The word homework is enough to strike terror into most parents, and as teens approach high school years, and the pressure is on to maintain good grades, it is no surprise that some kids (and their parents) begin to feel the pressure.
How Much Homework Should Kids Have?
There is no denying that homework is a necessary part of a teen’s education and is recognized as a useful tool in helping kids on their academic journey; it reinforces concepts learned in school and helps to establish important study habits that teens will carry with them throughout their education and into working life.
Current guidelines suggest that the amount of homework given centers around the “10-minute rule.” The principle is that first graders receive ten minutes of homework each day, and with each subsequent grade, a further 10 minutes is added. This means that fourth-grade students should receive 40 minutes of homework, which increases all the way through to a high-school senior, who would need to complete two hours.
The Effects of Too Much Homework
However, research has shown that if teens have too much homework (and go over the two-hour mark), there is no greater benefit. In fact, excessive amounts can cause kids to burn-out, become disillusioned and despondent, and actually results in less effort and achievement; it can also have a serious impact on physical and mental health.
A report highlighting research conducted by the Stanford Graduate School of Education and published in the Journal of Experimental Education gathered information from over 4,000 children with privileged backgrounds and found that too much homework is linked to medical ailments such as headaches and stomach-related issues, sleep deprivation, exhaustion and substantial weight loss. As well as physical problems, teens with an excessive amount of homework suffered from mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety and stress.
Stress is particularly evident in high-school students, when the pressure is on to perform at an advanced level; too much homework can cause teens to lose balance in their lives, feel panicked and experience a sense of not being in control. An NPR report highlights the serious detrimental effect academic stress can have on teens and their families, and states that 40% of parents asked felt that their high-school children were experiencing stress, with 24% attributing that stress to homework.
[Check out the Guide to Preparing for College for more info and advice!]
What You Can Do to Ease the Load
Often, as parents, we are unsure what to do for the best with regards to homework. We know that it is a crucial part of our kids’ education, but it is no fun for anyone when it causes misery, worry or has an impact on their health and well-being. However, the good news is that there are ways to make things somewhat easier for your teen, and lighten the load a little.
Most importantly, and something that is often overlooked, is establishing somewhere comfortable and quiet for your teen to study, away from distractions such as noisy family life. As a parent, it is important that you play an active supporting role in your teen’s homework; you aren’t there to answer the questions or do the work for them, but your interaction provides valuable help to understand what is expected of them, and just knowing you are close by is all it takes to ease some of the stress.
Teens are often not the best at organizing themselves, and may need some guidance in time-management; some find it useful to have a calendar or personal planner to help them keep track of their homework assignments.
Work with them to figure out a regular homework schedule, so that they know what is expected; kids also need to understand that school work takes priority, and that fun activities only happen when the work is completed. You may find it helps to sit with your teen on a regular basis, going through their workloads and prioritizing; this not only helps them get on track, but it allows you to keep a close eye on what they are working on.
Be Your Teen’s Biggest Ally
When kids are stressed, they need a patient, caring and calm parent behind them. Keeping a close eye on them when they are doing homework means that you can step in and suggest they take a break when becoming too frazzled, something teens might not be able to recognize themselves.
Be supportive and encouraging, especially if academic work doesn’t come easy for your child; praise them for their efforts, rather than their grades, letting them know that trying their hardest is the most important thing.
Often, kids feel embarrassed or stupid when they are struggling with something, and may be reluctant to seek help (or not know how to). A watchful parent will invariably pick up on this and can offer some suggestions or assistance. Always let your teen know that it is okay to ask for help and that they should approach their teachers if there is something they don’t understand, or if they feel their workload is unmanageable and causing stress.
It is always a good idea to have close communication with your teen’s teachers, so that you have a clear understanding of what is expected with regards to homework; it also paves the way for contacting them if you have any particular worries about the work, or how your teen is coping with it.