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He can’t complete it right away. After sitting at school for six hours, the last thing he wants to do is open that folder and write his numbers, practice his ending consonant sounds or work on his sight words.

So we don’t.

An hour of tv later, and I’m trying to coax him to the dining room table so we can knock out 20 or 30 minutes of homework before dinner and shower time, and that’s on the nights we don’t have any activities or sports. On those nights, we have to go faster, and sometimes, he does his homework in the car before soccer practice.

He’s in first grade. And it’s the second week of school, and we already have at least 20-30 minutes a night.

There’s a slow growing trend that some schools are proudly announcing in the last couple of years;  no homework in the elementary grades. The argument is that homework doesn’t really help reinforce ideas (reading at home not withstanding,) and that time could be better used playing, eating dinner with family, going to bed early, or spending time in an extracurricular activity.

According to the Miami Herald, “The first thing to know is that homework for elementary school kids does not improve academic skills,” said Dr. Jeffrey Brosco, a professor of clinical pediatrics at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. “If you look at kids who get homework and kids who don’t get homework and how they do in reading, writing and math, there’s really no difference.”

So if there’s no great difference, what’s the point? Our kids are already sitting all day in school, at an age where they really should be more active. And instead of encouraging free play after school, they’re sent home with more worksheets and drill activities to memorize facts and words.

Some argue that it’s building responsibility. Teaching organization. The kids need a worksheet or two to bring back and forth from school in order for them to become more responsible.


Or maybe they just need time to be kids. We’re already starting them with such intense school so fast and the curriculum is flying by them at warp speed. Shouldn’t they have time to play outside when they come home?

Some schools think so. And it’s starting a movement. Schools in San Diego, San Francisco, Miami, elementary schools are doing away with homework. They’ll learn study skills and habits later, but they’ve only got a few years to be children, so these schools are prioritizing that over pushing more academics.

What do you think? Is this growing trend the right one?


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4 thoughts on “Is Homework in Elementary School a Complete Waste of Time?

  1. 20-30 minutes per night for a 1st grader is way too much in my personal and professional opinion. The max recommendation is 10 minutes per grade level (so 1st grader 10 minutes a night. 20 min second graders, etc). The whole HW issue gives me a stomachache. Kids need to do all the things that we KNOW are necessary parts of a healthy childhood (such as free play, good sleep, healthy eating, family time) and there are just not enough hours in the day, especially for working parents. The school I work at does not give traditional HW (other than reading and some computer based math practice based on their skill level) but my child’s school does give it (about 30 min a week for 1st grade). My plan is that I’ll encourage him to do it when it works but it will be the first to go when it doesn’t. Those other things I listed are definitely more important to us. He will practice these academic skills the other 6-7 hours of the school day, and will learn responsibility when he actually is old enough to take full ownership of this to have a benefit.

  2. I sit with my 5th grader doing homework of Math, ELA, science and band instrument practice cramming that all in before soccer practice and I’m just filled with that gut feeling of she should be outside on a bike, laughing and decompressing so she can go back to school the next day feeling rejuvenated. I’m not a professional in the field but I know my kid and I feel awful when at the end of the day she’s exhausted with a stressed out look on her young face hoping she will be smart enough at school. (That was my face when I worked 60 hours a week as an adult in my 30’s)
    I put her in soccer because she loves it and thinking I should take her out so she can focus on schoolwork infuriates me. So I don’t. And then I struggle with am I doing enough or too much. Sigh.
    I’m not sure what the right answer is. But I know I’m always wishing for more time in the day so my kid can just be a kid.

  3. Having the politicians make the decisions about our education instead of actual educational professionals is what has created this intensity in schools. My 3rd grader is studying about the branches of the government and democracy. Are these things important? Sure. Do they need to know this stuff in 3rd grade? Nope. My poor kid cannot even pronounce legislative!! First, I think many kids are already used to longer days and many are in before and after care. Why can’t the school day be extended to include more free play time, more time to eat than the 20 minutes they get and to be able to slow down the pace. Or keep the days the same but go to school year round. I’m tired of paying 10-14k per year for daycare and I’m tired of having my kids work all day and us work all day and having to argue for the precious couple hours we are together each evening over homework. Never mind the fact that it makes my kids hate school more and more everyday. We have a society full of anxious, “ADHD” kids. In reality if we just let them learn the way their bodies are made for they would all be fine.
    (I don’t think ADHD isn’t a thing, I just think it’s an over diagnosis for kids being kids. I speak from experience of my 8yo being diagnosed at 5, 3 years later we learn she’s actually on the Autism Spectrum)

  4. As a mother, grandmother and 5th grade teacher of many years, I read with great interest about the topic of homework. I’m glad it has risen to the level of a national conversation. I have approached the topic from every angle- on both the receiving and assigning end, and I came to my own conclusion long ago. It seems that many parents are now reaching the same conclusion: there is a place for limited amounts of relevant practice assignments to be done after school, but too much homework increases stress and does not improve students’ performance in school.

    One of my own children was extremely conscientious about getting lengthy homework assignments done, but suffered from stress and sleep deprivation. I remember contacting her high school with my concerns about the hours of work done after school which impacted everything from our mealtimes to instrument practice, let alone fresh air and exercise! My other child despised and resented homework assignments and procrastinated in completing them, which was a stress for ME! My 6 year-old granddaughter is exhausted simply from the grueling number of hours she is in the classroom weekly- she needs to play when she gets home (if not take a nap!)

    I decided years ago in my classroom to assign minimal homework assignments and NO busy work! Homework is designed to provide practice, reinforce lessons, or preview concepts to be taught the upcoming day – it should also be work the child can complete on their own. I believe there is value in instilling personal responsibility and accountability through completion of homework assignments, but a child’s developmental readiness and home support have huge impact on their ability to follow through. Inevitably each school year I receive both thanks from parents and requests for additional homework!

    Most children are participating in (sometimes multiple) extracurricular activities outside of school and their evening and weekends are filled with travel to games, concerts, practices etc. It is my experience that children arrive at school Monday morning exhausted, not refreshed! In my opinion, children need more time to play, read, and use their imaginations… those are valuable forms of education as well.

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