At the end of the school day, teachers will announce the homework assignment. They may believe that three or four lessons each night will help their students further their education, but in some cases, it can have just the opposite effect. Assigning excessive homework can impact a child's behavior and overall well-being, impacting the child's activities outside of school and his relationships with friends and family.
Negative Effects of Too Much Homework
1. Reduce Social Interaction
Children who often have a lot of homework are restricted in the time that they have to interact with others. Social opportunities provide children with the chance to learn impulse control, conflict management, and other social skills. If they are not given enough opportunities for socialization, their overall development may suffer.
2. Affect Active Learning
Active learning encourages participation and hones problem-solving skills. Homework does not provide these kinds of opportunities and eliminates time for self-motivated play that could build intuition, imagination, or problem-solving skills. It also limits a child's time to explore his own interests, which could provide ground for career choices later.
3. Disturb Life Balance
Children who have too much homework will not be able to balance their life, which could impact their circadian rhythm. If excessive homework is given, it will cut into the downtime students need to relax or sleep, which will ultimately have an impact on their cognitive abilities during the day.
4. Become Underproductive
Researchers have found that there is very little correlation between the amount of homework and academic success. It is recommended that children have 10 minutes of homework for every grade level to get the best results. Anything above this level is considered excessive and could be counter-productive.
Check out the video below to see if your kid has more homework than he/she can handle:
What to Do If Your Kid Has Too Much Homework
A child with excessive homework might need help from his parents to get it done. It is important to remember that this help should teach the child how to do these lessons on his own rather than focus on getting the work done. Below are some tips for helping your child get through his homework effectively.
1. Draw Up Plans
Encourage your child to predict how long it will take him to finish each assignment. Ask questions about what is involved with the assignment before you provide suggestions for how to get it done. You want to encourage your child to think about what is expected of him and to plan ahead. For example, if a report is due at the end of the week, he will need to plan work time beforehand so that he does not have to rush through the assignment on Thursday night.
2. Overcome Procrastination
If your child has trouble with procrastinating, consider setting aside a specific homework time each day and setting punishments if he does not start his work at this time. Talk with your child about what time is appropriate to start his homework so that there is an agreement about how to manage each task. Talk about how long each assignment will take and continue to remind your child that the more he procrastinates, the longer it will take him to complete the homework.
3. Create a Productive Homework Space
Setting up a homework space will provide your child with an area that allows him to focus fully on the assignment. This can be as simple as finding a space within your home that is quite and free from distractions like the television. Store any materials your child might need to do his homework,like compasses, rulers, paper, pencils, pens, and a calculator, in a container so your child cannot use a lack of materials as an excuse to procrastinate.
4. Consider Homework Help
In some cases, parents might not have time to provide the level of help their child needs. Bringing in a professional homework helper can help to ease some of the friction that can develop between parents and children and provide extra understanding if the parent is unfamiliar with a given subject. Hiring a tutor or simply finding an older student who can come over and work with your child will do the trick. Many schools also provide after-school help for just this purpose.
5. Make Use of School Websites
Read through your school's website to see if there is any information about the homework policy. In many cases, a general policy is established about how much homework should be given and how long it will take to complete. Understanding key due dates and expectations will help you keep track of assignments your child may be procrastinating on.
6. Talk to the Teacher
If you believe your child is getting too much homework, you should speak to his teacher about it in a non-confrontational way. You can emphasize that his methods are not working for your child or are causing excess stress, and a compromise may be made. If the teacher is not listening to your concerns, consider seeking out an administrator.
7. Involve Other Parents
If you are worried that an assignment your child is given is too hard, talk to other parents in the class. If several of you agree, you can get together and talk to the teacher. Changes are often easier to make if a group stands together. If there is a serious problem, consider approaching the school board or having all the parents in the class fill out a survey that will make it clear that this is a long-lasting problem. Find supporters who will provide statistics and stories about the issues that their own children are having in order that the nature of the problem should be made clear to the administration.
From kindergarten to the final years of high school, recent research suggests that some students are getting excessive amounts of homework.
In turn, when students are pushed to handle a workload that’s out of sync with their development level, it can lead to significant stress — for children and their parents.
Both the National Education Association (NEA) and the National PTA (NPTA) support a standard of “10 minutes of homework per grade level” and setting a general limit on after-school studying.
For kids in first grade, that means 10 minutes a night, while high school seniors could get two hours of work per night.
But the most recent study to examine the issue found that kids in early elementary school received about three times the amount of recommended homework.
Published in The American Journal of Family Therapy, the 2015 study surveyed more than 1,100 parents in Rhode Island with school-age children.
The researchers found that first and second graders received 28 and 29 minutes of homework per night.
Kindergarteners received 25 minutes of homework per night, on average. But according to the standards set by the NEA and NPTA, they shouldn’t receive any at all.
A contributing editor of the study, Stephanie Donaldson-Pressman, told CNN that she found it “absolutely shocking” to learn that kindergarteners had that much homework.
And all those extra assignments may lead to family stress, especially when parents with limited education aren’t confident in their ability to help kids with the work.
The researchers reported that family fights about homework were 200 percent more likely when parents didn’t have a college degree.
Some parents, in fact, have decided to opt out of the whole thing. The Washington Post reported in 2016 that some parents have just instructed their younger children not to do their homework assignments.
They report the no-homework policy has taken the stress out of their afternoons and evenings. In addition, it's been easier for their children to participate in after-school activities.
This new parental directive may be healthier for children, too.
Experts say there may be real downsides for young kids who are pushed to do more homework than the “10 minutes per grade” standard.
“The data shows that homework over this level is not only not beneficial to children’s grades or GPA, but there’s really a plethora of evidence that it’s detrimental to their attitude about school, their grades, their self-confidence, their social skills, and their quality of life,” Donaldson-Pressman told CNN.
Read more: Less math and science homework beneficial to middle school students »
Consequences for high school students
Other studies have found that high school students may also be overburdened with homework — so much that it’s taking a toll on their health.
In 2013, research conducted at Stanford University found that students in high-achieving communities who spend too much time on homework experience more stress, physical health problems, a lack of balance in their lives, and alienation from society.
That study, published in The Journal of Experimental Education, suggested that any more than two hours of homework per night is counterproductive.
However, students who participated in the study reported doing slightly more than three hours of homework each night, on average.
To conduct the study, researchers surveyed more than 4,300 students at 10 high-performing high schools in upper middle-class California communities. They also interviewed students about their views on homework.
When it came to stress, more than 70 percent of students said they were “often or always stressed over schoolwork,” with 56 percent listing homework as a primary stressor. Less than 1 percent of the students said homework was not a stressor.
The researchers asked students whether they experienced physical symptoms of stress, such as headaches, exhaustion, sleep deprivation, weight loss, and stomach problems.
More than 80 percent of students reported having at least one stress-related symptom in the past month, and 44 percent said they had experienced three or more symptoms.
The researchers also found that spending too much time on homework meant that students were not meeting their developmental needs or cultivating other critical life skills. Students were more likely to forgo activities, stop seeing friends or family, and not participate in hobbies.
Many students felt forced or obligated to choose homework over developing other talents or skills.
"Our findings on the effects of homework challenge the traditional assumption that homework is inherently good," said Denise Pope, Ph.D., a senior lecturer at the Stanford University School of Education, and a co-author of a study.
Read more: Should schools screen children for mental health problems? »
Working as hard as adults
A smaller New York University study published last year noted similar findings.
It focused more broadly on how students at elite private high schools cope with the combined pressures of school work, college applications, extracurricular activities, and parents’ expectations.
That study, which appeared in Frontiers in Psychology, noted serious health effects for high schoolers, such as chronic stress, emotional exhaustion, and alcohol and drug use.
The research involved a series of interviews with students, teachers, and administrators, as well as a survey of a total of 128 juniors from two private high schools.
About half of the students said they received at least three hours of homework per night. They also faced pressure to take college-level classes and excel in activities outside of school.
Many students felt they were being asked to work as hard as adults, and noted that their workload seemed inappropriate for their development level. They reported having little time for relaxing or creative activities.
More than two-thirds of students said they used alcohol and drugs, primarily marijuana, to cope with stress.
The researchers expressed concern that students at high-pressure high schools can get burned out before they even get to college.
“School, homework, extracurricular activities, sleep, repeat — that’s what it can be for some of these students,” said Noelle Leonard, Ph.D., a senior research scientist at the New York University College of Nursing, and lead study author, in a press release.
Read more: Lack of mental healthcare for children reaches ‘crisis’ level »
What can be done?
Experts continue to debate the benefits and drawbacks of homework.
But according to an article published this year in Monitor on Psychology, there’s one thing they agree on: the quality of homework assignments matters.
In the Stanford study, many students said that they often did homework they saw as "pointless" or "mindless."
Pope, who co-authored that study, argued that homework assignments should have a purpose and benefit, and should be designed to cultivate learning and development.
It’s also important for schools and teachers to stick to the 10-minutes per grade standard.
In an interview with Monitor on Psychology, Pope pointed out that students can learn challenging skills even when less homework is assigned.
Pope described one teacher she worked with who taught advanced placement biology, and experimented by dramatically cutting down homework assignments. First the teacher cut homework by a third, and then cut the assignments in half.
The students’ test scores didn’t change.
“You can have a rigorous course and not have a crazy homework load,” Pope said.
Editor’s Note: The story was originally published on March 11, 2014. It was updated by Jenna Flannigan on August 11, 2016 and then updated again on April 11, 2017 by David Mills.