Enough Homework, Already!

Have you helped a grandchild with homework lately? Perhaps the question should be rephrased as: Have you tried to help with homework. Unless you have taken a course in the not-so-new-anymore math in the last few years, good luck helping with that.  I’m an ace at helping with spelling and grammar, but that’s the extent of my common ground with my grandchildren’s schoolwork. What my fourteen-year-old grandson Jack is doing in math and science might as well be hieroglyphics to me.  But even six-year-old Finley is learning about prime numbers, whatever they are, in grade one.

I don’t remember having homework in public school as a child, and when my own children brought work home, they were on their own. I confess my eyes still glaze over when it comes to homework. So when my grandchildren bring home knapsacks, so heavy they can barely lift them, packed with textbooks, agendas and projects, I feel overwhelmed. I realize the world is now a competitive place with increasing demands on the levels of knowledge children need in each grade, but the burden on these kids is huge.  Everything has sifted down, with younger and younger children being required to do presentations, create elaborate projects and do complicated math and science. What happened to just memorizing those times tables?

Homework is part of school curriculum. According to the Ontario School Council (schoolcouncils.net) recommendations suggest a child in kindergarten should be spending five to 15 minutes, a child in grade five, 25 to 40 minutes and a child in grade eight, 60 to 90 minutes on homework every night. However, a study conducted by professors three years ago at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education(OISE) at the University of Toronto, claims that homework for children from junior kindergarten to grade six is of little benefit. And apparently, children in Ontario spend more time on homework than those in other provinces. What’s that about?

School homework is an issue on its own. In addition to school work, children are also being asked to “do homework” for non-school activities as well. My grandson, Hudson as a Boy Scout has lots of research projects to complete for his twice-weekly Scout meetings and his taekwondo master recommends he practices his stances, kicks and breaking boards at home, in addition to memorizing the Korean words used in the classes. Belonging to Scouts and taking Taekwondo instruction are both valuable activities for children. But do they realize how much other homework children have on their plates?

Janice, a grandmother of three girls in Calgary shakes her head when it comes to discussions about homework, the kind that comes home from school and the extra work required for other activities. “My granddaughters all take music lessons,” she explains. “In addition to their school work, they practice every night on the piano and now, they’re gearing up for exams in piano theory, so that’s added to the pile as well.”

With all this homework from various sources, will our grandchildren be well-rounded, successful citizens of the future? Or will all the extra pressure simply mean lots of therapy and anxiety medication when they reach adulthood?