Homework: A Psychologist’s Perspective

Photo by: Peapodsquadmom


I have written before about my thoughts on homework.  Mainly, I’m against it.  At least for elementary schoolers, and possibly even for middle schoolers.  I can see the benefits of homework for high schoolers.  Reading literature, working on calculus problems, and writing up science experiments seem like worthy ways to spend time for the high school set.  But “work sheets” for young kids and tweens mostly seem like a waste of time.

In talking to a colleague the other day (who shared my opinion), I tried to come up with a few guidelines for when I think homework might be appropriate for kids.  Admittedly, I am not an educator and don’t share their expertise and perspective on homework (I am open to comments!).  This is what I think from the perspective of a psychologist:

Goals.  There should be a clear goal when homework is given.  Homework for homework’s sake is not a good enough reason for me.  There should be a compelling reason that children need to crack open the books at home.

Priorities.  I am always hopeful that teachers and administrators keep in mind that each minute a child spends doing homework is one less minute they can spend: exercising, spending quality time with family, engaging in music lessons, volunteering in the community, preparing healthy meals, relaxing, engaging in imaginative play, and/or getting the sleep they need to grow and thrive.  Is the homework assigned more important than those things?  If not, then it can probably be skipped.

Development.  In order for homework to be an effective teaching tool, children should be able to remember they have homework, be able to read the assignment and understand the task, complete the assignment with minimal (if any) parental help, put the work in their bag, and return it to their teacher – all without assistance.  If they require more than minimal parental assistance on any of these steps – they are just too young!  Homework should not be an added burden for the parents and/or a daily potential fight between family members – but an adjunct to the hours spent in school.

Teachers, parents, educators – what am I missing?  Are there reasons for assigning homework that I am missing?  Other guidelines you employ when deciding whether or not to assign homework?