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When Homework Causes Stress

Homework is an important part of keeping students engaged with the class material outside of school, even though some students may think of it as a waste of time and effort. By doing homework, students are able to think about what was taught in class in further detail and develop a mastery through practical applications of the lessons. Homework brings educational benefits for all students, and it helps establish soft skills like time management and organization that are necessary beyond high school graduation. However, sometimes the extra assignments can lead to stress for the student and the family. As homework piles up, some students may find themselves engaging less and less. 

In 2013, research conducted by Stanford University demonstrated that students from high-achieving communities experience stress, physical health problems, an imbalance in their lives, and alienation from society as a result of spending too much time on homework. According to the survey data, 56 percent of the students considered homework a primary source of stress. The remaining students viewed tests and the pressure to get good grades as the primary stressors. Notably, less than 1 percent of the students said homework was not a stressor.

The researchers found that excessive homework means students are not able to meet their developmental needs or cultivate other critical life skills at the same time. In other words, students are more likely to give up extracurricular activities, spend less time with friends and family, and stop pursuing their hobbies. In the survey, the researchers also asked students whether they experienced health issues such as headaches, exhaustion, sleep deprivation, weight loss and stomach problems. The student’s short answer survey results showed that a heavy homework load led to sleep deprivation and other health problems.

Balancing schoolwork and a healthy lifestyle can be tricky, especially if the student is also working part-time. Spending too much time on homework can lead to not meeting other physical and social needs, like staying active and interacting with peers. Without an opportunity to socialize, relax, and connect with their support systems, students can become increasingly burnt out. It is crucial to make time for extracurricular activities to refresh the student’s mind and body. 

Homework realities during COVID-19

This feeling can be even more complicated when students are doing school work at home all day, because the school building is closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. After spending hours sitting in front of a screen at home, students log off for the day only to face more schoolwork. Now, educators must evaluate if it’s feasible to ask students to do extra work in the same home environment.

Additionally, we must consider the inherent educational inequities that homework can bring. The American Psychological Association (APA) explained that “kids from wealthier homes are more likely to have resources such as computers, internet connections, dedicated areas to do schoolwork and parents who tend to be more educated and more available to help them with tricky assignments. Kids from disadvantaged homes are more likely to work at after school jobs, or to be home without supervision in the evenings while their parents work multiple jobs.”

How can parents help?

While doing the actual work is the student’s responsibility, parents can help their students have a stress-free homework experience. According to Parents.com, parents can help their students in four key ways:

Create a routine

Having a clear and organized homework routine will help your student create and stick to healthy homework habits. Try setting a time to stop working on homework, regardless of how much is left over. It’s important for students to get consistent, high-quality sleep every single night. 

Monitor, don’t correct

As mentioned above, homework is ultimately the student’s responsibility. So, parents should only try to make sure their student is on track with completing the assignment and leave it up to the teacher to identify what the student has and has not mastered in class.

Communicate with teachers

However, be sure to communicate homework concerns via phone or email with the teacher. This also helps to show your student that you and their teacher are partnering together as stakeholders in their education. 

Keep it up

Lastly, understand that homework stresses are very common and they are likely to arise for you or your student from time to time. If this happens, keep calm and keep going. Sometimes a moment of comfort is all you or your student needs to settle down and get back on track.

While homework is an important part of a student’s education, the benefits of homework can be lost and grades can be affected when students become stressed about how much there is to do. Additionally, valuable time with friends and family can fall by the wayside. As a result, it’s important to come to a happy medium that ensures students understand classroom concepts without becoming overwhelmed. If you or your student is feeling overwhelmed or unmotivated, schedule a visit with the academic counselors at Gateway for advice. Learn more about the full range of student support that Gateway provides here