Homework sucks: The case against homework

Sara Bennett and Nancy Kalish 2006 book "The Case Against Homework" is a fine and frightening explosion of the homework myth: that giving kids homework improves their educational outcome. The authors start by tracing the explosion in homework since the eighties, and especially since the advent of the ill-starred No Child Left Behind regime, which has teachers drilling, drilling, drilling their kids on math and reading to the exclusion of all else.

Kindergarten kids are assigned homework. Kids get homework over the weekend. Over vacations. When they're away sick for a day.

What's more, all the credible research on homework suggests that for younger kids, homework has no connection with positive learning outcomes, and for older kids, the benefits of homework level off sharply after the first couple assignments.

Not that most teachers would know this -- homework theory and design isn't on the curriculum at most teachers' colleges, and most teachers surveyed report that they have never received any training on designing and assessing homework.

The book is composed of equal measures of interviews with kids, parents and teachers; hard research numbers from respected institutions; and strategies for convincing your kids' teachers to ease back on homework.

One thing the authors keep coming back to is the way that excessive homework eats into kids' playtime and family time, stressing them out, contributing to sedentary obesity, and depriving them of a childhood's measure of doing nothing, daydreaming and thinking. They quote ten-year-olds like Sophia from Brooklyn, saying things like "I have to rush, rush, rush, rush, rush, rush through my day, actually through my seven days, and that's seven days wasted in my life."

No Child Left Behind has to shoulder some of the blame here. No Child Left Behind and standardized testing not only turns your child into a slave to her test-scores, but they can even affect your property values: a school with low test-scores brings down the neighborhood property values. That means that whatever your approach to your kids, the chances are that the other parents in your neighborhood are busting their asses to get their kids great test scores, drilling them, sending them to tutors, helping them with assignments that they were meant to complete themselves. If you don't do the same, your kids will suffer by comparison.

The authors report on an elementary school in North Carolina where at least twenty standardized test books have to be replaced after their use because the stressed out elementary school kids working to them have vomited on them.

The stories go on and on, and just when you're ready to throw in the towel and send your kids into the woods to be raised by wolves, the authors supply several long chapters of strategies and sample dialogs for convincing your kids' teachers to ease off on homework, for changing the homework policies in your school district and for rallying other parents to their cause.

They're not whistling Dixie, either: the authors have gone through this themselves, challenging and changing the homework policies in their kids' school districts. The last section of the book is an activist guide and a postmortem of the strategies they employed. One of the authors, Sara Bennett, is a celebrated civil rights lawyer; the other, Nancy Kalish, is a famous editor and writer of material for parents, especially mothers. One imagines that their school board didn't know what hit them.

I was lucky enough to attend excellent, publicly funded alternative schools through my educational career. We had homework, but we were also given a lot of time for free play, and a lot of free rein to choose our subjects and design our curriculum -- I remember spending half of the fourth grade working my way through two or three math textbooks and the other half designing and writing a parody of MAD Magazine, to the exclusion of all other work. The next grade I followed the class for most of the semester, except when I didn't. In high-school, I took a year off, moved to a little house in Mexico, and wrote stories. All of this stuff contributed more to my learning than any amount of worksheets and homework ever could have. Link

Update: Sara Bennett, co-author of the book, writes in with StopHomework.com, her site to continue the movement.


  1. I HATE HOMEWORK: I’m in Eighth Grade this year, and today is my birthday! But I can’t celebrate it without the stress of two assessment tasks and a Maths test!
    It’s just not fair!
    They’re putting us under TOO much stress!

  2. They keep on giving us work, work, and more work! We barely get a moments rest! We hear our parents and grandparents talking about how great their childhood was but we won’t beable to ever say that! Due to the schools these days all we do is WORK!

  3. homework is terible im in grade 7 and i can’t go to one class without geting a project that we dont have enuff time for then of course the whole class ends up giving it late and the teacher clames she gave enuff time and report cards are coming up its just so dumb get rid of homework

  4. Homework sucks im in yr 10/form 4, from New Zealand, we already have 6 hours of school, and then go to bed around 8:30-9:30, which leaves us with about 6 hours at home, but then we have to do our homework which uses up some of that time, so really we have less time to do what we want to do at home!.
    And if we dont do it we’re in trouble!!!!.

  5. homework isn’t fair after people get off work they don’t have to do more work at home but we do
    whats up with that

  6. I am in 7th grade and the I hate homework but there is not that much homework this year. I normaly do my homework at 6 AM in the morning and then i gotta go to school at 8 AM and I do my math homework during lunch because I have it right before math =)

    1. but dont you notice that even though it seems your not receiving alot of homework, its taking your important time? it took 2 hours of your time to sleep before going to school, and even more important, it took your time to eat, it took your time you need to ENERGIZE yourself again.

  7. I’m in 7th grade right now and we have too much homework. I never get to spend any time with my friends! From the moment school ends to my bedtime, I have to rush home, do my homework and go to sleep. I waste four hours of my life every day doing either a project that’s due the day after it’s assigned or one of the endless worksheets assigned by my teachers. Homework really is crap. Nobody should have to go through the stress of having to get it done when they could be doing something a lot more relaxing, for example reading.

  8. I agree with this no homework campaign, I’ve got a ridiculous amount of maths, science, english and art work to do.

  9. I’m in 6th grade and homework really sucks because its tedious and they give me a lot of !MATH! I should give it to my dog instead I don’t know why there’s a lot of homework for me but for no one else because they think I’m the smartest they say that but its not true its a lie! I mean homework its for nothing its just for you to revise stuff and so on but there’s many different things to do instead of homework. Do you think they should ban homework forever? I think so its true homework is a waste of time because it seems you learn the same stuff at school over again and again… So I hate it Like hell .. This is Pyromaniac Signing off HOME WORK IS CRAP HELL!

  10. Woah! The BB kiddy quotient is high today!

    Good to get the feet-on-the-ground perspective of homework today, though. The workload does seem far too heavy.

    ..and homework for kindergarten? WTF?

  11. I am a teacher and I assign work. Students get to decide if it is homework or classwork. On a typical day, a halfway motivated student can complete all work in class. I still hear complaints similar to those above from students that won’t even take advantage of class time.

    Parents: Don’t start beating the drum unless you are absolutely sure you kids are getting a crazy amount of homework. In the meantime teach them how to use time management to get more “fun” time.

    Students: You may or may not be getting too much homework. Do it anyways. You may voice you concerns in a respectable and private manner to you teachers. Your concerns will have no weight, however, if you waste classtime and don’t do your homework.

  12. actually, not all ppl in my school need to stay up until mid night lik me. but i just say the smarter ppl get more hw
    and the no child left behind thing is for fuking SPEDs (SPecial EDucation) that are hopeless. y cant there b something for the SMART kids who HAVE A GOOD FUTURE??? because of that, math and english are more important, but ss, science, art, music, gym, funner subjects all take a setback. it’s a waste of time for geniuses.
    and #12, we don’t decide if it’s hw or classwork!!! our teacher gives us like 1 min to do hw then the bell rings. i happen to be fairly smart, but i am a slow worker. not fair for the ppl lik me, huh?

  13. I am an eighth grader i was just assigned to very long reading assigments, as if teachers think all we want to do this summer is read teachers need to understand that we have lives ourselves

  14. definetely homework is pointless and causes alot of stress. im in form 4 currently, wake up at 6am and spend from 7.30am to 3.30pm at school. i arrive home at 4.15pm. the thing is when i get home i can’t say “finally im home time to relax” nooo because i have that damn homework which i finish at about 6pm. so it’s 10 hours work and 2 hours free time cuz at 9 i have to be in bed. HOMEWORK SUCKS

  15. i hate homework so much. im in advanced classes and they give us so much homework that i get no brakes. wats the point of it anyways? its not like were gonna forget wat we learned the next day!

  16. I am in 11th grade, my school just switched from the 4 class system to the 7 class system and teachers are giving the SAME amount of homework! I have homework in 6 of my 7 classes, I’ve been starting my homework at 5 pm and finishing it at midnight for the last few weeks, since the school has decided NOT to lower the homework load, grades are falling, seniors are dropping out, and many more are just doing what they can and refusing to do the rest. I have so much homework that I have to carry a full backpack, a book and a folder in each hand, and I still had to leave one book behind because I couldn’t carry anymore. I have a 3.875 GPA, and I would like to say that if the homework load doesn’t get lighter soon I will either drop out all together or go get my GED… I can’t take this any more!

  17. Oh my gosh. I really hate homework! Seriously, whats the point? It makes kids hate learning, and they give way way too much. This weekend i have 2 projects and 2 assignments due. OMG No fun! There is so much i would rather do…I wouldnt do homework, but hate getting in trouble!

    I wish you all the best of luck, I know how you guys are feeling!

  18. Hey kids! Don’t be silly! You hate school, you hate teachers, you hate homeworks and you hate your parents. I learn english after my university grade and love it (homeworks too). LOL

  19. lol i love my spanish teacher but she gives us classwork then we finish that and then there homework im like wtf is up with that shit? now teachers are allways well i give you classwork. NOT TRUE! 5 minutes to work after we do are class work which is SEPERATE from are homework doesnt count! classwork is just as affective as homework doing the work in class is the same if not better then doing it at home. you have a question about your homework o wait the teachers at schhol and im at home at 12 at night wondering WTF to do. homework should be changed to classwork am i not right?

  20. Okay, I’m gonna jump on the ‘I hate homework’ bandwagon too. I’m a procrastinator, and usually don’t start my middle school homework assignments until ten or even eleven o’clock – when I want to go to bed! I just can’t stand the fact that I’m working when I don’t have to during our school homework study hall. I don’t have the motivation then! I only get that motivation late at night because of the upcoming deadlines, and because I know I’d be screwed if I didn’t do it then.

    It sucks for me, because my procrastination (which I’ve tried to fix, and failed many times. I’m pretty sure it’s genetic) and homework gives me no more than six hours of sleep every night.

    Also, I know that I personally have an intrinsic motivation to learn, which is snuffed out of me by deadlines and busywork. If I was given the opportunity to just teach myself with material given, I would be much more motivated to learn at home. Obviously this wouldn’t work for some people – some homework and deadlines are good, but not as much as I get – often two or three hours!

    In fact, it’s true. This whole comment is just to distract myself from doing homework for a while.

  21. I’m in University now, and I completely support the anti-homework movement. University is SO MUCH EASIER since most of my teachers don’t require that we turn in our homework. Trust me, kids, it gets better. Being able to pick and chose what and when to study for each class takes a lot of the stress off, and gives you a lot of flexibility when you prepare for tests.

    When I was in middle and high school, I would have on average about 3-4 hours of homework per night (5-6 hours in 11th and 12th grade, because we also went from a 4 block class system to a 7 class one). I actually had to drop my extra curricular activities to keep up with the home work and projects during the second half of 11th grade. I also couldn’t work, because what little free time I did have, I wanted to spend vegging in front of the TV because my brain was spent.

    Now, that’s not to say that some homework isn’t useful. But in Middle and High School, it was always the same thing. Essays, worksheets, and dozens upon dozens of math problems. The “FCAT” (Jeb Bush’s stain upon Florida) test was instituted when I entered 8th grade, and I had to take the “Florida Writes” test in 8th and 10th grade. To prepare us for the 8th grade version, because my grade hadn’t been prepared for it beforehand (as we were among the last to get the classic education that didn’t focus so much on standardized tests) we were given packets of example questions. Our English teacher assigned five paragraph essays EVERY DAY for in the month leading up to the test.

    Yeah. That was really really fun. Thanks, Jebula.

    Oh, and those standardized tests? Haven’t encountered one since leaving High School. Heck, I haven’t encountered one since 10th grade! (Well, there’s the SAT, but that’s optional). In 11th and 12th, they just herded us into the auditorium and showed us movies while the younger grades suffered for a week. There’s a great use of class time right there. Of course, some of my teachers still assigned homework, but at least in that week I could do it in the auditorium.

    Anyway, those tests are absolute garbage. In fact, I’ve noticed that my younger sister’s classmates actually know fewer basic academic skills compared to people of my age group (for example, all of them tend to avoid reading, and few can do their basic multiplication tables without a calculator).

    Anyway, that’s the end of my rant. Hang in there, kids. You happened to enter school at a bad time, and I’m sorry that you didn’t get to have the childhood that I had–at least during my elementary school years. I’ve seen my little cousin’s workload, and I can vouch that it’s too much. No second grader should have to come home and drill essays.

  22. Homework is a major source of stress to children, its practicly a fact that homework gives stress. My cousin is 3 grades ahead of me, 11th grade, and yet my cousin and I receive no different stress, we taste the same stress everyday. Most importantly, we both have pretty much the same amount of time eaten, due to homework. I will never understand why the board of education will never see why the kids are doing horrible at school, homework is destroying our time of sleep, relaxation, and even occasionaly our dinner time. It even kills our time to socialize with our parents. Frankly, the only time we talk to our parents is because we either need help with homework, or we are just arguing with them about the homwork. Homework is slowly over the years, influencing the kids and teenagers to fear school, instead of influencing them to think learning as a fun, positive thing. I will continue my conflict against homework later, when im finished with my homework. (no pun intented, im really doing my homework right now.)

  23. HOMEWORK IS BRINGING ME DOWN!!! Homework slows me down on everything, my health, my fun, my education even!! I SAY BRING DOWN HOMEWORK!! I just think without homework, and more classwork, would be a great option!

  24. homework is aweful. there is a reason we dont live at school…TO NOT DO SCHOOL WORK. WE HAVE A LIFE OTHER THAN SCHOOL YOU STUPID TEACHERS!!!!!!!!
    i think teachers give us homework because they are too lazy to just tell us what to do in school.

  25. I’m in 8th Grade this year, and I’m under so much pressure I feel like I’m gonna explode. Why? Here’s why:
    1. All my classes required loads of homework
    2. I have Regents class for more advanced students, and Regents gives tons of homework.
    3. My teacher calls tests and quizzes ‘Presents.’ WTF?
    4. I get home at 6pm, and most of the time i do my homework past midnight.
    5. My parents feel suspicious that I’m getting so much homework on the computer, and they think all i’m doing is playing on the computer. WELCOME TO THE 21ST CENTURY PEOPLE ._.”

  26. Homework is dumb. Adults say to enjoy being a kid while you can but than you pour on loads of homework not giving us any time to be a kid! We are at school for 6 hours but really, we are attending school for over 7 hours because we have hours of homework to do. Kids are supposed to get an hour of play and about 8 or 10 hours of sleep, not to mention family time. Between homework and family time there is no time for play or very much sleep. Also, people say to spend time with family while you still can but we can’t with all this homework. I am in 7th grade and in two advanced classes, I hate homework but have tons every night and weekend. Homework might try to teach responsibility but it is really taking away more than it is teaching. Plus it puts on way too much unneeded stress.

  27. homework really sucks i get from home and i have to do the stupid homework and everyday i get ALOT of homework

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