The homework debate is one that you’ve probably heard – is homework beneficial for children or not? The answer is not as simple as a yes or no. The benefits of homework for your child depend greatly on several factors – your child’s age, time spent doing homework, the availability of an adult to help with homework, and the quality of the homework assigned. Reasonable and research-backed arguments can, and have, been made for both sides of the debate. The most consistent answer is that homework is beneficial under the following conditions: the students are older, the homework assigned is a quality assignment and not busy work, helpful feedback is provided when the assignment is complete, the time spent on homework is reasonable. These conditions, like most parts of the homework debate, are not black and white.
Regardless of your (and your child’s) personal feelings on homework, it is most likely not fully up to you. As a parent, you don’t want your child’s grade to suffer by not completing their homework. Cutting homework out completely may be the answer for some families, but probably not for most. However, finding a balance you feel comfortable with can be difficult with today’s pressure of school performance.
Most parents aren’t inclined to turn to peer-reviewed research articles to help figure out what is best for your family – which is why we’re here to help! When considering what the research shows it is important to remember that research is done under very controlled circumstances, and individualized approaches should be taken because each child and family is different. All of that is to say – you are the parent and you get to make the decision that you feel is best for your child and family. Using research to guide your decisions can be insightful, but it is not always clear cut.
While research on the homework debate can be found that benefit both sides, one thing is for sure: play is extremely beneficial for learning in young children. Play-based learning has been shown to be much more effective than rote learning (memorization), and play benefits other skill sets essential for success in school and life such as emotional regulation and social skills. The older-student version of play-based learning is project-based learning, where students become involved in hands on projects to learn as opposed to memorizing facts about a subject. In an ideal world all schools would focus on play-based and project-based learning, but this often isn’t a reality. Signing your child up for classes and activities outside of school that focus on play and project-based learning is a great way to complement their schooling and set them up for success.
Research has also shown that extracurricular activities improve your child’s academic performance. We wrote an article about it which you can read here!
Finding what works best for your family may take a little bit of experimentation, but you’ll get there! We know all parents want to do what’s best for their children, and if you decide signing them up for activities and classes outside of school is right for your child – we’re here for you!
Kelsey Helgesen is a pediatric occupational therapist in New York City. She graduated with a master’s degree in occupational therapy from the University of Southern California and has provided both school-based and home-based early intervention occupational therapy services. Kelsey is currently a doctoral student at Fielding Graduate University where she is studying Infant and Early Childhood Development. She is particularly interested in childhood trauma and its relationship to sensory processing. Kelsey is also a foster mother caring for one to two children at any given time.