More specifically, 'should they' or 'shouldn't they' be assigned homework?
Lauren and I subscribe to the latter viewpoint. The only thing we ask these four-and-five-year-old children (and their parents) to do each evening is to enjoy books. To achieve that end we send home a Ziploc baggie containing either,
- An emergent reader text that the student can read to their parents or family members. These are books with usually one sentence to a page, strong picture support and repeated phrases like "I can see the ______". The only thing that changes is the _____ which can be figured out by looking at the picture.
- A children's trade book by such authors as Todd Parr, H.A. Rey or Jack Gantos. These are usually books that we have read aloud in class. Parents can read these books to and with their children. This practice helps establish a love of books for the child, you know, good memories surrounding reading rather than the dread of the published word that many folks seem to share.
- A mixture of both.
In New York City it is recommended that first grade students receive about 10-15 minutes of homework each evening. There is no stipulation, as far as I know, as to the nature of this homework. There is no requirement for kindergarten.
In Boston I am told (by my scholarly friend Laurie) that homework in kindergarten consists of reading and sharing books.
In Australia (according to my brilliant friend Lisa) homework is not recommended until third grade.
And according to this article in The New York Times, the push to create children who are academically competent by assigning homework in kindergarten and before fourth grade can be actually emotionally harmful, especially for at-risk children and it does not improve their chances of getting a better job or making them smarter.
Play is of vital importance to these young folks. That is well documented.
How about let's allow children to be children without standing in their way? Just a thought.