When did Homework take over?

Posted on Communication, General, Parenting, Stress August 20, 2015 by Mary George

I do not think that there is anyone out there that laments the beginning of school as much as I do. Gone are the carefree, mellow summer days and back are the rushed mornings, homework meltdowns and the activity taxi. I can feel my anxiety rise just at the thought of the after school grind, especially homework. I find myself having to mentally prepare with a plan of attack for those crushing after school hours. Where did this come from? When did homework take over our children’s and our lives?

I was talking to a friend of mine who’s child was in the same 1st grade class as mine and she told me that Monday nights had now become her “wine and sentence night” so she could deal with the 10, seven word sentences that her son had to write with his spelling words. A seven-word sentence for a 6 year old!? Imagine the time and tears that occurred every Monday night. A few years ago my son had to stop doing some of his after school activities because he could not also complete his 2 hours worth of homework…he was only in 2nd grade at the time. No joke.

The general guideline suggested by the National Education Association and the National Parent-Teacher Association, is the “10-minute rule,” meaning 10 minutes per grade level per night – 10 minutes of homework in the first grade, 20 minutes in the second grade, all the way up to 120 minutes for senior year of high school. While this is the recommended standard, “a study in The American Journal of Family Therapy of 1100 parents of children from kindergarten to 12th grade, found that children in the first grade had up to three times the homework load recommended by the NEA and the National PTA.” What purpose does this actually serve our children? Through the Common Core and other state mandated curriculums teachers are expected to teach an insurmountable amount of information and try their best to help their students understand and retain the information for the testing. Our teachers have an enormous amount of pressure placed on them to have their students do well on these tests despite the students’ ability in their classroom and other factors. In public schools teachers may have students that perform on a younger grade level, despite being promoted and their inability to do the work, while others in the classroom are achieving at a higher level. A teacher has to figure out how to teach to all of the levels and have them all learn. Homework is supposedly assigned to reinforce these skills that have been taught in class but has it become our solution for teachers who have had ineffective training to teach the new standards or who are unable to teach to differing levels? Have we through our government mandates and lack of proper funding created a situation for our schools and teachers that is now forcing them to turn to hours of homework for our children? Our children have become the pawns in this game – What is the cost to our children?

In an interesting article on CNN, Stephanie Donaldson-Pressman, the contributing editor of the study and clinical director of the New England Center for Pediatric Psychology and co-author of “The Learning Habit: A Groundbreaking Approach to Homework and Parenting that Helps Our Children Succeed in School and Life,” says, regarding the overload of homework, that, “the cost [to our children] is enormous. The data shows that homework over this level is not only not beneficial to children’s grades or GPA, but there’s really a plethora of evidence that it’s detrimental to their attitude about school, their grades, their self-confidence, their social skills and their quality of life.” So where does this leave us? Excess homework is not beneficial on any level but what can we do to try to change things and improve our children’s and family’s quality of life? Again the National PTA has some helpful hints for parents on their site. Here are the essentials but to read more on each please so to their website:

  1. If your child has trouble completing homework without help, find out why.
  2. Talk with the teacher if you feel homework is excessive.
  3. Ask for individual adaptations for your child.
  4. Stop putting homework on your to-do list.
  5. Stand up for your right to a balanced family life
  6. The Where and When of Homework

The beginning of the school year can be challenging for all of us. Give your children and yourself the time to adjust to the changes and be sure to talk to each other

—Mary & Claire


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