September 14, 2011 Kerala Taylor

Should elementary schools ban homework?

A homework ban might sound crazy, but here's what's even crazier: We're not really sure how much homework helps learning -- particularly in elementary school. In fact, two reviews of more than 180 homework studies reveal very little correlation between the amount of homework and achievement for first- through fifth-graders and only a moderate correlation for middle schoolers.

Yet in an educational environment where academics is everything, we operate under the mistaken impression that the more worksheets children dutifully fill out after school, the more knowledge we are cramming into their heads.

Even the weekend homework ban recently enacted in New Jersey's Galloway Township is drawing its share of criticism. The Daily Journal proclaims, "Good news for lazy elementary school students in Galloway: Written homework assignments are now banned on weekends."

When the ban was originally proposed for middle school students as well, this mom responded:

"I don’t know about other parents, but no homework for my kids just means more time in front of the TV. I am not going to automatically run out and schedule a lovely picnic or an edifying day trip to Hyde Park just because they don’t have homework. I am too busy. On a typical weekend I have 12 loads of laundry to do, food shopping for the week, possible clothing shopping, home repairs, yard work, bill paying and heavy household cleaning. So no homework might mean my kids have the weekend off, but I don’t."

So are these children's only weekend options to do homework or watch TV? Are they unable to go outside and play?

Comments like these show us how essential it is to restore a culture of play to our families, our neighborhoods, and our schools.With the freedom to spend after-school and weekend hours outside playing, children would cultivate vital skills, such as curiosity, resiliency, and the ability to assess risk; they would also learn how to work in groups, share, negotiate, resolve conflicts, and advocate for themselves. That's not to mention that they would be exercising their muscles along with their minds.

Yes, our kids need to learn their reading, writing, and arithmetic, but not at the expense of play.

What do you think? Should more schools consider a weekend homework ban? What about banning homework altogether?

Join us to defend our children’s right to play by signing our Back-to-School Pledge!

When you sign, we'll get you started with a PDF copy of How to Save Play at Your School—featuring 15 action ideas for teachers and parents to make school grounds and school days more playful.

playful learning, back to school, play outdoors, homework, education, academics