With more than 60% of students from high school and college seeking counseling for a variety of conditions ranging from general anxiety to clinical depression, all of which induced by school and studies, it’s safe to say that our country’s children are stressed out more than they should be. In fact, more and more students in the high school level are starting to report stress levels that rival that of adults working in officers, in some cases even exceeding those stress levels.
But what’s got them so riled up? The answer: Homework. Now, before you go full boomer and say “homework was more difficult back in my day!”, let’s make one thing clear: today’s educational system is far more advanced, complex, and even more difficult than it was a couple of decades ago.
Is There Too Much Homework in High School?
Of course, sometimes homework is necessary, but if it cuts into a child’s social, family, and down time, it borders on the cruel and unnecessary. Children should NOT be subjected to what-is-essentially training to be overworked in the corporate world. But how long does the average high school spend on homework? 3 hours a night. That’s 3 hours a night per class to complete, so it’s no wonder that our high school students are getting less than the National Sleep Foundation’s required 8 to 10 hours of sleep every night, with 68% of high school students reportedly getting less than 7 hours of sleep on the weekdays.
And that’s not even an exaggeration: in between a full day’s worth of school work, extracurricular activities, and homework, a high school student’s life is almost designed to be stressful. Sure, the point of all those activities is to turn them into an educated, well-balanced individual, but at what expense? A modern-day American student might know how to solve for X and throw a pigskin to the end zone, but what good is all of that if they’re haggard all the time and constantly deprived of sleep?
And what of the parents? It’s not like they can just leave their kids to the wolves: most parents (the responsible ones, at least) will want to help their kids with the influx of work they’ll be doing once they hit 9th grade, as if a full day’s work and commuting wasn’t enough. All to fulfill antiquated ideas of course fulfillments and state-mandated credit requirement.
But rather than focusing on busy work, why not focus on things that actually matter, like fulfilling learning standards while maintaining positive mental health?
Educators across the country need to rethink homework, why they need to give it and what kind of work they should be giving our children.
Is Homework Even Necessary?
With the amount of stress students go through, it’s tempting to curse the person who invented homework. But take note: it’s not all bad.
Homework now can seem like unnecessary busy work instead of actual learning materials, but before we get further into this topic, let’s be clear: some homework is necessary (although researchers are still waiting for conclusive evidence for homework’s necessity).
What researchers can agree on, however, is that any type of school work that is purposeful, appropriately challenging, and aligned with the student’s interest truly is beneficial: not only does it teach the lesson for that subject, it also improves study habits, establishes self-discipline, and develops independent problem-solving skills and critical thinking.
However, if homework is mind-numbingly tedious, without purpose (other than to fulfill a quota), and overwhelming, then it becomes detrimental: not only will it demotivate a student from learning, it can also affect the way they view school, negatively affect their learning retention, and eventually turn them off completely to that subject.
Unfortunately, many schools across the country use homework as a way of creating extra class time beyond what is mandated by the state. Not only is this inefficient, it’s needlessly cruel. If a teacher is using homework as an excuse to make your child do their job for them, you need to contact your child’s school and set up a meeting. Homework should be a tool that supplements lessons, not replace lessons as a whole.
How Can We Make Homework Better?
The National PTA suggests that high school students should have a maximum of 2 hours of homework per night, a far cry from cramming 18 hours’ worth of schoolwork into 4-5 hours after school. We can do better by demanding that schools revisit their requirements for students and reconsider lessening the amount of required homework they give students.
As for the teachers, it’s time to treat homework not as busywork but as actual tools to help students learn more about your subject. It doesn’t have to be fun per se, but it should be inspiring enough for your students to take a more active role in your class the next day. Homework should stoke the fires of creativity and instill a spirit of inquisitiveness; homework shouldn’t be a chore that students dread doing, nor should it be an impossible activity designed to confuse them or punish them.
Homework should include activities that reinforce what they learned throughout the class and not something that combines lessons for the next day with activities designed to test what they’ve learned on their own. Not only is that tedious and inefficient, it’s also a lazy way to teach.
For parents, get a better idea of what your child is going through by taking the time to sit down with them to listen to their concerns. Keep an open mind and avoid being dismissive; this is the best way for your teenage child to open up and is an opportunity for them to practice critical communication skills with people they can trust (i.e. their parents).