Homework is of little benefit to students from junior kindergarten to Grade 6, say the authors of a just-released Canadian study, who also found it is often the source of stress and burnout in children, as well the cause of conflict – even marital stress – for many families.
In the first-ever look at the homework load in this country, the study by two Toronto professors found homework rates vary wildly from student to student, and from grade to grade, with some Grade 2 students spending less than 10 minutes a night, while others log more than 45 minutes.
On average, Ontario students spend almost 40 minutes on homework a night, compared to 32.6 minutes in other provinces, which, statistically, is significantly more, say the authors.
While research shows some benefits to homework in grades 7 and 8 and high school, there's scant evidence that it improves student achievement in the younger years, say professors Linda Cameron and Lee Bartel of the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto.
"For elementary school, especially for the primary grades, I am down on homework entirely," said Cameron, a former kindergarten teacher.
Parent Mary-Margaret McMahon, a mother of two children at Gledhill Junior Public School in Toronto, believes children need more unstructured time.
"I think the work should be completed in the classroom and then kids should be allowed to play," she said. "I think there's not enough of that any more.