Homework – is it really necessary?

It seems that each year school children are loaded with more and more homework and kids as young as grade 1 are staying up late just to finish it all! Not to mention the time that parents need to put in to help their children with homework. It can feel like it is all too much and one if left wondering if this is really the best idea.

THERE IS PLENTY OF EVIDENCE TO SUGGEST THAT TOO MUCH HOMEWORK IS BAD FOR CHILDREN.

If kids go from school to sport to other extra mural activities and then straight home to start on their homework before dinner, bath and bed then when do they play? When do they bond with their siblings and parents? When do they have fun? Physical and imaginative play are vital aspects of childhood development, but it seems that fewer children have the time to play during the week as they are overloaded with hours and hours of homework.

Homework is not all bad though – as it serves the purpose of solidifying information in a student’s mind so that that they can better access and use it in the future (moving the information from short-term working memory into long-term memory). Studies have shown that this is an effective way to help high school students to understand and remember what they learned in class, but it has much less benefit for primary school learners. In fact, there is growing evidence to support the idea that homework in primary school has a negative effect on children. Furthermore, giving children projects to complete is arguably the worst way of reinforcing knowledge – not to mention the fact that most parents are left to complete the time-consuming projects themselves after their children have grown weary and gone to bed or snuck outside to climb a tree.

In addition to the lost sleep and play due to the sheer amount of homework to be completed, children are also burdened with the emotional and psychological effects of all this homework. Anxiety and stress related to homework and school is increasing at a staggering rate and more and more children are buckling under the pressure. Most schools do not seem too concerned and continue to set large amounts of homework each and every day (even on a Friday). Parents are also left feeling like they are doing most of the teaching when helping their children to complete homework, despite the costly school fees paid each month. But what other option is there?

Homeschooling is the answer for many parents. Homework is not compulsory, school fees are not a huge blow and parents can teach their children in a safe and nurturing environment. Homework is an important aspect of the learning process in high school, especially in grade 10-12, but for primary school students it seems to be completely unnecessary. Drastically cutting back, or indeed eliminating homework entirely for primary school learners means that kids can be kids again and parents can spend quality time with their children in the afternoons instead of arguing over homework.