The Homework Myth - Alfie Kohn

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by Allan-Matlem, Mar 22, 2009.

  1. Allan-Matlem

    Allan-Matlem Active Member


    The homework issue is not just one for parents of challenging kids but the question especially in the light of the latest research is whether homework should be given in the first place. There is no benefit especially for primary school , kids don't need to work a second shift , parents don't need another issue which interferes with their relationship with their kids and kids don't need this trigger = which undermines the love of learning.

    So it is not just getting no homework or accomodations on an IEP , all kids don't need this ' busy work'.

    Teacher - Johny , did your mother help you with your homework ?
    Johny - No , she did it all herself

    Alfie Kohn's parenting book - Unconditional Parenting is a great companion for the Explosive child. He has many articles on parenting, education and business issues on

  2. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    Thanks!! Alfie Kohn is a very helpful author. I knew there was someone who had done studies that showed this, but couldn't remember who the researcher was.
  3. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    Thanks for that, Allan.

    Having seen what easy child went through with homework (loads of it, but she was a typical easy child who did her homework well and independently, although there were some midnight sessions) - I do think it gave her much more confidence in her own understanding, as well as an ability to cope when she got to uni and a great proportion of the work HAS to be done independently; but even SHE threw homework tantrums (often with good reason, when the work seemed to be 'make-work' and therefore time-wasting).

    Over the years I've seen a wide range of set homework, from daily repetition to occasional assignment/presentations. I do feel it's useful for kids to be given work that they need to do independdently, or at least do with some support independently, because it can really help to consolidate learning. However, I am now dead against homework especially the daily "make-work" of either added material purely so the teacher can say, "Yes, I set homework," or entire topics that are only given as homework. Kids need their break from school, after a long day of maintaining constant mental effort. Not every kid CAN throw themselves straight into working independently, which then brings in parents who need to become instant tutors, nags, psychologists, chefs (keeping a homework kid fed and hydrated can increase work output) - you name it. And often we haven't had the benefit of knowing the topic well enough, so we risk aking the kid MORE confused about the work.

    Too many teachers in our experience use the same homework sheets day in, day out, and year in year out. easy child had one teacher for two years running and the homework every night was the same - 'write out your tables, all of them, and write out your spelling list." Every night. For two years. easy child was good at maths, was brilliant at spelling. The school used the "quota" spelling system desp[ite my campaigning against it - Quota meant that if the kid got all 20 spelling words correct, she got 21 words next week. 22 the week after. So the reward for doing well, was more work. I was told that the need to do well would overcome the negative reinforcement of the extra work, that kids compete with each other to do well. At the same time the school counsellor wascritical of easy child because she was determined to compete against the other kids in the class to be the best at maths, I was told that easy child was demonstrating immaturity in her need to compete in order to do well, and that schools did not want kids to compete with one another (!!??!).

    When difficult child 3 had the same teacher, 13 years later, easy child saw hishomework sheets and recognised them as the same ones he had handed out to her when she was in that man's class. Then difficult child 1 walked in and had a look. "Yep. We had those," he told us.

    Since then, difficult child 3's good friend who is five years younger, has been in the same teacher's class. difficult child 3 was visiting his friend and saw the homework sheets and recognised them.

    When I say "recognised", I mean my kids remembered doing exactly the same worksheet, because this teacher also drew small cartoons around the edge of his worksheets, the kids remembered those exact sheets. Nothing has changed in this teacher's curriculum in at least 18 years! Meanwhile the school curriculum has gone through a lot of changes in a lot of areas. But still this teacher uses Quota, makes kids write out their tables every night of the week.

    Yes, drill is a good way for kids to learn their tables, but to me it demonstrates inflexibility, laziness, unwillingness to encompass change to simply hand out the same worksheets every day of your teaching career, and yet still insist that your students do homework. The only ones doing any work here, are the kids. A lot of times, that teacher wasn't even bothering to mark the homework.

    I also have a problem with students given incomplete work as homework, because if the work is incomplete, WHY is this so? If the child is struggling to get the work done during school hours, when support from the teacher is available to explain the work - they why expect the child to be able to complete the work independently? Especially a difficult child, who is generally LESS capable of working independently and is often struggling with the subject material.

    Our aim is to raise children to be able to cope with living a happy, independent, productive life. To that end, our children need to be given some normality in how they're raised, they need to learn as they will live later on; few jobsin life involve work being taken home and when it does, it is generally work with which the person is already familiar and competent. For most people, we go out to work at 9, we come home at 5, and we cope best when we learn to leave the work behind us.

    So in what way is homework relevant? How is it teaching our children what they need to know, about what life will be like for them as adults?

    I did well at school as a kid, except when it came to homework. While other kids had time to do homework, had the opportunity and support, I had a lot to do when I got home that was needed in order to help get food on the table for the family. If I tried to start on my homework, I would be constantly called away from it to help get dinner. While I knew my help was needed, I also knew that most families were not like ours and I felt disadvantaged when I got into trouble for not getting homework done, and teachers wouldn't believe me if I said I had to get dinner instead, or do farm chores. They had no idea how we lived, a mini-farm in the suburbs. It simply wasn't possible to make it equitable.

    At school it was a much more level playing field. Outside school, the resemblance ended. Everyone has different living circumstances and hence widely varying capacity to do effective homework. Not every family has a computer or broadband, so internet research capability is also often widely variable. We do what we can to help our children but sometimes we have limitations beyond our capability and our children get disadvantged.

    Home is for family, and home life, and respite from the responsibilities outside the home. It's an important lesson.

    Sometimes I wish I could go back in time to the person who invented homework, and teach him a lesson he'd never forget.

  4. Stella

    Stella New Member

    Teacher - Johny , did your mother help you with your homework ?
    Johny - No , she did it all herself

    thanks Allan - that made me laugh!! :D