More on the homework wars: Too much stress for young students and parents?

A new study reaffirms younger children have far more homework than recommended. The accepted rule of thumb calls for 10 minutes of homework for every year in school —  a third grader would have 30 minutes, while a sixth grader would have an hour.

The study by researchers from Brown University School of Medicine, Children’s National Health System, Brandeis University, Rhode Island College and the New England Center for Pediatric Psychology focused on family stress caused by homework, stress that increases when parents feel unable or unequipped to help their young children.

How much homework is too much? How much causes family stresses?

How much homework is too much? How much causes family stress?

In a statement, lead researcher Robert Pressman said, “The levels of family stress and tension found in this study fall into ranges that could lead to detrimental physical and mental health. The kindergarten homework load was identical to that of first and second graders. In that period when children are focused on early stages of socialization and finessing motor skills, an overload of homework will likely interfere with a kindergartner’s ability to play and participate in extra-curricular activities.”

The study advises schools treat parents as mentors and supporters in homework rather than tutors or instructors, recommending “homework that is interactive and real world applicable, (e.g., math used to help build a birdhouse, compute money needed to buy a toy at the store, or balance a checkbook) so the family experiences it together in a meaningful way.”

As with other research, the study found parents of younger students say their children are spending substantially more time on homework than expected, while parents of high school students report their teens are spending less. First graders had three times the homework load recommended, while 12th graders had half the recommended amount.

I find the ongoing homework debate fascinating as I hear two laments from parents: My child has too much homework or my child has no homework. Either way, the parents aren’t happy and regard homework or the lack of homework as a measure of classroom rigor.

Among other points in the study:

•The average homework load for kindergarten was 25 minutes per day.

•The usefulness of homework toward children in grades 1 through 3 has not been supported in the literature. Although homework studies that compare achievement vs homework load have been equivocal, the general consensus is that excessive homework not only shows no benefit, but may be detrimental.

•Putting aside the debate as to whether or not homework is academically beneficial comes, perhaps, a more relevant debate: ought a parent to be involved in a child’s homework at the instructional level? The conundrum relates to educational inequities among public school students who come from families with one parent, whose parent may be unavailable at homework time, and/or may not have the education, temperament, or language proficiency to assist the child vs. students who come from families with two parents, one or both of whom are available, and may have educational training and/or temperament to provide their children with instruction. It may be argued the expectation that parents provide instructive guidance to a child with his homework would be through no fault of the child, a benefit to some children and a detriment to others.

The study, published today in American Journal of Family Therapy, was conducted among 1173 English and Spanish-speaking parents of children in grades K-12.

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Reader Comments 0

13 comments
anothercomment
anothercomment

When I went to school in the 60's and 70's first of all Kindergarten was not mandatory, and was 1/2 day in many districts. I did not attend Kindergarten, I would have failed the nap requirement portion of kindergarten, since I was never able to take a nap. That was a major requirement when I accompanied my younger sister one day, when my Catholic School had a Saints day off. Their certainly was no homework. I had zero homework until 6 th grade. Then the only homework I had was book reports or studying for tests.

Then as a previous commenter mentioned when I switched to public school in 7th grade, we had either study hall or library period everyday, through middle school and high school. This was before the advent of the Internet and not all parents were like mine and bought the full world encyclopedia for home usage for their children. We lived 17 miles from the high school and three miles from the nearest public library

RealLurker
RealLurker

In the other points from the study: 


The second point states that it is equivocal whether homework helps in early grades.  It then states that there is "general consensus" that too much hurts, which is another way of saying that it is equivocal regarding the harm of too much homework.


The third point is that students with two educated parents will benefit more from homework than students with single, non-educated parents.  It seems obvious that students with two educated parents are going to have many advantages over students of one uneducated parent.  We should try to assist the latter group of students without taking away tools that actually help the former group.

MaryAnnBlackmon
MaryAnnBlackmon

When my youngest daughter was in Middle School she had way to much homework. She would come from school and start her homework continue to do homework until dinnertime. After dinner she would go back to doing homework. She would be doing homework until 10 o'clock at night. She never got to go outside and socialize with her friends. All she did was spend her time doing her homework. Her sister that was a year older in the same school refused to do the homework and was put in InSchool suspension. She was able to do all the daily school work and homework while in there. I called the school and told them that my younger daughter was no longer going to do homework and was not going to be punished for it. They needed to change what they were doing and they did. They created a scheduled of what subject gave homework on what day. It worked like a charm

TaxiSmith
TaxiSmith

Schools have children within four walls anywhere from 6 to almost 8 hours a day. I simply do not understand why this is not sufficient time to do what is necessary for the education of a child. If it simply must be done, I like the "Ten Minute Rule": 1st Grade, 10 minutes of homework, 2nd Grade, 20 minutes, etc. 

liberal4life
liberal4life

Students need to learn to study, not "do the homework."

heyteacher
heyteacher

At the high school level, "homework" might be a long term project assigned in advance that students don't complete until the night before. I try to have checkpoints along the way with my students, but most ignore them. I work with other teachers to avoid having the same deadlines, but kids being kids still procrastinate. I also wonder if the "I did an hours worth of homework" accounts for the 20 minutes of texting during that time. 

gapeach101
gapeach101

I believe my children had the most homework in middle school. It was suppose to be 30 minutes per subject, which could add up to 4 hours a night. As the teachers were working in teams, I suggested they put their homework assignments on a common board to see how much was being assigned. They looked at me as if I'd grown a third eye.

living-in-outdated-ed
living-in-outdated-ed

Didn't the documentary "Race to Nowhere" try to deal with the homework issue to some degree?   I think it's very important that we limit the amount of homework students get to manageable levels.   Kids need to be kids too.   I think at my kids' school, they try and use a rule of thumb of no more than 30 mins of HW per subject.  And that can add up in high school.....

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

Richard-en minutes per year in school. 


My county instituted a rule of no more than 20 minutes per night all the way up through middle school.  Talk was that one of the central office bigwigs got tired of doing so much homework for her grandchildren.  Ridiculous!


Not a big fan of hours of homework, of course, but 20 minutes for a sixth grader?  Really?


Parents in my area get mad because the middle class kids have ball practice, etc.  Since there is no real punishment for not doing the homework, you get out of it what you put in.

straker
straker

When I was in school, we had "study hall" for an hour and did homework.


Do schools still have this?

anothercomment
anothercomment

So did ours! We got all hOmework done in this study hall that was supervised by our real Union teachers up North. The teachers could also answer help assist anyone who needed help. This way no one had to hire $50 to $70 hr tutors to help their children. This scheme to under pay the teachers in the classroom by denouncing Union ( their are none in Georgia, real unions like the ones in top 10 education states ensure Thier teachers make middle class wages $70-100k teaching in the classroom, the children are disciplines, their are study halls, the teachers have planning periods, etc..) . Parents don't have to pay for private School or for private tutors to have a a shot).

having to pay for private tutors aka public school teachers free lancing at night and weekends disadvantages the middle class and poor students. Their is a problem when it isn't taught in class so teachers can line their pockets making the $50-70 hr tutoring fees.