Like embarrassing crushes, fabricated illnesses, and hastily graffiti’d initials, homework is a cornerstone of most children’s educational experience. But in recent years, the educational community has begun to debate whether homework could be doing kids more harm than good. After her 10-year-old daughter began experiencing chest pain and waking up in the middle of the night, one mother decided to email her daughter’s school to tell them she was done with homework.
In the email, Bunmi Laditan, a writer, blogger, and mother of three, explains that though her daughter loves learning, her workload is beginning to take a toll on her well-being. In a Facebook post explaining her decision, she wrote:
“She’s in school from 8:15am - 4pm daily so someone please explain to me why she should have 2-3 hours of homework to do every night? [...] Is family time not important? Is time spent just being a child and relaxing at home not important? Or should she become some sort of junior workaholic at 10 years old?”
Laditan’s post immediately went viral, and currently has over 56,000 likes and 13,000 shares. Parents and teachers alike praised her decision, and have shared their own decisions to limit or forgo homework for their children.
“As a fourth grade teacher, I fully support this,” one woman commented. “In fact, I have not given my students the first night of homework this year, and their academic growth has been just as much or more as I’ve seen from other classes in the past. Not to mention the fact that they seem much less stressed and ready to learn when they walk into my classroom.”
Research on the effects of homework has been inconclusive. The last comprehensive study was a 2006 meta-analysis by Duke University, that found homework helped older students perform better academically, but didn’t necessarily help students in younger grades, like Laditan’s daughter.
In her letter, Laditan also points out that in Finland, homework is banned, and yet they still have the highest rate of college-bound students in Europe. Finland has long been a model for educators around the world: not only do their students consistently rank high in reading, math, and science, they also get less homework, spend less time in school, and have longer summer breaks. How is this possible? While there are a number of cultural and political factors at play, Finnish teachers are granted much more autonomy than teachers in the U.S., and because Finnish students only have one standardized test at the end of their senior year, their curriculums are not bogged down with test material.
It’s important to note that opting out of homework is a privilege not everyone can afford. As Dr. Harris Cooper, author of the 2006 study, told the Washington Post, “These are typically parents who have the resources and capacity to substitute their own choices of academic things to do after school,” and this isn’t always an option for parents who work long hours, or multiple jobs, or for whom English isn’t their first language.
While there’s no word yet on the school’s response to Laditan’s letter, the strong response to her post is evidence that this is a conversation that needs to be happening.
"I suppose I'll hear from her school tomorrow," Laditan's post concludes, "But going forward, this is a homework free household and I don't care who knows it. My kid needs to be a kid."