Homework: Essential or Excessive?

Is homework an essential tool for a quality education, or an infringement on important family time?

In the webinar titled, “The Great Controversy: Homework,” Age of Montessori’s founder and Program Director, Mary Ellen Maunz, and elementary teacher at  Middle Creek Montessori, Kristen Nowak, discuss the pros and cons of homework and reveal several helpful strategies for finding that elusive balance between school and home life.

Mary Ellen starts out by sharing the National Education Association’s (NEA) recommendation for homework time to increase by ten minutes per year. By the time a child is in the fifth grade, he will have nearly an hour of homework every night, and that’s if he’s working at an average pace. If the child is struggling in any or several subjects, the amount of time spent doing homework can add up exponentially.

Kristen explains that--while we’ve grown up believing that homework adds to learning--in fact, there is absolutely no documented research that homework has a valid purpose. According to Alfie Kohn, author of “The Homework Myth,” the following is true:

  • The positive effects of homework are largely mythical.
  • There is absolutely no evidence of any academic benefit from assigning homework in elementary or middle school.
  • For younger students, there is no connection between whether children do homework (or how much they do) and any meaningful measure of achievement.

Pros and Cons of Homework ageofmontessori.orgKohn’s research has also revealed that parents in this country are frustrated with excessive amounts of homework, feeling that the cons overwhelmingly outweigh the pros.

Kristen’s experience has been that children are too stressed or too tired to learn from what they’re studying. Educators need to rethink how best to support their student’s learning. In many cases, the homework detracts from family life and all the critical learning that happens outside of the academic arena. Also, it can put parents and children at odds at the end of over-scheduled days. However, Kristen believes that homework/practice with reading can be beneficial, provided that it is at the right level so that the work can be done without any help from the parent and within 10-15 minutes.

A long-term national survey discovered that the proportion of six- to eight-year-old children who report having daily homework has climbed from 34 percent to 64 percent since 1981. Additionally, the amount of time spent doing homework has doubled.

Mary Ellen and Kristen agree that in order for homework to be beneficial, the teacher must know the individual child’s learning level. Homework that is below or above that child’s abilities leads to unnecessary frustration and does not help the child to progress.

“The key is to find out where the child is and move them forward. To hold them to some artificial standard…makes no sense because we’re simply not all there . The individualization of lessons and the individualization of homework…in the Montessori community is such a valuable thing,” explains Mary Ellen.

Kristen adds, “It’s highly valuable because we know that that’s when they progress. And they’ll progress much farther than what you might expect!”

To learn more from Mary Ellen Maunz and Kristen Nowak, visit Age of Montessori’s webinar replay page under the “Video” tab, anytime on-demand.

Presented by:
Mary Ellen Maunz, Founder, Program Director and
Kristen Nowak, Lower EL, Middlecreek Montessori

Despite Americans’ attachment to homework, there is no research that validates its use. Don’t let meaningless homework get in the way of your child’s developmental needs. Family time is valuable too!

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