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Homework Load For Kids

Studies of typical homework loads vary: In one, a Stanford researcher found that more than two hours of homework a night may be counterproductive. The research, conducted among students from 10 high-performing high schools in upper-middle-class California communities, found that too much homework resulted in stress, physical health problems and a general lack of balance.

This conclusion aligns with the National PTA and National Education Association recommendations  of 10 minutes of homework per grade level per night, maxing out at 120 minutes for high school seniors. And the 2014 Brown Center Report on American Education, found that with the exception of nine-year-olds, the amount of homework schools assign has remained relatively unchanged since 1984.

But student experiences don’t always match these results. On our own Student Life in America survey, over 50% of students reported feeling stressed, 25% reported that homework was their biggest source of stress, and on average teens are spending one-third of their study time feeling stressed, anxious, or stuck.

The disparity can be explained in one of the conclusions regarding the Brown Report:

Of the three age groups, 17-year-olds have the most bifurcated distribution of the homework burden.  They have the largest percentage of kids with no homework (especially when the homework shirkers are added in) and the largest percentage with more than two hours.

So what does that mean for parents who still endure the homework wars at home?

It means that sometimes kids who are on a rigorous college-prep track, probably are receiving more homework, but the statistics are melding it with the kids who are receiving no homework.  And on our survey, 64% of students reported that their parents couldn’t help them with their work. This is where the real homework wars lie—not just the amount, but the ability to successfully complete assignments and feel success.

Parents want to figure out how to help their children manage their homework stress and learn the material.

Our Top 4 Tips for Ending Homework Wars

  • 1. Have a routine.

    Every parenting advice article you will ever read emphasizes the importance of a routine. There’s a reason for that: it works. A routine helps put order into an often disorderly world. It removes the thinking and arguing and “when should I start?” because that decision has already been made. While routines must be flexible to accommodate soccer practice on Tuesday and volunteer work on Thursday, knowing in general when and where you, or your child, will do homework literally removes half the battle.

  • 2. Have a battle plan.

    Overwhelmed students look at a mountain of homework and think “insurmountable.” But parents can look at it with an outsider’s perspective and help them plan. Put in an extra hour Monday when you don’t have soccer. Prepare for the AP Chem test on Friday a little at a time each evening so Thursday doesn’t loom as a scary study night (consistency and repetition will also help lock the information in your brain). Start reading the book for your English report so that it’s underway. Go ahead and write a few sentences, so you don’t have a blank page staring at you. Knowing what the week will look like helps you keep calm and carry on.

  • 3. Don’t be afraid to call in reserves.

    You can’t outsource the “battle” but you can outsource the help! We find that kids just do better having someone other than their parents help them—and sometimes even parents with the best of intentions aren’t equipped to wrestle with complicated physics problem. At The Princeton Review, we specialize in making homework time less stressful. Our tutors are available 24/7 to work one-to-one in an online classroom with a chat feature, interactive whiteboard, and the file sharing tool, where students can share their most challenging assignments.

  • 4. Celebrate victories—and know when to surrender.

    Students and parents can review completed assignments together at the end of the night -- acknowledging even small wins helps build a sense of accomplishment. If you’ve been through a particularly tough battle, you’ll also want to reach reach a cease-fire before hitting your bunk. A war ends when one person disengages. At some point, after parents have provided a listening ear, planning, and support, they have to let natural consequences take their course. And taking a step back--and removing any pressure a parent may be inadvertently creating--can be just what’s needed.


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The Staff of The Princeton Review

For more than 35 years, students and families have trusted The Princeton Review to help them get into their dream schools. We help students succeed in high school and beyond by giving them resources for better grades, better test scores, and stronger college applications. Follow us on Twitter: @ThePrincetonRev.

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.

What’s Next?

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!

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