Recently at Back to School Night, one of my daughter’s 11th grade teachers underlined the importance of nightly homework. “That means the heavy text book has to go back and forth every single day, I know, I know, your child’s back will be ruined before college,” she joked.
Except you can take that teacher and multiply her by the five other teachers my daughter has this semester, and none of them are trying to embrace alternatives to this back breaking scheme.
We all know the issue. It doesn’t take a rocket scientists to engage on the detriment of carrying heavy things, but it does take the weight of a rocket scientist’s text books. The acceptable weight on a child’s back according to the American Academy of Pediatrics is 10-20% of their total body weight, but this number is often abused.
ABC News recently reported that not only are children’s musculoskeletal systems at risk with disproportionate weight on the back, but the strain may impact other organs such as the heart and lungs, according to Dr. Jonathan Schaffer, an orthopaedic surgeon at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation.
This issue seems almost caveman to me, considering most schools are moving more and more information online. But not homework, it would seem. And I understand the need to consider the technology available to each child once home. But even in my daughter’s school which is public, there are already digital expectations in place, such as downloading assignments when home sick.
Until such time this issue is completely rethought, consider the following ten tips to help reduce the weight of your child’s backpack.
Shall we? 1 of 11
Buy responsibly 2 of 11
When purchasing a backpack, invest in your teen's frame and not their style. Buy only those backpacks offering wide shoulder straps and a waist belt and impart the importance of wearing it the way it should be worn, and not slung over a shoulder.
Not altogether cool, but cooler than back traction 3 of 11
Not every surface is good for wheels, and your teen may think the rolling backpack is goofy. But the wheel feature doesn't have to be used in every situation, but it sure is handy in others and gives the back a good kind of break.
Take things back to basics 4 of 11
Pack the heavy things on the bottom and the lighter stuff on top. While this seems like a duh, often lateness and other causes teens to shove things down into the pack without thought to spatial intelligence. By placing heavier items on the bottom, the pack won't create the teetering imbalance of top heavy.
Declutter often 5 of 11
Routinely, the backpack needs to be completely emptied and each item evaluated for relevancy. That means pockets and pouches too. It's amazing what gets carried back and forth unaware.
Be organized 6 of 11
By staying on top of assignments and being organized about due dates, your teen can be more realistic about which days the text books and other should come home, and which days they can actually be left behind.
Put your money where your back is 7 of 11
Some schools offer duplicate text books for keeping at home, and these would be considered very enlightened wealthy schools. For the rest of us, there isn't an option. Or is there? Just how important is lightening the load? Is it important enough to go online and see if duplicate text books can be purchased? Have you ever looked, because I admit I have not.
Investigate underling reasons 8 of 11
Most of the time carrying text books back and forth to school is mandatory and based on assignments, but often the reason isn't so clearcut. Often it involves things like your teen not wanting to keep things in their locker. Sometimes this is due to a faulty lock or combination, or to a hallway they don't wish to walk down after the last class, and other reasons known only to them. Try to uncover these reasons and help solve them.
Speak up! Group up! 9 of 11
The parallel me -- when my daughter's teacher made a joke about the heavy text book -- would have stood on the desk like Norma Rae and insisted she think of alternate ways of assigning homework, while other parents threw their fists in the air. The fact is, it's not enough for us to be perplexed or angry or disappointed by these issues we absorb as the way things are, make it a big deal, seek support, talk about it in front of people who make the decisions and not just in online columns (self, I'm looking at you.)
Carry in a different way 10 of 11
Sometimes it helps to remove a couple of the textbooks from the backpack and carry them in the front, in terms of balancing out the burden of weight.
And lastly which is kind of firstly 11 of 11
Educate yourself to what the specifics are, for the sake of being able to complain and effect change. Throw that loaded backpack on a bathroom scale, followed by your teen. Remember, a healthy backpack weight is 10-20% of your teen's overall weight.