Children are not all the same yet they all go through education in circumstances where it is often necessary to give groups or classes similar lessons or assignments. In an ideal world we would tailor each child’s education to his/her individual needs and abilities and many teachers struggle heroically to approach this, but their resources are finite.
A homework assignment which is fine for one student may not be fine for another. The task may be too hard or too easy. ‘Too much homework’ can be the result of a child having a perfectionist approach to a task. It can also result when a school does not have a schedule agreed by staff for setting homeworks, so that assignments clash.
Ironically, at least in the UK (and the same may be true of the USA), much of the pressure to set homework comes from parents who are convinced that it is some sort of magic potion which will turn their children into high achievers. It won’t, at least not in any automatic sense.
Homework needs to appropriate in the demands of time and mental ‘stretch’ which it places upon the student. It needs to have an educational purpose beyond satisfying ‘pushy’ parents.
It may foster development of research skills, independent working or creative thinking. It may extend a child’s understanding. From a teacher’s point of view it gives a valuable insight into ability and effort, if divorced from the peer group and not done by Mum or Dad!
Children need time to BE children. Too much homework can be a real turn-off, counter-productive and educationally pointless. It can be a source of unhelpful antagonism between staff and student. As with most things, quality is far more important than mere quantity.