Blogs about private school often mention the excessive amount of homework students in private schools have. Parents have been questioning the excessive amount of homework given in schools, both public and private for years, and now, experts are starting to concur. The National Education Association (NEA) has released guidelines about the right amount of homework--the amount that helps kids learn without getting in the way of their developing other parts of their life. Experts believe that students should receive roughly 10 minutes per night of homework in the first grade and an additional 10 minutes per grade for each following year. By this standard, high school seniors should have about 120 minutes or two hours of homework, but many private school students have two hours of work in middle school and many more hours than that in high school, particularly if they are enrolled in Advanced or AP classes. Many private schools equate excessive homework with excellence, and it is true that students benefit from some work at home to learn new material or to practice what they have learned in school. However, endless homework hurts kids of all ages, and here’s why:
Reason #1: Too Much Homework Prevents Play
Experts believe that play is not just fun—it actually helps kids learn. Play, particularly for younger kids, is vital. While many educators and parents believe that young children are ready for direct instruction, studies have shown that kids learn more when they are simply allowed to play. For example, young children who were showed how to make a toy squeak only learned this one function of the toy, while kids who were allowed to experiment on their own discovered many flexible uses of the toy. Older kids also need time to run, play, and simply experiment, and parents and teachers must realize that this independent time allows kids to discover their environment. For example, kids who run in a park learn rules about physics and the environment intuitively, and they cannot take in this knowledge through direct instruction.
Reason #2: Too Much Pressure Backfires
With regard to kids’ learning, less is often more. For example, it’s natural for kids to learn to read by about age 7, though there is a variability in the time individual kids learn to read; kids can learn at any time from 3-7. Later development does not in any way correlate with advancement at a later age, and when kids who are not ready for certain tasks are pushed into doing them, they may not learn properly. They may feel more stressed and turned off to learning, which is, after all, a life-long pursuit. Too much homework turns kids off to learning and makes them less—rather than more—invested in school and learning.
Reason #3: Homework Does Not Develop Emotional Intelligence
Recent research has demonstrated the importance of emotional intelligence, which involves understanding one’s own and others’ emotions. In fact, after people reach a certain base level of intelligence, the rest of their success in life and in their careers can be attributed, researchers believe, largely to differences in people’s levels of emotional intelligence. Doing endless amounts of homework does not leave children the proper amount of time to interact socially with family members and peers in a way that will develop their emotional intelligence.
Fortunately, many private schools are trying to reduce students’ stress after realizing that too much work has a deleterious effect on kids’ health. For example, many schools are instituting no-homework weekends to provide kids with a much-needed break and time to spend with family and friends.