No – kids don’t need all that homework

Jordan A. Sprogis

An elementary school in Manhattan, P.S. 116, has recently decided to abolish all traditional homework, such as math worksheets and at-home essays, encouraging children to spend more time with their families.

Of course, this outrages the parents.

Principal Jane Hsu sent out a letter to parents in February, some of which read, “The topic of homework has received a lot of attention lately, and the negative effects of homework have been well established. … They include: children’s frustration and exhaustion, lack of time for other activities and family time and, sadly for many, loss of interest in learning.”

She also commented that the school is not eliminating homework in its entirety, but is instead offering a new dynamic to it. Regardless, parents have threatened to take their children out of P.S. 116 in fear that they won’t learn enough.

The idea was brought up at a Dec. 12 meeting between staff and parents when there was a concern raised by the school’s School Leadership Team. Apparently, students were being forced to skip recess after failing to turn in their homework from the night before.

How would you feel if your child told you that he or she wasn’t allowed to play at recess so they could finish their homework from the previous night, only to come home to do more?

I would be furious; my own elementary school used to do this. It made a lot of kids upset. Looking back, my only wish is that my teachers realized how much we needed that free time in the middle of the day. I started homework as soon as I got home, continued through dinner, and finished it right before bedtime. Some nights, I would lie to my parents about the amount of work I got so I could have more free time to play outside. The idea of those worksheets, pages upon pages every week, stressed me to tears. My mom can vouch for this.

According to Smithsonian magazine, professors of education David Baker and Gerald LeTendre at Penn State found that in countries with the most successful school systems – such as Japan – assign the least amount of homework. 


Go figure.

Diane Lowrie, mother of nine-year-old Iaian, decided to leave her home in Ocean County, New Jersey, three years ago after realizing that her first-grade son was suffering from the amount of homework he was given. 

“Tears were shed, every night,” Lowrie told Smithsonian. “Iaian started to hate school, to hate learning, and he was only 6 years old.”

I would rest my case, but I can’t – not yet.

Marwa Keshk, a parent of two children at P.S. 116, is not happy with the decrease in homework. “[She’s] spending more time in front of the TV, in her room playing,” Keshk said of her older daughter to PIX11, a news source in New York.

It just sounds like parents who use this reasoning don’t know what else to do with their children if they’re not busy with homework.

To me, it seems like a lack of parenting. Although I am not a parent, I was a child at one point. My sister and I were kept busy no matter what – whether we were playing games, quizzing each other on the multiplication tables, or running around outside or on our bikes through the neighborhood.

A couple of years ago, I used to babysit some young kids, brothers at two and six years old. The first night I babysat, their mother said to me, “They can watch only one hour of T.V. It can be now, it can be later – whenever, but I just want to make sure that they’re getting enough time playing with their toys or reading. They turn into zombies otherwise.”

I understood and respected that a lot. 

The point is that it is up to the parents to make sure their kids are being kept busy – just as it is their responsibility to make sure that their kids are not suffering from amounts of stress at such a young age.

“Where was this school when I was a kid?” reads a comment on an article about P.S. 116.

Yeah, I’m still wondering the same thing. I wish my principal eliminated repetitive homework every night so I could enjoy time with my family instead of being pushed to tears and arguing with them over my math.

On a daily basis, children shouldn’t be forced to work as hard as adults do. Kids are meant to play, explore, and be free before the real world straps them down for the rest of their lives.   

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