No homework? Local doctors talk about a national debate

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NEW ORLEANS -- There is a small, but growing number of schools, teachers and parents across the U.S. who are pushing back on all the homework being sent home with school children.

WWL-TV asked some local experts for their opinions and found out they are glad the educators are catching up with what the scientific evidence has shown for years.
 
The experts liked the suggestion of a new type of homework for those in grade school.

"It's going to be, get more sleep, play outdoors, less screen time and dine as a family. And when you dine as a family, we want you to participate in preparing, cooking and serving the foods," said Dr. Melinda Sothern, of the LSUHSC School of Public Health. She was agreeing with what an educator from Texas had suggested.

Other experts and parents agreed.

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"I really like the idea of no homework, especially in those early childhood years. I think that children just need to be children," said Dr. Lena Nuccio, a UNO education professor.

The scientific studies are abundant for elementary age children.

"Having a child do homework, especially in front the screen, is not only negative for their health, but it also results in poorer grades," said Dr. Sothern.

She said studies show the most effective homework is done by students who are older, like high school age, and is done without parents helping, so they can learn to be independent. For young children, sitting and lectures in classrooms are not effective for learning retention and brain development.

"There's probably 100 papers to support that outdoor play in nature, promotes physical, emotional and mental health," said Dr. Sothern. "Reading for fun is associated with better grades but that's the only (sedentary) activity."

Nuccio, who is also a parent, said hours and hours of homework can cause stress in family relationships.

"I don't think that homework is a bad thing in and of itself. I think that it has to be meaningful. I think that it definitely needs to be something that was covered in class and it shouldn't just be the same (repetition of math) problems," said Dr. Nuccio.

More screen time has been scientifically associated with higher obesity. Experts said the brain learns better when writing over watching a screen and using a keyboard. They added screen light in the bedroom hurts sleep, which in turn hinders learning.