When it comes to homework, how much is too much?

Is more homework for kids in grades one through 12 better for them or counter-productive?

The debate over homework and its effectiveness as a learning tool has changed as educational practices have evolved over the past several years.

In that time, the country has seen a decided shift in attitudes toward homework; parents and students alike have become more vocal about demanding moderation when it comes to how much is assigned, and how often. 

When homework is given in excess, critics say, it not only places undue stress on the student and ceases to be an effective learning tool, but it can also lead to a lifetime of anxiety and insecurity over meeting expectations. 

According to the National Education Association (NEA, nea.org), “Savvy educators know that the right assignment can engage students on a more meaningful level and lead to better student involvement in the classroom.” 

The difference between 30 minutes of homework per night in one second-grade class and an hour or more in another, often comes down to the coin toss of being assigned a teacher with a more “old-school” approach to homework, and one with a more relaxed philosophy on the subject. 

Diane Lundy, a Pasadena resident, remembers the nightmare homework time used to be with her daughter, Jade.

“It was the same thing every night; she’d end up tired and crying and barely finishing — or not finishing at all — and I’d be frustrated, exhausted and feeling like tearing my hair out. I kept thinking, ‘She’s only 10 years old,” Lundy said. “Why are they giving her so much to do at night?’” 

After a semester or two, Lundy saw the light and put Jade in a school with a more progressive approach to homework. After that, she and Jade’s lives — and relationship — improved immeasurably. 

“Now we get it done, but there’s less of it, and she seems to learn more,” Lundy happily reports.

The internet offers a plethora of choices for after-school educational enrichment. Sites like i-Ready (curriculumassociates.com), by Curriculum Associates, and ABCmouse.com (abcmouse.com) are but two of the many sites that offer fun and imaginative ways for children to strengthen certain skills, or reinforce lessons learned in class. They’re also ideal choices for school breaks and vacations, with colorful graphics, games and word problems designed specifically to motivate, nourish and inspire young minds. 

Today, there are also several outstanding websites devoted to offering online-tutoring and supportive-assistance to students of all ages. Websites like Fact Monster Homework Center (factmonster.com/homework), Scholastic Homework Hub (scholastic.com), BJ Pinchbeck’s Homework Helper (bjpinchbeck.com) are excellent resources for general and specific homework assistance. 

With the inception of California’s new Common Core Standards, defined by the California Department of Education as “Educational standards [that] describe what students should know and be able to do in each subject in each grade … having the same standards helps all students get a good education, even if they change schools or move to a different state,” along with the increasing pressure on school administrators to produce top scores on standardized tests, some schools have returned to the practice of assigning homework at rates many parents consider excessive. 

“Rote tasks like worksheets are often easy to assign and easy to grade, but not always the most effective tasks for learning,” said Dr. Cathy Vatterott, professor of education at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, in an article in NEW Today. “The Common Core Standards will require students to operate at higher levels of thought,” Vatterott said. “Engaging tasks that allow for choice and ownership result in deeper and more permanent learning.”