How Much Homework Should Students Have?

A look at how homework impacts students

girl doing homework. KYU OH/Getty Images

Parents have been questioning the excessive amount of homework given in schools, both public and private for years, and believe it or not, there is evidence that supports limiting the amount of homework children have can actually be beneficial. The National Education Association (NEA) has released guidelines about the right amount of homework--the amount that helps kids learn without getting in the way of their developing other parts of their life.

Many experts believe that students should receive roughly 10 minutes per night of homework in the first grade and an additional 10 minutes per grade for each following year. By this standard, high school seniors should have about 120 minutes or two hours of homework a night, but some students have two hours of work in middle school and many more hours than that in high school, particularly if they are enrolled in Advanced or AP classes.

However, schools are starting to change their policies on homework. While some schools equate excessive homework with excellence, and it is true that students benefit from some work at home to learn new material or to practice what they have learned in school, that's not the case with all schools. Flipped classrooms, real-world learning projects and changes in our understanding of how children and teenagers learn best has all forced schools to evaluate levels of homework.

Homework Needs to be Purposeful

Fortunately, most teachers today recognize that homework isn't always necessary, and the stigma that many teachers once faced if they didn't assign what was simply perceived as enough is gone. The pressures placed on teachers to assign homework eventually lead to teachers assigning "busy work" to students rather than true learning assignments. As we better understand how students learn, we have come to determine that for many students, they can get just as much benefit, if not more, from smaller amounts of work than larger homework loads. This knowledge has helped teachers create more effective assignments that can be completed is shorter amounts of time. 

Too Much Homework Prevents Play

Experts believe that playtime is more than just a fun way to pass the time—it actually helps kids learn. Play, particularly for younger kids, is vital to developing creativity, imagination, and even social skills. While many educators and parents believe that young children are ready for direct instruction, studies have shown that kids learn more when they are simply allowed to play. For example, young children who were showed how to make a toy squeak only learned this one function of the toy, while kids who were allowed to experiment on their own discovered many flexible uses of the toy. Older kids also need time to run, play, and simply experiment, and parents and teachers must realize that this independent time allows kids to discover their environment. For example, kids who run in a park learn rules about physics and the environment intuitively, and they cannot take in this knowledge through direct instruction.

Too Much Pressure Backfires

With regard to kids’ learning, less is often more. For example, it’s natural for kids to learn to read by about age 7, though there is a variability in the time individual kids learn to read; kids can learn at any time from 3-7. Later development does not in any way correlate with advancement at a later age, and when kids who are not ready for certain tasks are pushed into doing them, they may not learn properly. They may feel more stressed and turned off to learning, which is, after all, a life-long pursuit. Too much homework turns kids off to learning and makes them less—rather than more—invested in school and learning.

Homework Does Not Develop Emotional Intelligence

Recent research has demonstrated the importance of emotional intelligence, which involves understanding one’s own and others’ emotions. In fact, after people reach a certain base level of intelligence, the rest of their success in life and in their careers can be attributed, researchers believe, largely to differences in people’s levels of emotional intelligence. Doing endless amounts of homework does not leave children the proper amount of time to interact socially with family members and peers in a way that will develop their emotional intelligence.

Fortunately, many schools are trying to reduce students’ stress after realizing that too much work has a deleterious effect on kids’ health. For example, many schools are instituting no-homework weekends to provide kids with a much-needed break and time to spend with family and friends.

Article edited by Stacy Jagodowski

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Grossberg, Blythe. "How Much Homework Should Students Have?" ThoughtCo, Aug. 26, 2020, Grossberg, Blythe. (2020, August 26). How Much Homework Should Students Have? Retrieved from Grossberg, Blythe. "How Much Homework Should Students Have?" ThoughtCo. (accessed May 28, 2023).