Homework: How Much is Too Much?
Have you ever wondered if your child is getting enough – or too much – homework? The debate about homework rages on with parents and educators around the globe. Those with opinions take position along a spectrum, ranging from completely against homework to believing that kids today just aren’t getting enough. Where do you stand? According to research, the amount of time spent daily on homework has both positive and negative effects. When it comes to learning another language, like Spanish, experts suggest that homework is critical, no matter the amount of time spent on it. In most cases, class time in a foreign language simply isn’t enough. This means that homework is necessary to bolster the steady progress of fluency-building outside of the classroom. Ultimately, as we seek to know how much schoolwork should be done at home, the answers are anything but clear. Let’s take a look to see what the experts have to say about it!
Time Spent on Homework
Educational researchers have attempted to understand the homework dilemma and create guidelines for teachers and families to use. Thanks to organizations like the National Education Association and the National Parent-Teacher Association, we get the “10-minute per day per grade” rule. In effect, with kindergarten starting at no homework, this means that first graders do 50 minutes of homework a week, second graders do 100 minutes a week, and so on. “The data shows that homework over this level is not only not beneficial to children’s grades or GPA, but there’s really a plethora of evidence that it’s detrimental to their attitude about school, their grades, their self-confidence, their social skills and their quality of life,” says Donaldson-Pressman, co-author of The Learning Habit: A Groundbreaking Approach to Homework and Parenting that Helps Our Children Succeed in School and Life.
Other experts argue that the amount of homework that students do these days is not much different than it used to be. Brian Gill, a senior social scientist at the Rand Corporation, explains, “If you look at high school kids in the late ’90s, they’re not doing substantially more homework than kids did in the ’80s, ’70s, ’60s or the ’40s. In fact, the trends throughout most of this time period are pretty flat. And most high school students in this country don’t do a lot of homework. The median appears to be about four hours a week.”
The NEA’s research on best practices in education found that “in the last 20 years, homework has increased only in the lower grade levels, and this increase is associated with neutral (and sometimes negative) effects on student achievement.”
While the amount of time spent on homework continues to be a hot-button issue, there are some important disadvantages and advantages to consider in the debate.
The Disadvantages of Homework
Despite the many benefits that homework can have, it is obvious that too much homework can actually be harmful. The American Educational Research Association says that “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.” Students and their parents often consider homework to be one of the greatest stress factors in their home. A Stanford Study of Student Experiences Report from 2017 indicated that 80 percent of students considered themselves “often” or “always” stressed by schoolwork. They were doing, on average, between 2.75 and 3.38 hours of homework on weeknights. Similarly, time dedicated to homework reduces overall quality time with family and has been documented to increase anxiety and depression.
Surprisingly, there are also studies that show that homework does not improve school performance. According to researchers at Macmillan Education UK, most homework is repetitive busy-work that does not contribute to new learning. Moreover, often the homework is too complex and difficult for students to complete by themselves. They conclude that homework is not only a waste of time but a detrimental stressor that should be eliminated.
The Advantages of Homework
Research published in 2012 in the High School Journal points out a “sweet spot” of average time spent on homework that correlates to higher scores on standardized tests. By spending 31 to 90 minutes on homework each day, high school students “scored about 40 points higher on the SAT-Mathematics subtest than their peers, who reported spending no time on homework each day, on average.” Additionally, homework is a motivational skill-builder for students who learn time-management, responsibility, problem-solving on their own, and perseverance. It helps them to become organized and to plan ahead in order to complete the tasks on time.
Both older and younger students benefit from homework by sharing it with their families. When parents get involved in homework, it helps the child develop effective learning strategies that otherwise would not have improved. For children with a possible learning disability, doing homework together can show the parents details on their child’s strengths and weaknesses in learning. It is also a useful way to help parents understand whether or not their child has any learning disabilities at all. As Duke University professor Harris Cooper, Ph.D., noted, “Two parents once told me they refused to believe their child had a learning disability until homework revealed it to them.”
Homework to Learn Spanish
Amid the debate on how much time we spend on homework is the idea that homework is essential for language learning. A study published in Foreign Language Annals indicates that “foreign language teachers at all levels [feel] strongly that homework is essential to language teaching and learning.” Doing language homework is critical to a student’s learning goals for three main reasons:
- It guarantees continuous exposure to the target language outside of the classroom. The amount of time that one engages with a foreign language correlates to higher fluency and deeper learning.
- It guides the student in generating questions they may have to gain clarity on areas they don’t understand. This bolsters the students’ ability to self-assess and to practice weak spots with the teacher.
- It allows students to prioritize language learning outside of the classroom. Without homework, a student may not know how to self-direct to continue learning. It ensures that students have a focal point while studying and repeating what they’ve learned.
At Homeschool Spanish Academy, we believe that every student deserves the opportunity to become fluent in Spanish. Along with our one-on-one classes with a native Spanish speaker, we provide enough homework for students to work on during their days off from class. The general rule we follow is creating practical homework exercises that take the same amount as the class. For a 25-minute class, there will be 25 minutes worth of homework, for a 50-minute class, 50 minutes of homework, and so on. It’s designed to give students the ability to prioritize language learning: even on their days outside of class, they can practice Spanish!
For students who choose not to partake in the benefits of homework, we do offer a Freestyle Option that excludes homework, tests, and quizzes. Additionally, for our preschool students, homework is optional.
For more information about our classes and homework, check out this article on what a year with Spanish Academy is like.
While homework for language learning is essential for consistent learning, homework in other subjects that do not require regular exposure is highly debated. Our research reveals clearly that too much homework is damaging. How much is too much? For students in high school, the average time spent on homework without negative effects is averaging one hour a day. Students who are in middle school and below may benefit from a homework policy that uses the “10-minute per grade” rule. If you feel your child is getting too much homework, try talking to their teachers or school administrators for the reasoning behind their policies.