. Time shortages can create knowledge gaps. Homework can help to lessen or eliminate those gaps.
4. It provides a safe learning environment.
Not every child goes home to a safe home environment. Not every child goes to a safe school environment either. There will always be exceptions, but homework does generally allow a student to study in a place where they are comfortable. The benefits of this process include improved information retention, higher levels of interest in specific subject matter, and improved parent/child communication.
5. It requires students to learn time management.
Homework can involve many different tasks. It becomes necessary for students to manage their time wisely to ensure they can get their work finished on time. It encourages students to set priorities for their time, so they can accomplish their goals and not feel like they missed out on something. This process encourages problem-solving, creative thinking, and personal responsibility. These benefits don’t just stop with the student either. Families must learn time management to accommodate the homework needs as well.
6. It creates communication networks.
For homework to be effective, there must be two communication networks present. Parents and children must form a network. Parents and teachers must also form a network. By sending homework on a regular basis, these networks stay activated so that the student can receive an individualized learning opportunity. Parents understand the teachers better. Teachers understand the students better. Students, though they may hate the homework, can understand their lessons better. It becomes a winning situation for everyone involved.
7. It can foster deeper parent/child relationships.
Parents are very busy today. About 60% of all two-parent families have both parents employed. In single-parent families, the amount of contact time a parent might have with their child could be as little as 2-3 hours per day. Homework is an opportunity for parents to provide their wisdom and expertise to their children in a way that benefits everyone. Not only is information passed along, but every homework opportunity is also a chance for parents and children to foster deeper relationships with one another.
8. It lets parents know what their children are learning.
Even parents who are classroom chaperones don’t get to see everything their child is learning each day. Homework is an opportunity to know what is being taught by their child’s teacher. Not only does this help to engage the learning process for everyone, it also provides a chance for parents to ask questions about the curriculum or express concerns they may have.
9. It encourages discipline.
Repeating the same tasks on a daily basis is far from the definition of “fun” for the average person. Without repetition, however, it is difficult to improve personal skills or discover new talents. Homework is an opportunity to lay the framework of discipline that can last for a lifetime. Sometimes, homework isn’t about the actual work that needs to be finished. It is about learning how to manage oneself so that personal goals can be consistently achieved.
10. It sets the stage for a vocational career.
Many vocations require their workers to be available at different hours during the day. Some require employees to be ready, in an on-call status. An important work project might need to be completed at home. When teachers and schools send homework with a student, it is an opportunity to learn what the world is really like. There are some days when extended work is required. In return, once that work is completed, you get to do all the fun things you want to do.
11. It is an opportunity to find pride in one’s work.
Doing a good job on something feels good. It gives you confidence and boosts your self-esteem. Homework can provide these benefits, especially when the work meets or exceeds expectations. Finding pride in one’s work can help students determine who they want to be when they grow up.
List of the Top Cons of Homework
1. It eliminates play time from a child’s routine.
Many children already put in the same number of hours for their schooling and activities as their parents do with their full-time jobs. Sports, clubs, Girl or Boy Scouts, church activities, and more are all part of the modern routine. There needs to be time for playing in there as well and homework can take that time away. When children aren’t given time to play, they have lower levels of personal safety awareness, have lower average grades, and have a higher risk of health concerns.
2. It is often graded on benchmarks instead of personal achievement.
The goal of homework is to increase personal knowledge in a specific area. The reasons for this need are often mixed. It is often assigned to improve a specific test score instead of improving a specific personal skill or habit. Since homework is often completed at a time when children feel tired after school, the amount of information they retain is limited. If stress, anxiety, or even hunger are added into the mix, the results of homework can be negligible or even negative.
3. It can be used to offset teaching shortfalls.
The general rule of homework is that 10 minutes per day should be assigned at maximum, based on the grade level of the student. Since kindergarten is essentially Grade 0 in the United States, that would mean no homework should be sent. A 1st grader should receive 10 minutes per day at maximum, a 2nd grader should receive 20 minutes, and so forth. Yet, in the U.S., the average 1st grader comes home with 20 minutes of homework – double the recommended amount. That means it is being used more for educational shortfalls than for student development in many cases.
4. It reduces the amount of outdoor time.
As homework responsibilities have risen, the amount of time children spent outside playing has decreased. In the past generation, the amount of outdoor play time has been almost cut in half. At the same time, homework assignments have risen by an almost equal level. The average amount of homework assign to a high school senior in the U.S. is 3 hours per day at high-performing schools. That means some students work longer hours in their education than their parents do for their full-time job.
5. It encourages shortcuts.
Students assigned high levels of homework begin to look for ways to reduce their time commitments. That means trying to find shortcuts to the process. That might mean a decision to cheat on a difficult assignment. It could mean a student decides to put in a 50% effort to have more energy to do something else later in the day. Many families with multiple children do their homework together just to save time. That reduces the effectiveness of what the homework is supposed to accomplish.
6. It may be beyond the parent’s scope of knowledge.
Changing lesson plans mean homework assignments follow different rules than parents may know compared to their time in school. Common Core mathematics is one of the best examples of this. If parents cannot help with the core concepts of a homework assignment and do not have access to helpful information, then the purpose of the homework is lost. The results can be detrimental to the learning process. It can even rob students and parents of their confidence.
7. It isn’t something that can be enforced.
Refusing to do homework is not against the law. Some students may decide that the consequences they receive at school for not doing their homework are worth the time-savings they receive in not doing it. Motivation can be a tricky thing. Unless there is value in the homework being sent home on some level, there will always be a handful of students in every school who decide that the effort of doing the work isn’t valuable enough to them.
8. It decreases the development of creative processes.
Homework is usually structured around the completion of a specific assignment. Even in art, music, or writing, the homework must be completed in a specific way to receive a good grade. That means homework is teaching concepts of compliance more than it is teaching concepts of skill development.
9. It reduces the amount of down time a student receives.
It is true that the average student may spend up to 4 hours every school night in front of an electronic screen. That might mean a movie, a TV show, or video games. More homework is being administered through electronic devices as well. This leaves less time for students to pursue extra-curricular activities, develop a new hobby, or spend time with their families. Excessive homework can even lead to learning burnout when it occurs for long enough.
10. It may not offer any skill improvement.
Except for outlier surveys, homework does the best job of creating a negative attitude toward learning something new. Kids don’t want to go to school because they don’t want to receive tons of homework that need to be done. Parents are even required to initial or sign an acknowledgement that the homework has been completed. If that signature doesn’t happen, who receives a consequence at school? The student. Homework can be helpful when students are falling behind their peers in specific areas, especially if private tutoring is involved, but the other benefits of homework may be overstated.
11. It adds more time to a child’s daily responsibilities.
The average school begins their day at 8am. The school day ends at 2:30 or 3:20pm. Many students can easily reach 8 hours of school responsibilities every day. Homework for the weekend may include up to another 6 hours of school responsibilities for a high-performing school. Children as young as 5 are going to formal school settings for 6-8 hours every day. Although this does accommodate the working hours of parents, it creates a huge strain on the kids. Some just feel like they don’t have time to be a kid any more.
12. It could encourage a low-movement lifestyle.
Children often sit for long periods of time when in the school environment. They often sit for long periods while completing their homework. Recent research suggests that prolonged sitting could be just as dangerous to a person’s health as smoking. With obesity levels at record highs around the world, but especially in the United States, the best homework to send home might just be to go outside to play for some time.
13. It puts some children at a disadvantage.
Not every parent is invested into their child’s education. Not every parent helps a child with the homework they have. Some parents may not even come home at night. Children that come from homes where their parents are not invested into them tend to be at a disadvantage when it comes to homework. Without any home support, a child can feel like their teacher and their parents are both “out to get them.” This feeling can inspire a number of negative choices, including criminal activity.
The top pros and cons of homework often inspire a passionate debate. There are some who feel that homework is good for everyone because it encourages discipline and personal responsibility. There are some who feel that homework is bad because it takes time away from other learning opportunities. The answer likely lies somewhere in the middle here, where some homework can be good, but it should not overwhelm the student or their family.