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First, it's pretty ridiculous that kindergartners get homework. Kindergartners are 5, sometimes 6. (Sometimes 4!) Kids that age—as other countries with higher rates of literacy than the U.S. know—should be playing and figuring out relationships, working with their hands and drawing self-portraits with legs coming out of their chins. Not, you know, putting No. 2 pencil to page and writing cute but barely legible sentences, over and over again, at home. At night.
But that's happening, all the time. And not just to kindergartners. Kids in the earliest grades are getting way too much homework, a new study has found, and it's creating all kinds of nightly stress for families and pushing out things that kids actually enjoy and benefit from, like being read to, playing board games and, you know, talking to their parents and siblings.
The study, published in the American Journal of Family Therapy, surveyed 1,200 parents and compared the amounts and types of homework they reported to recommendations put forth by the National Education Association and the National Parent-Teacher Association. The two groups recommend a "10-minute rule," according to Today.com, who reported on the study. The rule says: No homework in kindergarten, 10 minutes for first-graders, 20 minutes for second-graders and 30 minutes for third-graders. In other words, 10 minutes for every year of school.
What the survey found was that kindergartners spend an average of 25 minutes on homework every night. First- and second-graders are getting about 30 minutes. The authors note in the study that 25 minutes for the youngest "may be both taxing for the parents and overwhelming for the children."
But you already knew that from reading Facebook status updates from grade-school parents.
They also included in their report that "it was unsettling to find that in our study population, first- and second-grade children had three times the homework load recommended by the NEA."
What the adults in kids' world need to understand, author of "Overloaded and Underprepared" Denise Pope told Today.com, is that there isn't strong evidence that homework leads to better achievement—counterintuitive to many parents, especially those hassling teachers for even more worksheets and packets for the entire class.
"The only type of homework that's proven to be beneficial to elementary school students is free reading, and the fact that the kids can choose what they are reading makes the difference," Pope said.
Too often, homework requires input from parents, particularly in families with young children. This is where divides between the haves and have-nots begins. Not every home in the U.S. is headed by adults who speak English. Not every home includes adults with time to sit down and help with homework. And, anyway, parental help on homework has been shown to not only NOT help students in school, it's also connected to worse results on standardized tests.
Mom.me's own Whit Honea is also quoted in the piece. This spring, he wrote how one of his son's teacher's obsession with homework became an all-consuming issue every night for the whole family.
The study found that too much homework in the lower grades shifts to too little by the time kids are in high school. Are kids burning out in the younger years?