Alfie Kohn is the author of 13 books, including "The Homework Myth: Why Our Kids Get Too Much of a Bad Thing."
When parents aren't being faulted for insufficient involvement in their children's education – which often means failing to enforce the school's agenda at home -- they're being criticized for getting too involved. In particular, a subset of parents stands accused of providing their children with excessive homework help.
I think “back off and let 'em fend for themselves” is poor advice. What's needed isn't less parenting but better parenting. But that's not an argument in favor of homework.
The most vociferous accusers seem to be animated not by any empirical finding that such help is actually counterproductive, but by a conservative narrative that consists of growling about how kids get everything too easily these days (A's, praise, trophies), that an epidemic of helicopter parenting shields them from “useful” failure, that we ought to promote self-sufficiency and self-discipline instead of self-esteem.
I've responded to this position at length in a recent book, challenging its false descriptive claims and dissecting the ideology that underlies them. In general, I think “back off and let 'em fend for themselves” is poor advice. What's needed isn't less parenting but better parenting.
But that's not an argument for helping with homework. It's an argument for asking why homework is being assigned in the first place – particularly to kids below high-school age.
Remarkably, no research has ever found any benefit to any sort of homework in elementary school. It hasn't been found to correlate with superficial measures like standardized test scores, let alone promote meaningful intellectual growth. And as far as I can tell, no study has ever supported the folk wisdom that homework contributes to independence, responsibility or good work habits.
The main effects of making children work what amounts to a second shift when they get home from a full day in school are: frustration, exhaustion, family conflict (whether or not the parent decides to help), less time for pleasurable activities, and diminished interest in learning.
Asking whether, or how much, parents should help with homework distracts us from the question that matters: How can parents organize – and join enlightened teachers – to challenge the question's premise? What happens during family time should be for families to decide. Besides, six hours of academics is enough; we want our children to develop not only academically but artistically, socially, emotionally and physically. And we want them to have a chance to just be kids.
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Topics: Education, homework, parenting, schools, teaching
The Homework Myth: Why Our Kids Get Too Much of a Bad Thing3.94 · Rating details · 798 Ratings · 132 Reviews
Death and taxes come later; what seems inevitable for children is the idea that, after spending the day at school, they must then complete more academic assignments at home. The predictable results: stress and conflict, frustration and exhaustion. Parents respond by reassuring themselves that at least the benefits outweigh the costs. But what if they don't? In The HomeworkDeath and taxes come later; what seems inevitable for children is the idea that, after spending the day at school, they must then complete more academic assignments at home. The predictable results: stress and conflict, frustration and exhaustion. Parents respond by reassuring themselves that at least the benefits outweigh the costs. But what if they don't? In The Homework Myth, nationally known educator and parenting expert Alfie Kohn systematically examines the usual defenses of homework--that it promotes higher achievement, "reinforces" learning, and teaches study skills and responsibility. None of these assumptions, he shows, actually passes the test of research, logic, or experience. So why do we continue to administer this modern cod liver oil--or even demand a larger dose? Kohn's incisive analysis reveals how a mistrust of children, a set of misconceptions about learning, and a misguided focus on competitiveness have all left our kids with less free time and our families with more conflict. Pointing to parents who have fought back--and schools that have proved educational excellence is possible without homework--Kohn shows how we can rethink what happens during and after school in order to rescue our families and our children's love of learning....more
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published August 21st 2006 by Da Capo Lifelong Books