French President François Hollande proposed banning homework as part of his plan to reform the French educational system. But is he throwing out the baby with the bathwater?

Hollande believes homework favors the wealthy and disadvantages children from poorer socioeconomic backgrounds because wealthier parents are more likely to have the time and means to support, monitor, supervise, and assist their children when they are doing their homework. The reality of such distinctions aside, such an all-or-nothing approach misses the more practical problems ALL students face when dealing with homework—the sheer volume of homework they are assigned.

I’ve written about this question previously (read, How Much Homework is Too Much?) and stated that there are few if any studies that demonstrate the effectiveness of piling on excessive amounts of homework on students, especially when it comes to children in elementary and middle school.

When children are assigned too much homework, it taxes not just them but their parents as well. Further, children who are assigned hours of homework a day are often unable to engage in the kind of socializing and play that are essential for healthy child development. One easy guideline to keep in mind is that children should be assigned no more than 10 minutes a day of homework per grade level. A sixth grader should be doing no more than an hour of homework a day, and a senior in high school should have no more than two hours a day of homework. However, such is rarely the case, especially (but not exclusively) when it comes to private schools.

The French President’s initiative notwithstanding, homework is not likely to be abolished in the United States anytime soon. So what can or should parents do when they have concerns about the amounts of homework their children are assigned? First, parents should try and come together so they can address homework concerns to schools as a group. Second, they also need to become informed about studies that have examined the impact of homework on children. They should also be ready to inform their children’s teachers and principal, many of whom aren't aware of these findings, or in some cases, that such studies even exist.

If your children are doing excessive amounts of homework and you want to learn how to advocate for them you have to become a squeaky wheel, and not just speak up, but learn to do so effectively! For more on how to complain effectively as well as on how complaining psychology impacts our advocacy efforts, check out The Squeaky Wheel.

View my short and quite personal TEDx talk about Psychological Health here:

Copyright 2012 Guy Winch

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