Did you know that the National Education Association recommends no more than ten minutes of homework per grade level for your student? Your fifth grader should have no more than 50 minutes of homework, your ninth grader should have no more than an hour and a half. As a senior you should have no more than two hours of homework per night.
Instead of the dream scenario above, parents with kids in public or private schools are probably more familiar with something like this:
- 6:30 am – wake up, morning routine.
- 7:00 am – stuff breakfast into zombie-face while trying to remember what day it is
- 7:30 am – leave for school
- 8:00 am – school starts
- 3:30 pm – school ends
- 4:00 pm – homework starts
- 10:00 pm – bed time (if you’re lucky)
Notice that there are no extracurricular activities listed, this is done on purpose. Now, hear me out. From the morning bell until the lights go out, this student has just enjoyed a fourteen hour day spent mostly sitting at a desk. Yes, there is a lunch break, perhaps a PE class, and hopefully the student was able to make it to the dinner table to join the family for some sustenance and personal interaction.
Now switch this up a bit. Instead of sitting at a desk doing homework for 14 hours, imagine this eighth grader sitting at a sewing machine in a factor for 14 hours, with occasional breaks for meals. There would be outrage. Child labor laws! Lawsuits! How could you do that to your child?
We do it every day, folks. The scenario above is the norm for private school students, and probably for most high school students. Why?
Because we allow it to happen.
Plenty has been written about this topic. For example this article from parenting.com.
The National Education Association recommends that kids have a total of ten minutes per grade level of homework per night. Anything above that is excessive. They don’t have time to just be kids anymore — they’re so bogged down. And since many of the assignments are simply busywork, learning often becomes a chore rather than a positive, constructive experience. Homework overload is also affecting family life — a lot of kids can’t even make it to dinner, and as a result, the only interaction they have with their parents involves arguments about homework. The bottom line is that a child will understand a concept better if he has time to work on five problems, rather than struggling to race through 50.
Or consider this excerpt that discusses what students lose due to excessive homework.
The value of friendships, extracurricular activities, and relaxation time to children’s intellectual and emotional development has been extensively documented. When homework is overwhelming, however, children are less likely to have the opportunity to participate in these activities. Thus even a child who is left unfazed by excessive homework or who excels in school may suffer as a result of excessive homework because he’s unable to engage in the activities that can help him become a well-rounded adult.
If you are spending money on a private school, thousands of dollars per year, are you getting the customer service you deserve?
Children in private schools often have several hours of homework a night by the time they reach middle school. This often requires them to study ten to twelve hours a day with virtually no time to relax, play, or socialize with their friends during the week. It often robs them of much of their weekend as well. This kind of work load is no small matter. If we imagined children spending twelve hours a day hunched over a sewing machine rather than a desk, we would be appalled. Indeed, play, is a crucial component of healthy child development. It affects children’s creativity, their social skills, and even their brain development. The absence of play, physical exercise, and free-form social interaction takes a serious toll on many children. It can also have significant health implications as is evidenced by our current epidemic of childhood obesity, sleep deprivation, low self- esteem, and depression.
So, what is a thoughtful principal to do? This article is written by a PhD specifically for principals and contains many solid suggestions. Here’s one:
Reduce the amount – but don’t stop there. Many parents are understandably upset with how much time their children have to spend on homework. At a minimum, make sure that teachers aren’t exceeding district guidelines and that they aren’t chronically underestimating how long it takes students to complete the assignments. (As one mother told me, “It’s cheating to say this is 20 minutes of homework if only your fastest kid can complete it in that time.”) Then work on reducing the amount of homework irrespective of such guidelines and expectations so that families, not schools, decide how they will spend most of their evenings. (Note: We have almost ZERO family time since starting school.)
I’ve heard faculty members say that today’s workloads are preparing younger students for high school, and preparing high school students for college. What a cop out. These workloads indicate a massive failure in the classroom and in the administrative office. Fire-hosing our children with what amounts to nightly cram sessions does nothing more than create stress, anxiety, anger and depression. And not just for the students but for the parents.
Bad teaching cannot be masked by reams of homework, and the impact of a single bad teacher can easily wipe out the positive impact of several good teachers. Abusive homework levels generate stress at home in the form of nightly arguments over assignments. They create ongoing unhealthy anxiety over due dates and classroom procedures that while counted as part of student’s grades have zero to do with educating our children.
And don’t get me wrong. I used the word abusive for a reason. When teachers are allowed to assign homework that takes hours per evening, with zero regard for what other teachers are assigning, and with zero regard for student quality of life, we have an abuse problem. When administrators defend their teachers and these abusive behaviors and refuse to listen during conferences, we have a problem.
We see messages about bullying all of the time. But they always assume that it is student on student. I argue that bad teachers get away with educational bullying by knowingly stealing time and energy from our children. Good teachers and administrators listen to properly delivered parental concerns. They should not wait for their turn to speak, they should actively listen with the intent of making things right for their students. Students are the customer and the product; both need to be treated with respect.
Please read and share the articles linked above. They provide much more information than I’ve hinted to in this post.