Homework: When is it Just Too Much?


I don’t recall spending a great deal of time on homework when I was a middle and high school student. The majority of my homework took approximately an hour to complete. But, there was additional studying that went along with that occasionally as I prepared for tests and quizzes. Fast forward 20+ years and homework has begun to dominate the afternoons and evenings of most students and their families. But, like all our blogs, let’s see what the science and experts have to say about homework by answering some common questions.

  1. What is the purpose of homework? Homework is additional work assigned by a teacher that benefits and/or complements classroom instruction. You may have heard the phrase, “practice makes perfect.” That’s false; but “practice can make permanent.”

  2. What have the studies shown? Multiple studies have been conducted on the positive and negative outcomes of homework. From my research, there is a correlation between homework and improved test scores. So, there is a benefit to doing school work outside of the classroom, at least with standardized test scores and classroom assessments.

  3. How much homework should my child be assigned? This is typically where the debate begins. There are multiple studies that target specific age groups that try to determine how much is just right. From my experience and reading various studies and articles, there appears to be no benefit of giving homework to children until they enter fourth grade. In fourth grade, there is some correlation between performance and homework. But, as these results are shown on standardized tests, take it for what it’s worth. To keep this simple, a good rule of thumb is that students should have approximately 10 minutes of homework per grade level. For example, a fourth grader should have a maximum of 40 minutes of homework. A seventh grader should have no more than 70 minutes of homework, etc. As assignments wax and wane, sometimes more or less is needed.

  4. What is the proper way to assign homework? The proper way of assigning homework while not overwhelming students is for teachers to collaborate and use shared calendars. As a teacher myself, it’s easy to get lost in this world of “my class is most important.” It’s important for us to take a step back, reach out to our colleagues and discuss the amount of homework students are being given. Along with that, we must honestly reflect and determine the meaningfulness of the homework. In my experience of teaching math, I’ve learned homework is beneficial. I see no benefit, however, of science homework outside of reading and previewing upcoming material. For math, increasing class practice time, limiting homework, and frequently assessing students showed the highest retention of content.

How would you feel if you went to work for eight hours and then had two or more hours of work to do once you got home? Homework shows a benefit for higher achievement on assessments, but I haven’t found a longitudinal study that correlates any amount of homework to success into adulthood. And, using the “it’s always been done like this” mentality only dampens long-term benefits. In my professional opinion through observation and teaching, homework is beneficial in small amounts to reinforce classroom concepts. All students should read outside of the classroom frequently and also review classroom-taught concepts. However, for students in middle and elementary grades, there is a far better use of time than using it to do hours of homework. I believe in creating meaningful family connections, going to the park, exploring nature, spending time with peers, participating in volunteer work, creating art and music, and recharging your batteries after an exhausting day of learning. I’ll close by saying work hard but play hard too.


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