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Homework: Too Much or Not Enough

Mary Gosche, Human Development Specialist, Cape Girardeau County and Southeast Region, University of Missouri Extension


The mothers in my office do not look forward to the starting of school because of the busy balance of homework, music lessons, other after-school activities, and sports activities. But as students head back to school it is definitely time to think about homework. Here is the cycle: teachers assign and grade it; parents remind their students about it and maybe assist with homework; teenagers especially complain about it, enjoy it or forget it, and maybe complete it. Researchers agree that homework is an essential ingredient of a student's school success.

How much time is being spent on homework?
A recent study found that students in middle and junior high school spend about 45 minutes while elementary school students on the average spend about 35 minutes on homework. Another study had another tale to tell, 41% of elementary school students and 37% of middle/junior high students do not do any homework on a typical day. This second study showed that on the average, elementary school students spend 63 minutes on homework, and the middle/junior high students spend 77 minutes per day.

Who does homework?
Seventy-five percent of students whose mothers had a college degree do homework, versus 49%-59% for students whose mothers have less education. Private school students (87%) are more likely to spend some time doing homework than those in public school (58%).

How much is too much-and how much is not enough?
Doing little or no homework in school can have negative long-term effect on children. Recent media attention suggests that many American children are spending too much time completing homework assignments. This may be true for some students in this country. However, cross-cultural comparisons reveal that American children complete much less homework than children in other countries, such as Japan and Tawain.

It is critical to examine homework time in the relationship of students' after-school activities, as well as leisure activities such as watching television. Many children do no homework because their after-school time is consumed by other activities, such as sports teams and music lessons. Homework may act as an additional stressor in the student's busy life as well as their parent. On the other hand, students who do little or no homework may be participating more in passive leisure activities, like watching television. Parental monitoring is the key in determining how homework fits in the balance of family life.

Homework can enhance learning and achievement and develop independent work and study habits. Teachers and parent should try to be sensitive to the multiple demands on the students' time, while at the same time recognizing the potential benefits of homework.


Source: University of Nebraska Cooperative Extension, The Ups & Downs of Adolescence, Homework-Yuck! August 2000.

Last Updated 05/05/2009









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