I went to a very good high school with mostly very good teachers. I graduated first in my class (tied with another woman) with a 4.00 with a couple of AP classes in the mix. (This was back in the dark ages of the mid 80′s when AP classes were just starting to become more mainstream.) I was not the most academically gifted person in my class, but I was a hard worker and an excellent memorizer. I also had a couple of close friends who excelled at math and it certainly helped having them help me when I got stuck.
I went to Michigan State University and was enrolled in the Honors College. Before I started college I was scared to death that I wouldn’t be able to keep up, but quickly discovered my rigorous high school teachers had prepared me well. Although it had its moments, I thoroughly enjoyed college and graduated summa cum laude with a 3.78 GPA and a BA in Elementary Education from a specialized program.
Although high school is a long time ago, I don’t remember drowning in homework. I remember having regular homework and I remember stressing out about certain tests and finals at times. But I had plenty of time to be very active in the marching band, concert band, choir and chorale. I had a part time job at the library. We usually ate together as a family. I watched TV. And I was always in bed at a reasonable time. In fact, the only time I remember staying up late was in college when I got behind in my German class and I was determined to get caught up. I think I stayed up until 1:00 a.m. that night. I never pulled an all-nighter. Ever.
Homework in elementary school and middle school? Some in middle school, but nothing that couldn’t be whipped off in less than an hour while watching reruns of The Brady Bunch on TV.
So, all in all, I did just fine without much homework thankyouverymuch.
So when I read something like My Daughter’s Homework is Killing Me I find it truly disturbing. The article chronicles one dad’s attempt to do his 13 year old daughter’s homework for one week. She spends literally hours on homework every. single. night. She sacrifices her sleep in order to do her homework.
During the school week, she averages three to four hours of homework a night and six and a half hours of sleep.
Some evenings, when we force her to go to bed, she will pretend to go to sleep and then get back up and continue to do homework for another hour. The following mornings are awful, my daughter teary-eyed and exhausted but still trudging to school.
He also writes:
Every parent I know in New York City comments on how much homework their children have. These lamentations are a ritual whenever we are gathered around kitchen islands talking about our kids’ schools.
Is it too much?
Well, imagine if after putting in a full day at the office—and school is pretty much what our children do for a job—you had to come home and do another four or so hours of office work. Monday through Friday. Plus Esmee gets homework every weekend. If your job required that kind of work after work, how long would you last?
And here’s the kicker:
One evening when Esmee was in sixth grade, I walked into her room at 1:30 a.m. to find her red-eyed, exhausted, and starting on her third hour of math. This was partially her fault, as she had let a couple of days’ worth of worksheets pile up, but it was also the nature of the work itself… Another exercise required Esmee to find the distance from Sacramento—we were living in California—to every other state capital in America, in miles and kilometers. This last one caused me to question the value of the homework.
What possible purpose could this serve?, I asked her teacher in a meeting.
She explained that this sort of cross-disciplinary learning—state capitals in a math class—was now popular. She added that by now, Esmee should know all her state capitals. She went on to say that in class, when the students had been asked to name the capital of Texas, Esmee answered Texas City.
But this is a math class, I said. I don’t even know the state capitals.
The teacher was unmoved, saying that she felt the homework load was reasonable. If Esmee was struggling with the work, then perhaps she should be moved to a remedial class.
May I just say as an educator that that is a TERRIBLE example of cross-disciplinary learning? And that is a stupid assignment. I’ll refrain from calling the teacher a name, but that is a pointless assignment that proves nothing except you can force a child to manipulate numbers 50 times instead of believing if she can do it three or four times she has mastered the concept.
Which gets me to my point.
Homework is one of the biggest reasons why we home educate Caroline. It is common now for even early elementary aged children to have an hour or more of homework in the evening. Why?
That is simply insanity. Eight hours in a school bus and school. And then another hour or more in the evening in the few precious hours a family is given together each day?
Personally it is just easier to plan my child’s education and implement it in a few hours each day than adhere to someone else’s schedule and expectations.
It is criminal what we are doing to children already and it is only going to get worse with the adoption of Common Core. I am sincerely afraid for the little ones in elementary school right now. The excessive expectations being placed on them are truly inhumane and criminal. What will they be like after thirteen years of this?
And in addition to the stress caused by the academic pressure is the stress put on the bodies of these children due to lack of sleep. No child of any age should have to sacrifice sleep every night, week after week, month after month in order to keep up with school work. That is just WRONG.
I don’t know what it will take for people to wake up and realize the insanity they have embraced. But what I read in that article truly is insanity. I can only hope more and more people will realize it and decide to opt out in order to literally save the bodies and spirits of their children.