• Becky Cothern

Homework Hassle

Depending on what study you site homework can have positive effects, no effects, or negative effects (Kohn 2006, Tautwein and Kollek 2003). So, how are we ever to decide what type of a homework system, if any, to use?

The homework debate is nothing new. In the early 1900’s homework was believed to help create disciplined minds. However, around 1940 there was a strong reaction against homework because it “disrupted the familial life”. Once again we see the trend change in the 1950’s as the Soviet Union was bypassing the United States. The trend was reversed once again in 1980 because of mental health problems that could arise from homework. Today, the debate still continues with the pendulum swinging back and forth every couple of years. Here are some of the pros and cons from the large amount of studies in a nut shell.


  • There have been shown benefits for older students and learning disabled students

  • There are non-academic benefits for younger children (i.e. study habits, responsibility, etc.)

  • The higher amount of homework actually completed is associated with higher achievement.

  • There are over 60 years of research supporting homework.

  • Students in the US spend less time on studies throughout the year than other first class countries (Japan, Germany, France, etc.).


  • Too much homework can diminish its effectiveness

  • The amount of homework assigned has no correlation to academic success.

  • There is little research on the types of homework and what if any is best.

  • There are many factors to consider with homework such as grade level, time spent, and parent involvement.

With the vast amounts of research for and against homework- what do we do? My belief is that of any subject in education- TAKE A BALANCED APPROACH. There is research out their showing positive and negative effects not because the research is biased or unfounded. The effects vary because the homework varies. To portray this let me go to the extremes of two examples.

Example 1: The teacher assigns students to read the upcoming chapter and answer all the discussion questions. At the end finishing with a 3 page report due tomorrow.

Example 2: The teacher tells students not to worry about their education; to go home sit in front of the T.V. and sleep.

In both of these examples we can see students failing because they are pushed too hard or not enough. There has to be a balance- a system where students can practice and build mastery of basic skills while still having time to relax and play with the family.

Do I have a homework system that fits this balanced approach? Of course I do- I would not write a blog about a problem if I did not have at least part of the solution. My “Beginning Fluency” book is a homework system for reading that is supported in the classroom.

With these fluency pages, parents and students are giving explicit instruction at the beginning of the year that these pages should be worked on no longer than 5-10 minutes a day. And the homework is worked on as long as the child needs, no more nasty deadlines. That means that some students will complete one page a day. While another student may take a week. That’s right it’s self-paced! The students are the ones who drive the homework program not the other way around.

These fluency pages are also systematic. Each concept or skill is reviewed and enhanced multiple times throughout the homework program so students build complete mastery. Can you imagine basic reading skills such as alphabet knowledge, phonemic awareness, sight words, and decoding becoming second nature? This type of a mastery program builds students confidence and skills to become successful readers.

As mentioned earlier this homework system is supported in the classroom. Students use fluency folders that are brought back and forth from school being checked when the student is ready for fluency and mastery. But there are also additional fluency pages that are used in the classroom (5 minutes) to support and scaffold the learning of students who need more repetition or who do not have a structured and supportive home environment.

So how does this program stack up against the research? First, it has research showing the benefits of the program with struggling learners. Second, it is short and simple (only taking a few minutes) so students don’t get burned out or overwhelmed. Third, it is self-paced so it moves on the kid’s level and speed. They move through it as they desire not the other way around. And fourth, it focuses on the most important skills to help students be successful and feel successful. One thing we know about mastery is the concepts have to be repeated in varying intervals and in a variety of ways to become learned and mastered. These homework pages do just that with the most fundamental reading skills. Now students will have a strong foundation on which to build their education.

If you are interested in purchases this homework system you may click on the images below to be redirected to a hard copy or digital copy of the program. Thanks for reading, Enjoy!

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