How much is too much?

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How much homework is too much? How about when it prevents a child from learning and experiencing a well-rounded life outside the classroom? The debate over the amount of homework that children are receiving has heightened in the last few years signaling a need to re-evaluate the way our education system approaches teaching, learning and designing curriculum. The amount of homework assigned isn’t a predictor of how intelligent kids will be or how much they will learn. More homework may in fact have the opposite effect as children become overworked and overwhelmed—or refuse to do anything at all.

According to the Government of Ontario website, “An estimated 30 per cent of Ontario high school students leave school without a diploma.” One cause may be that the kids who can’t keep up with the homework are becoming discouraged and quitting.

The de-valuation of a high school diploma in favour of a university BA in the workforce isn’t helping. High schools are already beginning to emphasize academic over more practical post-secondary education, and weeding out the “good” students from the rest of the class based on who can handle the homework. Only a small percentage of the population actually attends university, yet the education system caters only to those with a particular learning style, and academic aspirations.

Due to a lack of time and resources, and an increasingly demanding curriculum, students are often forced to fill in the educational gaps outside of the classroom rather than reinforcing the concepts learned in class. While maintaining a certain level of homework will help keep students engaged with the material, children should not be teaching themselves entire units after hours.

Provincial standardized tests have only increased the social emphasis on the need to show concrete results for completed work—if you can’t measure your learning in hard numbers, it’s looked at as pointless.

Our education system is increasingly catering to a specific type of learner, and any student who doesn’t learn this mainstream way is left behind. The school system doesn’t take into account the different circumstances at home, as well as different learning styles in the classroom. Some children may have a job or family responsibilities that take priority. Kids shouldn’t be sacrificing their health, or their childhood, for homework.

The onus shouldn’t be on students to learn new material, and if teachers do decide to assign homework, it should be meaningful. Reinforcing material and teaching study skills are valid reasons; bullshit homework to make a child busy to make parents and the administration feel better is not.

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