Why Too Much Homework Is Bad For Kids

Homework has become a part of every child's life and, in the process, every parent's routine. But, how much homework is too much and how does it impact your child? Read, to know.

By Shaswathi Sandeep

Why Too Much Homework Is Bad For Kids

"I hate homework. I hate it more now than I did when I was the one lugging textbooks and binders back and forth from school. The hour my children are seated at the kitchen table, their books spread out before them, the crumbs of their after-school snack littering the table, is without a doubt the worst hour of my day." - Ayelet Waldman, Israeli-American Novelist

Many parents, today, relate to this statement. With children as young as five being burdened with homework every day, it has stopped being fun. “Over the last two decades, few trends regarding our education system have been observed that are a matter of concern. First, the number of hours that children spend in school, or commuting to and from school, has increased significantly. This has eaten into their unstructured play time. Secondly, the amount of homework given to children in different grades has steadily increased. This has further reduced their unstructured time. Lastly, more and more children go for tuitions because either the parents are not available to help them or they do not feel equipped to handle their child’s homework; so tutors fill in the gap,” explains Pooja Goyal, Curriculum Head, KLAY Schools.

The negative impact of excess homework on a child

According to experts, too much homework may affect a child adversely and lead to behavioural problems. Dr. Parul Tank, Consultant Psychiatrist, Fortis Hospital, Mulund, Mumbai explains, “The amount of homework given today to children has reached mammoth proportions in certain schools. These children not only do the work allotted by school but also by the tuition centres. Some children feel anxious if the homework is not done on time fearing punishment from their teachers. Often, homework is given without the concepts being properly explained in class or at the tuition, leading to children feeling helpless. This exercise sometimes makes children behave disobediently and they feel uninterested in learning.”

There are other disadvantages of burdening a child with too much homework. Pooja lists a few of them:

  1. Over-scheduling children’s lives is detrimental to not only their physical and mental health but also to their overall development and well-being. The combination of long hours in school, excessive homework, tuition and access to screens is leaving children with virtually no downtime whatsoever. They are left with no time to invest in reflection or friendships.
  2. Students are being pushed to bear workloads beyond their developmental level and the result is that now they are significantly stressed and suffer from health problems like obesity, headaches and anxiety.
  3. Too much workload can lead to sleep deprivation as well, which can further cause them to feel irritated.
  4. Children today have less time for physical exercise as they have to finish their homework.

How much homework is too much homework?

The homework standard followed in the US is the ‘10-minute rule’. According to this rule, a maximum of 10 minutes of homework daily, per grade level is recommended. Second graders, for example, should do about 20 minutes of homework each night. High school seniors should complete about two hours of homework every night. This recommendation was made by Harris Cooper, a professor of psychology and director of Duke's Program in Education, in a study published in 2006 in the journal of ‘Review of Educational Research’. The United States National PTA (Parent Teacher Association), and the National Education Association both support that guideline.

In another study done by Rubén Fernández-Alonso published in the Journal of Educational Psychology (2015) it was found that students who were regularly assigned math and science homework scored higher on standardized tests. But when the kids reported doing more than 90 to 100 minutes of homework per day, their scores declined.

“Course work should and must be completed in school under the supervision of teachers. When students in primary and middle school study for two to three hours after school, it becomes too much of a burden for them. The brain needs rest and diversion. The Indian syllabus doesn’t encourage critical or analytical thinking or focus on enhancing a child’s general knowledge. For all-round development of a child it is important to expand his knowledge beyond textbooks,” feels Arunima Lahiri, a parent from Bangalore.

How can you help?

The only person who can help your child is you, the parent. “An ideal scenario would be that children do their homework or worksheets given by school as a form of revision. The tuition classes should be optional, depending on the performance and capabilities of the children. Parents need to be involved to see what their kids are doing, so that they don't overburden them with their expectations. They also need to understand their children's capacity to learn rather than just seeing that they finish their work. Homework should be treated as a fun exercise and not as a chore!” suggests Dr Parul.

Here are a few ways you can help your child deal with excess workload:

  • Understand the importance of unstructured time for the healthy development of children for all ages and stages
  • Work with your child's school to limit homework to manageable levels
  • Be there to help when your child hits a roadblock with their coursework
  • Help your child manage his anxiety and teach him to be calm under all circumstances
  •  Be involved in your child’s school and talk about issues that she is facing at home
  •  Help your child understand what he’s learnt at school by applying the lessons to real life situations

The need of the hour is for schools to step up their game and make homework a fun activity. “Initially, homework was all about reinforcing through repetition and redoing. Now it is about understanding concepts, learning and application. The teacher gives homework to test whether the student has understood the concept taught to him in class. The homework is designed to test the application of the concept learned. If the homework is effective and interesting, it will not affect a child’s health too. The student will be motivated to do it,” suggests Hema Chennupaty, Principal, Oakridge International School, Bangalore.

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