Is homework the best use of time?

Every teacher and every family will have a different opinion about homework. What does the research say?

The short answer is: Moderation. There may be better ways to enhance your child's education.

I'm going to show you how to help your child beyond making her do homework, but first lets look at the problems and shortcomings.

image-homeworkA study by Duke University found that in elementary school, "homework" is useful if the word is loosely interpreted. Reading a book, having a discussion with parents can count, and these are beneficial activities.

Worksheets and similar activities didn't lead to any improvement in grades, test scores, reading or math skills, according to the Duke study.

At the middle school and high school levels, homework can be beneficial in the right situation. Repetition can help students speed up their math and reading ability, or memorize new vocabulary words. But more than an hour in middle school or two hours in high school tends to lead to burnout.

Better than homework

So what can be useful in place of traditional homework?

A Polish study found that spending time with your children--doing almost anything--is positively correlated with higher grades and better skills.

Talking about school, reading to your children, and even going to a movie or McDonald's can trigger this improvement. If you take your kids camping, or on educational trips like art galleries or museums, the children will benefit even more.

Another big academic boost is extracurricular activities. If a child spends time after school playing an instrument or participating in a sport, this will benefit him more than merely doing homework.

Of course, you still have to get the work done if the teacher assigns it. I hope some teachers are reading this and will modify their homework accordingly.

In my own class, I assign homework every day, because I want my students to think about biology at least once outside of class. But I always go light. I give assignments that can usually be finished in less than 10 minutes.

What you can do:

If you're a parent, spend as much free time as you can with your kids. This should already seem like a no-brainer, but now you know your child's future may be at stake.

If you're a student, do you homework, but don't stress it. Try to get out and do something else with your time (besides gaming and Snapchat).

If you're a teacher, go easy on the homework!

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