- Mental Health , Research
- Written by Cara Goodwin, Ph.D.
Homework: The Good and The Bad
Homework. A single word that for many brings up memories of childhood stress. Now that you’re a parent, you may be reminded of that feeling every time your child spills their backpack across the table. You also may be questioning how much homework is too much and wondering how you can best help your child with their schoolwork.
Here, Dr. Cara Goodwin of Parenting Translator explains what the research actually says about homework. She outlines specific ways parents can support their kids to maximize the academic benefits and develop lifelong skills in time management and persistence.
In recent years, many parents and educators have raised concerns about homework. Specifically, they have questioned how much it enhances learning and if its benefits outweigh potential costs, such as stress to the family.
So, what does the research say?
Academic benefits vs risks of homework
One of the most important questions when it comes to homework is whether it actually helps kids understand the content better. So does it? Research finds that homework is associated with higher scores on academic standardized tests for middle and high school students, but not for elementary school students (1, 2).
In other words, homework seems to have little impact on learning in elementary school students.
Additionally, a 2012 study found that while homework is related to higher standardized test scores for high schoolers, it is not related to higher grades.
Not surprisingly, homework is more likely to be associated with improved academic performance when students and teachers find the homework to be meaningful or relevant, according to several studies (1, 3, 4). Students tend to find homework to be most engaging when it involves solving real-world problems (5).
The impact of homework may also depend on socioeconomic status. Students from higher income families show improved academic skills with more homework and gain more knowledge from homework, according to research. On the other hand, the academic performance of more disadvantaged children seems to be unaffected by homework (6, 7). This may be because homework provides additional stress for disadvantaged children. They are less likely to get help from their parents on homework and more likely to be punished by teachers for not completing it (8).
Non-academic benefits vs risks of homework
Academic outcomes are only part of the picture. It is important to look at how homework affects kids in ways other than grades and test scores.
Homework appears to have benefits beyond improving academic skills, particularly for younger students. These benefits include building responsibility, time management skills, and persistence (1, 9, 10). In addition, homework may also increase parents’ involvement in their children’s schooling (11, 12, 13, 14).
Yet, studies show that too much homework has drawbacks. It can reduce children’s opportunities for free play, which is essential for the development of language, cognitive, self-regulation, and social-emotional skills (15). It may also interfere with physical activity, and too much homework is associated with an increased risk for being overweight (16, 17).
In addition to homework reducing opportunities for play, it also leads to increased conflicts and stress for families. For example, research finds that children with more hours of homework experience more academic stress, physical health problems, and lack of balance in their lives (18).
Clearly, more is not better when it comes to homework.
What is the “right” amount of homework?
Recent reports indicate that elementary school students are assigned three times the recommended amount of homework. Even kindergarten students report an average of 25 minutes of homework per day (19).
Additionally, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) found that homework has been increasing in recent years for younger students. Specifically, 35% of 9-year-olds reported that they did not do homework the previous night in 1984 versus 22% of 9-years-old in 2012. However, homework levels have stayed relatively stable for 13- and 17-year-olds during this same time period.
Research suggests that homework should not exceed 1.5 to 2.5 hours per night for high school students and no more than 1 hour per night for middle school students (1). Homework for elementary school students should be minimal and assigned with the aim of building self-regulation and independent work skills. A common rule , supported by both the National Education Association (NEA) and National Parent Teacher Association (PTA), is 10-minutes of homework per grade in elementary school. Any more than this and homework may no longer have a positive impact. Importantly, the NEA and the National PTA do not endorse homework for kindergarteners.
How can parents best help with homework?
Most parents feel that they are expected to be involved in their children’s homework (20). Yet, it is often unclear exactly how to be involved in a way that helps your child to successfully complete the assignment without taking over entirely. Most studies find that parental help is important but that it matters more HOW the parent is helping rather than how OFTEN the parent is helping (21).
While this can all feel very overwhelming for parents, there are some simple guidelines you can follow to ease the homework burden and best support your child’s learning.
1. Help only when needed.
Parents should focus on providing general monitoring, guidance and encouragement. Allow children to generate answers on their own and complete their homework as independently as possible . This is important because research shows that allowing children more independence in completing homework benefits their academic skills (22, 23). In addition, too much parent involvement and being controlling with homework is associated with worse academic performance (21, 24, 25).
What does this look like?
- Be present when your child is completing homework to help them to understand the directions.
- Be available to answer simple questions and to provide praise for their effort and hard work.
- Only provide help when your child asks for it and step away whenever possible.
2. Have structure and routines.
Help your child create structure and to develop some routines. This helps children become more independent in completing their homework. Research finds that providing this type of structure and responsiveness is related to improved academic skills (25).
This structure may include:
- A regular time and place for homework that is free from distractions.
- Have all of the materials they need within arm’s reach.
- Teach and encourage kids to create a checklist for their homework tasks each day.
Parents can also help their children to find ways to stay motivated. For example, developing their own reward system or creating a homework schedule with breaks for fun activities.
3. Set specific rules around homework.
Research finds that parents setting rules around homework is related to higher academic performance (26). For example, parents may require that children finish homework before screen time or may require children to stop doing homework and go to sleep at a certain hour.
4. Emphasize learning over outcome.
Encourage your child to persist in challenging assignments and frame difficult assignments as opportunities to grow. Research finds that this attitude is associated with student success (20). Research also indicates that more challenging homework is associated with enhanced school performance (27).
Additionally, help your child to view homework as an opportunity to learn and improve skills. Parents who view homework as a learning opportunity rather than something that they must get “right” or complete successfully to obtain a higher grade are more likely to have children with the same attitudes (28).
5. Stay calm and positive.
Yes, we know this is easier said than done, but it does have a big impact on how kids persevere when things get hard! Research shows that mothers showing positive emotions while helping with homework may improve children’s motivation in homework (29)
6. Praise hard work and effort.
Praise focused on effort is likely to increase motivation (30). In addition, research finds that putting more effort into homework may be associated with enhanced development of conscientiousness in children (31).
7. Communicate with your child’s teacher.
Let your child’s teacher know about any problems your child has with homework and the teachers’ learning goals. Research finds that open communication about homework is associated with improved school performance (32).
In summary, research finds that homework provides some academic benefit for middle- and high-school students but is less beneficial for elementary school students. As a parent, how you are involved in your child’s homework really matters. By following these evidence-based tips, you can help your child to maximize the benefits of homework and make the process less painful for all involved!
For more resources, take a look at our recent posts on natural and logical consequences and simple ways to decrease challenging behaviors .
- Cooper, H., Robinson, J. C., & Patall, E. A. (2006). Does homework improve academic achievement? A synthesis of research, 1987–2003. Review of educational research , 76 (1), 1-62.
- Muhlenbruck, L., Cooper, H., Nye, B., & Lindsay, J. J. (1999). Homework and achievement: Explaining the different strengths of relation at the elementary and secondary school levels. Social Psychology of Education , 3 (4), 295-317.
- Marzano, R. J., & Pickering, D. J. (2007). Special topic: The case for and against homework. Educational leadership , 64 (6), 74-79.
- Trautwein, U., Lüdtke, O., Schnyder, I., & Niggli, A. (2006). Predicting homework effort: support for a domain-specific, multilevel homework model. Journal of educational psychology , 98 (2), 438.
- Shernoff, D. J., Csikszentmihalyi, M., Schneider, B., & Shernoff, E. S. (2014). Student engagement in high school classrooms from the perspective of flow theory. In Applications of flow in human development and education (pp. 475-494). Springer, Dordrecht.
- Daw, J. (2012). Parental income and the fruits of labor: Variability in homework efficacy in secondary school. Research in social stratification and mobility , 30 (3), 246-264.
- Rønning, M. (2011). Who benefits from homework assignments?. Economics of Education Review , 30 (1), 55-64.
- Calarco, J. M. (2020). Avoiding us versus them: How schools’ dependence on privileged “Helicopter” parents influences enforcement of rules. American Sociological Review , 85 (2), 223-246.
- Corno, L., & Xu, J. (2004). Homework as the job of childhood. Theory into practice , 43 (3), 227-233.
- Göllner, R., Damian, R. I., Rose, N., Spengler, M., Trautwein, U., Nagengast, B., & Roberts, B. W. (2017). Is doing your homework associated with becoming more conscientious?. Journal of Research in Personality , 71 , 1-12.
- Balli, S. J., Demo, D. H., & Wedman, J. F. (1998). Family involvement with children’s homework: An intervention in the middle grades. Family relations , 149-157.
- Balli, S. J., Wedman, J. F., & Demo, D. H. (1997). Family involvement with middle-grades homework: Effects of differential prompting. The Journal of Experimental Education , 66 (1), 31-48.
- Epstein, J. L., & Dauber, S. L. (1991). School programs and teacher practices of parent involvement in inner-city elementary and middle schools. The elementary school journal , 91 (3), 289-305.
- Van Voorhis, F. L. (2003). Interactive homework in middle school: Effects on family involvement and science achievement. The Journal of Educational Research , 96 (6), 323-338.
- Yogman, M., Garner, A., Hutchinson, J., Hirsh-Pasek, K., Golinkoff, R. M., & Committee on Psychosocial Aspects of Child and Family Health. (2018). The power of play: A pediatric role in enhancing development in young children. Pediatrics , 142 (3).
- Godakanda, I., Abeysena, C., & Lokubalasooriya, A. (2018). Sedentary behavior during leisure time, physical activity and dietary habits as risk factors of overweight among school children aged 14–15 years: case control study. BMC research notes , 11 (1), 1-6.
- Hadianfard, A. M., Mozaffari-Khosravi, H., Karandish, M., & Azhdari, M. (2021). Physical activity and sedentary behaviors (screen time and homework) among overweight or obese adolescents: a cross-sectional observational study in Yazd, Iran. BMC pediatrics , 21 (1), 1-10.
- Galloway, M., Conner, J., & Pope, D. (2013). Nonacademic effects of homework in privileged, high-performing high schools. The journal of experimental education , 81 (4), 490-510.
- Pressman, R. M., Sugarman, D. B., Nemon, M. L., Desjarlais, J., Owens, J. A., & Schettini-Evans, A. (2015). Homework and family stress: With consideration of parents’ self confidence, educational level, and cultural background. The American Journal of Family Therapy , 43 (4), 297-313.
- Hoover-Dempsey, K. V., Battiato, A. C., Walker, J. M., Reed, R. P., DeJong, J. M., & Jones, K. P. (2001). Parental involvement in homework. Educational psychologist , 36 (3), 195-209.
- Moroni, S., Dumont, H., Trautwein, U., Niggli, A., & Baeriswyl, F. (2015). The need to distinguish between quantity and quality in research on parental involvement: The example of parental help with homework. The Journal of Educational Research , 108 (5), 417-431.
- Cooper, H., Lindsay, J. J., & Nye, B. (2000). Homework in the home: How student, family, and parenting-style differences relate to the homework process. Contemporary educational psychology , 25 (4), 464-487.
- Dumont, H., Trautwein, U., Lüdtke, O., Neumann, M., Niggli, A., & Schnyder, I. (2012). Does parental homework involvement mediate the relationship between family background and educational outcomes?. Contemporary Educational Psychology , 37 (1), 55-69.
- Barger, M. M., Kim, E. M., Kuncel, N. R., & Pomerantz, E. M. (2019). The relation between parents’ involvement in children’s schooling and children’s adjustment: A meta-analysis. Psychological bulletin , 145 (9), 855.
- Dumont, H., Trautwein, U., Nagy, G., & Nagengast, B. (2014). Quality of parental homework involvement: predictors and reciprocal relations with academic functioning in the reading domain. Journal of Educational Psychology , 106 (1), 144.
- Patall, E. A., Cooper, H., & Robinson, J. C. (2008). The effects of choice on intrinsic motivation and related outcomes: a meta-analysis of research findings. Psychological bulletin , 134 (2), 270.Dettmars et al., 2010
- Madjar, Shklar, & Moshe, 2016)
- Pomerantz, E. M., Grolnick, W. S., & Price, C. E. (2005). The Role of Parents in How Children Approach Achievement: A Dynamic Process Perspective.
- Haimovitz, K., Wormington, S. V., & Corpus, J. H. (2011). Dangerous mindsets: How beliefs about intelligence predict motivational change. Learning and Individual Differences , 21 (6), 747-752.Gollner et al., 2017
- Hill, N. E., & Tyson, D. F. (2009). Parental involvement in middle school: a meta-analytic assessment of the strategies that promote achievement. Developmental psychology , 45 (3), 740.
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The New York Times
Motherlode | when homework stresses parents as well as students, when homework stresses parents as well as students.
Educators and parents have long been concerned about students stressed by homework loads , but a small research study asked questions recently about homework and anxiety of a different group: parents. The results were unsurprising. While we may have already learned long division and let the Magna Carta fade into memory, parents report that their children’s homework causes family stress and tension — particularly when additional factors surrounding the homework come into play.
The researchers, from Brown University, found that stress and tension for families (as reported by the parents) increased most when parents perceived themselves as unable to help with the homework, when the child disliked doing the homework and when the homework caused arguments, either between the child and adults or among the adults in the household.
The number of parents involved in the research (1,173 parents, both English and Spanish-speaking, who visited one of 27 pediatric practices in the greater Providence area of Rhode Island) makes it more of a guide for further study than a basis for conclusions, but the idea that homework can cause significant family stress is hard to seriously debate. Families across income and education levels may struggle with homework for different reasons and in different ways, but “it’s an equal opportunity problem,” says Stephanie Donaldson-Pressman , a contributing editor to the research study and co-author of “ The Learning Habit .”
“Parents may find it hard to evaluate the homework,” she says. “They think, if this is coming home, my child should be able to do it. If the child can’t, and especially if they feel like they can’t help, they may get angry with the child, and the child feels stupid.” That’s a scenario that is likely to lead to more arguments, and an increased dislike of the work on the part of the child.
The researchers also found that parents of students in kindergarten and first grade reported that the children spent significantly more time on homework than recommended. Many schools and organizations, including the National Education Association and the Great Schools blog , will suggest following the “10-minute rule” for how long children should spend on school work outside of school hours: 10 minutes per grade starting in first grade, and most likely more in high school. Instead, parents described their first graders and kindergartners working, on average, for 25 to 30 minutes a night. That is consistent with other research , which has shown an increase in the amount of time spent on homework in lower grades from 1981 to 2003.
“This study highlights the real discrepancy between intent and what’s actually happening,” Ms. Donaldson-Pressman said, speaking of both the time spent and the family tensions parents describe. “When people talk about the homework, they’re too often talking about the work itself. They should be talking about the load — how long it takes. You can have three problems on one page that look easy, but aren’t.”
The homework a child is struggling with may not be developmentally appropriate for every child in a grade, she suggests, noting that academic expectations for young children have increased in recent years . Less-educated or Spanish-speaking parents may find it harder to evaluate or challenge the homework itself, or to say they think it is simply too much. “When the load is too much, it has a tremendous impact on family stress and the general tenor of the evening. It ruins your family time and kids view homework as a punishment,” she said.
At our house, homework has just begun; we are in the opposite of the honeymoon period, when both skills and tolerance are rusty and complaints and stress are high. If the two hours my fifth-grade math student spent on homework last night turn out the be the norm once he is used to the work and the teacher has had a chance to hear from the students, we’ll speak up.
We should, Ms. Donaldson-Pressman says. “Middle-class parents can solve the problem for their own kids,” she says. “They can make sure their child is going to all the right tutors, or get help, but most people can’t.” Instead of accepting that at home we become teachers and homework monitors (or even taking classes in how to help your child with his math ), parents should let the school know that they’re unhappy with the situation, both to encourage others to speak up and to speak on behalf of parents who don’t feel comfortable complaining.
“Home should be a safe place for students,” she says. “A child goes to school all day and they’re under stress. If they come home and it’s more of the same, that’s not good for anyone.”
Read more about homework on Motherlode: Homework and Consequences ; The Mechanics of Homework ; That’s Your Child’s Homework Project, Not Yours and Homework’s Emotional Toll on Students and Families.
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Too much homework leading to stressed out families
For many families, the nightly struggle to get homework done while juggling family commitments and extra-curricular activities leaves kids and parents stressed out, causing many to wonder if all this homework is actually necessary.
A study published in the American Journal of Family Therapy concluded that kids are getting too much homework. The study surveyed 1,173 parents who had children in kindergarten through high school, and found that students as early as first and second grade had two to three times the homework recommended by the National Education Association.
In 2006, the National Education Association endorsed the “ 10 Minute Rule ,” stating that 10 to 20 minutes per night in the first grade, and an additional 10 minutes per grade level thereafter, is an acceptable workload.
“I have seen especially in high school aged children that they are staying up to 11 to 12 at night to do their homework because of extra-curricular activities mixed in,” says Dr. Christina Swanson , pediatrician with Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville, Ill. “I think it is leading to sleep deprivation, and I have concerns about what it is doing in the long run.”
The issue is that so many kids are involved in extra-curricular activities that the addition of homework on top of it is what leads to all of the stress, Dr. Swanson says. Two to three nights a week are spent at practices, and it is increasingly more difficult to balance everything.
According to the study, the growing school workload not only affects the student, but it also has larger ramifications on the families, especially those where parents don’t have a college degree. In these households, fights and conflicts about homework were 200-percent higher than homes where parents had at least a college degree.
“We found that homework load, parents’ view of self-efficacy in assisting with homework, and language/cultural factors were all contributors to family stress,” study authors wrote. “Additionally, we found that a major part of this picture was the expectation, among parents, that they assist their children with homework at the instructional level.”
Based on their findings, the researchers offered these recommendations:
- Primary schools should adhere to the “10 Minute Rule” for homework
- Restructure homework so that parents can be agents of support instead of instructors
- Parents should designate a quiet and special place for their child to study
- Insure that the child is in the designated homework spot, distraction free
“Being organized is key and being aware of what assignments they have so that they don’t miss anything,” says Dr. Swanson. “School comes first so if it is becoming an issue, then it may be time to cut things out of the kid’s schedule.”
Can you find me any empirical evidence that actually says that even the 10 minute rule has any validity? No, you can’t, because no research yet performed has ever found any beneficial effects of homework at the elementary school level. Many studies (not to mention plain old common sense), however, such as the one mentioned here, have found harms associated with homework. Because there are demonstrable harms associated with homework, it should be incumbent upon homework supporters to demonstrate benefits of homework that outweigh the harms. Until such evidence is presented, there is no reason to give *any* homework.
I think it would be better to dig up the posting from a few months back, with extra attention to the what Advocate doctor chimed in with, to see whether is conflicting sentiments on the need to start school later in the morning. Because doctors are smarter then everyone else.
If there are cultural or language barriers that negatively affect a student’s homework load, then the onus need to be placed on the family. Learning English should be the primary concern with reconsidering a move to America, were most of us value education, a close second.
I recently graduated from UIUC and I am working as nanny. I resonated a lot with this article. Three of the four kids I have (4, 8, 11, & 13) have too much homework. And by “homework” I mean “busywork.” I think a lot of teachers are trying hard to be good at their job, but somehow schools are failing at fostering creativity and cultivating virtues. From first hand knowledge, I know that the peak of this problem is the average university which has professors with great amounts of knowledge and startling deficits of passion.
You could pay a few dollars for a life altering book written by somebody who loves the subject of biochemistry. You could pay $25 for an amazing performance from a singer-songwriter who loves the subject of music. But I paid over a thousand dollars per course and received nothing which I couldn’t extract from a static text.
It’s like buying food from a NFL stadium. Why do we pretend like $9 for a hot is not outrageous? It is! And the majority of us don’t care. Likewise, school needs to be reformed, not politically, but in the heart! Learning is wonderful and we are stifling that in our schools.
Walker Percy, MD said it best: “School is disappointing. If science is exciting and art is exhilarating, the schools and universities have achieved the not inconsiderable feat of rendering both dull. As every scientist and poet knows, one discovers both vocations in spite of, not because of, school. It takes years to recover from the stupor of being taught Shakespeare in English Lit and Wheatstone’s bridge in Physics.”
Oh, there is so much I’d like to say about this aspect of too much homework but I will keep it to two comments. My background: I have a BFA in Arts Education and an M.Ed in Instructional Leadership both from UIC. I taught art at CPS for 10 years and spent an additional 2 years teaching teachers in the Art Education program at the School of the Art Institute. I’ve seen how the wonder and joy of learning and creating art can be destroyed by good meaning but ignorant fools–non-educators making educational policy.
The first comment has to do with the pressures by non-teacher administrators on teachers to “produce” high-scoring test-takers. Parents have been brain-washed to believe that testing is the only way to know that their child is doing well in school. Baloney! Think of this–the hours taken to train students to answer standardized tests correctly are hours teachers are not allowed to spend IN SCHOOL actually teaching the subjects that students are being tested on. Homework (or worse yet, busy work) is being sent home to complete. Students and their parents are becoming more involved in trying to learn something without the support of the teacher, the very person who is the expert in their field and who has been trained (in most cases, for many years) how to teach.
My second comment has to do with the actual process of learning. Learning is a long and slow process. They is no way that it can be rushed. There is no way that something taught to a student one day, will show up as something learned by the end of the week in order to be tested on. Sending homework home just to show that the kids are doing something is stupid. I know children’s brains are always building new synapses, creating new connections. But all that takes time. When students understand a difficult concept, there is work done in school to solidify that understanding. Sometimes that kind of work is not finished at the end of the period (learning doesn’t occur in 50 minute increments), then it’s necessary to send work home to finish. Busy work is useless. Work sent home based on strongly developed concepts in the classroom is not a waste of time. That is good homework and will teach strong study skills for students planning on going to college.
My daughter graduated from high school years ago but I when I think back to those days I realize that both of our lives were dominated by homework. There was no time for dinner, no activities or family time beginning in the first grade. I am a former teacher with a Master’s Degree and was determined that all of the homework be completed. She worked with a tutor 2 days per week from 4 to 6 until I got home from work and then kept working until 9 or 10 PM with a quick 10 min stop to cram down food Monday through Thursday. Of course it became worse in high school when she didn’t get to bed until 11 or 12. At the time there didn’t seem to be any answer to the homework dilemma but now I wish I would have fought the system on behalf of a very tired and sad kid.
Why was my kid who had a learning disability in math given 50 math problems every night in addition to spelling, social studies, science and English homework? This began in the first grade when she was only 5 years old!! The TV was never on and there was no time for talking or having fun period- only homework from 4 to 10. What a horrible way to waste a childhood. it made for panic, sadness and a feeling of hopelessness in our little family.
My daughter is a senior in high school and is in the International Bacclaureate program http://www.ibo.org/ . The other night, when I suggested to her to get ready for bed, she exploded in a torrent of tears and ranted about her teacher assigning homework on accounting with impossible deadlines. But that’s the way it is when you’re trying to get into the college that people say are so competitive that you have to deal with homework overload.
wow great https://www.ahchealthenews.com/2015/10/23/too-much-homework-leading-to-stressed-out-families/
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Is homework robbing your family of joy? You're not alone
Children are not the only ones who dread their homework these days. In a 2019 survey of 1,049 parents with children in elementary, middle, or high school, Office Depot found that parents spend an average of 21 minutes a day helping their children with their homework. Those 21 minutes are often apparently very unpleasant.
Parents reported their children struggle to complete homework. One in five believed their children "always or often feel overwhelmed by homework," and half of them reported their children had cried over homework stress.
Parents are struggling to help. Four out of five parents reported that they have had difficulty understanding their children's homework.
This probably comes as no surprise to any parent who has come up against a third grade math homework sheet with the word "array" printed on it. If you have not yet had the pleasure, for the purposes of Common Core math, an array is defined as a set of objects arranged in rows and columns and used to help kids learn about multiplication. For their parents, though, it's defined as a "What? Come again? Huh?"
It's just as hard on the students. "My high school junior says homework is the most stressful part of high school...maybe that’s why he never does any," said Mandy Burkhart, of Lake Mary, Florida, who is a mother of five children ranging in age from college to preschool.
In fact, Florida high school teacher and mother of three Katie Tomlinson no longer assigns homework in her classroom. "Being a parent absolutely changed the way I assign homework to my students," she told TODAY Parents .
"Excessive homework can quickly change a student’s mind about a subject they previously enjoyed," she noted. "While I agree a check and balance is necessary for students to understand their own ability prior to a test, I believe it can be done in 10 questions versus 30."
But homework is a necessary evil for most students, so what is a parent to do to ensure everyone in the house survives? Parents and professionals weigh in on the essentials:
Understand the true purpose of homework
"Unless otherwise specified, homework is designed to be done by the child independently, and it's most often being used as a form of formative assessment by the teacher to gauge how the kids are applying — independently — what they are learning in class," said Oona Hanson , a Los Angeles-area educator and parent coach.
"If an adult at home is doing the heavy lifting, then the teacher never knows that the child isn't ready to do this work alone, and the cycle continues because the teacher charges ahead thinking they did a great job the day before!" Hanson said. "It's essential that teachers know when their students are struggling for whatever reason."
Hanson noted the anxiety both parents and children have about academic achievement, and she understands the parental impulse to jump in and help, but she suggested resisting that urge. "We can help our kids more in the long run if we can let them know it's OK to struggle a little bit and that they can be honest with their teacher about what they don't understand," she said.
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Help kids develop time management skills
Some children like to finish their homework the minute they get home. Others need time to eat a snack and decompress. Either is a valid approach, but no matter when students decide to tackle their homework, they might need some guidance from parents about how to manage their time .
One tip: "Set the oven timer for age appropriate intervals of work, and then let them take a break for a few minutes," Maura Olvey, an elementary school math specialist in Central Florida, told TODAY Parents. "The oven timer is visible to them — they know when a break is coming — and they are visible to you, so you can encourage focus and perseverance." The stopwatch function on a smartphone would work for this method as well.
But one size does not fit all when it comes to managing homework, said Cleveland, Ohio, clinical psychologist Dr. Sarah Cain Spannagel . "If their child has accommodations as a learner, parents know they need them at home as well as at school: quiet space, extended time, audio books, etcetera," she said. "Think through long assignments, and put those in planners in advance so the kid knows it is expected to take some time."
Know when to walk away
"I always want my parents to know when to call it a night," said Amanda Feroglia, a central Florida elementary teacher and mother of two. "The children's day at school is so rigorous; some nights it’s not going to all get done, and that’s OK! It’s not worth the meltdown or the fight if they are tired or you are frustrated...or both!"
Parents also need to accept their own limits. Don't be afraid to find support from YouTube videos, websites like Khan Academy, or even tutors. And in the end, said Spannagel, "If you find yourself yelling or frustrated, just walk away!" It's fine just to let a teacher know your child attempted but did not understand the homework and leave it at that.
Ideally, teachers will understand when parents don't know how to help with Common Core math, and they will assign an appropriate amount of homework that will not leave both children and their parents at wits' ends. If worst comes to worst, a few parents offered an alternative tip for their fellow homework warriors.
"If Brittany leaves Boston for New York at 3:00 pm traveling by train at 80 MPH, and Taylor leaves Boston for New York at 1:00 pm traveling by car at 65 MPH, and Brittany makes two half hour stops, and Taylor makes one that is ten minutes longer, how many glasses of wine does mommy need?" quipped one mom of two.
Also recommended: "Chocolate, in copious amounts."
Allison Slater Tate is a freelance writer and editor in Florida specializing in parenting and college admissions. She is a proud Gen Xer, ENFP, Leo, Diet Coke enthusiast, and champion of the Oxford Comma. She mortifies her four children by knowing all the trending songs on TikTok. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram .
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Is Homework Necessary? Education Inequity and Its Impact on Students
Schools are getting rid of homework from Essex, Mass., to Los Angeles, Calif. Although the no-homework trend may sound alarming, especially to parents dreaming of their child’s acceptance to Harvard, Stanford or Yale, there is mounting evidence that eliminating homework in grade school may actually have great benefits , especially with regard to educational equity.
In fact, while the push to eliminate homework may come as a surprise to many adults, the debate is not new . Parents and educators have been talking about this subject for the last century, so that the educational pendulum continues to swing back and forth between the need for homework and the need to eliminate homework.
The Problem with Homework: It Highlights Inequalities
How much homework is too much homework, when does homework actually help, negative effects of homework for students, how teachers can help.
One of the most pressing talking points around homework is how it disproportionately affects students from less affluent families. The American Psychological Association (APA) explained:
“Kids from wealthier homes are more likely to have resources such as computers, internet connections, dedicated areas to do schoolwork and parents who tend to be more educated and more available to help them with tricky assignments. Kids from disadvantaged homes are more likely to work at afterschool jobs, or to be home without supervision in the evenings while their parents work multiple jobs.”
[RELATED] How to Advance Your Career: A Guide for Educators >>
While students growing up in more affluent areas are likely playing sports, participating in other recreational activities after school, or receiving additional tutoring, children in disadvantaged areas are more likely headed to work after school, taking care of siblings while their parents work or dealing with an unstable home life. Adding homework into the mix is one more thing to deal with — and if the student is struggling, the task of completing homework can be too much to consider at the end of an already long school day.
While all students may groan at the mention of homework, it may be more than just a nuisance for poor and disadvantaged children, instead becoming another burden to carry and contend with.
Beyond the logistical issues, homework can negatively impact physical health and stress — and once again this may be a more significant problem among economically disadvantaged youth who typically already have a higher stress level than peers from more financially stable families .
Yet, today, it is not just the disadvantaged who suffer from the stressors that homework inflicts. A 2014 CNN article, “Is Homework Making Your Child Sick?” , covered the issue of extreme pressure placed on children of the affluent. The article looked at the results of a study surveying more than 4,300 students from 10 high-performing public and private high schools in upper-middle-class California communities.
“Their findings were troubling: Research showed that excessive homework is associated with high stress levels, physical health problems and lack of balance in children’s lives; 56% of the students in the study cited homework as a primary stressor in their lives,” according to the CNN story. “That children growing up in poverty are at-risk for a number of ailments is both intuitive and well-supported by research. More difficult to believe is the growing consensus that children on the other end of the spectrum, children raised in affluence, may also be at risk.”
When it comes to health and stress it is clear that excessive homework, for children at both ends of the spectrum, can be damaging. Which begs the question, how much homework is too much?
The National Education Association and the National Parent Teacher Association recommend that students spend 10 minutes per grade level per night on homework . That means that first graders should spend 10 minutes on homework, second graders 20 minutes and so on. But a study published by The American Journal of Family Therapy found that students are getting much more than that.
While 10 minutes per day doesn’t sound like much, that quickly adds up to an hour per night by sixth grade. The National Center for Education Statistics found that high school students get an average of 6.8 hours of homework per week, a figure that is much too high according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). It is also to be noted that this figure does not take into consideration the needs of underprivileged student populations.
In a study conducted by the OECD it was found that “after around four hours of homework per week, the additional time invested in homework has a negligible impact on performance .” That means that by asking our children to put in an hour or more per day of dedicated homework time, we are not only not helping them, but — according to the aforementioned studies — we are hurting them, both physically and emotionally.
What’s more is that homework is, as the name implies, to be completed at home, after a full day of learning that is typically six to seven hours long with breaks and lunch included. However, a study by the APA on how people develop expertise found that elite musicians, scientists and athletes do their most productive work for about only four hours per day. Similarly, companies like Tower Paddle Boards are experimenting with a five-hour workday, under the assumption that people are not able to be truly productive for much longer than that. CEO Stephan Aarstol told CNBC that he believes most Americans only get about two to three hours of work done in an eight-hour day.
In the scope of world history, homework is a fairly new construct in the U.S. Students of all ages have been receiving work to complete at home for centuries, but it was educational reformer Horace Mann who first brought the concept to America from Prussia.
Since then, homework’s popularity has ebbed and flowed in the court of public opinion. In the 1930s, it was considered child labor (as, ironically, it compromised children’s ability to do chores at home). Then, in the 1950s, implementing mandatory homework was hailed as a way to ensure America’s youth were always one step ahead of Soviet children during the Cold War. Homework was formally mandated as a tool for boosting educational quality in 1986 by the U.S. Department of Education, and has remained in common practice ever since.
School work assigned and completed outside of school hours is not without its benefits. Numerous studies have shown that regular homework has a hand in improving student performance and connecting students to their learning. When reviewing these studies, take them with a grain of salt; there are strong arguments for both sides, and only you will know which solution is best for your students or school.
Homework improves student achievement.
- Source: The High School Journal, “ When is Homework Worth the Time?: Evaluating the Association between Homework and Achievement in High School Science and Math ,” 2012.
- Source: IZA.org, “ Does High School Homework Increase Academic Achievement? ,” 2014. **Note: Study sample comprised only high school boys.
Homework helps reinforce classroom learning.
- Source: “ Debunk This: People Remember 10 Percent of What They Read ,” 2015.
Homework helps students develop good study habits and life skills.
- Sources: The Repository @ St. Cloud State, “ Types of Homework and Their Effect on Student Achievement ,” 2017; Journal of Advanced Academics, “ Developing Self-Regulation Skills: The Important Role of Homework ,” 2011.
- Source: Journal of Advanced Academics, “ Developing Self-Regulation Skills: The Important Role of Homework ,” 2011.
Homework allows parents to be involved with their children’s learning.
- Parents can see what their children are learning and working on in school every day.
- Parents can participate in their children’s learning by guiding them through homework assignments and reinforcing positive study and research habits.
- Homework observation and participation can help parents understand their children’s academic strengths and weaknesses, and even identify possible learning difficulties.
- Source: Phys.org, “ Sociologist Upends Notions about Parental Help with Homework ,” 2018.
While some amount of homework may help students connect to their learning and enhance their in-class performance, too much homework can have damaging effects.
Students with too much homework have elevated stress levels.
- Source: USA Today, “ Is It Time to Get Rid of Homework? Mental Health Experts Weigh In ,” 2021.
- Source: Stanford University, “ Stanford Research Shows Pitfalls of Homework ,” 2014.
Students with too much homework may be tempted to cheat.
- Source: The Chronicle of Higher Education, “ High-Tech Cheating Abounds, and Professors Bear Some Blame ,” 2010.
- Source: The American Journal of Family Therapy, “ Homework and Family Stress: With Consideration of Parents’ Self Confidence, Educational Level, and Cultural Background ,” 2015.
Homework highlights digital inequity.
- Sources: NEAToday.org, “ The Homework Gap: The ‘Cruelest Part of the Digital Divide’ ,” 2016; CNET.com, “ The Digital Divide Has Left Millions of School Kids Behind ,” 2021.
- Source: Investopedia, “ Digital Divide ,” 2022; International Journal of Education and Social Science, “ Getting the Homework Done: Social Class and Parents’ Relationship to Homework ,” 2015.
- Source: World Economic Forum, “ COVID-19 exposed the digital divide. Here’s how we can close it ,” 2021.
Homework does not help younger students.
- Source: Review of Educational Research, “ Does Homework Improve Academic Achievement? A Synthesis of Researcher, 1987-2003 ,” 2006.
To help students find the right balance and succeed, teachers and educators must start the homework conversation, both internally at their school and with parents. But in order to successfully advocate on behalf of students, teachers must be well educated on the subject, fully understanding the research and the outcomes that can be achieved by eliminating or reducing the homework burden. There is a plethora of research and writing on the subject for those interested in self-study.
For teachers looking for a more in-depth approach or for educators with a keen interest in educational equity, formal education may be the best route. If this latter option sounds appealing, there are now many reputable schools offering online master of education degree programs to help educators balance the demands of work and family life while furthering their education in the quest to help others.
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Does Homework Cause Stress? Exploring the Impact on Students’ Mental Health
How much homework is too much?
Jump to: The Link Between Homework and Stress | Homework’s Impact on Mental Health | Benefits of Homework | How Much Homework Should Teacher’s Assign? | Advice for Students | How Healium Helps
Homework has become a matter of concern for educators, parents, and researchers due to its potential effects on students’ stress levels. It’s no secret that students often find themselves grappling with high levels of stress and anxiety throughout their academic careers, so understanding the extent to which homework affects those stress levels is important.
By delving into the latest research and understanding the underlying factors at play, we hope to provide valuable insights for educators, parents, and students who are wondering about how much stress homework is causing in their lives.
The Link Between Homework and Stress: What the Research Says
Over the years, numerous studies have been conducted to investigate the relationship between homework and stress levels in students.
One study published in the Journal of Experimental Education found that students who reported spending more than two hours per night on homework experienced higher stress levels and physical health issues . Those same students reported over three hours of homework a night on average.
This study, conducted by Stanford lecturer Denise Pope, has been heavily cited throughout the years, with WebMD even producing the below video on the topic– part of their special report series on teens and stress :
Additional studies published by Sleep Health Journal found that long hours on homework on may be a risk factor for depression while also suggesting that reducing workload outside of class may benefit sleep and mental fitness .
Lastly, a study presented by Frontiers in Psychology highlighted significant health implications for high school students facing chronic stress, including emotional exhaustion and alcohol and drug use.
Overall, it appears clear that the answer to whether or not homework is a significant stressor for students is “Yes, depending on the workload assigned to students.” As such, teachers and parents alike should be wary of how much work they are truly putting on the shoulders of teenagers.
Homework’s Impact on Mental Health and Well-being
Homework-induced stress on students is far-reaching and involves both psychological and physiological side effects.
1. Psychological Effects of Homework-Induced Stress:
• Anxiety: The pressure to perform academically and meet homework expectations can lead to heightened levels of anxiety in students. Constant worry about completing assignments on time and achieving high grades can be overwhelming.
• Sleep Disturbances : Homework-related stress can disrupt students’ sleep patterns, leading to sleep anxiety or sleep deprivation, both of which can negatively impact cognitive function and emotional regulation.
• Reduced Motivation: Excessive homework demands can drain students’ motivation, causing them to feel fatigued and disengaged from their studies. Reduced motivation may lead to a lack of interest in learning, hindering overall academic performance.
2. Physical Effects of Homework-Induced Stress:
• Impaired Immune Function: Prolonged stress from overwhelming homework loads can weaken the immune system, making students more susceptible to illnesses and infections.
• Disrupted Hormonal Balance : The body’s stress response triggers the release of hormones like cortisol, which, when chronically elevated due to stress, can disrupt the delicate hormonal balance and lead to various health issues.
• Gastrointestinal Disturbances: Stress has been known to affect the gastrointestinal system, leading to symptoms such as stomachaches, nausea, and other digestive problems.
• Cardiovascular Impact: The increased heart rate and elevated blood pressure associated with stress can strain the cardiovascular system, potentially increasing the risk of heart-related issues in the long run.
• Brain impact: Prolonged exposure to stress hormones may impact the brain’s functioning , affecting memory, concentration, and cognitive abilities.
The Benefits of Homework
It’s important to note that homework also offers several benefits that contribute to students’ academic growth and development, such as:
• Development of Time Management Skills: Completing homework within specified deadlines encourages students to manage their time efficiently. This valuable skill extends beyond academics and becomes essential in various aspects of life.
• Preparation for Future Challenges : Homework helps prepare students for future academic challenges and responsibilities. It fosters a sense of discipline and responsibility, qualities that are crucial for success in higher education and professional life.
• Enhanced Problem-Solving Abilities: Homework often presents students with challenging problems to solve. Tackling these problems independently nurtures critical thinking and problem-solving skills.
However, while homework can foster discipline, time management, and self-directed learning, it is crucial to strike a balance that promotes both academic growth and mental well-being .
How Much Homework Should Teachers Assign?
As a general guideline, educators should be assigning a workload that allows students to grasp concepts effectively without overwhelming them . Quality over quantity is key, ensuring that homework assignments are purposeful, relevant, and targeted towards specific objectives.
Advice for Students: How to balance Homework and Well-being
Finding a balance between academic responsibilities and well-being is crucial for students. Here are some practical tips and techniques to help manage homework-related stress and foster a healthier approach to learning:
• Effective Time Management : Encourage students to create a structured study schedule that allocates sufficient time for homework, breaks, and other activities. Prioritizing tasks and setting realistic goals can prevent last-minute rushes and reduce the feeling of being overwhelmed.
• Break Tasks into Smaller Chunks : Large assignments can be daunting and may contribute to stress. Students should break such tasks into smaller, manageable parts. This approach not only makes the workload seem less intimidating but also provides a sense of accomplishment as each section is completed.
• Find a Distraction-Free Zone : Establish a designated study area that is free from distractions like smartphones, television, or social media. This setting will improve focus and productivity, reducing time needed to complete homework.
• Be Active : Regular exercise is known to reduce stress and enhance mood. Encourage students to incorporate physical activity into their daily routine, whether it’s going for a walk, playing a sport, or doing yoga.
• Practice Mindfulness and Relaxation Techniques : Encourage students to engage in mindfulness practices, such as deep breathing exercises or meditation, to alleviate stress and improve concentration. Taking short breaks to relax and clear the mind can enhance overall well-being and cognitive performance.
• Seek Support : Teachers, parents, and school counselors play an essential role in supporting students. Create an open and supportive environment where students feel comfortable expressing their concerns and seeking help when needed.
How Healium is Helping in Schools
We find it gratifying to not only explore the impact of homework on stress levels but also to take part in the solution. Our innovative mental fitness tool is playing a role in paving a brighter and more balanced future in education. Schools implementing Healium have witnessed remarkable improvements in student outcomes, from supporting dysregulated students and ADHD challenges to empowering students with body awareness and learning to self-regulate stress .
By providing students with the tools they need to manage stress and anxiety, we represent a forward-looking approach to education that prioritizes the holistic development of every student. Healium not only enhances academic success but also equips students with vital skills that will serve them well beyond the classroom.
To learn more about how Healium works, watch the video below!
About the Author
Sarah Hill , a former interactive TV news journalist at NBC, ABC, and CBS affiliates in Missouri, gained recognition for pioneering interactive news broadcasting using Google Hangouts. She is now the CEO of Healium, the world’s first biometrically powered VR/AR channel, helping those with stress, anxiety, insomnia, and other struggles through biofeedback storytelling. With patents, clinical validation, and over seven million views, she has reshaped the landscape of immersive media.