Discussing Homework

This is a vent.

My daughter is in honors english – not AP, just honors.  She has more homework there than she has in the rest of her classes – which includes chemistry and honors pre-calc – combined.  She’s doing about two hours of homework for each hour of English, and about half an hour per each of the rest.  (For clarification, the local high school uses a system similar to what you’d see in college.  What would normally be a full year class is taught in one semester – two hours of class per day instead of one.)

Now the defense that’s used looks – on the surface – quite legitimate.  “I’m just assigning homework at the level colleges would apply.”  And the answer to that is, well, sort of.  As a general rule, colleges do expect approximately two hours of homework for every hour of class.  Or to use a more specific example from NEU:

“Credit hours are assigned to a course based on the established educational standard that one credit hour is equal to approximately three hours of student learning time per week over a period of a quarter, semester or term. This typically includes one hour of in-class time and two hours of individual study outside of class.”

Now let’s apply the reality check.  The high school class is ten hours per week, and we have about 20 hours of homework per week.  So the “preparing for college” means the high school class is a

10 credit hour class.

Now at this school, that particular rule applies for all the AP classes.  English is the only place where honors is also treated as AP.  Other gifted classes aren’t quite so heavy, but still it’s pretty bad.  Even so, let’s find the student with two AP and two gifted (1 hour of homework per hour of class) classes.  In that semester, the workload is 30+30+20+20=100 hours of “learning”, which divided by three gives us about 33 credit hours.

At 100 hours of anything per week, the concept of “learning” quit happening.  It’s rote.  It’s survival of the fittest.  And it’s wrong.

Let’s build the student’s week in this case.  8 hours of sleep per day is 56.  Five days of lunch and transportation working out to 2 hours – 3 on some bus routes, but we’ll stick to 2 for now.  66 hours.  We’ve got our 100 hours of learning for 166.  Add 14 meals at home and two grabbed on the run on weekends – give an hour for the home and half an hour for on the run and we’re adding 15 more hours for 181 hours of the week gone.  Problem – there are only 168 hours in a week.  In fact, JUST using sleep, “learning time”, and transport/lunch gives us two extra hours in the week for something else – like showers, perhaps.

I would like to point out that a nominal “max load” in most colleges and universities is 16-18 hours, and it’s normally advised that freshmen in particular be closer to 12 credit hours.  Still, let’s assume an 18 hour load.  By normal college measure that’s 54 hours of “learning time”, and it’s considered a burnout level.

And we want our teachers to give MORE homework?  You’re not thinking, folks.


One thought on “Discussing Homework

  1. I remember my mother going to school to pitch a fit when I was in teh 4th grade, and I had to bring home books that weighed MORE than I did to do my homework.

    I just happened to be a fast reader, even faster writer, and by high school, I could get my work done pretty quickly. I am sure they are pushing more work home than when I was in HS, but unfortunately it’s part of the program when you are taking advanced classes.

    College was even worse for an engineer – work on the project until it works, pulling all-nighters to get your widget to function, or your code to compile – that homework rule didn’t always apply. Some classes needed a ton of work, others didn’t – but she’s JUST getting started, and she will have to learn how to balance the workload.

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