Research shows that having too much Homework Hurting Your Child can be counterproductive to school performance and take a toll on a child’s health. But how much homework is too much?
When it comes to a child’s health and development, homework may be a double-edged sword.
While there’s no doubt that it’s an important part of the learning process, research shows that too much homework can have a boomerang effect and end up hurting kids. And too often, parents get caught in the crossfire between their kids and school.
Is it possible to find the right balance?
The Facts on Homework and Child Health
Homework has proven to be important in reinforcing what kids learn and advancing their school performance. In fact, a 2006 Duke University review of more than 60 research studies done between 1987 and 2003 found a positive correlation between how much homework students do and their school performance, especially in secondary school, grades 7 through 12.
But the same Duke review found that when homework was piled too high, it was counterproductive for students of all grade levels. In the years since, researchers have found even greater downsides to having tons of homework. A 2014 Stanford University study published in the Journal of Experimental Education showed that spending excessive time on homework led to unhealthy sleep habits, stress, health problems, a lack of balance, and even alienation from society.
“We found that the biggest impact of having too much homework is the sleep kids are missing in order to get that homework done,” says Denise Pope, PhD, co-author of the study and a senior lecturer at the Stanford Graduate School of Education in Palo Alto, Calif. Pope and her fellow researchers looked at 4,317 students from 10 high-performing high schools in upper-middle-class California and found that students were averaging about 3.1 hours of homework each night — this on top of sports and other
“By the time these kids even start on homework, it’s usually dinnertime or after dinnertime, so they are staying up to finish their homework instead of getting the sleep they need,” Pope says. “Researchers say teenagers need more than 9 hours of sleep. If you do the math, there simply aren’t enough hours in the day for them to sleep that much.”
Pope and her colleagues also found that parents feel homework robs them of quality time with their children and interferes with weekend and holiday time as well.
Homework also forces children to sit for long periods of time, and being sedentary is a risk factor for obesity and poor health. In their book, “The Case Against Homework: How Homework Is Hurting Children and What Parents Can Do About It,” authors Sara Bennett and Nancy Kalish argue that too much homework is creating a nation of “homework potatoes.”
How Much Homework Is Too Much?
Clearly, the right amount of homework can help kids keep their school performance sharp. The Duke research supports the 10-minute rule: 10 minutes of homework for every grade. So on a given night, a first-grader would get 10 minutes of homework, a fifth-grader would get 50 minutes, and a high school senior would get about 2 hours.
However, Pope doesn’t believe that the hours put in are as important as the purpose of the homework and whether it’s engaging and differentiated to students’ specific abilities. “Time is certainly a factor, but I also think homework success depends on a lot of other things,” she says.
What You Can Do to Help Your Child
Parents often struggle with their role when it comes to their children’s homework. “A lot of parents feel they are kind of powerless. But they can be advocates for their children,” Pope says. “I encourage parents to have a dialogue with their children about their thoughts on homework — whether they believe it’s worthwhile or just busywork — and then present that dialogue to the school in a respectful way.”
Also, take a fresh look at your involvement with your child’s homework. “For the most part, homework is between a child and the teacher,” Pope says. “Parents shouldn’t sit next to the child the entire time, making sure they are doing every problem, do some of it themselves, or grade the homework.” These are unhealthy habits that can become a source of stress for the child.
What parents should do, she says, is communicate openly with the school and teachers and let them know if homework is becoming a problem for their child or their family. After all, homework can be a very powerful learning tool when it’s properly focused and assigned in a reasonable amount, and parents can partner with teachers to make sure homework is helping, not hurting, their child.