Too Much Homework Affects Health

When kids get home from school the last thing they want to do is start working on homework. They want to get outside, play with friends or have a snack and relax.

It’s normal for kids to complain about having to do homework, but could your child be overloaded with afterschool work?

A new study says yes.

The study from the Stanford School of Education, published in the Journal of Experimental Education, claims that children in high-performing schools in upper to middle class families suffer from high levels of stress. And these groups are at greater risk for health problems, including a lack of balance in their lives and can even feel alienated from society.

Children in these high-achieving schools often spend an average of more than three hours each night doing homework. Denise Pope, senior lecturer at Stanford and co-author of the study, and her team of researchers studied 4,317 students in 10 of these schools in California.

Researchers did find that students spending a lot of their time on homework had a better level of engagement in school. However, these students were adversely affected by high stress and physical health problems.

“Our findings on the effects of homework challenge the traditional assumption that homework is inherently good,” Pope said in a statement.

Too much homework was found to be counterproductive. In a poll, 56 percent of students attributed any stress in their lives to too much homework. Less than 1 percent of students said that homework was not a stressor.

When asked how homework affects them, students reported lack of sleep, headaches, exhaustion and stomach problems. Students reported that due to the necessity of keeping their grades up, homework often came first before spending time with friends, attending after school activities or cultivating hobbies or talents outside of academic work.

Dr. Aaron Traeger, pediatrician with Advocate Medical Group in Normal, Ill., says  that with schoolwork kids have to do what they are told.

“Teachers typically do not work together to make certain days more ‘fair’  or an even workload,” he says. 

Dr. Traeger says if your kids are being overwhelmed with homework, the following are some things to consider:  

  1. Are outside school activities or sports taking up too much time? With too much going on outside of school it can put more stress on the things that ‘have to’ be done. 
  2. Is the student procrastinating too much? Usually larger projects have plenty of warning before being due.
  3. Talk with the teacher and see why there is so much homework. Is it because the work is not being completed during the class time?
  4. How are the study and working habits of the student? Working on study skills or working efficiency can make a big difference when the work load gets larger. 
  5. Medical reasons – Attention Deficit Disorder, depression, anxiety are all possibilities when a child starts to struggle. Especially if there is a very sudden deterioration of school performance. Speak with your school psychologist and pediatrician. 

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.

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