Study Finds Kids Have Three Times the Amount of Recommended Homework

Image Source: Thinkstock
Image Source: Thinkstock

When my older daughter was in first grade last year, she averaged about 10-15 minutes of homework a few nights a week. Since she’s so young, I viewed her homework as less a tool for becoming “book smart” and more an effective way to start easing her into a habit of commitment and responsibility, which means I didn’t overthink the assignments on her behalf.

However, had she had 40 minutes of homework each night, I’d have been raising some hell. Because as it turns out, that much time spend on after-school assignments at such a young age is not uncommon. 

A recently published study by researchers from Brown University, Brandeis University, Rhode Island College, Dean College, the Children’s National Medial Center, and the New England Center for Pediatric Psychology in The American Journal of Family Therapy, found that kids in elementary school are getting up to three times as much homework as the amount recommended by the National Education Association and the National Parent-Teacher Association.

As a rule, 10 minutes per grade level per night is what teachers should be assigning for students after kindergarten. Yet in a questionnaire given to 1,100 parents generated by the study’s authors, it was revealed that kids in first grade toiled over their homework for close to a half hour nightly instead of just 10 minutes. And even though kindergartners shouldn’t be getting homework at all, parents said they were spending up to 25 minutes on it each night. According to CNN, the repercussions of too much homework are real.

“The cost is enormous,” Stephanie Donaldson-Pressman, one of the study’s authors, said. “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.”

Side effects of too much homework can include sleep deprivation, weight loss, and even ulcers and migraines. In addition, parents trying to assist with the homework can “cause tension or confusion for the child.” Add to that how “homework may supplant more enjoyable family leisure pursuits,” and it was shown that schoolwork conflicting with family routines and leisure time is associated with “lower measures of emotional well-being among children and parents,” according to the findings.

Interestingly, the study also reported, “while the amount of homework students receive has gotten considerable press and attention, there is little evidence that there has been any significant increase in homework amount over the past 30–50 years,” so it’s unclear why children are spending more time on perhaps the same amount of work doled out as before.

Not known, and perhaps relevant, is how long it takes different students to complete the same assignments. For instance, spelling comes easily to my daughter, and I heard anecdotally from a few parents in her first-grade class that their kids struggled with it. Not only that, but my daughter’s teacher made a point to tell us how much time should be spent on assignments, so that a struggling kid should just stop when the limit was reached.

Regardless, the fact remains that kids are doing more work than play after school, which is a lose-lose situation.

“Anybody who’s tried to keep a 5-year-old at a table doing homework for 25 minutes after school knows what that’s like,” Donaldson-Pressman told CNN. “I mean children don’t want to be doing, they want to be out playing, they want to be interacting and that’s what they should be doing. That’s what’s really important.”

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