By: Ali Kaufman, founder and CEO, Space of Mind Special to the Boca and Delray newspaper
Kids everywhere are back to school, and the nightmare of homework deadlines are just beginning. It’s hard to know whose job homework really is today – seems most of the time it’s the parents who care and do more to make sure it gets completed and turned in. If that’s the case, then why do so many kids not care about their homework and not display the accountability skills for getting it successfully completed?
Homework has traditionally been assigned at the rate of 10 minutes per day per grade, a guideline set decades ago and supported by the National PTA and National Education Association. However, a typical high school student needs over nine hours of sleep, but studies show only about 15 percent of students actually get that amount. If a student participates in after-school activities like sports or clubs, by the time they are getting to start their homework, it’s really the time they should be getting to bed. Homework becomes a source of stress, resentment and frustration – all emotions that cause the brain’s working memory to shut down. That’s when moms, dads and tutors everywhere are scrambling to get the homework done since sleepy students can’t effectively learn.
Schools are finally catching on to the neuroscience and realizing that well-rested students are happier, healthier and more ready to participate in productive activities – both inside the classroom and at home. Of course, teaching accountability and life skills for completing tasks is extremely important. As educators become more aware of the impact that too much homework can cause, they can be more creative about how it’s assigned. For example, instead of reading an entire history chapter and outlining it at midnight, a high school student could be asked to go home and discuss that particular historic event with a family member and come back to class with some speaking points to share in a group debate. Outlining the history chapter late at night will have no meaningful effect; the tired brain won’t even remember the words it read. A lively discussion over dinner has multiple positive effects, including some valued family time.
Educators sought out their profession because of its creative potential. Schools can do a lot to inspire students to go home, participate in their communities, contribute to their families and feel good about putting their energy in all the right places. A little bit of the right kind of homework can go a long way in helping students apply what they’ve learned at school in a real-life environment, come back and turn it in. That’s the actual life skill they will need to succeed in a career. That, and knowing when to take a break, stop working and just enjoy your life, something a lot of adults still need to work on!