We’ve all heard that homework helps a child to improve academically but, there is some doubt as to whether it has a positive effect on younger children. It takes up play time, limits family bonding and may even cause stress and anxiety but still, homework for children as young as five and six is not uncommon. Popular arguments in favor of homework as a mainstream idea include suggestions such as it can help to teach children responsibility from an early age. Of course, many proponents of homework also argue that it helps children to improve academically and can consolidate what is learnt in the classroom. It is clear that homework can have both a positive and negative effect but which is more prevalent at elementary school age?
The completion of around two hours’ homework each evening has been linked to better results in school. A study from the UK Department for Education, tracked 3,000 children over 15 years of education. It found that doing any amount of homework each evening would help but those who put in two to three hours every evening received the biggest benefit from the task. However, the study also found that those who put more effort in and enjoyed school would do better. There is some question as to whether pupils can enjoy school when every evening they are being forced to do extra work.
Another study has shown the exact opposite. Cooper analyzed the results of multiple strands of research and discovered no relationship between homework and academic benefit at elementary level. His research did show that homework negatively impacted on a child’s view of school. As the Department for Education showed, those who enjoy school tend to perform better. There are still a lot of questions surrounding the effect of homework on attainment.
Homework helps prepare children for the end of year assessments because it gives them a measure of their progress and shows them the areas where improvement is required. This is a real benefit by providing a structured plan of action and helping teachers assess more clearly which areas need further time spent on them.
Giving pupils homework every night seriously limits their ability to play and spend time with their family. If an elementary age child is required to complete two to three hours of homework before bed, they have no downtime and no chance to relax before returning to school. This creates undue pressure which most five and six year olds will struggle to handle. Homework essentially takes up too much free time for far too little reward.
Parents and children will disagree over a lot of different things but homework is one area where there are consistent arguments. A child may not want to do their homework and rules and strict expectations as to when it should be completed and which leisure pursuits must be sacrifice to do so can lead to real friction. This can put serious strain on family life.
Of course, there are other approaches. Parents who help children with homework could actually build a stronger bond. It is an activity that facilitates time together, meaning it can be seen as an enjoyable part of the day rather than a chore. A quick discussion about the project to be completed is an easy way to introduce this method of dealing with homework. Other ideas include jointly researching material or turning math and word tasks into games to play together.
Homework can also place undue strain on already stretched teachers and, if work is assigned to the class as a whole, can fail to engage younger members of the group.
Homework should not just be about educational attainment though - it can also play a role in preparing children for some of the responsibilities they will have as older students and later in life, as adults. Being given work to do for the next day can be a positive move towards instilling a sense of personal responsibility and help younger children to take the first steps on the road to cultivating time management skills – both attributes that any child, no matter their age, can carry through to their future studies and careers. Homework also teaches children of the value of hard work, making an effort, problem solving and research skills – all useful for further study and juggling bigger workloads in future grades.
Homework provides a chance for parents and children to bond but in elementary school they are too young to do anything completely independently. If a parent is essentially spoon-feeding the answers to their child, then surely it limits any positive academic effect. Worse still is the fact that if a child doesn’t receive this kind of support at home, additional problems can set it. This creates a negative precedent that the child may struggle to break away from. It also means that the child isn’t really learning anything from their set homework task. Other dangers such as cheating or copying from other kids in class could raise their head, along with the very real prospect of the pupil falling behind the rest of their class.
A Chinese study has suggested that too much homework has a negative effect on sleep. This in turn will harm cognitive function, potentially undermining lessons taught in class the next day. The fact that homework can keep young children awake or disturb their sleep cycle indicates a state of anxiety or sense of being overworked – both stresses that are extreme for children of elementary age.
There are clearly many arguments for and against homework at elementary level. Some parents will expect it whilst others will detest the idea of their child doing it. Do you think homework is necessary for elementary school children? Share your thoughts in the comments and on our social media pages.
Tags: Homework, Elementary School, Work Life Balance, Extra-Curricular.