Is homework worth it? Kids say so

Jessica Lahey hates homework, but she assigns it — if it passes the Ben test, she writes on a New York Times parenting blog. “If an assignment is not worthy of my own (middle-school) son’s time, I’m dumping it. Based on a quick look at my assignment book from last year, about a quarter of my assignments won’t make the cut.”

Parents are complaining about “horrible homework” burdens, Lahey writes. In Race to Nowhere, which is very popular with affluent parents, filmmaker Vicki Abeles “claims that today’s untenable and increasing homework load drives students to cheating, mental illness and suicide.”

I asked my students whether, if homework were to completely disappear, they would be able achieve the same mastery of the material. The answer was a unanimous — if reluctant — “No.”

Most echoed my son Ben’s sentiments: “If I didn’t have homework, I don’t think I’d do very well. It’s practice for what we learn in school.” But, they all stressed, that’s only true of some homework.

Teachers should be careful not to assign busy work, Lahey writes. “Children need time to be quiet, play, read and imagine.”