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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.

Down With Homework!


After spending most of the day in school, students are given additional assignments
to be completed at home. This is a rather curious fact when you stop to think about
it, but not as curious as the fact that few of us ever stop to think about it. Its worth
asking not only whether there are good reasons to support the nearly universal
practice of assigning homework, but why its so often taken for grantedeven by
vast numbers of teachers and parents who are troubled by its impact on children.
The mystery deepens once you discover that widespread assumptions about the
benefits of homeworkhigher achievement and the promotion of such virtues as
self-discipline and responsibilityare not substantiated by the available evidence.
The Status Quo
Taking homework for granted would be understandable if most teachers decided
from time to time that a certain lesson really needed to continue after school was
over and, therefore, assigned students to read, write, figure out, or do something at
home on those afternoons.
That scenario, however, bears no relation to what happens in most American
schools. Rather, the point of departure seems to be, Weve decided ahead of time
that children will have to do something every night (or several times a week). Later
on, well figure out what to make them do. This commitment to the idea of
homework in the abstract is accepted by the overwhelming majority of schools
public and private, elementary and secondary. And it really doesnt make sense, in
part because of what the research shows:
There is no evidence to demonstrate that homework benefits students below high
school age. Even if you regard standardized test results as a useful measure (which
I dont), more homework isnt correlated with higher scores for children in
elementary school. The only effect that does show up is less positive attitudes on
the part of kids who get more assignments.
In high school, some studies do find a relationship between homework and test
scores, but it tends to be small. More important, theres no reason to think that
higher achievement is caused by the homework.
No study has ever confirmed the widely accepted assumption that homework
yields nonacademic benefitsself-discipline, independence, perseverance, or better
time-management skillsfor students of any age. The idea that homework builds
character or improves study skills is basically a myth.
Overtime in First Grade
In short, theres no reason to think that most students would be at a disadvantage if
homework were reduced or even eliminated. Yet the most striking trend in the past

two decades has been the tendency to pile more and more assignments on younger
and younger children. (Remember, thats the age at which the benefits are most
questionable, if not absent!)
Even school districts that had an unofficial custom not so long ago of waiting until
the third grade before giving homework have abandoned that restraint. A long-term
national survey discovered that the proportion of six- to eight-year-old children who
reported having homework on a given day had climbed from 34 percent in 1981 to
64 percent in 2002, and the weekly time they spent studying at home more than
doubled.
In fact, homework is even becoming a routine part of the kindergarten
experience, according to a 2004 report.
The Negative Effects
Its hard to deny that an awful lot of homework is exceptionally trying for an awful
lot of children. Some are better able than others to handle the pressure of keeping
up with a continuous flow of work, getting it all done on time, and turning out
products that will meet with approval. Likewise, some assignments are less
unpleasant than others. But in general, as one parent put it, homework
simultaneously overwhelms struggling kids and removes joy for high achievers.
Even reading for pleasure loses its appeal when children are told how much, or for
how long, they must do it.
Even as they accept homework as inevitable, parents consistently report that it
intrudes on family life. Many mothers and fathers spend every evening serving as
homework monitors, a position for which they never applied. One professor of
education, Gary Natriello at Columbia University, believed in the value of homework
until his own children started bringing home assignments in elementary school.
Even the routine tasks sometimes carry directions that are difficult for two parents
with advanced graduate degrees to understand, he discovered.
Whats bad for parents is generally worse for kids. School for [my son] is work,
one mother writes, and by the end of a seven-hour workday, hes exhausted. But
like a worker on a double shift, he has to keep going once he gets home.
Exhaustion is just part of the problem, though. The psychological costs can be
substantial for a child who not only is confused by a worksheet on long vowels or
subtraction but also finds it hard to accept the whole idea of sitting still after school
to do more schoolwork.
Furthermore, every unpleasant adjective that could be attached to homework
time-consuming, disruptive, stressful, demoralizingapplies with greater force in
the case of kids for whom academic learning doesnt come easily. Curt DudleyMarling, a former elementary school teacher who is now a professor at Boston

College, interviewed some two dozen families that included at least one struggling
learner. In describing his findings, he talked about how the demands of homework
disrupted...family relationships and led to daily stress and conflict.
The nearly intolerable burden imposed by homework was partly a result of how
defeated such children felt, he addedhow they invested hours without much to
show for it; how parents felt frustrated when they pushed the child but also when
they didnt push, when they helped with the homework but also when they refrained
from helping. You end up ruining the relationship that you have with your kid, one
father told him.
And dont forget: The idea that it is all worth it because homework helps children
learn better simply isnt true. Theres little pro to weigh against the significant cons.
Play Time Matters
On top of causing stress, more homework means kids have less time for other
activities. Theres less opportunity for the kind of learning that doesnt involve
traditional skills. Theres less chance to read for pleasure, make friends, play games,
get some exercise, get some rest, or just be a child.
Decades ago, the American Educational Research Association released this
statement: Whenever homework crowds out social experience, outdoor recreation,
and creative activities, and whenever it usurps time that should be devoted to
sleep, it is not meeting the basic needs of children and adolescents. It is the rare
school that respects the value of those activitiesto the point of making sure that
its policies are informed by that respect. But some courageous teachers and
innovative schools are taking up the challenge.
A New Approach
There is no traditional homework at the Bellwether School in Williston, Vermont,
except when the children ask for it or are so excited about a project that they
continue to work on it at home, says Marta Beede, the schools top administrator.
We encourage children to read at homebooks they have selected. She and her
colleagues figure that kids work really hard when theyre at school. To then say
that theyre going to have to work more when they get home doesnt seem to honor
how much energy they were expending during the day.
Teachers ought to be able to exercise their judgment in determining how they want
to deal with homework, taking account of the needs and preferences of the specific
children in their classrooms, rather than having to conform to a fixed policy that has
been imposed on them.
High school teacher Leslie Frothingham watched her own two children struggle with
enormous quantities of homework in middle school. The value of it never seemed

clear to her. What other job is there where you work all day, come home, have
dinner, then work all night, she asks, unless youre some type A attorney? Its not
a good way to live ones life. You miss out on self-reflection, community. Thus,
when she became a teacher, she chose to have a no-homework policy.
And if her advanced chemistry students are thriving academically without
homework, which they are, surely we can rethink our policies in the younger
grades.

Homework poses a challenge to many children, and some parents find themselves
immensely frustrated over the sheer volume of time homework requires.
Conversely, homework also provides an opportunity to continue learning at the end
of the school day and can help get parents involved in children's schoolwork.
Researchers, teachers and educational advocates disagree about the effects of
homework, and the debate continues, so there's no clear evidence that either side
is completely right.
Learning Outside School
The primary purpose of homework is to encourage students to continue learning
outside of school and to enable them to practice -- and hopefully remember -- what
they've learned each day. A 2013 article published in the Journal of Experimental
Education found mixed results for the learning effects of homework. Homework did
increase the learning of children in already rigorous academic environments, but it
also reduced children's opportunities to learn using multiple methods and to engage
fully with their coursework.
Views on Learning
One of the most outspoken voices against homework is educator Alfie Kohn. In a
2007 paper published in Principal, he argues that homework can make learning
seem unappealing and frustrating. Some research supports his position. For
example, the textbook "Child Psychology" argues that children learn most
effectively through play. Endless drilling can make learning seem unrewarding,
therefore decreasing children's motivation. This effect could be particularly
pronounced in children who already struggle with motivation, as homework might
make school seem daunting.
Time
Children sometimes get large quantities of homework that takes several hours to
complete. In high school, this quantity of homework may improve performance, but
younger children are less likely to benefit, according to "Child Psychology."
Homework can also take time away from family activities, creating stress for the
entire family. Children with mountains of homework may be unable to participate in
activities such as music classes and sports that offer additional educational
benefits.
Homework Recommendations
It may be that homework is best in smaller doses. Gerald LeTendre, who heads
Pennsylvania State University's Education Policy Studies department, argues that
children shouldn't get homework until after second grade. Thereafter, he
recommends about 10 minutes of homework for each year of school, so a high

school student would end up having about two hours of homework, while a third
grader would only have a few minutes.

Rethinking Homework
After spending most of the day in school, children are typically given additional
assignments to be completed at home. This is a rather curious fact when you stop
to think about it, but not as curious as the fact that few people ever stop to think
about it.
It becomes even more curious, for that matter, in light of three other facts:
1. The negative effects of homework are well known. They include childrens
frustration and exhaustion, lack of time for other activities, and possible loss of
interest in learning. Many parents lament the impact of homework on their
relationship with their children; they may also resent having to play the role of
enforcer and worry that they will be criticized either for not being involved enough
with the homework or for becoming too involved.
2. The positive effects of homework are largely mythical. In preparation for
a book on the topic, Ive spent a lot of time sifting through the research. The results
are nothing short of stunning. For starters, there is absolutely no evidence of any
academic benefit from assigning homework in elementary or middle school. For
younger students, in fact, there isnt even a correlation between whether children
do homework (or how much they do) and any meaningful measure of achievement.
At the high school level, the correlation is weak and tends to disappear when more
sophisticated statistical measures are applied. Meanwhile, no study has ever
substantiated the belief that homework builds character or teaches good study
habits.
3. More homework is being piled on children despite the absence of its
value. Over the last quarter-century the burden has increased most for the
youngest children, for whom the evidence of positive effects isnt just dubious; its
nonexistent.
Its not as though most teachers decide now and then that a certain lesson really
ought to continue after school is over because meaningful learning is so likely to
result from such an assignment that it warrants the intrusion on family time.
Homework in most schools isnt limited to those occasions when it seems
appropriate and important. Rather, the point of departure seems to be: Weve
decided ahead of time that children will have to do something every night (or
several times a week). Later on well figure out what to make them do.
Ive heard from countless people across the country about the frustration they feel
over homework. Parents who watch a torrent of busywork spill out of their
childrens backpacks wish they could help teachers understand how the cons
overwhelmingly outweigh the pros. And teachers who have long harbored doubts
about the value of homework feel pressured by those parents who mistakenly

believe that a lack of afterschool assignments reflects an insufficient commitment to


academic achievement. Such parents seem to reason that as long as their kids
have lots of stuff to do every night, never mind what it is, then learning must be
taking place.
What parents and teachers need is support from administrators who are willing to
challenge the conventional wisdom. They need principals who question the slogans
that pass for arguments: that homework creates a link between school and family
(as if there werent more constructive ways to make that connection!), or that it
reinforces what students were taught in class (a word that denotes the repetition
of rote behaviors, not the development of understanding), or that it teaches children
self-discipline and responsibility (a claim for which absolutely no evidence exists).
Above all, principals need to help their faculties see that the most important
criterion for judging decisions about homework (or other policies, for that matter) is
the impact theyre likely to have on students attitudes about what theyre doing.
Most of what homework is doing is driving kids away from learning, says
education professor Harvey Daniels. Lets face it: Most children dread homework,
or at best see it as something to be gotten through. Thus, even if it did provide
other benefits, they would have to be weighed against its likely effect on kids love
of learning.