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Dear Mrs Principal, stop giving my babies too much homework!

Lady Speak By Mum-in-chief

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I am an angry parent. Why? Some private school wants to ‘kill’ my Class One daughter with homework. This school, I will not mention its name, (lest our no nonsense CS Matiang’i comes for their neck) has been making poor Tasha sleep very late because of endless homework.

Baby girl labours with homework from 6pm to 9pm! Those three hours are pure agony for the exhausted child. “Muuuum I’m tired, muuuuum I’m sleepy...” Such cries dot a typical homework day.

We can’t even eat dinner with her because she insists she will eat when she is done at 9pm. Don’t mistake Tasha for a lazy spoilt brat. Not at all, Tasha is a model young girl, with admirable qualities. She makes her own bed, cleans her room, her socks and panties, and lazy is not an adjective to describe her. And by the way, my friends also complain that the homework is too much.

So what is the rationale for giving children as young as seven years truckloads of homework like for a Class Eight? Does it help in terms of wholesome development? Not really.

According to a comprehensive review of 180 research studies by Duke University’s psychologist and neuroscientist Harris Cooper, nowadays homework dominates after-school time in many households and has been dubbed the 21st century’s “new family dinner.”

The poll findings published in Time Magazine, says overtired children complain and collapse while exasperated parents cajole and nag. “These family fights often end in tears, threats, and parents secretly finishing their kid’s homework,” says the comprehensive article.

The report alludes that though parents put their foot down on matters homework because they want what’s best for their kids, the opposite is more likely to be true. The study goes on to show that homework’s benefits are highly age dependent - high schoolers benefit if the work is under two hours a night, middle-schoolers receive a tiny academic boost, and elementary-aged kids? Zilch.

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The study says homework does have an impact, but it’s not always a good one. Guess what? Homework given too young increases negative attitudes toward school. The study says minors rebel against homework because they have other things they need to do. Things that kids are supposed to do – play and have fun.

Eat early and sleep early. The study rightly points out that children while at school spend considerable time doing matters academic which is basically writing, reading and more writing. Therefore it should follow that when school is out; kids need time for other things for all-rounded growth and development.

Proponents of homework may argue that homework teaches soft skills like responsibility and good study habits. However, the article says elementary school kids can rarely cope with complex time management skills or the strong emotions that accompany assignments, so the responsibility falls on parents. Little wonder homework time is pure agony. I hope Mrs Principal reads this piece.

 The writer is a married working mother of a toddler boy and a pre-school girl. She shares her experience of juggling between career, family and social life.

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