[I corrected the error from last week. The Kindergarten Sound Chart is now printable.]
Your Kindergartner comes home from school and unloads a pile of homework. Most of it’s busy work. As you watch your daughter write a single letter slowly, painstakingly and backwards, you wonder how on earth she’ll finish the whole pile! After a few minutes, she wiggles and asks to go outside and play. She gets frustrated. You get frustrated. You sigh and wonder: is homework in Kindergarten beneficial?
Is Homework in Kindergarten Beneficial?
Learning how to read is an interactive process that involves the visual and auditory parts of our brain—areas that respond poorly to worksheets, and well to teacher interaction. Students need to engage with sound patterns in a meaningful way, not simply write them everywhere on a handout.
Homework swallows up time kids would spend reading. Unsurprisingly, reading is the single best activity a Kindergartner can do!
How Much Time Should Kindergartners Spend on Homework?
According to the National Education Association (NEA) and the National Parent-Teacher Association (NPTA), kindergartners should not get homework. That is, kindergartners should spend zero time filling out worksheets. By first grade, kids should not receive any more than 10—blink and you miss it—minutes of homework each day. After-school learning should be dedicated to reading.
A meta-analysis done at Duke University found that homework in early grades is harmful (2006). Lots of homework can leave children with little time to read, sleep and play, and doesn’t actually progress students academically. Unfortunately, national parent surveys report that K-1 graders spend far too much time on homework. Sometimes parents push teachers for homework, without realizing they’ll get handed time-swallowing busy work.
The Cost of Too Much Homework
The cost of too much homework for K-1 students is enormous. Parents are overwhelmed when their child takes an hour to fill out a single worksheet. Kids and parents start arguing, often having their first yelling feud over an unfinished homework packet. Struggling readers rebel against homework, sometimes using aggressive tactics that can seem out of character. They engage with lots of meaningless work, leaving them little time for the meaningful work of reading.
It’s easy for parents of K-1 struggling readers to reminisce about the times family life seemed easier, more serendipitous, full of sunshine, playdates and laughter.
Opt Out of Homework
If your Kindergartner loathes homework, you can usually opt out. If homework in Kindergarten is unproductive busy work, leaves children with little time to read, sleep and play, and takes a long time, there’s no reason to force your child to complete the homework (or secretly complete it yourself). Just opt-out! Talk to the teacher about opting out of homework.
Help your Kindergartner Learn to Read at Home:
Reading leveled books is the best way to improve a K-1 child’s reading skills.
Kindergartners can read short vowel books, consonant digraph books, books with blends and long vowel books. Decodable books teach foundational reading skills like phonemic awareness, blending, automaticity and fluency—all essential skills to get your child to the next reading level. Decodable books build reading confidence.
Change Kindergarten Homework Culture
If you opt out of homework, you can begin to shift the culture in your child’s school. You can give your Kindergartner more time to read, play and sleep. Many parents feel stuck with their child’s burdensome homework. Yet, teachers are often happy to meet the needs of the child. If one parent communicates her concern about the amount of homework, other parents will feel more comfortable doing the same.
Cooper, Harris, Patall Erika & Civey Jorgianne (2006) Does Homework Improve Academic Achievement? A Synthesis of Research, 1987-2003