The Homework Myth by Alfie Kohn

Educational Internship Program

About the Book

People often worry about what homework is doing to families, but then limit the questions we ask of our children's teachers to those dealing with the details: When is this assignment due? What sorts of binders will our kids need? It's acceptable to ask, "How much time should they be spending on this each evening?" but not to ask, "Is it really necessary to assign homework on this topic?" Teachers, too, may catch themselves wondering just how useful it really is to send children home with those packets but then assume their only option is to revise the packets' contents. So is homework good or bad?

Why This is a Must Read:

Teachers everywhere around the world should read this book. It is an outstanding novel of why or why not students should be given homework. Every teacher goes through the stages of asking themselves, "Am I going to be the teacher that gives out homework, or am I going to go about it another way?" This question wonders and wonders and no matter where you go, you will always get different answers. In The Homework Myth, the reader is faced with information on what teachers don't understand. It will give you statistics about students, teachers, schools, and most importantly the families that go through it all. It goes in depth on five basic themes of why homework is a bad thing; it's a burden on parents, overwhelming stress for the children, creates family conflict, less time for other activities out of school, and creates less interest. So, why do teachers even assign homework if it is so bad? Simply answered in this book, "Teachers assign homework because parents and administrators expect it..it is busy work, parents and teachers give homework to keep children busy." The arguments can go on about homework being useful or not, but most research saying that homework is useful only has facts on grades and test scores. Is that all we care about, that the children's scores are higher because of homework? This book goes into the behind the scenes details that surround test scores as mention above the 5 themes. The more you look, the less important homework is.

Reflection:

This story connects to my life personally, as I think it would relate to any current student going through school. Hearing the stories, really make you connect to your own school and teachers. Before reading this book, sure I thought homework was stupid because what teenager likes homework? Even though I hated it, I never really had a reason to hate it, other than the fact that it took up time. Reading The Homework Myth, gave me specific reasons to not like it and they are serious reasons that will make you ponder on the idea of homework. There was a story about a teacher named Steve Phelps who was a math teacher, he said, "Students are compelled to be in my classroom for 48 minutes a day. If I can't get done in 48 minutes what I need to get done, then I have no business intruding on the students family time at home." This quote should be spread world wide in my opinion. Going through school you see many different types of teachers; good teachers, bad teachers, lazy teachers, and crazy teachers. Reading around this quote in the book they are saying that if you can't get those things done in that amount of time you are a poor teacher. There are so many teachers that will teach a lesson and then the last 5 minutes of class say oh by the way your homework is blah blah blah. Half the time the homework isn't even necessary to do to understand what you're going through in class, they just want you to have something to do to get points. They also talk about how on average students spend at least 3 hours on homework a night, if they even do it all. This is so true, because teachers don't understand that when they say, "This is easy homework, you can get it done in 20 minutes," that times that by the seven other classes that I have homework in and then I will be done! It is crazy. Homework does conflict with family time, as said in that book that, "Children at a given grade level are required to do a set number of minutes of some kind of schoolwork at home." My little brother who is in 4th grade has a reading log sent home every month and they have to read a certain amount by a certain date. Not only does that parent have to sign off on all the dates but they also are going to have to sit there and go through the book with the child nightly because they are only in third grade. This is the teachers job to do daily, not conflict with family times and home life. I agree that SOME homework is necessary for students to understand topics, but definitely not every night, maybe once a week and it should be the children's choice on how it is done. Children from elementary school to high school are the ones that have to do the homework every night, so above all they should know best what works best for them on how information comes to them, so let them choose. It would make student want to do things more or be willing to do things more. In my opinion it gets to the point where I'm asking everyday when is enough enough?

Current Work and Future:

The classroom that I am currently in is first graders, so they don’t get any homework because they are too young. So, I can’t really compare the idea to my classroom but, I have asked my teacher, Mrs. Arens, her own thoughts on homework. She said that she does believe in giving homework and if she taught older she would give it. She believes that homework helps keep the children engaged. In the future I am going to want to teacher older kids so I am going to have to pick a side when it comes to homework. I definitely think that after reading this book I have been pulled to believe that homework is not the way to go. You’re always going to find sites that show you how good homework is for children, but this book did so much more and provided so many answers. Kids learn different way, think about the education system in Finland and Korea for example; they are giving the matter into the students hands. The students have to care and have to want to do better. Their want and need for school is not from being shoved homework after homework, it’s from the individuality and uniqueness of student to student, student to teacher, and student to parent. Everyone connecting positively. In my book they say that, “If homework persists because of a myth, we owe it to our kids--to all kids--to insist on a policy that’s based on what’s true and what makes sense”(p 198). This quote just shows you that were giving homework because that is what we have always done, but once again that doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to be doing. I think that going into a classroom and teaching but giving no homework, parents are going to think that I am crazy because they are used to the kids being piled up with homework, and they are going to think that their child is not getting taught anything without homework. What I can respond with now, the amount of knowledge that I have on a myth of so called homework, provides me with nonstop information of why homework is not the answer. Just a couple to throw out there now would be subjects on; the idea of not only giving less homework but to give students choices about assignments, and the actual non academical benefit because the positive effects are very little. After reading this book, I strongly agree with giving little to no homework at all being a teacher. There are so many more effective ways to accomplish education in ways that connect the student, parent, teacher, and community as a whole.

Questions:

There are some questions that rise up in the book to me and not all of them are easy to be answered. The first question that I had was, does homework truly turn out to be beneficial? I pondered on this question because you go through all of school getting thrown homework after homework and you think well they have to be doing it for some reason right? Then I start reading this book and they are telling me that homework is a myth. So which one is right you ask, well I would now say my book. They answered this question with, homework has very little academic benefits. You will find studies that show it improved a test score or two, but overall there is no benefit. Instead it creates a burden on parents, creates stress for children, creates family conflict, creates less time for other activities, and creates less interest in actual learning. Another question that I had was, why can we not find a true answer on if homework is good for students or not? This is the question that can never quite be answered. I mean if it is such a big deal why can’t we come to the conclusion that homework does not help students and move on with education a different way? My book gives me answers on why exactly we will never come to that conclusion. Such as because most homework studies show only an association, not a causal relationship, we can never truly know how much homework kids are really getting, and homework studies confuse grades and test scores with learning. These three things are why are brains are manipulated to not understand why we cannot come to a conclusion on homework. All of my question were answered in this outstanding and mind changing book.