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Homework Stress

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Wednesday, March 5th, 2008 Emily Halevy | CWK Producer

“Personally, when I have homework in class, I dread going to class that day. One, to turn in the homework, and two, to review the homework.”

– Paige, 16

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It’s a familiar refrain from kids: there’s too much homework, too much reading, too many math problems to solve! But is homework really out of control?

Kate, 16, averages 2 ½ hours of homework a night — sometimes even more. 

“I’d say the most — maybe three or four hours. It’s definitely on overload,” says Kate.

Are kids overloaded? According to a new survey commissioned by MetLife Insurance, the answer depends on whom you ask. The survey shows that 85 percent of parents say their kids are doing the “right amount” or “too little” homework each night. But 90 percent of kids say they’re stressed out about homework.

“It’s a little hard because I do sports and so it’s kind of hard to balance all of that,” says Jasmyn, 15.

“Personally, when I have homework in class, I dread going to class that day. One, to turn in the homework and two, to review the homework. If I listen in class and take good notes, I usually do well on tests and quizzes, so I don’t think [homework] is reinforcement. If anything, it just makes me kind of dread going to that class,” says Paige, 16.

“It makes me hate school,” says Matt, 16.

“If kids see it as something that is pointless, tedious and even anxiety-producing, of course it’s not going to benefit them,” says Alfie Kohn, education speaker and author of 11 books, including What to Look for in a Classroom.

Some experts say the problem isn’t too much homework — it’s homework that is too difficult.

“Homework can be overload if the child is simply frustrated. It isn’t that they have too much homework, it’s that they have homework they don’t understand that’s taking them too long to do because of that,” says Frank Pajares, Ph. D.

“You can’t have … a child achieving well academically who is highly anxious. If homework is bringing that, then I think homework is defeating the ultimate purpose, which is for the child to be achieving well,” says Jennifer Obidah, Ph.D., psychologist.

Kate has one good thing to say about homework: it teaches her how to manage her time, which will come in handy in college.

“It kind of prepares you for when you’re not going to have parents sitting there saying, ‘Okay, you need to get going with your math or get going with your history homework.’ It pays off,” says Kate.

What We Need To Know

  • There are several things you can do to make homework less work. First, create a Homework Plan:
    • First, be sure you understand the assignment. Write it down in your notebook or day planner if you need to, and don’t be afraid to ask questions about what’s expected. It’s much easier to take a minute to ask the teacher during or after class than to struggle to remember later that night.
    • Second, use any extra time you have in school to work on your homework. Many schools have study halls that are specifically designed to allow students to study or get homework done. The more work you can get done in school, the less you’ll have to do that night.
    • Third, pace yourself. If you don’t finish your homework during school, think about how much you have left and what else is going on that day, and then budget your time. It’s a good idea to come up with some kind of homework schedule, especially if you are involved in sports or activities or have an after-school job.
  • A bedroom, office, or any other room where you can get away from noise and distractions is the best place to get homework done. But don’t study on your comfy bed; opt for a desk or table that is comfortable and allows you to set up your computer. (Nemours Foundation)
  • When you start your homework, tackle the hardest assignments first. It’s tempting to start with the easy stuff to get it out of the way, but you’ll have the most energy and focus when you begin, so it’s best to use this mental power on the subjects that are most challenging. (Nemours Foundation)
  • Most people’s attention spans aren’t very long, so take some breaks while doing your homework. Sitting for too long without stretching or relaxing will make you less productive than if you stop every so often. Taking a 15-minute break every hour is a good idea for most people. (Nemours Foundation)

Resources

  • Nemours Foundation

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