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  • Aug. 05, 00:31 AM

    Editor's Intro: Back to school, back to homework?


    By Gaye Bunderson

         Doesn't it seem amazing that school will be starting up again soon? Seems the younger set just got out of school, and they're already heading back in.
       Looking through the internet, I came across an article at where children, in their own words, talk about how they feel about heading back to class. Typical for things that kids say, there are some amusing comments. For instance, 8-year-old Katie said: “I'm looking forward to math. I like numbers. I'm not looking forward to lunch, especially the chicken nuggets. They're usually burnt.”
       I sympathize. There's nothing worse than burnt chicken nuggets.
       A couple of other entertaining comments included:
    • “I'm looking forward to math because it makes me smarter and smarter. I'm not looking forward to recess because I'm afraid I'll be out of energy before I get home.” – Molly, 8
    • “I'm looking forward to having good days at school and new friends ― also having a nice teacher. I'm not looking forward to being bad and getting sent to the principal.” – Emily, 8
       With only one exception, any of the children who commented on homework did so with a measure of displeasure. Such as:
    • “I'm not looking forward to homework because I have to stay up almost the whole night.” – Darian, 7
    • “I'm looking forward to gym. We play games like 'Cut the Cake.' I'm not looking forward to homework. I just don't like it.” – Taylor, 8
       While I acknowledge that homework has been the bane of many a student for many a decade, there seems to be a kind of homework backlash going on, particularly among parents of elementary students who feel the burden of homework on their youngest children is just too much.
       Take heart, parents. There are experts who back up your point of view.
    In an August 13, 2015 article at, titled “Too much homework? Study shows elementary kids get 3 times more than they should,” author Jordan Muto starts off by saying: “Parents, you aren't imagining it. Your kids may be struggling with too much homework. Just in time for back-to-school season, a new study has revealed that elementary school students get three times more homework than is recommended for children their age.
       “The study, published in The American Journal of Family Therapy, explored issues of family stress by surveying nearly 1,200 parents. What came to light is this: Children in kindergarten, first grade and second grade may be hitting the books too hard in their after-school hours.”
       To provide some guidelines for how much children in the lower grades should be studying at home after school, the National Education Association and the National Parent-Teacher Association devised a “10-minute rule.” It's easy to follow, but of course parents' ability to adhere to the rule will depend upon cooperation from their children's teachers.    Parents and educators obviously need to partner in this effort. A teacher who demands too much homework of his or her students may need a non-confrontational conference with the child's parents.
       For those of you not familiar with the rule, it basically goes like this:
    • No homework for kindergartners
    • 10 minutes of homework for first graders
    • 20 minutes for second graders
    • 30 minutes for third graders
    • Add 10 minutes to each grade level up to the 12th grade, when students should be able to adequately deal with 120 minutes of homework a night
       Experts contend ― and rightly so ― that elementary-age youngsters need time for activity, family, and even some chores. They also maintain ― and studies back them up ― that too much homework for children at this age really doesn't make them smarter nor more inclined to get good grades. (However, that isn't necessarily so for older children, as studying after school  produces a more prepared student. … But don't forget that students of all ages need a full night's rest.)
       One of the best things parents can do for the youngest children is let them read, particularly a book they choose themselves.
        Stanford University education professor Denise Pope, in the above-cited “Too much homework” article, said: “The only type of homework that's proven to be beneficial to elementary school students is free reading, and the fact that the kids can choose what they are reading makes the difference.”
       Cultivating a sense that school isn't a place of drudgery is obviously essential, and encouraging children to find learning fun is all-important. Then, many youngsters may agree with 12-year-old Kian, whose returning-to-school comment was: “I'm looking forward to going back to school. It's cool. There's nothing I'm not looking forward to. I like it all.”

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