Aside from causing stress and depriving children of precious play time, homework can weaken family bonds.

"But homework is how our kids learn, right?" No. There is absolutely no evidence to support this widespread assumption. 

According to the Washington Post:

"First, no research has ever found a benefit to assigning homework (of any kind or in any amount) in elementary school.  In fact, there isn’t even a positive correlation between, on the one hand, having younger children do some homework (vs. none), or more (vs. less), and, on the other hand, any measure of achievement.  If we’re making 12-year-olds, much less five-year-olds, do homework, it’s either because we’re misinformed about what the evidence says or because we think kids ought to have to do homework despite what the evidence says." 

Below we have reproduced an article on the subject first published in PRINCIPAL. Links to further reading are included at the bottom of this page:

Rethinking Homework

By Alfie Kohn

[For a more detailed look at the issues discussed here — including a comprehensive list of citations to relevant research and a discussion of successful efforts to effect change– please see the book The Homework Myth.]

After spending most of the day in school, children are typically given additional assignments to be completed at home.  This is a rather curious fact when you stop to think about it, but not as curious as the fact that few people ever stop to think about it.

It becomes even more curious, for that matter, in light of three other facts:

1.  The negative effects of homework are well known.  They include children’s frustration and exhaustion, lack of time for other activities, and possible loss of interest in learning.  Many parents lament the impact of homework on their relationship with their children; they may also resent having to play the role of enforcer and worry that they will be criticized either for not being involved enough with the homework or for becoming too involved.

2.  The positive effects of homework are largely mythical.  In preparation for a book on the topic, I’ve spent a lot of time sifting through the research.  The results are nothing short of stunning.  For starters, there is absolutely no evidence of any academic benefit from assigning homework in elementary or middle school.  For younger students, in fact, there isn’t even a correlation between whether children do homework (or how much they do) and any meaningful measure of achievement.  At the high school level, the correlation is weak and tends to disappear when more sophisticated statistical measures are applied.  Meanwhile, no study has ever substantiated the belief that homework builds character or teaches good study habits.

3.  More homework is being piled on children despite the absence of its value.  Over the last quarter-century the burden has increased most for the youngest children, for whom the evidence of positive effects isn’t just dubious; it’s nonexistent.

It’s not as though most teachers decide now and then that a certain lesson really ought to continue after school is over because meaningful learning is so likely to result from such an assignment that it warrants the intrusion on family time.   Homework in most schools isn’t limited to those occasions when it seems appropriate and important.  Rather, the point of departure seems to be:  “We’ve decided ahead of time that children will have to do something every night (or several times a week).  Later on we’ll figure out what to make them do.”

I’ve heard from countless people across the country about the frustration they feel over homework.  Parents who watch a torrent of busywork spill out of their children’s backpacks wish they could help teachers understand how the cons overwhelmingly outweigh the pros.  And teachers who have long harbored doubts about the value of homework feel pressured by those parents who mistakenly believe that a lack of afterschool assignments reflects an insufficient commitment to academic achievement.  Such parents seem to reason that as long as their kids have lots of stuff to do every night, never mind what it is, then learning must be taking place.

What parents and teachers need is support from administrators who are willing to challenge the conventional wisdom.  They need principals who question the slogans that pass for arguments:  that homework creates a link between school and family (as if there weren’t more constructive ways to make that connection!), or that it “reinforces” what students were taught in class (a word that denotes the repetition of rote behaviors, not the development of understanding), or that it teaches children self-discipline and responsibility (a claim for which absolutely no evidence exists).

Above all, principals need to help their faculties see that the most important criterion for judging decisions about homework (or other policies, for that matter) is the impact they’re likely to have on students’ attitudes about what they’re doing.  “Most of what homework is doing is driving kids away from learning,” says education professor Harvey Daniels.  Let’s face it:  Most children dread homework, or at best see it as something to be gotten through.  Thus, even if it did provide other benefits, they would have to be weighed against its likely effect on kids’ love of learning.




We are awash in articles and books that claim homework is beneficial – or simply take the existence or value of homework for granted and merely offer suggestions for how it ought to be assigned, or what techniques parents should use to make children complete it.  Here are some resources that question the conventional assumptions about the subject in an effort to stimulate meaningful thinking and conversation.

Barber, Bill.  “Homework Does Not Belong on the Agenda for Educational Reform.”  Educational Leadership, May 1986: 55-57.

Bennett, Sara, and Nancy Kalish. The Case Against Homework:  How Homework Is Hurting Our Children and What We Can Do About It (New York:  Crown, 2006).

Buell, John. Closing the Book on Homework: Enhancing Public Education and Freeing Family Time.  (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2004).

Dudley-Marling, Curt.  “How School Troubles Come Home:  The Impact of Homework on Families of Struggling Learners.”  Current Issues in Education [On-line] 6, 4 (2003).

Hinchey, Patricia.  “Rethinking Homework.”  MASCD [Missouri Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development] Fall Journal, December 1995: 13-17.

Kohn, Alfie.  The Homework Myth:  Why Our Kids Get Too Much of a Bad Thing (Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press, 2006).

Kralovec, Etta, and John Buell. The End of Homework: How Homework Disrupts Families, Overburdens Children, and Limits Learning  (Boston:  Beacon Press, 2000).

Samway, Katharine.  “’And You Run and You Run to Catch Up with the Sun, But It’s Sinking.’”  Language Arts 63 (1986): 352-57.

Vatterott, Cathy.  “There’s Something Wrong With Homework.” Principal, January-February 2003: 64.

Waldman, Ayelet.  “Homework Hell.”  October 22, 2005.

Copyright © 2007 by Alfie Kohn. This article may be downloaded, reproduced, and distributed without permission as long as each copy includes this notice along with citation information (i.e., name of the periodical in which it originally appeared, date of publication, and author’s name). Permission must be obtained in order to reprint this article in a published work or in order to offer it for sale in any form.P