But Quebec mom and author Bunmi Laditan had enough and decided to take a stand against her 10-year-old daughter’s teachers by penning an email, which she later shared on Facebook in a post that has since gone viral.
“Maya will be drastically reducing the amount of homework she does this year,” the email reads. “She’s been very stressed and is starting to have physical symptoms such as chest pain and waking up at 4 a.m. worrying about her school workload.”
Laditan explained that Maya was not behind academically and actually enjoys school.
“We’ve consulted with a tutor and a therapist suggested we lighten her workload,” she continues. “Doing 2-3 hours of homework after getting home at 4:30 p.m. is leaving little time for her to just be a child and enjoy family time and we’d like to avoid her sinking into a depression over this.”
According to Laditan, her daughter loves reading on her own, regularly does research on topics that interest her, takes coding classes and loves painting.
But over the years, Laditan has noticed a change in her child – one that she doesn’t like.
“She’s in school from 8:15 a.m.-4 p.m. daily so someone please explain to me why she should have 2-3 hours of homework to do every night?” she asks. “Children need downtime after school the same way adults need downtime after work… Children need time to just enjoy their childhoods or is that just for the weekends? (although we do homework on Sundays also).”
Standing firm on her decision to limit her daughter’s homework, Laditan says she’s ready to explore homeschooling as an option if the school doesn’t agree.
“We all want our children to grow up and succeed in the world,” she says. “While I believe in education, I don’t believe for one second that academics should consume a child’s life. I don’t care if she goes to Harvard one day. I just want her to be intelligent, well-rounded, kind, inspired, charitable, spiritual and have balance in her life.”
Adding, “I want her to be mentally and emotionally healthy. I want her to know that work is not life, it’s part of life.”
Laditan’s decision was popular among both parents and teachers.
“As a fourth grade teacher, I fully support this,” Katie Chavarria wrote on Facebook. “In fact, I have not given my students the first night of homework this year, and their academic growth has been just as much or more as I’ve seen from other classes in the past. Not to mention the fact that they seem much less stressed and ready to learn when they walk into my classroom.”
“I made the ‘Nope, not doing homework’ declaration to my son’s teacher this year, and guess what? It was fine!” Nancy Gardetto said. “And he has had a great and successful year.”
“Our home is also a homework-free zone,’ Kirsta Madden wrote. “They bring home work EVERY. SINGLE. NIGHT. Starting in Kindergarten. No five- or six-year-old needs to sit and do work after spending six hours sitting and doing work. I just tell the teachers that homework is optional in our house and that there will be no consequences for missing work.”
Parenting expert Ann Douglas also agrees with Laditan.
“It’s a good idea to have a conversation with your child’s school if you feel that the amount of homework is overwhelming or causing undue stress for your child,” Douglas says. “Learning doesn’t happen when a child is feeling stressed and anxious, so piling on too much homework is actually counterproductive when it comes to learning.”
And if kids don’t experience that downtime their developing brains need, then it can actually hurt them in the long run.
“The child misses out on the magic of unstructured play, which helps to maximize creativity while also giving kids a chance to work on their social skills,” Douglas says. “And the child misses out on time to spend enjoying the company of other family members – a key pillar in supporting a child’s emotional health and well-being.”
If a parent feels their child is being overwhelmed with homework, Douglas suggests parents encourage their kid to talk to them about their struggles, and then have a frank (but collaborative) conversation with their teacher.
“Tell the teacher what you’ve noticed, and let the teacher know what you think your child can – and can’t – handle,” she says. “Keep the channels of communication open. Suggest a solution and then express your willingness to revisit that solution in a couple of week’s time.”
There’s little data on the amount of time primary school students spend on homework. However the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) found that 15-year-olds in Canada tend to spend an average of 5.5 hours per week on completing homework.
One 2015 study published in the American Journal of Family and Therapy concluded that, in fact, kids are given three times as much homework than they should be getting, and it’s hurt their social skills, confidence and quality of life.
According to a 2006 study by Duke University, researchers found that students who were assigned homework often performed better in school. The association was stronger for students from grades seven to 12. For kids in younger grades, however, researchers said there was little evidence homework improved performance.