Why Kids Have Too Much Homework

Kids from grades one to twelve get increasing amounts of homework. But do they know why? Parents and teachers need to explain the purpose and goals of these assignments so they feel productive, not just additions that are to some kids only punitive after a long school day.

The general purpose is to reinforce the learning during the day and for older kids to deepen their learning as well by covering more than class time permits. When kids see the reasons for these assignments, they take to them a bit more easily.

Homework in Elementary School

In the early grades, kids aren’t choosing their subjects and have no say about the work they take home. It’s up to parents to make a judgment about the teacher’s expectations for their particular child.

After a month or so, if you’re child seems too anxious or overwhelmed with their assignments to complete at home, give the teacher a call and chat about his or her goals and expectations for your individual child. Sometimes kids may need the homework to be tailored a bit individually for their needs. A child with an attention deficit disorder, for example, needs shorter assignments they can concentrate on bit by bit.

Help your youngsters know that their teachers are on their side, trying to give them positive learning experiences. Your intervention can smooth the pressure of homework and give you a better understanding of how involved you should be in assisting your child while they work.

Homework in Middle School

Now the kids are getting assignments from many teachers for multiple subjects. Sometimes the teachers aren’t aware of the work load given by all the other teachers your child learns from. This may add up to too much work for your child or just the right amount.

Once again, only you as a parent can see the total picture of all the assignments your child has each night. If your son or daughter is on overload, take a look at each subject’s requirements and see if one of the teachers is giving a greater amount of work than the others.

Once again, give that teacher a call with your child’s permission. Find out the teacher’s expectations and goals for your child and share with them the total picture of all the assignments your child has. Their advice and experience can help both you and your child.

Teachers also may not know if several teachers are giving tests on the same day. While we might hope the teachers collaborate, this isn’t always the case. Again, it’s fine to intervene and let the teachers know when your child is faced with studying for too many exams on one night.

Remember to give your middle schooler a helping hand in organizing their work, prioritizing their assignments, and having all the necessary equipment (computer, printer, etc.) needed.

Homework in High School

Now the workload is more complicated as the kids and teachers pick the levels of the subjects your teens take and the electives they choose as well. If the teens haven’t established clear routines and organizational skills by now to prioritize their assignments and studying, they need your help for sure.

Create a working home environment where the teens know you are their allies not their pressure cookers when it comes to getting homework done. They need to feel some autonomy while at the same time may still need your assistance in organization for lengthy periods of concentration.

Make sure they have a quiet, secure place to work that is consistent every day. Without being overbearing, stay aware of the hours your teen’s engaged in school work at home. Keep an eye out for exhaustion and advise them to take breaks. Quietly put snacks by their sides as they work, to keep their energy up and to get a chance to see how they are doing.

Some kids avoid homework until late at night spending too much time on the phone, watching youtube and playing video games. While this is common in some households, if it’s not addressed early on, your child will suffer because they’ll either not finish their homework or stay up too late always finding they are exhausted during the day.

It can’t be emphasized enough to remind your teen you are their ally. You are there to help them create a plan for their work, prioritize their studying, and support them when they have trouble with certain subjects.

When kids know you are involved in their school work because you love them, there is much less pushback and resistance to accepting your support and encouragement. If they seem overwhelmed, they’re not too old to suggest that you speak to the teacher and learn what is expected and how best to proceed to support your individual child for each subject.

All in all, you are on your child’s side from grades one to twelve. When they know this it builds a bond that supports their school work and productivity while giving them the security and love they need.

Laurie Hollman, Ph.D., is a psychoanalyst and author of Unlocking Parental Intelligence: Finding Meaning in Your Child’s Behavior found on Amazon and wherever books are sold. Visit her website to gain more insights and while you’re there, visit her paintings tab to enjoy her work as an artist: http://lauriehollmanphd.com. She enjoys painting portraits and landscapes from photos that you take, capturing those wonderful kids in paintings for you to hang on your walls to reinforce how you love and support them. Press the contact tab if you’d like her to do a painting for you.

Piling on the homework doesn't help kids do better in school. In fact, it can lower their test scores.

That's the conclusion of a group of Australian researchers, who have taken the aggregate results of several recent studies investigating the relationship between time spent on homework and students' academic performance.

According to Richard Walker, an educational psychologist at Sydney University, data shows that in countries where more time is spent on homework, students score lower on a standardized test called the Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA. The same correlation is also seen when comparing homework time and test performance at schools within countries. Past studies have also demonstrated this basic trend.

Inundating children with hours of homework each night is detrimental, the research suggests, while an hour or two per week usually doesn't impact test scores one way or the other. However, homework only bolsters students' academic performance during their last three years of grade school. "There is little benefit for most students until senior high school (grades 10-12)," Walker told Life's Little Mysteries.

The research is detailed in his new book, "Reforming Homework: Practices, Learning and Policies" (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012).

The same basic finding holds true across the globe, including in the U.S., according to Gerald LeTendre of Pennsylvania State University. He and his colleagues have found that teachers typically give take-home assignments that are unhelpful busy work. Assigning homework "appeared to be a remedial strategy (a consequence of not covering topics in class, exercises for students struggling, a way to supplement poor quality educational settings), and not an advancement strategy (work designed to accelerate, improve or get students to excel)," LeTendre wrote in an email. [Kids Believe Literally Everything They Read Online, Even Tree Octopuses]

This type of remedial homework tends to produce marginally lower test scores compared with children who are not given the work. Even the helpful, advancing kind of assignments ought to be limited; Harris Cooper, a professor of education at Duke University, has recommended that students be given no more than 10 to 15 minutes of homework per night in second grade, with an increase of no more than 10 to 15 minutes in each successive year.

Most homework's neutral or negative impact on students' academic performance implies there are better ways for them to spend their after school hours than completing worksheets. So, what should they be doing? According to LeTendre, learning to play a musical instrument orparticipating in clubs and sports all seem beneficial, but there's no one answer that applies to everyone.

"These after-school activities have much more diffuse goals than single subject test scores," he wrote.  "When I talk to parents … they want their kids to be well-rounded, creative, happy individuals — not just kids who ace the tests."

Follow Natalie Wolchover on Twitter @nattyover. Follow Life's Little Mysteries on Twitter @llmysteries, then join us on Facebook.

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