Family stress worsens as children’s homework loads increase, and the long hours kids spend on homework could be used for exercise, sleep, or extracurricular activities. Then again, these assignments do help children practice their skills and dive deeper into subjects they haven’t mastered during the school day. Are children getting too much homework? The answer may be “yes.”
Homework by the Numbers
Since every school has its own policies, and the amount of homework a child is assigned does fluctuate, no hard and fast statistics about homework distribution exist.
However, researchers provide some insight into general trends. One major study, done in 2007, polled more than 2,000 3rd- through 12th-grade students. The researchers asked how much time students spent doing homework on a typical weeknight. Thirty-seven percent of elementary students and fifty percent of secondary students reported spending an hour or more on homework. Eight percent of secondary students spent three or more hours doing homework on a typical weeknight.
The National Assessment of Educational Progress also tracks the homework practices of American students. In 2012, 9-year-old, 13-year-old, and 17-year-old students were asked how long they had spent on homework the previous day. About one in five students said they had not been assigned any homework. Most students had less than two hours of homework, but 5 percent of 9-year-olds, 7 percent of 13-year-olds, and 13 percent of 17-year-olds had more than two hours of homework.
The Case Against Homework
Between long school days, afternoon club meetings, sports practices, sports games, and time spent commuting, many children do not get home for the day until late afternoon or early evening. Fitting in two hours of homework after dinner cuts into time children could be using for sleep, exercise, family time, and fun. If students do not finish their homework, however, they risk falling behind their classmates and getting reprimanded by teachers.
Parents suffer too, according to a 2015 report published in The American Journal of Family Therapy, which found that “family stress … increased as homework load increased and as parents’ perception of their capacity to assist decreased.” While most parents can help with elementary school homework, they may discover that advanced calculus homework is beyond their abilities.
The Case for Homework
Does homework actually help students succeed? Researchers say it can, although it seems to be more effective for kids in grades 7–12 rather than those in K–6. Homework helps kids retain information, develop responsibility, and hone their time-management skills.
Children who do homework also tend to have higher test scores than those who do not, but only up to a certain point. A Duke professor and author of The Battle over Homework found that junior high students reached a point of diminishing returns after 90 minutes of homework per night. Students who did more than 90 minutes of homework did not have higher test scores than those who did 90 minutes only.
More and more, teachers are turning away from traditional homework. One Texas elementary school teacher announced she would not be assigning homework in the 2016–2017 school year, and she was met with overwhelming support from parents around the country. And some schools have created no-homework policies, while administrators at other schools are considering the idea.
The homework tide may be turning, but it is a slow process. If you believe your child’s homework requirements are not effective for him or her, consider online learning, which offers students a personalized education experience and a number of benefits for young learners.
How much homework do your students have during the week? Is it too much or too little? Let us know in the comments section!