Homework Health Problems

When kids get home from school the last thing they want to do is start working on homework. They want to get outside, play with friends or have a snack and relax.

It’s normal for kids to complain about having to do homework, but could your child be overloaded with afterschool work?

A new study says yes.

The study from the Stanford School of Education, published in the Journal of Experimental Education, claims that children in high-performing schools in upper to middle class families suffer from high levels of stress. And these groups are at greater risk for health problems, including a lack of balance in their lives and can even feel alienated from society.

Children in these high-achieving schools often spend an average of more than three hours each night doing homework. Denise Pope, senior lecturer at Stanford and co-author of the study, and her team of researchers studied 4,317 students in 10 of these schools in California.

Researchers did find that students spending a lot of their time on homework had a better level of engagement in school. However, these students were adversely affected by high stress and physical health problems.

“Our findings on the effects of homework challenge the traditional assumption that homework is inherently good,” Pope said in a statement.

Too much homework was found to be counterproductive. In a poll, 56 percent of students attributed any stress in their lives to too much homework. Less than 1 percent of students said that homework was not a stressor.

When asked how homework affects them, students reported lack of sleep, headaches, exhaustion and stomach problems. Students reported that due to the necessity of keeping their grades up, homework often came first before spending time with friends, attending after school activities or cultivating hobbies or talents outside of academic work.

Dr. Aaron Traeger, pediatrician with Advocate Medical Group in Normal, Ill., says  that with schoolwork kids have to do what they are told.

“Teachers typically do not work together to make certain days more ‘fair’  or an even workload,” he says. 

Dr. Traeger says if your kids are being overwhelmed with homework, the following are some things to consider:  

  1. Are outside school activities or sports taking up too much time? With too much going on outside of school it can put more stress on the things that ‘have to’ be done. 
  2. Is the student procrastinating too much? Usually larger projects have plenty of warning before being due.
  3. Talk with the teacher and see why there is so much homework. Is it because the work is not being completed during the class time?
  4. How are the study and working habits of the student? Working on study skills or working efficiency can make a big difference when the work load gets larger. 
  5. Medical reasons – Attention Deficit Disorder, depression, anxiety are all possibilities when a child starts to struggle. Especially if there is a very sudden deterioration of school performance. Speak with your school psychologist and pediatrician. 

According to a new study, most elementary students have much more homework than the recommended amount. In some cases, students have three times as much homework as the recommended amount.

The National Education Association and the National Parent-Teacher Association have established a 10-minute rule based on a child’s age. According to this standard, a child should have about 10 minutes of homework per grade level. For example, a third grader can have up to 30 minutes of homework a day. In high school, two hours of homework a night is acceptable. The associations chose these homework limits based on studies that show how homework affects children at different ages.

Too much homework can have a detrimental effect. Stephanie Donaldson-Pressman, clinical director of the New England Center for Pediatric Psychology and the author of the study, said in a statement about the results, “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.”

However, the study found that children in the first grade often received over 30 minutes of homework a night, three times more than the recommended 10 minutes. Even children in kindergarten often have half an hour of homework, which the NEA does not recommend or endorse.

“It is absolutely shocking to me to find out that particularly kindergarten students [who] are not supposed to have any homework at all… are getting as much homework as a third-grader is supposed to get,” Donaldson-Pressman said.

The study also found that families were more stressed when children had more homework. Families were 200 percent more likely to fight over homework if children received more than the recommended amount.

A 2014 study published in the Journal of Experimental Education found that children in high school who received over two hours of homework a night had high stress levels, physical health problems, weight loss, and sleep deprivation.

Healthy ways for caregivers to help with homework stress

If you think your child may be receiving too much homework, talk with your child’s teacher or your local school board. Show the staff the studies indicating that too much homework is detrimental to children’s health. Until the policies change, however, use the following tips to help your kids deal with homework stress:

  • Remove distractions: Some children may take longer to do homework because of TV, smartphones and other distractions. Make sure your child has a distraction-free zone to do homework.
  • Discuss with your children’s teachers ways to reduce the time it takes to complete homework. Teachers often have study tricks and homework shortcuts that can help students complete homework faster.
  • Set a relaxing atmosphere by avoiding conflict related to homework. Allow older children to pick when and how they complete their homework as long as it gets done in time to turn into the teacher the next day. Calming essential oils, such as lavender and chamomile, or stimulating oils like peppermint can help easily distracted children to focus.
  • Give your child healthy foods to eat on a regular basis. A nutrient-starved brain will have a harder time focusing on academics.
  • Allow your children to complete homework on their own. This will show the teacher the child’s true progress and skill level.

Implementing these simple tips will help make the homework and back-to-school experience easier for both students and parents.

 — The Alternative Daily



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