The Problem with Giving Young Children Homework

Studies suggest that giving elementary students homework does more harm than good.

America has recommitted itself to improving its public education in a way that’s somehow been both ambitious and fearful, frantically implementing untested strategies that have fundamentally changed schools and student’s experiences, arguably for the worse.

With a concern that American students are increasingly unable to successfully compete internationally for jobs, governmental agencies and politicians are pushing STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) curricula in spite of education experts’ concerns about other areas being de-emphasized.

Public schools, terrified of losing funding due to low test scores, have moved to “teaching to the test,” where the goal is passing exams, not mastery of a subject. (In Michigan last month it was announced that 100 schools were to be shut down because their students fell short on these exams.)

Homework for kindergarteners? (NAVY HALE KEIKI SCHOOL

Then there’s homework for elementary-school students.

Some elementary schools are assigning homework to kids straight down to kindergarten now. It may be they’re doing this to demonstrate to funding agencies how serious they are about keeping test scores up, but there’s no evidence it makes any real sense. While the value of homework for high-school kids is supported by the data, the same is not true for elementary students. And parents of young students are learning all too well the kind of stresses it creates.

One benefit elementary-school homework advocates cite is that homework helps build a child’s sense of responsibility. However, studies show that since a parent has to constantly remind young students to do their homework, this doesn’t actually happen.

Education expert Harris Cooper’s just published the third edition of his well-regarded book The Battle Over Homework: Common Ground for Administrators, Teachers, and Parents, which offers compelling evidence that homework for young children is actually destructive, in several ways. Here’s what his research shows.

Homework Makes It Hard for Young Kids to Adapt to School

Elementary-school children have a lot of education in front of them, and one of the best things a teacher can do is to instill in a student a love of learning. Education needs to be fun as children are forming their attitudes about school. Check out this video from one very student-savvy 4th grade teacher with the right idea.

Welcome to the 4th Grade — Dwayne Reed (TY GOTHAM)

Homework for Young Kids Damages Family Relationships

Listening to a parent try to push their weary young child — after all, she or he has already been at school all day long — through a homework assignment is like eavesdropping on child abuse. The child resists, the parent gets frustrated at a kid too tired to fire on all cylinders, and nothing is achieved other than bad feelings.


Kids Need Rest After a Long School Day

After being at school for six to eight hours, children physically need some time to regroup. On average, they need 10 hours of sleep. When you consider walking home or what time they get off the bus, family dinner, bath and everything else, simple math shows how homework is just an added pressure on a child’s already packed schedule.

Long day. (PAW PAW)

Kids Need Time to Be Kids

Given the above, when exactly is a child supposed to just be a child? Developmentally, children need time to de-compress, to goof off, if they’re to mature properly. Check out Open Colleges’ report, The Tyranny of Homework: 20 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Assign Homework Over The Holidays.

Hanging out. (EDEN, JANINE, AND JIM)


Elementary school parents should consider speaking to their schools about this. Some teachers and parents are already on-board, as this note handed out by Fort Worth second-grade teacher Brandy Young proves. A mom of one of Young’s students posted it on Facebook, and it hit an nerve, going viral immediately.

Good news for second-graders. (SAMANTHA GALLAGHER)

There’s plenty of time ahead to be a serious, responsible student, but the data shows what’s obvious to any young child’s parents: These amazing little humans are constantly learning at a rate we adults can only gaze upon in wonder. Why rob them of what little time they have to enjoy their childhoods as it is?

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Scientists study tattooed corpses, find pigment in lymph nodes

It turns out, that tattoo ink can travel throughout your body and settle in lymph nodes.

17th August 1973: An American tattoo artist working on a client's shoulder. (Photo by F. Roy Kemp/BIPs/Getty Images)

In the slightly macabre experiment to find out where tattoo ink travels to in the body, French and German researchers recently used synchrotron X-ray fluorescence in four "inked" human cadavers — as well as one without. The results of their 2017 study? Some of the tattoo ink apparently settled in lymph nodes.

Image from the study.

As the authors explain in the study — they hail from Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility, and the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment — it would have been unethical to test this on live animals since those creatures would not be able to give permission to be tattooed.

Because of the prevalence of tattoos these days, the researchers wanted to find out if the ink could be harmful in some way.

"The increasing prevalence of tattoos provoked safety concerns with respect to particle distribution and effects inside the human body," they write.

It works like this: Since lymph nodes filter lymph, which is the fluid that carries white blood cells throughout the body in an effort to fight infections that are encountered, that is where some of the ink particles collect.

Image by authors of the study.

Titanium dioxide appears to be the thing that travels. It's a white tattoo ink pigment that's mixed with other colors all the time to control shades.

The study's authors will keep working on this in the meantime.

“In future experiments we will also look into the pigment and heavy metal burden of other, more distant internal organs and tissues in order to track any possible bio-distribution of tattoo ink ingredients throughout the body. The outcome of these investigations not only will be helpful in the assessment of the health risks associated with tattooing but also in the judgment of other exposures such as, e.g., the entrance of TiO2 nanoparticles present in cosmetics at the site of damaged skin."

Photo by Alina Grubnyak on Unsplash
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