Homework is frequently a cause of stress and angst among teenagers and parents and a well-worn topic of debate among educators. Should teachers give homework? How much is too much? The answers are never concrete, which adds to the frustration. What is often not discussed, however, is the effect that homework has on students who have behavioral disorders, learning difficulties, trauma, or a history of school refusal and why it might not be beneficial for them.
Does Homework Cause Stress?
According to a 2017 survey of California high school students, 43% said that homework was the greatest source of stress in their lives, and 82% agreed that they were "often or always stressed by schoolwork" (Fratello, 2017). Furthermore, in a 2015 study by New York University College of Nursing, researchers found that more than two-thirds of high school students said they used alcohol and drugs, primarily marijuana, to cope with school-related stress (Leonard et al., 2020). Both of these studies were done on “traditional” students in “traditional” schools and not on the typical therapeutic school population. So, if we add a diagnosis of PTSD, dyslexia, or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) to those already high numbers, one can only imagine how stressful an evening full of homework assignments must be for both the student and the parents!
Should kids have homework?
As a therapeutic school, LOGOS understands that many of our students carry at least one personal burden that has led to school refusal or a lack of success in the conventional school environment, whether it’s a mental health issue, living in the foster system, or a learning disability. LOGOS’ academic program’s goal is to take those students, identify their strengths and weaknesses, and figure out how to get them to enjoy learning, which will hopefully spark achievement in the classroom. To reach this end goal of student achievement, LOGOS teachers often have to be as unique and creative as our students in our course creation and instruction. This, more often than not, includes the choice to not assign nightly homework.
LOGOS teachers recognize that we do not have “traditional” students, so why use “traditional” education methods? What’s that old saying: “Do what you’ve always done and get what you’ve always gotten”? If homework causes increased anxiety, emotional dysregulation, or frustrates a student to the point of school refusal, then why don’t we just eliminate (or greatly reduce) it and spend more time working on those skills in the classroom, while learning the necessary life skills (ie: perseverance, distress tolerance, increasing focus) with our talented therapists in group therapy? If we can achieve the same educational result with much less anxiety, it just makes sense!
What is the 90/10 Rule?
In my own classroom, I personally use what I call the “90/10 Rule.” 90% of the time, I will not assign homework and we will work on every assignment during our class time. However, if an assignment or project is really important and needs to be done on a set schedule (i.e.: a student is behind in reading an independent novel, a student needs to finish her rough draft before tomorrow’s due date), then that might fall in the 10% of work that needs to be done by the student outside of the classroom. This outside work is never more than twenty to thirty minutes, is an extension of what we did that day, and is always dependent upon the individual and their rate of completion in the classroom. I have even found that this helps students feel less stressed during our normal class time! Students know that they will not be left alone to struggle because we will be working on each assignment together in class and that I will be there to answer any question they may have. Consequently, I have noticed my students have much less anxiety when it comes to major projects that might require more independent work, like writing papers or reading novels.
Though LOGOS does not assign daily homework as regular practice, because we are an individualized school, parents are always able to consult with their child’s teachers and therapists to create a “homework plan” for their student. This is especially useful for students whose goal is to return to the traditional school environment or students who may want extra enrichment activities. These plans are completely unique and can range anywhere from ten minutes of homework for math every other day, an extra book to read at home for one chapter per night, to a more traditional thirty minutes per class per evening plan. It all depends on the needs of the student.
LOGOS School is the leading therapeutic school serving the greater St. Louis region. Our unique program and environment benefit students in grades 6 to 12 whose intellectual and emotional needs have not been met in a traditional classroom. Through individualized academics, innovative one-on-one counseling and group therapy, as well as parent involvement, we help students navigate their daily life challenges while learning key life skills to prepare them for college or a career. Contact us at (314) 997-7002 or visit us online to learn more information.