When your children arrive home from school this evening, what will be your first point of conflict? How’s this for an educated guess? Homework.
Do they have any? How much? When are they going to do it? Can they get it done before practice/rehearsal/dinner? After? When is it due? When did they start it? Even parents who are wholly hands off about the homework itself still need information about how much, when and how long if there are any family plans in the offing — because, especially for high school students in high-performing schools, homework has become the single dominating force in their nonschool lives.
Researchers asked 4,317 students from 10 high-performing high schools in upper-middle-class California communities to describe the impact of homework on their lives, and the results offer a bleak picture that many of us can see reflected around our dining room tables. The students reported averaging 3.1 hours of homework nightly, and they added comments like: “There’s never a break. Never.”
It “takes me away from everything I used to do,” says one.
Lack of sleep and lack of time were a theme, said the researcher Denise Clark Pope, a senior lecturer at the Stanford Graduate School of Education and a co-author of the study, which will be published in The Journal of Experimental Education. While the students didn’t report grieving for the children they were just a few months or years ago, they should have. There is something about that phrase — “everything I used to do” — that makes a parent take notice.
It’s not just the hours, Ms. Pope said. Students describe stress and sleep deprivation. “They feel out of control,” she said. “They often have no idea when a teacher will assign what. They can’t plan around Grandma’s birthday dinner, and it’s really not their fault.”
My students aren’t even in high school yet (my oldest is a seventh grader), and I’m not looking forward to the change. I don’t want them to give up “everything they used to do.” Already, homework struggles dominate many of our evenings. For some children at some ages (it has varied with mine), just getting them to sit down takes more time than the worksheets in their backpacks. For others, homework becomes an excellent place to enact a nightly dramatic rendition of “I Can’t Do It” (whether they can or not). The stress homework places on families starts early.
There are parenting strategies available to deal with those struggles, certainly — but when, and why, did our evenings at home become so dedicated to that particular interaction? I’m perpetually dismayed by how much of our evenings is consumed by schoolwork, and at the end of a particularly fraught night — for example, one when my two second graders each have a report on a South American animal due, and are fighting not just over the homework, but also over their share of my coveted attention and my unique ability to download and print images — I find myself wondering how our family life would be different without the flash point that homework so often becomes.
For the older students who participated in the research, homework was a family flash point of a different kind. Ms. Pope and her colleagues intentionally designed their research and wrote their paper to focus on the voices of the students and on their perspective about homework, arguing that it is the students’ experience that “influences how they do their homework, and consequently, how homework affects them.”
Much of the pressure they described feeling came from their parents, Ms. Pope said, and a sense that if they didn’t do the homework, they wouldn’t get the grades and they wouldn’t succeed. For those students (no matter what their parents might say about the same interactions), homework is affecting their relationship with their parents and how they feel about their family and their place in it.
To take my relationship with my children out from under homework’s shadow, I have pulled back (way back) on any involvement, and we have made an active choice as parents to let the work and any consequences for not doing it fall to their schools, not to us. That doesn’t work for all families. It also doesn’t help when the sheer number of hours a child is expected to spend at his books is destructive to family relationships because there is little or no time left to spend together, particularly once a sport or other activity enters the mix.
Ms. Pope suggests asking teachers and schools to provide homework packets that a student can spread out over a week, rather than springing large assignments due tomorrow that can derail family plans. Schools and teachers can also help by building in time for students to get started on homework and ask any questions they might have.
Looking at the larger picture, she said, things are changing. “These students are already averaging an hour more than what’s thought to be useful,” she said, and teachers, schools and parents are beginning to think harder about what kinds of homework, and how much of it, enhance learning and motivation without becoming all-consuming.
It might be easier than you think to start the conversation at your student’s school. “Load doesn’t equal rigor,” Ms. Pope said. “There are other developmental things students need to be doing after school, and other things they need to be learning.”
And if you are at the point where some of the pressure over homework might just be coming from you? “Don’t fall into the trap of parent peer pressure,” said Ms. Pope, a mother of three. “Nothing is permanent, and it’s up to you to remind your children that. We live in a country where you can drop out of high school and later community college and still ultimately get a Ph.D. from Stanford. At a certain point, it’s O.K. to get some sleep instead of studying for that test.”
And it’s really O.K. to go out to dinner for Grandma’s birthday. When do they assign the homework that teaches students that while work matters, family matters more?
Follow KJ Dell’Antonia on Twitter at @KJDellAntonia or find her on Facebook and Google+.
Throughout the school year, student’s live by a strict schedule that consists of school, extracurricular activities and homework. The amount of homework has intensified, students are getting less sleep during school nights, and the level of stress is at its highest peak. American teenagers are given too much homework during the school year, thus leading to unfavorable impacts mentally and physically. I have experienced in the past 2 years the stress, tiredness and isolation from family events due to being in high school. The load of homework I have received is ridiculous I have to miss family dinners and supporting my sister at her soccer and basketball games. I get about half the amount of sleep I used to get and my acne has gotten worse from all the stress. I feel that I’m not fully living my life and that I’m restricted by homework.
First of all, American teenagers are getting too much homework leading to unfavorable impacts mentally and physically such as spending less time with the people who are most important to you in life. A survey by the University of Phoenix in 2013 states “high school students had an average of 17.5 hours of homework every week and 3.5 hours from each teacher per week”. Considering if we go to school all day and have extracurricular activities then it leaves us very little time to spend with family and friends, causing us to miss the most important high school memories. The smallest moments when either you’re little sister or brother started talking or maybe your sister or brother shot the winning basket. Still you are stuck at home doing work, missing those priceless moments. The American College Health Association found, “the suicide rate among young adults, ages 15-24, has tripled since the 1950s and suicide is currently the second most common cause of death among students, these young people are often away from home”. School makes it very hard to spend any time with family because we either have presentations or essays to write. While these students are at school and are away from their family for too long they start to show signs of depression. Students with depression often turn to suicide to make everything go away and not have to deal with the stress anymore. At the same time that I believe having homework is good practice to learn the material. I believe that when every teacher gives out homework for practice it starts to piles up for the students. Moments in life should be cherished except for students who have too much homework they don’t get to cherish them, so many unfavorable impact mentally and physically cause students make them not enjoy life fully.
Secondly, American teenagers have too much homework that cause unfavorable impacts mentally and physically. Unfavorable impacts include the loss a lot of sleep for many students. I argue that students are losing sleep due to having a lot of homework. Supported by new research showing that “with lack of sleep students have a limited ability to learn, to listen, to concentrate and to solve problems”. Those are the basic principles of school this means it’s harder for us to do what is expected. The expectations are that we do all our homework no matter how much it must be done. Thus leading us to staying up late trying to finish the homework in order to succeed in the course. The school's new way of teaching is to get us to think about problems and solve without a guide. However with lack of sleep it isn’t easy to comprehend the task at hand if I’m so exhausted all the time. Data shows that “38% of teens have trouble falling asleep at night”. Moreover your mind doesn’t stop thinking right after you finish homework. Your mind is not relaxed which makes it hard to go to bed. Sleep is essential for the human body and with all of this homework students are getting it's hard for them to get the full 8 ½ hours they need to function. A lot of homework is a leading cause in having unfavorable impact mentally such as loss of sleep for students.
Furthermore, too much homework is given to American teenagers that causes unfavorable impacts mentally and physically. For instance the stress level has escalated in the past few years. The results of a survey by psychologist Norman Anderson showed,“the stress level between students a 5.8 out of 10 and adults with a 5.1 out of 10, that a 0.6 difference”. This shows just how stressed out we are today. We should be able to live life without being tied down because we are trying to finish homework late at night and causing a lot of stress. We also have pressure and expectations to finish our homework and turn it in when it’s due. “Factors that cause stress include academics, social pressure, post-secondary plans, family issues and finance”. Notice how the first two causes are school related such as finishing homework and the pressure of looking presentable. The social pressure that is put on girls to always look decent causes stress and then leads to acne. Stress causes acne for girls especially. This because we are supposed to have good skin otherwise we are not pretty and we stress out about our faces on top of everything else. This shows the unnecessary stress that we have on ourselves as students. Parents think that our lives aren’t as stressful compared to their lives such as dealing with bills and housework but recently experts suggest that school for us has increasingly become much more stressful. With all the expectations that students have today we put too much pressure on ourselves and cause us to be stressed out. Unfavorable impacts include stress and pressure about their academics and finishing homework on students isn’t good for their mental health.
To conclude, although teachers give too much homework may seem trivial, it is in fact crucial in terms of today’s concern over teen’s physiological and physical health. Some impacts include spending less time with family and friends while missing the important memories. Losing a lot of sleep making it harder to focus and learn. The level of stress has increased rapidly through the years. American teenagers are given too much homework during the school year has many unfavorable impacts mentally and physically.
Bidwell, Allie. "Students Spend More Time on Homework." US News. U.S.News & World Report, 27 Feb. 2014. Web. 30 Oct. 2016.
Burden, Tanya. "Homework Anxiety: Survey Reveals How Much Homework K-12 Students Are Assigned and Why Teachers Deem It Beneficial." Homework Anxiety: Survey Reveals How Much Homework K-12 Students Are Assigned and Why Teachers Deem It Beneficial. University of Phoenix, 25 Feb. 2014. Web. 30 Oct. 2016.
Burrell, Jackie. "College and Teen Suicide Statistics: What You Should Know." About.com Parenting. About, Inc, 15 Dec. 2014. Web. 30 Oct. 2016.
Jayson, Sharon. "Teens Feeling Stressed, and Many Not Managing It Well." USA Today. Gannett, 11 Feb. 2014. Web. 30 Oct. 2016.
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