The Current

Is homework bad for kids?

As students return to school, some families are pushing for no homework for their kids saying there's no evidence that homework helps academic achievement. Critics say excessive homework can hurt both learning and overall well-being.
At a time when some educators are tracking a rise in tutoring, the fight over banning homework remains strong. (Jolante van Hemert/flickr cc)

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The growing backlash against homework from educators and parents have some experts concerned that the anti-homework push is compromising the quality of education Canadian kids are receiving.

In Canada, some teachers have no-homework policies and a few schools have banned it outright. It's a move Katie Lynes is in favour of. She's a mother of two teenaged girls and tells The Current's Anna Maria her battle against homework started when her kids were in Grade One when homework was a source of frustration.

"[The projects] were way more time consuming than I think the teachers who were assigning them thought," says Lynes who has spent many weekends buying supplies for assignments.

 Stress kind of flowed from the school into the house.- Katie Lynes. mother of two teenagers

A significant problem for Lynes was that she felt projects were "developmentally inappropriate" — kids couldn't do the assignment on their own, prompting "helicopter" participation from parents.

"It invited parents in and necessitated parental involvement, which is not necessarily a good thing because not all parents can provide that kind of support, so it's an equity issue," Lynes tells Tremonti.

Homework teaches responsibility at a very early age, says professor Paul Bennett. (Tim Pierce/flickr cc)

In 2007, the Toronto District School Board implemented a policy reducing the amount of homework assigned, but Lynes said that French Immersion did not follow this policy and the nightly homework load caused both her daughters to feel stressed, saying they hated school.

"There were tears on their part, yelling on everybody's part and swearing on the adult's part. For me, it was just very stressful. Through their entire years in school, stress kind of flowed from the school into the house and that just made us kind of resentful."

Stress is the greatest morbidity for kids, says Linda Cameron. (Kristine Lewis/flickr cc)

Professor emeritus Linda Cameron, along with a colleague at the University of Toronto, conducted the first ever Canada-wide study on how much homework Canadian kids are getting and what parents think of that homework.

Cameron tells Tremonti that an important theme throughout the study was stress at home between kids and parents, husbands and wives or caretakers — and then more stress in school.

"Educators, parents and society have become very aware that stress is the greatest morbidity for kids. It's the thing that makes kids sick and parents sick, and we need to attend to issues of wellness and holistic living," says Cameron.

Work habits instilled at the earliest ages are really critical.- Paul Bennett, adjunct professor at St. Mary's Univeristy

Paul Bennett, an adjunct professor of education at St. Mary's University agrees excessive homework that causes physical and mental fatigue or stress in families is not appropriate, but he argues engaging and stimulating homework is a benefit, in moderation.

"Homework teaches responsibility at a very early age. One of the clear developments recently is the rise of the self-regulation movement."

Bennett points to new research that refers to on grit, work ethic and resilience that suggests that "work habits instilled at the earliest ages are really critical and that homework is a piece of trying to develop that in kids."

Do you think homework is a good thing for students or does it flunk good learning practice?  

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Listen to the full conversation at the top of this web post.

This segment was produced by The Current's Willow Smith.