By Jessica Appleton
A Stanford study has shown that in the last decade or two, the homework load for our children has gone up dramatically – some people think that having children at school five days a week for six hours a day should be enough time to teach the children what they need to know, but then they have to go home and do hours of homework which they should have done during the days and the week they were at school.
I wanted to look into the mental repercussions of too much homework, so I have undertaken a lot of research and spoken to some parents who have given their opinions on how much is ‘too much’ and what happens to their children because of this staggering homework load.
A Stanford and Australian research group found that students at an average school undertake approximately 3.1 hours of homework every night plus six hours everyday at school, which works out to be a massive 9.1 hours every day of school work – 45.5 hours a week. Not to mention the students who do even more work on the weekend. Studies have also suggested that this much homework can and will diminish its effectiveness and even be counterproductive.
Students benefit better from homework that is well prepared, interesting and challenging, but not overtaxing. There are some parents, students and even teachers who think there shouldn’t be homework at all, that they should learn everything they need when they are at school. Some researchers are saying 90 minutes a night of homework is the appropriate amount each student should be doing. What do you think?
A whopping 50% of students consider homework as a primary source of stress, and less than 1% of students said that homework was not a stress factor. Speaking to a number of students, they say their homework load has led to sleep deprivation and other health problems such as weight loss, stomach problems, exhaustion and even headaches. It can also cause social problems caused by the fact that the child/children are spending so much of their time studying, and not spending time with family or friends which deprives them of being as socially active as the child needs.
I recently spoken to a parent who has a strong view on how homework is affecting children and what they believe it is doing to them and their family; “To be honest, I don’t see traditional schooling as being the most important form of education. Some parents seem to think that schools and teachers are wholly responsible for educating their child and ensuring they are ‘world-ready’ or turning out geniuses for the parent to be proud of, as far I am concerned as long as the child has a good understanding of numeracy and literacy, has the ability to analyse and adapt, has friends and is generally happy, then a school has done its job. The more important education comes from the family and extended community, and the individual’s ability to up-skill as required depending on their needs and interests. I remember I spent so much time doing maths & science, I hated it, being trained to be a scientist or astrophysicist, it was a huge waste of time. If only that time had been spent building on my strengths, the current school model is just so outdated.”
A second parent I spoke to had this view; “I do not think my child receives too much homework, if she has any issues with the homework she has been given she can come to me and I will help her through it. I believe student’s homework should be based on what they do and be completed in the classroom. For example, if your child is talking and messing around with their friends then they should be given what they didn’t complete in class as homework. I think that my child’s homework load is satisfactory, however I do believe that some schools are overloading their students and expecting them to complete the assignments when they can’t and then they get punished for not doing something they can’t complete, I think something needs to be done about it“.
I spoke to a third parent and this is what they had to say; “I think homework is necessary for children to help build responsibility, I feel its important to ask my children what homework they are doing, when it needs to be handed in and if they have completed it, sure it is probably very annoying to the child but it teaches them time management, responsibility and consequences when they don’t do it. I don’t think the homework load is too much, I think it gets high because the child is procrastinating then they all of a sudden have a huge workload and can be affected by some of the side effects listed above, but it is their own fault for not working on time management and they have to deal with the consequences for leaving it to the last moment. Homework is important to help with children development the skills, what they learn here will be taken into adulthood.”
Some people in government are trying to turn public schools into independent schools which would mean that it would be like sending your child/children to work everyday. The school would be run like a business with principles being CEO’s and the school being more like a company workplace than a fun, nurturing environment for your children to learn and grow in.
As stated above, some parents think there is too much homework but likewise some parents either think it’s an okay amount or not enough. Some are demanding their children to do this homework every night because they believe that they are helping their children to acquire human values, by showing them that you will complete what you have been given and you will not give up no matter how hard it seems, you will keep pushing through until the homework is completed.
Also another side of this discussion is that some parents are pushing their children to be extremely competitive at school with friends or with other children. This is absurd because it shouldn’t matter whether you win or lose, just that you participated and gave it your all – that should be enough to make you and your family happy, but a lot of the time it is not. Some parents add to the pressure children get from their homework as well because they are expecting the best ‘no matter what’ and are telling their children ‘you have to get the highest mark/grade in the class or you have failed because you didn’t give it your all’. When the child is already struggling enough with the homework load they have been given their parents can add extra unnecessary stress and pressure to do better.