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November 30, 2012 - Kylie Saari
Thursday's Star Tribune had an article in its variety section about the over-scheduling of teenagers and its impact on mental health.
Although I don't have teenagers yet, I can see this problem creeping up on us already. My nine-year-old has a part-time job, cub scouts, church, orchestra, violin lessons and never has enough time to read all the books he wants to finish. In addition, he has homework that has gotten much more involved over the last year. He reads the newspaper with his cereal and a cup of decaff coffee in the morning. He complains already about not getting a chance to think. We have had to institute times during the day when he is required to be "bored", unstructured time for him to just think and play. He hated that time at first, but has learned to enjoy just kicking a soccer ball around or try to figure out the piano without instruction.
Learning a lesson with our son, we intentionally kept our daughter from getting so over-scheduled, although her activities have slowly begun to accumulate as well.
But solution being presented by school districts in the Twin Cities to combat the problem outlined in the Strib article are misguided.
Chanhassen High School has instituted no homework nights in order to keep students from doing too much.
I am going to give you a moment to consider the ramifications of that idea for a moment before I tell you what I think about that. Go ahead, I'll wait.
Why is it that homework is what they are taking away? How about limiting the number of extra curriculars that can be participated in each semester? Or here is something crazy — how about letting parents limit their students? If parents aren't limiting them already, how will taking their homework away do anything other than give them a slot to jam something else it, at the expense of education?
In addition to no homework night, some of the schools are instituting 20-minute breaks for students to unwind, have some coffee, or play video games.
Teenagerhood isn't easy — the pressure we feel as adults are there, but intensified by hormonal tornadoes and years of media coaching that if they don't make it into the big time by age 17 they never will. I believe balance is something that needs to be taught, but not by arbitrarily taking away homework. I am not sure, but I am guessing that teachers don't give homework as busy work.
So many options for our students are a good thing — each child is different and can learn from all of the extras available to them. But if they are not required to think about academic subjects outside of the classroom — which is what homework is for — it will be much more difficult for them to internalize the lesson.
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