Homework: Harmful or Helpful?

By Jadyn Cicerchia

It’s all you ever hear about, the struggle of homework. Whether you are a parent, a teacher, or a student, the complaints about homework and school seem to be filling everyone’s ears. When is the last time you heard someone saying they got the recommended 8 hours of sleep? When was the last time you got enough sleep? How many kids have you seen bursting into tears in the middle of class because everything is just too overwhelming? Not sleeping, mental breakdowns, and drinking coffee or energy drinks everyday have become normalized at ages as young as 14. As the years go on, the pressure just keeps building and it often feels as though there are not enough hours in a day. Can school work actually affect mental health? How much homework is too much? Let’s find out.

Homework is not all bad. I have often found practicing what I learned in math that day or reading a bit of a book beneficial. But when it gets to be excessive, it becomes an issue, and unfortunately it is more often excessive than not. One of the biggest issues is the loss of sleep. At least twice a week I do not finish my work until 3am, and I am certainly not the only one who lives like this. To most high school and college students, five hours of sleep is considered good. But this just isn’t healthy. Sleep deprivation can lead to an inability to concentrate, migraines, weight loss, anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and even thoughts of suicide (Richter). Sleep is vital for one’s body to function, and with the amount of homework given, sleep is one of the last things on most students’ minds. According to a 2006 National Sleep Foundation Poll on teen sleep, “more than 87 percent of high school students in the United States get far less than the recommended eight to ten hours, and the amount of time they sleep is decreasing — a serious threat to their health, safety and academic success” (Richter). 

A lack of sleep is not the only blow to a student’s mental health. Stress also plays a huge role. When you are expected to play sports, do community service, join clubs, get a job, and do good on your six hour load of homework, you can get pretty burnt out. There is barely enough time to get done what you have to do, never mind have any fun. Stress can trigger severe depression and other mental illnesses in teens and the adolescent brain can suffer damage from stress that lasts until adulthood due to their sensitivity to stress hormones (Iliades). Stress and depression are also often dealt with through the use of drugs and alcohol. School and education is so unbelievably important, but so is social interaction. My friends and I have gone months without seeing each other due to our workload. I have gotten sick due to the stress of an assignment. Last year I saw 16 kids start sobbing at their desks. Why are these things normal and okay? Is it really necessary to push kids to their breaking point? 

With all of these health issues caused by homework, it should at least be helping students to learn. But in reality, there is really not a correlation between the amount of homework given and academic success, especially for elementary level students. “…the most recent study to examine the issue found that kids in elementary school receive about three times the amount of recommended homework” (Levy). Although it is argued that there can be a correlation with homework and academic success for high school students, large amounts of homework in any grade can become counterproductive and negate its effectiveness as a learning tool (Parker). Most of the homework given can also be considered “busy work” which “discourages learning and instead promotes doing homework simply to get points” (Parker). Homework has become hours of empty content, causing the overall point of it to be diminished. There are ways that homework can become more effective, we are just not using them. The “10-minute rule” was proposed by Harris Cooper after he conducted a homework study in 2006. This rule is to have ten minutes of homework added yearly as the grade levels increase with the time never exceeding two hours. There has also been a study done by an advanced placement biology teacher where she cut homework assignments in half and found that the students’ test scores did not change (Levy), further proving that giving extreme amounts of homework is not helping with academic achievements. If homework were to become helpful, the workload would have to become lighter.

The question is, are we really creating put together, educated, well-rounded youth? Or are we creating a nation of zombies, walking around half asleep, solely trained to work? Just being a teenager and relaxing now has a negative connotation to it. With mounting pressure from colleges and the school curriculum getting harder and harder, most teens feel that they have to do everything, and be perfect at all of it. This is an impossible feat, but we try to pull it off until we are sick and tired. Parents, teachers, and communities need to teach kids how to maintain a proper balance. We really need to focus more on trying our best, not trying until we pass out, fearful that enjoying life makes you seem lazy. Just try and remember that while school is important, and all the teachers out there are trying as hard as they can, your life and health does not come second. If you are still doing an assignment at 4am, maybe it’s time to put it down and go to bed. Figure out what is healthy for you. Do not compare yourself to others, stop doing things you don’t love for your college application, and just let your brain rest sometimes. Do not forget to take care of yourself, and you will do fine in life!