The Homework Myth

I have started reading Alfie Kohn‘s, The Homework Myth.  I am very comfortable with the bias.  I find myself questioning the background and methodology because I agree.  Strange, I guess I want to make sure that someone I agree with so firmly has used excellent methods and research to back ‘us’ up.  I have only read the introduction so far – chapter one.  It gives background on the crazy world of homework production and looks at the main reasons for the perpetuation of the practice of homework.  He focuses on three variables in the homework construct.

Amount – Kohn lists a pile of statistics which point to the increased amount and difficulty of homework assigned today versus in the past.  One of the key features is that more homework is being assigned at younger and youner ages.  I can’t imagine my kindergarten child having regular homework and yet I was talking with a pre-school teacher who had assigned homework in her pre-school because of parental pressure.  Three and Four year-olds with homework.  How ridiculous!  Flashcards and worksheets are not how people learn best, yet how should the teacher respond.  She was in a cooperative preschool – paid by the parents.  I understand her position but how do teacher tell parents that homwork is not good for kids and what do we give them instead?  That is what I want to learn from this book.  At the very least I can tell them to read ‘The Homework Myth”!

Impact – Kohn delineates a number of the themes surrounding the impact of homwork on children.  1) It is a burden for parents, 2) It is a stressor for children, 3) It increases family conflict, 4) It reduces the time available for other activities and 5) It decreases interest in learning. I don’t think I would have listed them in this order.  My number one reason for not doing homework would not be the burden that it places on parents.  Parenting has its burdens. My reaction is ‘suck it up’, but we do need to be careful which burdens we shoulder for the sake of our children’s well-being and which ones we cast aside as not worth carrying.  Homework is a burden not worth carrying.  Play is how children learn.  (See the Manifesto).


Most parents and teachers perptuate the homework situtation because it is expected.  They seem to tolerate it and commiserate with others who find it a burden.  Neither teachers, nor parents seem to demand that the situation change.

I have just begun my journey down the education path as a parent.  I wonder how much homework my children will have and how it will affect the love of everything interesting that is innate in them now.  Some practice of things is necessary.  I have often used the anaology with students and my own children that “in life someone has to clean the toilets”.  I guess the question is how often and at what expense?  My son has started piano lessons.  He ‘has’ to practice daily.  We miss the odd time but we do find that if he plays a little everyday, he enjoys it more.  Is it the same with reading?  He loves to read.  He has a reading identity.  Would reading homework rob him of his interest in reading and stories or would it help us to form a reading habit and encourage his own reading rather than our reading aloud?

I’m anti-homework but I am pro-learning.  Well at the very least, the book will give me somethings to think about.


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Filed under curriculum, education, learning

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