The Case Against Homework

Does assigning fifty math problems accomplish any more than assigning five? Is memorizing word lists the best way to increase vocabulary—especially when it takes away from reading time? And what is the real purpose behind those devilish dioramas?

The time our children spend doing homework has skyrocketed in recent years. Parents spend countless hours cajoling their kids to complete such assignments—often without considering whether or not they serve any worthwhile purpose. Even many teachers are in the dark: Only one of the hundreds the authors interviewed and surveyed had ever taken a course specifically on homework during training.

The truth, according to Sara Bennett and Nancy Kalish, is that there is almost no evidence that homework helps elementary school students achieve academic success and little evidence that it helps older students. Yet the nightly burden is taking a serious toll on America’s families. It robs children of the sleep, play, and exercise time they need for proper physical, emotional, and neurological development. And it is a hidden cause of the childhood obesity epidemic, creating a nation of “homework potatoes.”

In The Case Against Homework, Bennett and Kalish draw on academic research, interviews with educators, parents, and kids, and their own experience as parents and successful homework reformers to offer detailed advice to frustrated parents. You’ll find out which assignments advance learning and which are time-wasters, how to set priorities when your child comes home with an overstuffed backpack, how to talk and write to teachers and school administrators in persuasive, nonconfrontational ways, and how to rally other parents to help restore balance in your children’s lives.

Empowering, practical, and rigorously researched, The Case Against Homework shows how too much work is having a negative effect on our children’s achievement and development and gives us the tools and tactics we need to advocate for change.

What the critics are saying about The Case Against Homework:

"[The Case Against Homework] will appeal to parents who have watched tedious book reports squelch their kids' love of reading or endured homework devouring family time, hobbies and exploration....The second half is very helpful, with practical advice on approaching teachers and working to change district standards."
--Stephanie Dunnewind, The Seattle Times

"Sara Bennett and Nancy Kalish have written a battlefield manual for parents. While their central claims are of a piece with [Alfie] Kohn's (they write that 'homework overload is compromising our parenting choices, jeopardizing our children's health, and robbing us of precious family time'), this duo's approach is more practical. Employing the chatty, anecdote-driven style of women's magazines, they lay out their case (even claiming that the growing homework burden fuels childhood obesity), then spell out how to lobby schools to have it reduced or eliminated."
--Ben Wildavsky, The Washington Post

"[Bennett and Kalish] offer lessons from their own battle to rein in the workload at their kids' private middle school in Brooklyn, N.Y. Among their victories: a nightly time limit, a policy of no homework over vacations, no more than two major tests a week, fewer weekend assignments and no Monday tests. Why don't more parents in homework-heavy districts take such actions? Do too many of us think it's just our child who is struggling, so who are we to lead a revolt?"
--Claudia Wallis, Time Magazine

More praise for The Case Against Homework:

"Parents of America, unite! You have nothing to lose but your frustration. The Case Against Homework is an important book that takes on the 500-pound gorilla--homework overload--long ignored by educational policy makers. Every parent of a school-age child should buy it and follow the authors' excellent advice in order to protect their children from an educational system gone haywire."
--Dan Kindlon, author of Raising Cain, Too Much of a Good Thing, and Alpha Girls

"A wonderful book that is not just about homework but about the sadness and futility of turning children into drudges who learn--if one can call it learning--without passion, without love, and without gaining independence. Every educator, every politician, and every parent should read this book and take it to heart."
--Mary Leonhardt, author of 99 Ways to Help Your Kids Love Reading

"Most parents have experienced the negative effects of homework on family harmony, family time, and play time, but they accept it as a necessary evil. Bennett and Kalish reveal that the homework emperor has no clothes; there is no good evidence to support piling on homework, especially in the younger grades.”
--Lawrence Cohen, Ph.D., author of Playful Parenting

"This book makes a strong case against the nightly barrage of homework. It sends a critical message about how to improve the health and well-being of our children by cutting back on busy work."
--Denise Pope, author of Doing School, Stanford School of Education lecturer, and founder of Stressed Out Students

"Bravo to Bennett and Kalish for having the courage to say what many of us know to be true! By connecting the dots in new ways, they make a strong case against the value of homework. This book serves as an indispensable tool for parents who want to get serious about changing homework practices in their schools."
--Etta Kralovec, associate professor of teacher education, University of Arizona South, and coauthor of The End of Homework

“This is a very important book. Combining up-to-date research findings with lively stories, it makes a powerful case that excessive homework is hurting children's development. What's more, the book does something rare: It gives parents solid practical advice on how to deal with teachers and schools to produce significant change. The authors care deeply about children and have a special understanding of what childhood is all about.”
--William Crain, Ph.D., professor of psychology at the City College of New York and author of Reclaiming Childhood