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Q and A Banner - #3 (World Records-1)

Friday, October 12, 2012


Photo by woodleywonderworks

Not only is it unnecessary, but it is downright evil.

Photo by Cayusa
Now, before I go on to explain, let me say there will be many teachers and educators of varying degrees as well as parents and even some students that will be quick to argue otherwise.  However, from doing extensive research on the subject in terms of reading books written and studies carried out on the subject, I was quite perturbed and shocked at what I've discovered.

I'm not going to go 'give away' the books or go into detail since there are numerous resources out there on the net, but I will give my personal feedback on what I've read and my personal experience firsthand, since I too have children attending school as I write this post. Not only is too much homework unnecessary and downright evil, but it can actually do more harm than good.

There have been extensive articles and books written and anti-homework organizations created on this issue for many years, yet many teachers still continue to cram work onto their students.  One of my favourite books, The Homework Myth, by Alfie Kohn, has so many viable points and sites so many researches to corroborate these points that one cannot overlook them.

Some say homework is a waste of time, but I wouldn't go that far.  Some homework is always good, but too much of anything is never good and that includes homework.

The benefits of not having too much homework certainly outweighs the risks:

  • Students will perform better on tests.
  • Students won't be stressed out and therefore will be better able to handle problems - homework or otherwise, with greater confidence and ease.
  • Students will see homework more as a greater option rather than a required 'chore'.
  • Students will have an actual life with family and friends outside of or after school.
  • Students won't have back problems from carrying heavy backpacks.
  • Students won't miss out on their childhood.
  • Students will have more time to also explore their talents and develop other areas of interest such as music and sports.
  • Students will actually want to learn!

Disadvantages (arguably)
  • Students won't learn time management.
  • Students won't attain good study habits.
  • Students might not have enough homework to help them review the lessons they have learnt in school, so they won't retain the information longer. 

As for academic benefits, there is no evidence that doing a lot of homework helps you to achieve even better grades.  That's purely a myth.  Although kids who did some homework in high school scored slightly better on standardized tests than those who did no homework, high school students who did more than 2 hours of homework a night actually had lower test scores!

Photo by Robert Couse-Baker 
So how do you know when too much homework is too much?  

  • When it becomes a burden for the parents, that is, the parents, after a long day at work, comes home only to monitor their child's homework, not just for one day but everyday.
  • When students start showing signs of stress.
  • When students are going to bed just when you are getting up, (and no, it's not from playing games or being on the internet all night since my boys aren't allowed this during school week.)
  • When activities after school with friends slowly diminishes.
  • When student has lost any or all interest in learning.
  • When students start to carry books in their hands along with their backpacks.  Or when the backpacks become almost unbearable to lift!

I was 'fortunate' to witness the effects of too much homework twice - with my sons, to know enough that too much homework is not a good thing.  Throughout primary school, most of their homework was done at school leaving time for friends and other things after school which therefore equalled good grades. As a matter-of-fact, both graduated with honours. However, once they hit high school, especially the first year, it was a disaster.

The homework stress was so bad that I had to give them 2 days off a month.  (I used to give them 1 day off a month starting from kindergarten up to the end of primary school. Why?  Because kids are people too - they need a break once in awhile.)  The oldest son was better able to cope with the stress of it all and managed to get pass the first 2 years of high school which were the toughest and eventually went on to graduate with honours and receiving a scholarship to his favourite university.

The second one is now entering high school and is having difficulty handling the work load of all the homework assigned.  Maybe it's just an adjustment he needs to learn - maybe not.  Either way I will be keeping an interest in his grades and his well-being for the first semester and if either is drastically changed for the worst, i'll be talking to his respective teachers whether it's parent-teacher interview time or not!

The ideal amount of time for homework should be around 15 mins per subject, a day, after school.  So for example, Math, Geography and English homework after school should take a total of 1 hour to do.  Anything more and then it starts to become like a job to them.  You can teach them time management and study habits in other fun ways.  After all, would you like to work all day and then come home and work another 4-8 hours again?  I didn't think so.

Did You Know?

  • It seems that over the last decade, Japanese schools have been scrapping homework, while American elementary schools have been piling it on? 
  • Studies also show that students living in countries that don’t assign a heavy homework load – like Japan and Denmark – perform better on tests than children in homework-heavy countries?
  • The introduction of large scale homework assignments to younger students was a result of the scare caused by Russia’s launch of the Sputnik Satellite and their subsequent achievement of being the first country to put a man into space. We feared that a learning gap had occurred between our two countries, and tried to instill advanced learning disciplines at earlier and earlier ages to compensate.
  • Many studies indicate that homework has little positive effect on the performance of students in the earlier grades. There is only so much that a mind of that age can absorb through self study, and piling on homework doesn’t change that.
  • Many critics of the current system endorse a graduated level of homework which increases slowly as the student develops. One proposal is to limit homework to 10 minutes a day for each grade the student has achieved. For example, second graders would receive 20 minutes per day, and sixth graders an hour. By the time the student graduates from high school, they will be working 2 hours per night, and be on a path that will make them ready for the demands of college.

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