At the beginning of the school year, a second-grade teacher in Texas sent this letter home to the parents of the children in her class:
"After much research this summer, I am trying something new. Homework will only consist of work that your student did not finish during the school day. There will be no formally assigned homework this year.
"Research has been unable to prove that homework improves student performance. Rather, I ask that you spend your evenings doing things that are proven to correlate with student success. Eat dinner as a family, read together, play outside, and get your child to bed early."
Mrs. Brandy Young
A parent posted the letter on Facebook with a hearty thank-you to the teacher. It went viral as parents nationwide expressed frustration at the amount of homework their children had, along with the stress it created in their home.
Stephanie Donaldson-Pressman, a clinical director at New England Center for Pediatric Psychology, contributed to a study published in the American Journal of Family Therapy concerning homework's impact on children. She has serious concerns about the amount of homework children have.
"One study found kindergartners were given 25 minutes or more of homework," says Donaldson-Pressman. "Homework for kindergartners is supposed to be nonexistent. Children at this age need to be playing outside, experiencing the early stages of socialization, learning how to play, how to share so they are finessing their motor skills. Family activities and play are more important than homework at this age."
Donaldson-Pressman believes parents have a lot more control than they realize, for instance, they can set limits for how long their child is supposed to be doing homework.
When it comes to how much homework time is right, the National Education Association recommends 10 minutes per grade level per night. The same study that found kindergartners spend an inordinate amount of time on homework also found that first-graders spent 25 to 30 minutes. By the time children reached third grade, they spent more than a half-hour per night. Donaldson-Pressman noted that, in her practice, some third-graders spent two to four hours on homework — and their parents can't help them.
According to Donaldson-Pressman, the data shows that homework over the recommended time is not beneficial to children's grades or GPA and, beyond that, there's much evidence that it's detrimental to their attitude about school, their grades, their self-confidence, their social skills and their quality of life.
If homework creates stress in your home, Donaldson-Pressman says you can help decrease the angst if you:
* Create a quiet place to do homework.
* Try to do homework at the same time every day.
* Set a timer for 10 minutes for a first-grader, then have them stop. Fourth-graders need to move on to something else after 40 minutes.
As a parent, you probably already know how important it is for children from kindergarten through high school to get adequate rest, have time to play, develop friendships outside of school hours and engage in family activities.
In addition to taking control of the homework situation, other experts recommend assessing your child's activities and the amount of pressure your child feels to perform. Hopefully, these ideas can help your entire family enjoy time together after the school day is done.
Julie Baumgardner is president and CEO of First Things First. Contact her at email@example.com.