How Homework Overload Stresses Out Families

Families that do not have a parent with a college degree or families where English was not the first language have about two and half times the levels of family stress.

When it comes to homework, experts recommend a 10-minute rule. That means ten minutes of homework for each grade level. So first graders start with ten minutes, and the time gradually increases, up to two hours for seniors in high school.

But recent studies show that even young students are assigned much more than that. News 88.7 Education Reporter Laura Isensee recently sat down with therapist and author Stephanie Donaldson-Pressman to talk about the increasing homework load for children and their parents.

Stephanie Donaldson Pressman
Stephanie Donaldson-Pressman is the clinical director of the New England Center for Pediatric Psychology. She’s written and edited about increasing homework load and stress on families.

Here are some highlights from their conversation:

What is the actual homework load: “In primary school, which is kindergarten through the third grade, children are getting about three times as much homework that they should be.”

What’s the role for parents: “Parents now really are expected to be able to help their children with homework. That’s not supposed to be the job of the parent. A parent’s ‘homework’ should be making sure their child has plenty of fresh air and exercise, getting outside for neighborhood play, for pick-up play.”

How does extra homework impact families: “A lot of irritability, a lot of snapping, a lot of arguments, arguments between parents and children, arguments between parents. Homework has gotten to the point now where it really affects the whole family every evening and it really spoils evenings.”

Which families feel it the most: “Families that do not have a parent with a college degree or families where English was not the first language have about two and half times the levels of family stress as other families.”

What can families do to reduce their stress: “Parents go out and get a cute little timer. The timer is set for the recommended amount of time. The child needs to get to their homework place, which needs to be a special place that they go every day, preferably at the same time every day. And when that timer goes off, if they have not been able to finish their homework, and they really have been focusing and trying to do it, then it’s very important that the parent write a note, if the child is old enough to do that, that the child to write a note, and say, ‘I worked hard for 20 minutes, 30 minutes, an hour and I had problems with it. This is as far as I got.’ But most teachers will be receptive because they are fully aware of how difficult all this homework is.”



Laura Isensee

Education Reporter

Laura Isensee covers education for Houston Public Media, including K-12 and higher education. Previously, she was a staff reporter at The Miami Herald and contributed to South Florida’s NPR affiliate. Her work has also appeared in The Dallas Morning News, Reuters and Clarín in Argentina. Laura has won awards for...

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