Ah, homework, the bane of every parent’s existence. The nightly struggles to get it done, the tears, the arguing, the hours spent looking up things we’ve long forgotten in an effort to help our kids muddle through. It’s the stuff nightmares are made of, but it’s all worth it, right? Turns out, not so much! Homework isn’t just wrecking your weeknights; it may also be ruining your kids’ mental and physical health. Read on to find out why.
How homework is ruining our kids
Before we get into the scientific evidence showing why homework is bad for kids, I want to take a moment to appeal to your common sense. If we all really just thought about it for a minute instead of going with the “we always had homework so why shouldn’t our kids” flow, I think it would be come super clear why all this extra nighttime schoolwork is such an awful idea.
I want you to start by thinking about your own job. Whether you punch a clock in an office or work at home in your pajamas, chances are you have a fairly set number of hours for which you get paid. At the end of the day, you leave your work behind and head home (or away from your computer, at least).
On the rare occasion, you spend a little extra time at the office, but it’s worth it because you get overtime. Sure, maybe once in a blue moon you take your work home with you to catch up, but more often than not home time is YOUR time. Family time. Peace and relaxation time. Unwind and recharge for the next day time.
I bet you’d be pretty irked if your boss said to you, “Take home this pile of paperwork and finish every last scrap of it by tomorrow morning or you’re fired. Oh, and you’re not getting paid to do it, so don’t even ask!” Yet that’s what homework is…times three, or five, or even eight depending on how many classes your child has.
School is a full-time job, so homework is like mandatory unpaid overtime
For all intents and purposes, school is the equivalent of a full-time unpaid job for kids. They spend about 35 hours a week in their “office” and actually get fewer breaks than most people do at their jobs. Lunch lasts maybe 25 minutes and recess is all but extinct in most districts. After a long day of sitting very still, having zero actual choices in anything, and not even being allowed to go to the bathroom without permission, they get to come home and be kids! Right?
Sure, right after they finish their math worksheets, science experiment, social studies paper, and 50 pages of reading for English! They have plenty of time for free play before soccer practice, dinner, bath time, and brushing their teeth. Oodles upon oodles of it! That’s sarcasm, by the way. If our kids are very lucky, they may have half an hour to just be happy-go-lucky free-spirited children. If that’s not enough to make you think about why we should ban (or at least ease up on) homework, perhaps the next section will get you there. We’re going to see what unemotional, fact-based science has to say about it.
What does science say about homework?
Science actually has a lot to say about homework. While some older studies point out that homework can be beneficial, most studies done in the past 5-10 years say just the opposite.
- One 2014 study linked too much homework to sleep deficiencies in kids. Considering only half of kids get enough to begin with, that’s a major problem!
- That same year, a Stanford University study found that the more homework kids have, the higher their overall stress levels. The higher their stress, the more often they get sick.
- For those who say homework teaches kids self-control that they need later in life, this very recent study begs to differ. Kids who have chores and homework are no more likely to exhibit self-control than those who don’t.
- Think kids who do homework end up with better jobs later in life? Not so fast! This worldwide database discovered that countries with heavy homework loads actually lower income and social equality levels.
- While most experts focus on the impact on elementary school kids, too much math homework (along with standardized testing) can lead to lifelong “math anxiety” in older kids as well.
Yes, you can also find studies that say homework helps kids learn, but you’ll have to go back a few years to discover them. Today, researchers are finding that homework- at least as it exists today- is causing more harm than good. In fact, many countries are putting strict limits or banning homework entirely. Dubai, for example, just ditched it in favor of encouraging kids to “have a life.” Even in the US, more and more districts are easing up on or entirely banning homework.
We always had homework and we’re just fine!
I just know at least one of you are thinking that right now, so let’s address it. Yes, we had homework, although I don’t recall it taking hours and hours to do every night. Even if it did, I ask you, is there anything else that maybe you did in your childhood that you wouldn’t in a million years allow your own kids to do?
When we were kids, we rode around in the front seats of cars as toddlers without so much as a seat belt on, let alone in a car seat. We’re still alive, yes, but was that such a good idea? Our parents though that smoking was just fine. Our grandparents? They regularly took cough medicine made with cocaine! Go back a few generations and it just keeps getting worse, making it a sheer wonder that we haven’t gone extinct yet.
Just because we all survived our childhoods (in some cases, miraculously so) and came out “just fine” (which is questionable in some cases) doesn’t mean that we should keep making the same mistakes. We learn, we change, we do better. That’s how humanity advances. Right now, we’re learning that homework isn’t really as good for our kids as we thought. Isn’t it time to change and do better?
Kids deserve a chance to explore new things, play sports, and just be carefree. Getting rid of homework entirely would go a long way towards making that a possibility. Even just cutting back on it- say restricting it to special assignments or test reviews- would be a major help.