President Obama’s pick for Education Secretary, John King, Jr., is headed for confirmation Mar. 9. King’s track record shows he loves standardized testing and quantifying learning. If he loves numbers and research, he should welcome what some teachers and families have known for years: that homework at young ages does more harm than good.
Click here to get Time for Parents, a roundup of the week’s parenting news that doesn’t feel like homework.
We’re currently enmeshed in a high-pressure approach to learning that starts with homework being assigned in kindergarten and even preschool. Homework dominates after-school time in many households and has been dubbed the 21st century’s “new family dinner.” Overtired children complain and collapse. Exasperated parents cajole and nag. These family fights often ends in tears, threats, and parents secretly finishing their kid’s homework.
Parents put up with these nightly battles because they want what’s best for their kids. But, surprise, the opposite is more likely to be true. A comprehensive review of 180 research studies by Duke University psychologist and neuroscientist Harris Cooper shows homework’s benefits are highly age dependent: high schoolers benefit if the work is under two hours a night, middle schoolers receive a tiny academic boost, and elementary-aged kids? It’s better to wait.
If you examine the research—not one study, but the full sweep of homework research—it’s clear that homework does have an impact, but it’s not always a good one. Homework given too young increases negative attitudes toward school. That’s bad news, especially for a kindergartener facing 12 more years of assignments.
Read More: Why You Shouldn’t Do Your Child’s Homework
Children rebel against homework because they have other things they need to do. Holler and run. Relax and reboot. Do family chores. Go to bed early. Play, following their own ideas. Children have been told what to do all day long at school—which is mostly sitting still and focusing on the academic side. Academic learning is only one side of a child. When school is out, kids need time for other things.
Some schools are already realizing this. New York City’s P.S. 116 elementary school made news last year when its principal Jane Hsu abolished homework and asked families to read instead. Individual schools and teachers from Maryland to Michigan have done the same, either eliminating homework in the elementary years or making it optional. But schools also report that if teachers don’t give it, some parents will demand it.
Believers in homework say it teaches soft skills like responsibility and good study habits. That’s another problem with homework in elementary school. Young kids can rarely cope with complex time management skills or the strong emotions that accompany assignments, so the responsibility falls on parents. Adults assume the highly undesirable role of Homework Patrol Cop, nagging kids about doing it, and children become experts in procrastination and the habit of complaining until forced to work. Homework overtakes the parents’ evening as well as the child’s. These roles aren’t easy to shake.
Read More: How Hard Is Too Hard to Push Kids?
When homework comes at a stage when it can academically benefit students, it can also be a student’s responsibility. That means a high school student should be expected to do her homework without being reminded. It may take a year or two of practice in middle school, but it doesn’t require years of practice. Before age 11, responsibility can be taught in other ways. For a 6-year-old, that means remembering to feed the cat and bring home her lunchbox.
If we want students to improve memory, focus, creative thinking, test performance and even school behavior, the answer is not more homework, the answer is more sleep. The National Sleep Foundation reports that our children are suffering sleep deprivation, partly from homework. If we pride ourselves on a rational, research-based approach to education, we must look at the right facts.
Parents often feel stuck with homework because they don’t realize they have a choice. But they do. Schooling may be mandatory, but homework isn’t. Families can opt out. Parents can approach the teacher either about homework load or the simple fact of doing homework at all, especially in elementary school. Many teachers will be more than happy with the change. Opting out, or changing the homework culture of a school brings education control back down to the local level.
That’s another thing the new Education Secretary has promised: to turn more control for education decisions over to states and local school districts. That could spell good news for students – if local teachers and principals do their own homework and read up on what the research says about making kids do school work after school is done.
Sep 25 2016by Destiny Abercrumbie
5 Reasons Why You Should Listen to Music While Doing HomeworkBy Destiny Abercrumbie - Sep 25 2016
If you are like me, then when you have to study for a test or do any type of homework, doing it in complete silence just feels weird. You need something to happen in the background, a little noise that can help you stay focused and not let your mind wander off. The perfect solution is to listen to music while doing homework because it helps block off the rest of the world's distractions. To some people, it may be a bad thing, but here's why it's a good thing.
1. Music helps you study.
There have been studies done by universities such as The University of Wales that show that listening to music while studying can improve memory, attention and your ability to do mental math, as well as lessen depression and anxiety.
Researchers also did a test to see how background music affects students' test scores. The students who took a test with music did have a lower average score than those who didn’t have music, but the researchers noted that there was a lot of variation in the scores. This could tell us that the effect of music can vary a lot from person to person. Researchers believe that more research needs to be done on how the factors of tempo, genre or whether students are used to having music on make any difference.
2. Music helps you focus.
According to a study done at Johns Hopkins University, playing background music for creativity and reflection activities such as journaling, writing, problem-solving, goal-setting, project work or brainstorming is a great thing. There are also many uses for music including active learning. You can take a sound break or move around activities to increase productivity, energize students during daily energy lulls, provide a stimulating sound break to increase attention, make exercise more fun and encourage movement activities. To read more on this study, click here.
3. 'The Mozart Effect' is a real thing.
The Mozart Effect is book by Don Campbell that has the world's research on all the beneficial effects of certain type of music. This book includes research on how music makes us smarter. Scientists at Stanford University in California have recently revealed a molecular basis for the Mozart Effect, but not other music. Dr. Rauscher and her colleague H. Li, a geneticist, have discovered that rats, like humans, perform better on learning and memory tests after listening to a specific Mozart sonata.Some of the many benefits of the Mozart Effect include improvement in test scores, cut learning times, reduced errors, improved creativity and clarity, faster body healing, integration of both sides of the brain for more efficient learning and raised IQ scores by nine points, according to research done at University of California, Irvine.
4. Music makes us smarter.
In 1996, the College Entrance Exam Board Serviceconducted a study on all students taking their SAT exams. Students who either sang or played a musical instrument scored an average of 51 points higher on the verbal portion of the test and an average of 39 points higher on math. According to the research outlined in the book, musical pieces such as those of Mozart can relieve stress, improve communication and increase efficiency. Music starts up our brain and makes us feel more energetic and a link has been made between music and learning.
According to Don Campbell, the author of the Mozart Effect, "In the workplace, music raises performance levels and productivity by reducing stress and tension, masking irritating sounds and contributing to a sense of privacy."
5. Music improves the brain and helps heal the body.
Music also stimulates different regions of the brain responsible for memory, motor control, timing and language. At McGill University in Montreal, neuroscientist Anne Blood, said, "You can activate different parts of the brain, depending on what music you listen to. So music can stimulate parts of the brain that are underactive in neurological diseases or a variety of emotional disorders. Over time, we could retrain the brain in these disorders."
Harvard University Medical School neurobiologist, Mark Jude Tramo, says that "Undeniably, there is a biology of music. There is no question that there is specialization within the human brain for the processing of music. Music is biologically part of human life, just as music is aesthetically part of human life."
In conclusion, there are many benefits to listening to music and it is not a bad thing to do in order to stay focused. So if you ever need a solution to stay focused or concentrate on the task at hand, slip on a pair of headphones and play some music.
Lead Image Credit: Steinar La Engeland via Unsplash