Too much homework leading to stressed out families

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.”

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  1. 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.

    • Dienne:

      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.

  2. 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.”

  3. Lourdes Guerreroo October 23, 2015 at 3:22 pm · Reply

    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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. My daughter is a senior in high school and is in the International Bacclaureate program 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.

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health enews Staff
health enews Staff

health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.