Does Your Child Have Too Much Homework?
As I write this, I’m waiting for my youngest daughter’s Toronto school to return my call. My ‘little one,’ now almost 14 and in a program for gifted students, has more homework every day than I ever had. As a result, I’ve been asking myself of late: whatever happened to childhood?
Alas, this is a topic I’ve written about at length – for ParticipACTION, at Tennis Canada, and even right here on Dr. Dina’s site. I’m not about to fuss over a little homework, or the occasional project that takes up an evening or two – but 3 to 5 hours most days of the week this school year? Something has to give.
True enough, my daughter is perhaps in part to blame – she is a perfectionist and has incredibly high expectations of herself. We’re working on this. But I’m not alone in my concern.
Parent after parent, I’ve spoken with of late, seems to have a child giving up skating lessons, music classes, after-school get-togethers with friends, and even whatever time they once had to just relax, all in the name of homework. Child after child I’ve spoken with seems more disenchanted with school than ever.
Although I was assured a placement in the gifted program would not mean more work, my daughter and I have discovered that teachers who instruct gifted children love to assign projects – lots of them. In my daughter’s own words: they don’t know what to do with us, so they give us projects”. While these ‘projects’ often provide students with an opportunity to do extensive research, to be creative, and to delve into subject matter in a way they might not otherwise have a chance to, they typically require far more time than can be allotted in the classroom, and as such, they become homework.
An Enthusiastic Student
My daughter, an enthusiastic student to say the least, has been completely overwhelmed with homework these past several months – and yes, she’s among the masses of children her age, who have had no choice but to give up hanging out with friends after school as well as some of her favorite activities. First it was one, then another, and when she announced a couple of weeks ago that she thought her Saturday morning basketball program would be next, I realized how badly my daughter needs more support.
Tired and Stressed
Saddened by her narrowing existence and concerned with how “tired and stressed” she has become over the last few months, we’re taking matters into our hands.
1. We made Contact
We’ve made contact with the school to begin discussions in which we will express our concerns and strive to work in partnership to ensure homework is kept to a minimum. The Toronto District School Board’s homework policy, suggests no more than two hours per day for students in grades 9-12. My daughter is in grade 8 and does almost twice this amount daily.
2. I’m vetting future projects
I’m vetting assigned projects and assignments to determine their true value, to help her prioritize them, and to help her schedule her time. Some may not get done to her standards, the teacher’s standards, or even at all.
3. I’m monitoring homework
I’m monitoring her homework time each day – sorry teachers, you may get some notes from home stating that my daughter couldn’t finish her homework due to time with family, playdates with friends, sports and activities, or because your expectations are unrealistic.
4. We’re pulling her out
We’re pulling her, at her own request, from the gifted program, hoping that this move will take some of the pressure off and allow her to continue with her interests and to pursue some new ones.
I’m not new to this stage of life.
My eldest daughter is in grade 12 and heading to university next fall – but she too, despite being a strong student who has consistently applied herself throughout school, marvels at the volume of homework her younger sister is assigned.
I’m a realist – there will be homework-heavy periods, I know all about exams, and I fully encourage and support my kids in achieving their academic goals – just not at the expense of their health, happiness, and the balanced lifestyle so critical to overall wellness.
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