Striking a Balance: How Much Homework is Too Much Homework for High Schoolers?

Monday, January 22, 2024
How Much Homework Is Too Much For High School Students

It might surprise you to learn that today’s students feel under more pressure than ever before. Despite the endless resources, the expectations on students can be tiresome. Between online schooling, the cost of living, the rising cost of university life, and the progressively more common hybrid teaching model, students feel immense pressure to succeed. This makes educators worldwide wonder how much homework I should give my students.

This question is especially relevant for high school educators who are trying to prepare their students for college or the workforce and all-important standardized tests that could define their futures for them (as well as the funding for your school).

Giving a certain amount of homework seems necessary in order for students to truly understand and apply the material they are learning. Of course, teachers also might not have enough time to get through all the necessary work during class.

According to research on the effects of homework, over two hours of homework a night can harm students’ stress levels and create a lack of balance in their lives. Things like assigning homework as busy work or asking students to learn more material at home that wasn’t covered in class could end up in hours of homework a night that are highly detrimental to students’ development and overall happiness.

However, educators will find no perfect answer to this question, so the best approach is to find a happy medium. Regarding homework assignments, strive to balance challenging students and simply helping them learn the material. To find that happy medium, consider the following:

Define the purpose of homework.

As an educator, you will find that defining the purpose of the homework you’re assigning will tell you how necessary it is or how much you should give.

If the purpose is to help students apply a new concept, demonstrate their understanding, or build an important skill, then assign it away. 

However, you might be overdoing it if you find yourself assigning work to keep students busy, teaching new material not covered in class, or making sure they understand the value of hard work. 

Take high school schedules into consideration.

High school students already have nearly impossible schedules to maintain, especially in an increasingly modern and digital world.

Most students are trying to fit in after-school activities, college prep, essay writing, sports, and time with family and friends into their lives. 

Try and picture this level of logistics from a young high schooler’s mindset, a mindset that is still developing. They are dealing with the constant struggle inherent in growing up while trying to retain high school freedoms.

Remember that teens need sleep.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, teens between the ages of 13 and 18 need an average of 8-10 hours of sleep a night for healthy development, but most are not getting the amount of sleep they need on school nights.

Kids and teens who do not get enough sleep are at a higher risk of developing health and behavior problems, which could impair their ability to learn effectively.

So, sending teens home with too much homework might actually impair your ability to prepare them for the future or even for the next day’s class.


Reasons Not to Overwork High School Students

Rather than harping on the negative effects of too much homework, educators might be inspired to consider the positive effects of assigning less homework, if possible.

Create resilient learners, not perfectionists.

By focusing on learning from, working with, and even failing at classroom material, rather than immediately mastering it, educators will help to create resilient learners. 

So many high school students face pressure to be the best, to be exceptional, and to attend top colleges and universities. They also face pressure to have perfect social media accounts, to be the most popular students, and to define their identities flawlessly.

This idea of perfection, as we know, is impossible to achieve. So, if educators can strive to teach students to work hard for shorter amounts of time, rather than perfectly learning a concept in one night, students will be more resilient and accepting of failure in life.

Instill the lifelong importance of play and rest.

We all need a true, unwinding rest sometimes. As adults, we are constantly trying to find our sense of play again and searching for moments of rest. Many of us spend free time reading self-help books and listening to inspirational TED talks, knowing that we have lost some sense of ourselves by focusing only on work. 

American society especially encourages us to be forever busy, working as hard as we can until we reach our goals.

Though the hard work narrative is still important in many respects, let’s not deprive our high school students of their inherent sense of play and rest. 

Perhaps we can even cultivate an understanding of the importance of play and rest, building these concepts into educational homework plans before these students become another generation of overworked adults.

Avoid early academic burnout.

Finally, by avoiding too much homework than is necessary, educators will help students also avoid academic burnout too early. 

When high school students spend all of high school working as hard and as many hours, or more, than they will in college, the prospect of college work can be daunting. 

Students don’t need to feel burned out before reaching a college campus or starting their first post-graduate career. They have plenty of time to overwork themselves if they wish, but they should be able to enjoy learning in high school without becoming completely overwhelmed in the process.

By assigning less homework, it might feel like you’re missing out as an educator or falling behind; but really think about how much is too much. And try to give your high school students a break.


It is all about health 

When it comes down to it, the student comes first. That means their physical, mental, and emotional health, above all the other results educators might have been taught to strive for. Do not sacrifice the health of the student for the final class percentage on the final exam. If you are teaching an AP class or just a tough subject to a class full of Seniors, then homework is inevitable. But communication will win out every time. By at least explaining the amount of homework, you will find a better rapport with the students expected to complete the work. If you are curious about teaching strategies or want to learn more about how NSHSS works with educators, visit our website for more information!