How to Help Your Students Maintain a Good (Home) Work-Life Balance

With every graduation to a new grade comes an increased workload throughout virtually all subjects.  There is more reading, more papers to write, more projects, and more experiments.  There is also more worry concerning more complex scholastic systems to learn, and the increasing burden these students have to shoulder.  Worst of all is the dreaded unstoppable increase in homework.

Multiple critically acclaimed anti-homework books fill store shelves.  Documentaries, such as “Race to Nowhere” show homework as one aspect of an overwrought, pressure-cooker educational system that constantly pushes students to perform and ultimately kills their love of learning.  The New York Times has run front-page articles about the homework restrictions adopted by schools in Galloway, NJ, describing “a wave of districts across the nation trying to remake homework amid concerns that high stakes testing and competition for college have fueled a nightly grind that is stressing out children and depriving them of play and rest, yet doing little to raise achievement, especially in elementary grades.”  A petition for the National PTA to adopt “healthy homework guidelines” on got thousands of signatures overnight.  The Atlantic featured an article called, “My Daughter’s Homework is Killing Me,” by a father and writer who joined his middle school daughter in doing her homework for a week.  He found that on most evenings, the homework took more than three hours to complete.     

K-12 students are more burdened with the real-world than ever before, and the stress they are incurring is tantamount to what adults are experiencing in the work world. 

Admittedly, there is a fine balance between having kids learn life skills that will help with their “adulting” later on in life, and letting kids be kids.   Beyond the classroom, there is the expansive world that kids are deeply immersed in; sports, games, social activities, and family.

As kids have more and more to shoulder at school, psychologists are becoming increasingly concerned about the physical and psychological impact of the workload.  Subsequently, they are pushing for more and more regulated work-life balance among students to prevent the impacts of stress. This concept has been around for eons with working adults but hasn’t been prevalent with K-12 students.   So… what exactly is work-life balance for students, and how can you implement and enforce it in your district?

What is work-life balance for students?

Stated very simply, it’s the practice of allocating time, focus, and resources effectively between scholastic responsibilities, relationships, and leisure activities. This is a great life skill for students to have, so they can learn how to balance their lives at an early age.  Beginning to balance work and life while still in elementary, junior high, and high school enables your student body to maintain peace and harmony later in life when working in chosen professions, starting families and taking on increasingly stressful roles and responsibilities.

How to find work-life balance for students:

Before districts can implement work-life balance, there needs to be a collection of decision-making criteria and data points relevant to the specific district, as compared against the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) norms, which give us a good look at trends in homework for nearly the past three decades.  This looks at homework averages which range from “none assigned” to “greater than 2 hours”.  

If you find your data shows that your students are below the normal averages, you might already be on the right track. 

If you find your data shows that your students are in-line with the normal averages, then you would want to adopt the general best practices for homework regulation.

If you find your data shows that your students are skewing high on the number of hours spent nightly on their homework, then you know you have a significant adjustment to make with regards to regulating policies that limit those hours as much as possible.  This means implementing a vision, direction, and policy from the top-down, and having teacher acceptance and adoption at the classroom level.

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