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Homework on Sick Days Is … Sick!

homework, sick days homewrok, pressure kids, school pressure, school stress

Shouldn't there be exceptions when kids are sick?

We’re currently on Day 3 of a horrid cold, sinus infection, ear infection, bronchitis combo that has invaded our home and infected the household. Well, everyone except me because seriously, when would I have time to be sick? So, not only am I doubling as a nurse in addition to housemaid, but I’ve also become a tutor/teacher. Although the kids have been too sick to go to school, they are still expected to have their homework completed when they go back.

I understand the need to have every student on the same page as the rest of the class but can’t an allowance be made for when your child is sick? I mean if he’s sick enough to stay home, he is probably too sick to do homework. Allowing a couple of extra days to complete the work does not seem like too much to ask.

When my high school age daughter misses just one day of high school, she basically misses approximately eight tons of work that is expected to be made up upon her return — no exceptions! My eight-year-old son not only gets homework, but also must make up all his class work as well. He’s a good student and can make up the work well enough when he’s actually feeling well. Now, while he is running a fever and choking all night long while his reddened face is hooked up to a nebulizer mask, he has little interest in learning the difference between an ecosystem and a habitat or working on sheets filled with two-digit multiplication problems. If the fever has shut down his ability to enjoy a beloved Pokemon episode, there is no way Math or Global Studies will help lift his head off the pillow.

Over the years, homework has gone from being a necessary but doable evil to a daily drudgery that takes over family time, afternoons and life in general. I’ve said it before: homework should not be an all-day affair. We don’t need to extend school into all hours of the day and night. My freshman daughter has so much homework, school is basically her entire life Monday through Friday. I don’t think it’s normal.

Holly Robinson over at Huffington Post, mother to five well-educated, successful children, agrees, and sums it up succinctly:

What message are we sending by piling on the homework in high school? Here it is: Stress is good for you, kids! See how stressed Mom and Dad are? That can be you, too! Stress is what you have to look forward to in college and beyond. Forget friends, fun, family, or even sleep! You’d better focus on school if you want to get ahead — so that you can take on even more responsibility later!

Is this is the reasoning behind the homework on sick days: to race ahead and be the best without ever stopping, be a machine, be unstoppable? That attitude only works to a certain extent. Life is filled with hundreds of thousands of different directions, pit stops, and curvy roads. Homework should not trump everything else in life. Younger kids need to play outside after school, older kids need time to be social and enjoy their friends, and every kid needs relaxation after 6-8 hours of school each day. (Is it any wonder that teens rely on Facebook to ‘socialize’ around 11pm or midnight?) Kids need time to be kids. And do we really want to raise people that grow up to be workaholics because success is the only thing that matters?

Non-stop homework can backfire and stifle creative minds with too much practical redundancy. What if the talented artists, writers, and musicians were bogged down with homework 10-12 hours per day? Some kids will benefit, but many others won’t. Furthermore, is it absolutely necessary to give daily after-school assignments to be an effective educator? I don’t think so.

My daughter’s eighth-grade teacher rarely gave them homework yet much of  the history she is learning in high school, she remembers first learning with that teacher through discussion and lectures. Now, a year later, she not only remembers the material but can interpret the mechanics and reasoning behind the lessons. Now that is what learning is, not a mere recitation of facts but a thorough understanding of them and their importance with a culmination in questioning why and how. And that can be accomplished without homework.

Yes, I want my children to be productive and successful in their careers but not at the expense of everything else, and if, like Robinson points out, the pressure to get ahead will only send our kids off on their way to becoming as stressed and harried as most people are today … that’s really no way to live.

 

Image: Stockxchng

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