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I Won't Make My Child Do Homework

Photograph by Elizabeth Flora Ross

Research has repeatedly demonstrated, in no uncertain terms, there is no benefit to homework at the elementary school level. I'm talking close to 200 studies, conducted over decades. Education researcher and author Alfie Cohen writes, "No research has ever found a benefit to assigning homework (of any kind or in any amount) in elementary school."

And, according to Dr. Harris Cooper, psychologist and neuroscientist at Duke University and author of "The Battle Over Homework," there is no evidence that any amount of homework improves the academic performance of elementary students. He has reviewed close to 180 research studies on the topic.

Yet schools today are piling more and more homework on young children.

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I was shocked by the sheer amount of homework my daughter brought home in Kindergarten. Even more surprising was how much of it was busywork that offered no benefit to her.

My daughter picks up new skills quickly. She is a fast learner, something every teacher of hers since preschool has noted. Once she has been properly introduced to a concept, she is off and running. She does not require repetition. She needs the next piece of the big picture so she can move forward.

Many students do require repetition, and the school curriculum revolves around it. Meaning my child spends many of her school days practicing skills she has already mastered. I am not about to make her do the same at home.

Several weeks into Kindergarten, I approached my daughter's teacher. I explained my feelings on the homework and told her I would no longer be forcing my child to do it. Because it had been a real battle. And it simply was not worth it.

She agreed with me 100 percent. She felt the homework was of no benefit to my child in any way.

At the start of this school year, my daughter's first-grade teacher explained during orientation that homework would be optional. She admitted she wouldn't even have time to look it over once students turned it in. So I took the opportunity to respectfully let her know we would be opting out.

I explained I would review the packets to ensure I was up to date on what my daughter was working on in class. And, if at any point my child should be struggling, we would do the homework together so I might understand where she was having issues and provide help. Her teacher was supportive of that plan.

My daughter has spent the school year on the honor roll. Without doing homework.

I scan the weekly homework packets, ask my daughter some questions about what she is learning and throw it in the recycle bin. Truly, 99 percent of it is busywork that offers no benefit to my child. Every once in a while, there is a fun project (as opposed to worksheets), and she does it. But mostly we enjoy family time and find other ways to enhance learning.

We love to do science experiments, and play engineering, math and word games. My daughter researches, writes and illustrates books about topics she loves. She reads independently, we read together, and my husband and I take turns reading to our daughter each night.

We allow our child to learn based on her interests and skill level—something she does not get at school. Her weekly homework packet definitely does not offer it either.

We take family walks together after dinner. Have dance parties. Tickle fights.

After nearly seven hours of school, we allow our child to be a child. She participates in one extra curricular activity of her choice. At the moment that is dance.

We meet her where she is, demonstrate that we understand her needs and don't force homework down her throat.

There are a lot of things wrong with our education system today. If we simply go with the flow, nothing will change. Parents across the country are pushing back against reforms that are damaging our children. I'm proud to be part of that.

The stands I have taken regarding education—pushing for a daily recess mandate, refusing to do homework, planning to Opt Out of standardized tests—have had the strong support of teachers at my child's school. They regularly contact me privately to share their gratitude.

You see, they need parents to speak out. To push for change. Because they can't, without fear of losing their jobs. When we advocate for our children, we are also advocating for teachers, whose hands have been tied behind their backs by recent reforms.

In many cases, teachers are as miserable in the classroom as our children. They are being forced to do things that go against everything they have learned and understand about the learning needs of young children.

They are also choosing to leave. When they do, they speak out about the reasons why. Even administrators are starting to object to the environment that has been created in our schools.

To quote the beloved Dr. Seuss, "Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not."

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I believe homework in elementary school should be optional. If parents feel their children benefit from it, they can participate. If a teacher feels a specific student needs the extra work, she can recommend it.

But there is nothing wrong with actually listening to the research and making a choice you feel is best for your child. You have a right to say no. There are other ways to stay connected to what your child is doing in school.

And there are actual, proven benefits to spending time together as a family.

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