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Are kids getting too much homework?

By Viga Boland     Feb 6, 2007 in Lifestyle
This delightful article by one of my favourite columnists really got me thinking about children and homework but ...
before I get into the heavy stuff, if you'd enjoy a smile today, read Lorraine's column. The punch line is terrific. Don't scan for the ending or you'll spoil it for yourself.
But apart from being a good read, one of Lorraine's statements in the course of her rant jumped at me. She said " For homework, finishing what didn't get done in class is fine. Assigning three hours of work to an eight-year-old is totally counterproductive. When homework involves tears and anguish, it's time to stop. And if the child gets upset too, it's really time to stop."
Now I remember my school days, coming home to a load of homework but it didn't really get into 3 hours of work until I was in high school. And yes, even at that age, it was tough when each of my 8 teachers assigned 30 mins of work. It sure didn't let me unwind after a day at school.
Now, as Lorraine points out, some kids, like one of her sons, are disciplined enough to get stuck into the homework as soon as they get home. Others avoid it at all costs then panic when assignments are piled up and due yesterday. Then the tears of anguish start. And it's not only the child who's anguished. So is the parent, constantly trying to get Junior to do what he has to and in some cases pulling out all stops to help Junior get it finished.
Then there's the kids who don't fit into either category e.g. my younger daughter. When she was in high school, she was also a competitive swimmer. She also aspired to a career in show biz. So between school, swim training, swim competitions and rehearsals (lots of them) for whatever show she was in, she had to squeeze in the homework somewhere.
But she was also a diligent student who prided herself on getting good grades too. So I'd see her night after night, come back from 2-hour rehearsals, or 2-hours of swim practice, wolf down some food and then get into her homework, often as late as 10pm. And I often found her still up doing it at 2am. I agonized over her health and lack of sleep. Eventually she let the swimming go as performing, is to this day her first love and her career, and she did graduate top of her class, but she paid for it with steady migraines, constant colds and other health problems as she pushed herself so hard to do it all.
Now it's easy to say she should just have dropped all the other activities and focus on her schoolwork. But after a kid has spent 6 hours a day in school, she/he needs those other outlets for balance in his/her life. We all come home from work and look forward to flopping in front of the tv for a while and just chilling out. And yes, many of us bring our work home with us. But we're not kids. And that homework is part of how we earn a living.
So what's the solution? Is there one? Do kids get too much homework? I'm sure most teachers don't see themselves as overloading the kid when they give them a 30-min assignment but does anyone think of the other 5-6 teachers who are doing the same? I know when I was teaching, it never crossed my mind what other teachers might be giving the kids that night.
Is 3 hours of homework a night too much for children in elementary schools or are we being too soft on them. What do you think?
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