If you’ve read my “No Homework” post, you know that our family has banned homework for our elementary school-aged kids for several years. Is homework for kids K-6th grade ever OK?
Yes. There is such a thing as “Happy Homework.” But it’s exceedingly rare.
In fact, being rare is the first element of happy homework. It’s not appropriate to be daily, weekly or even monthly. For young children to gain from a home assignment, the project needs to be very once-in-awhile. Once a semester rare. Maybe 1-3 times a school year.
Remember, the purpose of homework is gain. Gaining knowledge and confidence. Gaining a connection between home and school. Most of all, gaining a deeper love of learning.
Research on homework’s impact is clear: there’s no academic benefit to doing homework for elementary-aged children. Equally clear: homework sours children’s interest in school. It’s a lose-lose situation. As educator Alfie Kohn says, “All pain, no gain.”
We’ve switched to a school that largely agrees with this philosophy. Recently my first grader was invited to do a project on a favorite book. He built a cardboard drum happily. This met the definition of “happy homework” for our family. It was rare (twice a year), age-appropriate (he could do all the work), project-based, optional, and, most importantly, deepened his love for school rather than hurt it. He couldn’t wait to show it to his classmates.
More and more wise teachers are rethinking traditional homework. New York City made news this week when a courageous, principled principal banned it in her elementary school, P.S. 116.
Happy homework for elementary-aged kids is possible, but few schools get it right. Here’s what it looks like -
- It’s joyous
- It’s optional
- It’s occasional (1-3 times a year; once a term).
- It’s independent. Children can do the entire assignment on their own.
- It’s age-appropriate.
- It promotes greater love of school and learning.
- It’s project-based OR reading for pleasure (reading for pleasure can be daily, as long as it’s being read to, or truly for pleasure)
Worthwhile homework makes children more excited about a topic than before. Worthwhile homework makes children more excited about reading and school, not less. Why do it at all if it’s not worthwhile?
What else do you think makes “happy homework” for kids? Is homework at your child’s school optional? Is there talk about banning traditional homework in your area?
Read more in my upcoming book IT’S OK TO GO UP THE SLIDE, soon to be published by Tarcher/ Penguin.
Currently available: IT’S OK NOT TO SHARE: And Other Renegade Rules for Raising Competent and Compassionate Kids.