The Homework Question: How Much is Too Much?





Most kids don’t like homework. That’s a fact.

Most parents don’t particularly like it either. After all, we’re often the ones who are roped into helping our children with the intricacies of long division or multiplication times tables.

Regardless, it’s a given that homework is a staple of our educational system, and a necessary one at that. In order for our kids to learn, they have to go through the process of reading, memorizing and internalizing. Sure, it sounds simple enough but the reality is that parents are just as responsible for kids’ homework as are the kids.[Tweet “Parents are just as responsible for kids’ homework as are the kids.”] This is particularly the case for younger children, those in elementary grades who need prompting and coaching to get their work done.

What this means is that parents are as invested in their kids homework as are the children. The kids are the ones handing in the final product but often, it’s the parents who have slogged through the trenches with them to get to the right answer. Younger children – those who are in elementary grades and are just starting on the homework path – almost always need parental support in completing their studies. This being the case, is it any wonder then that the volume of homework is a sticking point for many parents?

These days, it is not unusual for kids as young as four or five to be given work that is expected to be completed at home, returned to school the next day. Think about this: these are children who can barely read or write, yet they are feeling the heat to complete work. Junior and Senior Kindergarten kids – youngsters who have barely sorted out the ways of the world and probably can’t tie their shoelaces are obliged to complete and return lessons to their teachers in a timely manner. As you can imagine, this is not always a smooth or enjoyable process for the kids or the parents.

“Think about it: children who can barely read or write, or tie their shoelaces are obliged to complete and return lessons to their teachers in a timely manner”

On a related note, older children are feeling the pinch with homework as well. In these cases it’s the issue of volume. There rarely seems to be a standard in terms of how much homework is appropriate for various ages and grades and as a result, many kids are loaded down with lessons. Life’s not fair as often evidenced by these same kids’ schoolmates who may have had the random luck to have been assigned to another class, thereby allowing them to escape the responsibilities of work.

homework

You see, though there may be a general curriculum regarding benchmarks that kids should learn in a certain grade, how it’s implemented by each particular teacher can vary widely. To wit: one teacher may be “by the book” – literally – assigning a barrage of lessons to her class that must be completed within a certain time period. Right next door, in the same school, another group of kids may be lucky to have been put in the classroom of a teacher who’s a proponent of “experiential learning.” These students may see nary a sheet of paper or assignment during their tenure in the class, instead enjoying field trips, creative assignments and hands-on experiences in order to fulfill cirriculum standards.

Fair? I think not.

The lack of standards in terms of what is acceptable does nothing to equalize the learning process. How can two children in different classes be so far off in terms of how they’re taught? Adding to this consideration is the fact that each child learns differently and for the most part, the way in which one’s child is taught is never up for review. In other words, parents are never asked how their child learns best, i.e. through experiences or through good, old-fashioned rote. Therein lies the problem.

Our kids are not carbon copies of each other; they’re not a “one-size-fits-all” group that respond to the same process or methods of teaching. Accordingly, how they are taught as well as how much take-home work that they receive should be seriously considered. It’s all part and parcel of the homework equation. It’s possible for kids to do well and learn the age-appropriate lessons without a boatload of homework being sent home nightly. Conversely, the alternative doesn’t necessarily have to be a free range or child-led method of learning that leaves many parents uncomfortable. The solution should be somewhere in the middle, with a balanced amount of homework provided to each child in each class, equitably. As well, both parents and teachers should be liaising with each other and on board with what is realistically age appropriate in terms of the amount and methods of homework given.

A five-year-old shouldn’t be having an anxiety attack because of the amount of homework given; nor should an eight-year-old complete a term of school without having a reasonable amount of work that was expected to be completed at home. “Reasonable” should be the point of discussion and learning should be the goal.

For these and so many other reasons, let’s make sure that parents and teachers are on board with homework expectations that are standardized, fair and helpful to the child’s overall education. We owe it to our kids.

How much homework is too much, in your opinion? How much is too little? Are you satisfied with the amount of homework that your child is given? Leave me your thoughts in the comments section below.

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