Guest Blogger: Homework and obesity **Updated**

Hello from Mrs. Q! Our guest blogger “Jack” emailed me with a comment and I invited him to write a longer piece with his idea. And so that is what it is: his idea. I like welcoming different perspectives to the blog. I love that this blog post has sparked many comments and little discussions.

Even within my house, Mr. Q vehemently disagrees with “Jack,” whereas I believe that when we are trying to wrap our heads around big problems, we should question everything. Certainly TV and videogames are huge in our fight for children. Maybe I need more blog posts from the anti-TV and anti-videogame contingent (of which I am a card-carrying member). But aren’t we already familar with their negative influence? (If you want to enlighten me further, email me)

Thinking about homework, with its good and bad points, is a new way of conceptualizing its effect on children as it relates to obesity. I personally think busy work should not be given as homework. I like project-based work because what do you actually remember when you grow up? The research project you did on dolphins in fifth grade. And much of that learning sticks with you (in the form of facts about a subject). Critical thinking skills should be encouraged, not just filling in the blanks. But of course I send home rote homework too. Drilling basic concepts page by page can be very important for many learners, but parents need to be involved.

Thanks for all of your comments!
**End of Update**

Childhood Obesity: A Hidden Cause

First off, a thank you to Mrs. Q for inviting me “Jack” to write this post. I am not sure how many of you readers saw the article recently posted on Yahoo regarding school lunches, childhood obesity, and military recruiting. Most of the time when I read stories like this, I like to read through the comments as well. It gives me a better idea of what other people think about a particular issue.
One theme I saw in almost every comment was some variation of “kids need to stop watching so much television, playing Xbox and using the computer and go play outside.” This is a very valid point. With schools cutting back on (or eliminating) PE and recess, kids are getting less and less exercise. Obviously this is part of the problem, however it is not just about kids watching television and playing video games. There is another issue causing kids to spend less time exercising.
Many people forget that as kids are given increasing amounts of homework, more time spent being sedentary as well. That’s right, in my view HOMEWORK is a contributing factor in childhood obesity. To me, sitting on one’s butt is sitting on one’s butt, regardless of what is being done during that time. The thought didn’t even cross my mind until I read a column about it a few years back. My son is only 1 year old right now but when I asked my friends and relatives with school aged kids, their kids were averaging about 45 minutes-1 ½ hours a day doing homework; sometimes even up to 2-3 hours! What astounds me most is that I am hearing stories of kids in kindergarten and first grade being given homework. I can’t recall having any homework until 3rd or 4th grade. And even then, it was maybe 2 or 3 days a week. As these kids get older, there are more demands on their time (after-school activities, friends, chores, part-time jobs) but they are also being given higher amounts of homework, so they get even less exercise. Now, I am not saying that kids don’t watch too much tv or play video games too often, but that is only part of the overall problem. Kids need more time to run around and play and generally…well, be kids. Giving them more and more work to do will only hurt them in the long run.
All these factors, PE/recess being cut, school lunches, a lack of healthy eating habbits at home, a sedentary lifestyle, and probably some others I forgot, are conspiring to make our kids heavier and causing this increase in childhood obesity. We all, teachers, parents and school administrators, need to work together to try and curb this problem before it gets even more out of hand.

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65 thoughts on “Guest Blogger: Homework and obesity **Updated**”

  1. I'm sorry but I completely disagree about homework being a cause for childhood obesity. That is really stretching it. Way to value education. I teach 1st grade. My children have one worksheet to do a night with math, and the worksheet often involves going on a scavenger hunt around the house to find certain shapes, or looking through an add to find money. It takes them 10-20 minutes to do their homework, and it is supposed to be a family activity. Once in a while I will assign a small project for them to do, such as putting together a bag of things that describes themselves.

    I think it is really sad that people are ganging up on teachers for assigning homework. And you have no room to really talk about this since you haven't experienced how much homework children get first hand. When I was growing up I had homework all through gradeschool etc. Teachers are being told to make these children life long learners. That includes READING. Does this mean that reading is a cause of childhood obesity because children are on their butt reading instead of running around playing?

    I draw the line at schoolwork being detrimental for children. I am really disappointed in this guest blog.

  2. I would also like to add that many of my kids don't do homework because they are too busy playing Wii. When I have weekend sharing, many of them shared that they played video games all weekend long (I don't assign weekend homework). I'm sorry, but teachers are not to blame for childhood obesity. Try the parents and the school lunches, but don't chalk one more thing up to blame a teacher for.

  3. For the school district that my kids attend, homework is very rare. Even my sophomore hardly ever has homework, however one of my friends has kids in the neighboring district that is more project based and her son is spending several hours a day on homework. My children walk to school, take dance classes 2 times a week, the youngest has PE 2-3 times a week, the older one has it for one trimester a week, plus she is involved in marching band and cheerleading. Part of the childhood obesity issue comes from the fact that anymore people are scared to let their kids go out to play or walk home from school. ( I know kids who are picked up from their parents even though they only live a block or two from the school) Yes, we need to take a look at the issue, but the parents also need to take some of the blame, instead of always putting the blame on the teachers and schools. What foods are the kids eating at home, how many times do they eat fast food because it is easy and quick, are they getting true home cooked meals, why are they allowed to spend so much time playing on the computer, X-box etc. ( I know a few of my students that play non stop at night, and they never turn in homework, unless they finish it during class). Let's start making everyone accountable not just the schools.

  4. Wow. I can see where ALL of you are coming from, but it's apparent you missed the blogger's point. Especially Abbie. You have anger issues which ought not exist in a teacher of children.

  5. I remember when homework meant a reading assignment or going over spelling words or even math flashcards. I don't think that homework is to blame. My brothers both have Xboxes and would and do spend every waking minute they can locked up in the darkness of their rooms playing. If my mom does get them to go outside usually with much fussing and fighting, they do for a few minutes only to disappear back intp the house to play some more.

    I hated PE and recess as a child but now as an adult I wish that I could spend more time outside. I hate when people come in and tell me how beautiful it is outside and the weather is great. What I wouldn't give for recess.

  6. wooo hoo!!!! homeschooling rocks!!! Sorry but i feel a bit giddy reading all this stuff lately on school lunches, recess cuts and homework. My kid gets great food, ample recess and probably more homework than the average kid. anyway i agree with you- and the teachers that cut recess when kids are bad…well that is from the land of bad ideas! Make them do some running of teacher errands, bang erasers together..anything to get them moving. Don't do detention.. do an exercise class! kwim?

    Full disclosure…as i am writing this DS is playing a video game. So we do that too. But it is limited. And it's a rainy Saturday.

  7. I thought this was an interesting perspective. It's not something I thought of. I remember being in high school and being swamped with homework. It didn't make me "fat," but it did take the place of doing something fun. For me, that would not have been videogames as they were not in my house.

    I think there's no argument that TV and videogames play a role in making people gain weight. How after-school time is being spent is a big concern. Some kids get a lot of homework. If they would be more inclined to be running around outside instead of doing obscene amounts of homework, it's something to consider. If instead they would be watching TV or playing videogames, then they should be working on some homework. Let's engage those brains or get them some increased oxygen.

  8. While I appreciate the perspective, I'm not sure if I can get on board with homework as being a major contributing factor to obesity. Speaking as a former teacher in a Title I urban high school, I seldom saw the students completing any homework. I did see what they chose to eat though: chips, soda, candy, etc.

    I went to a academically competitive school (didn't realize this until I was tutoring in college and learned how little the other schools demanded), had a lot of homework in my honors courses, worked a part-time job, participated in athletics and other extracurricular activities, and *eek!* played video games. I wasn't even close to overweight. In retrospect, I was very fortunate because I even got to have dinner with my family regularly (not easy, but my folks made it happen), and my mom prepared wholesome, balanced meals. I also brown-bagged lunch, K-12. Now I have young children, and we make a point to sit down together for as many homemade meals as possible, which, on my husband's days off, can be 3 times a day, 5 if you include snacktimes! It takes work to pull this off, but it's totally worth it.

    Homework as a contributing factor? Maybe a very very minor one, but I agree with Colleen. Parents need to start taking some of the blame. Let's show our kids how to manage their time and make good, informed decisions. It starts at home.

  9. In our former school district, teachers were allowed to assign only 10 min of homework per grade level per day (120 min max for all subjects by grade 12). Homework assigned for K was completely optional (our teacher never assigned any but sent home suggested math & literacy activities for winter break).

    Our current district has no standard homework policy so it's completely at the teacher's discretion. Some assign a lot (way too much for the age, IMO) and others assign nothing.

    Overall, my kids have been lucky to have teachers who assign very little homework, mainly spelling words and free reading each night. I was worried that DD's 5th grade teacher wasn't assigning enough HW to prepare her for middle school, but now in 6th grade DD has very little actual HW as she gets most of her assignments done in class or study hall.

  10. I agree….kids have way to much homework because the school places too many demands on the students way too early and the only way that the teachers can possibly attempt to infuse that much infomation into the small heads is to give an unreasonable amount of homework. And I do know what I am talking about, I have two elementary age kids. I have seen that it varies with the skill level of the teacher.

  11. Once again, Mrs. Q brings the two sides to a common point, making reason of it all. You are not only a skilled writer and blogger, but apparently must be one heck of a teacher, also. Congrats.

  12. I don't have children but I sub teach (IL) and know a lot of the neighborhood kids. They have homework. Lots of it sometimes. But some get tons of outside time. I basically follow the bus home and my favorite group of kids get off the bus, throw their bags down, and grab their sticks for street hockey, or a baseball or football. Two hours later (when I go for my walk or jog) they're just getting called in for dinner. The bags are still outside.

    One day I asked the father when they do homework. He simply said they don't watch much TV. They get 30 min for TV time, and that includes video games. On nights where there is sports practice or religous ed, they have a quick dinner. But they always sit down as a family. They are my heroes.

  13. I agree with "Jack" to an extent. I am currently a junior in college. When I was in high school, I was always swamped with homework. I would come home at 5:00pm every evening – after spending two and half hours at school doing extracurriculars – and would stay up until 11:00pm to 12:00am doing homework. I literally had more than 5 hours of homework every night. Granted I took a full load of AP and honors classes. But that's what it took for me to get into a highly prestigious university. Any less effort and I doubt that I'd be where I am now.

    Most people complain about gaining the "Freshman 15" once they enter college. I actually lost 15 pounds. I attend a university that is well-known for its strict grading and high standards, but I still have more free time now than I did in high school. In fact, this is a common story that I hear from many of my peers here. Course work is much tougher in college than it was in high school, but there is less mind-numbing, tedious assignments that are basically pointless. Many of my teachers in high school would assign homework just to assign homework. Most of it wasn't difficult, just time consuming.

  14. Please, stop the liberal whining. Homework? Really? Our kids are so far behind other countries so let's blame homework for obesity instead of substandard education, a shorter than normal school day with a lot of extras being cut.

    I had 2 hours of homework every night from 4th through 8th grade and more or less in high school. I still found time for sports, hanging out with friends and playing.

    I blame the PARENTS. Yes, the parents who pick their kids up, drive them from activity to activity and to store to store. Let's blame the parents who stop by fast food places every night for a quick meal.

    TAKE RESPONSIBILITY for your kids obesity and stop blaming the school, the government, God et al.

  15. As the mother of a Kinder, 3rd grader and 6th grader, it is not the amount of homework, but the amount of parental supervision. My 6 year old has 15 minutes of homework a night, reading! My 3rd grader gets all of her homework a week ahead of time so most weeks she finishes everything in a total of 2 hours! My 6th grader does have about 1 hour a night. No they do not have less homework than other kids, I sit with them and make sure they stay on task. Most nights I make dinner while they do thier homework at the kitchen table, some nights I sit and read while they do homework. BUT we have an allotted and set aside time to ensure homework is done.

    I have also ensured their scedules are not so full that they don't have time to play and be kids! I know parents who spend every weeknight and all day Saturday shuffling kids from one activity to the next. We play in the yard, walk to the park, have bike races etc etc.

    I understand your point, Jack, but it is the parents who have to better organize their time and be more selective about extracurricular activities, not the schools who should give less homework.

  16. I would also like to add that I'm graduating a year early and really only have to start preparing graduate school applications, so I spend a lot of my free time teaching fifth grade students in an under-resourced and under-performing public elementary school in Boston. The children I teach mostly come from low-income homes, and their parents work two-three jobs at a time. This is similar to the circumstances I grew up in (single mom who worked three jobs). So, Abbie, I think it's insensitive for you to assign homework assuming that every child's parents will have the time to make it a "family activity". This is oftentimes not the case. Teachers should keep this in mind when assigning homework.

    I remember when I was in school, it me longer to complete homework assignments than other honors and AP students because I couldn't ask my mother help. She does not have a high school diploma, so If I needed help with my algebra homework when I was 13, I couldn't ask for it. Imagine what it was like for me by the time I reached calculus. Or other difficult courses.

    Obesity impacts low-income children more than kids from more affluent backgrounds. So, I do think that excessive homework can compound the problem.

  17. Abbie, I don't think the author of this post would be upset with the amount of homework your kids get. There are first graders that get hours of homework a day and that is something to be concerned about. It sounds like the family activities and ten-minute worksheets you assign are totally appropriate and might even encourage movement rather than discourage it.

  18. Being a junior in high school, this is too true. I have hours of homework each night which makes me, I don't know about others, feel depressed. I rarely get to go outside as much as I used to when I was younger. If I had less homework I would not spend it playing video games or watching tv but outside on the trail by my house and reading books and all those other good for you activities! This would not only make me but others happier, better students, and just better people in general, one goal of public schooling.

  19. It certainly seems as if kids inundated with homework might be more sedentary and that this could be a factor that increases the likelihood of developing childhood obesity. From what I hear from my sisters who have several kids in grade school, kids are getting way more homework than we did while we were in school, and this is a direct result of the ridiculous testing parameters our education system has set up. I realize, of course, that the teachers are not the ones to blame for this change. And it's important to remember that this is just one more factor that, when included with other factors, like a reduction in PE classes and/or recesses, poor lunch choices, access to vending machines, time spent playing computer games, etc., leads to increasing the chances of childhood obesity.

  20. My kindergärtner has about 55 minutes of homework he generally has 3 worksheets and then is supposed to read now that he reads or be read to for 20 minutes. He goes to a public charter school. He is not overweight nor is most of his class. I am a little conflicted about this, I do sort of agree with the theory that it does keep you from doing other physical things. We come straight home to do homework since he has lessons and scouts and other stuff I feel like we don't have time to go the park in order to get everything done. However, he has learned so much this year – learning to read and add/ subtract it is hard to know if it is working for him? Hard to know since he has 18 kids and 2 hard working teachers if the results would be the same without so much homework?

  21. I think homework is a waste of time. I rarely did homework. I was able all my assignments during school. And, I turned out fine. Really! My school was small, but I graduated at the top of my class, and I'm make plenty of money now.

    My first grader goes to a school that takes one field trip per week if the weather is nice and doesn't assign homework. I don't think he's ahead of his peers who have homework, but he's not behind them. And, he's having more fun.

    I've heard the rule is 10 minutes of homework per grade (so 10 minutes for first, 120 minutes for 12th.) I honestly can't imagine 2 hours of homework at 17 or 18. I had a job. School ended at 3:30. I know that I should probably let the past go. But, I don't do homework now as an adult. I do my work AT WORK. And, that works well for me!

    So, I agree with the blogger here. I am opposed to homework because I had better things to do with my time and because my child has better things to do with his time. But, now, I'm going to add that homework adds to an already sedentary lifestyle as another reason for opposing homework.

  22. I have three children (11th grade, 9th grade and 2nd grade) and the two oldest had mandatory homework 5 nights a week from kindergarten through 8th grade. It was a ridiculous amount of work and frequently took hours. They also had no recess at school and lunches that I consider to be unsuitable. I spent a lot of time packing lunches, taking them to various activities and yes…helping with homework. High school is a better experience, less homework and a better selection at lunch.

    I home school my youngest. We just couldn't go through that whole elementary / middle school experience again. There are many causes of the childhood obesity problem and it's going to take a lot of different solutions to make a real difference. I'd hate to see any idea dismissed purely out of defensiveness or an inability to see that others experiences and situations might be different than your own.

    Mrs. Q: Thank you for doing this blog.

  23. I'm a sophomore in high school, and I completely agree. It's 5:30 on a Saturday, I've been doing homework all day, and I have no plans tonight so that maybe I can finish it midway through tomorrow.

    I'm so swamped with work, it's obscene. My teachers don't seem to remember that we have six other classes other than just theirs. Each of my teachers will assign up to an hour of homework. I'm a musician, so I spend about half an hour practicing a night, sometimes up to two hours if I have an audition or honor group coming up. I'll stay up until one or two in the morning only to get up at six to start the whole thing over again.

    My goal is to attend UCLA, which used to be a safety school for some. It's getting so hard to get into. I have all honor classes this year, and next year three AP classes (my high school doesn't allow AP's until junior year). I'm just struggling as it is to get outside during lunch time, when I'm usually stuck making sure my 5th and 6th period homework is totally done.

    I'd love to enjoy a walk or a nice day out, but I just don't have the time. The only time I get outside is really marching band, but that's only first semester.

    Hoorah for education inflation.

  24. Jeffery Campbell, how would you know if I had anger issues or not (which I don't)? I have little patience for people who think it is always the teacher's fault. This blog post upset me because I feel like teachers are always being blamed for something that is the parents' fault or the fault of the higher ups who want to cut costs and increase production. Until the public and the boards of the districts see that we can't run schools like we run businesses, unfortunately the teachers will continue to take the brunt.

  25. I am a teacher and I agree that at times homework can be tedious and a waste of time. But I think to say that it may contribute to childhood obesity is just a cop out because parents don't want to take responsibility for the food they are feeding their children.

  26. While increased homework time DOES take time away from children being outside, I think people need to realize that the teachers are NOT to blame for this; the standards children are held to now are MUCH higher than when I was in school (I'm 30) They have much more to cover and less resources at school to do so; there is more testing, more pressure to perform and this is NOT a teacher problem, it's a public school/gov't problem."Teaching to the tests" is a bigger problem, imho, than constant homework…

    and parents…turn off the damn tvs, computers, and video games. Model that behavior yourself-if you do it, your children will do it. Contrary to what a lot of kids may think cable, video games, internet and cell phone are PRIVILEGES, not necessities. Just say no!

  27. I am a former high school teacher from two districts with deplorable health/weight issues. I can honestly say homework did not contribute to these problems, because the students refused to do homework, their parents refused to make them, and even the administration felt homework unnecessary except for those students in AP courses. And for the record, few of those students really had weight issues.

  28. If we are going to blame anyone/anything lets blame consumerism and the advance in technology.

    I am 21 years old and a graduate of 2007(600 graduates out of 1000). I went to public schools that were usually in a pretty good district. I thought the food was bad when I was in school but after reading this blog I know that it's declined even more.
    In response to this post:
    Through 6th and 8th grade I remember having usually no more than an hour of homework but at least half an hour. I was also one of the kids who got my hour of reading in. Which usually meant I wouldn't make it outside to play. Physical Education was daily at my school and the work out was usually only 25 minutes long. During high school I had at least an hour and a half of homework(usually not on weekends) but I took two physical education classes(Aerobics and Fast Walking). My sophomore year I started working part time. By my senior year I only had a half day that consisted of three educational classes and I had two part time jobs. My BMI was between 25 and 31 depending. I never considered myself obese/overweight but I definitely was never very healthy. My school lunch was all that preheated stuff plus a salad bar. Some days we had an in house special which was usually pasta, meat and veggies. We also had the Al Carte that sold things like nachos, hot pockets, churros, popcorn shrimp, doughnuts, smoothies and bags of chips. The student store that was open during class breaks, before/after school and, during lunch sold coffe, candy, soda/juice, snacks and plenty of things you wouldn't want ANYONE eating.

  29. Jack,
    I'm sorry, but if you didn't get homework until 4th grade, you went to a pretty weak school. I had homework everyday starting at a very early age. If we cut back on homework, obesity won't be the only problem kids will have to deal with; they'll also be less intelligent. Just what America needs more of: obese, uneducated people.

  30. I wouldn't say homework directly has an effect on obesity/lack of physical activity, but I don't think homework is so necessary or worthwhile, either. I graduated high school in 2006 and often stayed up late doing homework, and I found it very stressful because it didn't leave enough time for my own interests. (Although I admit I wasn't spending that time being active, either – I didn't watch TV, but I read books and drew my own comic series.)

    If you're interested in another view of homework, I recommend reading The Case Against Homework:

  31. i am going to partially agree with this one, I know in high school and then college homework seemed never ending, and i never really had time to excersise then. I dont think i really ever had hours and hours of homework though till high school, so i think at that point our homework load does affect our ability to stay active but not before that so much.

  32. Childhood obesity is caused by a lot of factors. Until we can work together in a positive manner (parents, teachers, school officials, pediatricians, etc.)and get things changed around, the problem will continue. Everyone in a child's life effects them. They are influenced by parents, teachers, and school staff members. We can have a positive effect or a negative effect.

    As a former overweight student, I will say that homework and reading did contribute to my weight issues. I would spend hours doing homework then turn to a book to "escape" the stresses of the day. I rarely went outside if I could help it. I hated PE with a passion. When I decided to lose weight my senior year, it was not in a healthy way. I had no good examples of how to eat healthy and exercise. Our PE teacher was overweight! Our "home ec" class never taught about nutrition. As an adult I gained even more weight and it wasn't until I was in my 40's that I learned how to be healthy and that exercise could be fun. I'm teaching it to my kids so they will have a better basis for a healthy lifestyle than I did.

    We need to provide opportunities to learn healthy lifestyles for our kids. It would be great if more parents took responsibility but it would also be wonderful for our kids to have positive role models in the schools. Kids often come from many different backgrounds but one thing they have in common is the school environment. Let's make that environment as positive as we can.

  33. I teach first grade as well, and I assign homework every night, Monday through Thursday. Usually, there is a math worksheet and either a spelling/reading worksheet or spelling words/sentences. If students are paying attention in class, homework should take 10 minutes. My students are also expected to read for 30 minutes each night. I'm a firm believer in giving homework to my students, but I also think there's a lot of pressure in my school to assign more. Like most schools, we have a homework policy. Of all the things teachers get blamed for, causing childhood obesity is the most preposterous.

    I always remember having homework in school, from first grade on. Did I always like it? No, but I did it anyway because it was my job as a student. Now that I'm a teacher, I still have homework – lesson plans and marking papers don't happen at school very often!

  34. I do think children/teens are given WAY to much homework but I don't necessarily think it's a contributing factor in obesity.

    Now, TV/video games… definitely contributes. My family has been TV free for almost 11 months now and we LOVE it. It did take a few months to get used to not watching TV. TV watching is such a lifestyle/habit that we had to come up w/other things to do. We spent so much more time outside working in our yard, we got to know all our neighbors, we went for walks around the neighborhood each night after dinner. During the fall and winter we read lots, did lots of crafts, had lots of interesting conversations…

    We did not miss TV at all (well, Superbowl Sunday was missed). When we do see TV we can't get over how it's all the same shows and mostly commercials at that.

    Yes, we do keep up w/ 3 shows on hulu and our daughter watches some PBS shows on the computer. But that's it. I challenge anyone to go TV free… it's awesome!

  35. Again, skimming through the comments, I fear that many readers are missing the point of the post. Either that, or I'm way off base with the message that is being conveyed.

    What I got out of this post is that many teachers, starting at an early age assign more than one hour of night for homework. Ratchet that up to 5-7 classes and that's a whole evening. I'm not saying we should ban homework and I don't think that's what the author is saying either. The point being: Sitting on your butt is sitting on your butt whether it's videogames, or tv, or computer, or homework. It's easy for many to demonize computer/television use for a variety of very good reasons. Yet, no one attacks the AMOUNT of homework that is commonly sent home. Just as no one sane says to completely get rid of TV or the computer, just limit access. No one argues the same when it comes to homework. I could even play devil's advocate and say that playing some video games increases bodily functions like adrenaline release and metabolism and that these can result in more calories being burned than sitting doing boring homework…but I won't.

    Nor am I against "busywork" if it has a use. Sometimes the only way to get certain kids to learn something is to drill it into their heads. Then when they sleep that night their frontal lobe and hippocampus can communicate more easily and the information gets stored away if they can enter a REM sleep.

    It appears that some readers have taken this post as: Teachers, the evil minions of Satan, are conspiring against our children and trying to make them fat by giving them lots of homework so they can go all Hansel and Gretel on them!

    I'm quite certain that that is not the case here. If it is, I suck at reading.

    Does homework have a place? Certainly.
    Do teachers have a right to assign however much homework they want? Sure.
    Is it possible that teachers don't know what other teachers are assigning and end up swamping kids with work? Yep.

    Many teachers I've come across seem to focus on the quantity of the work and not the quality of what the students will get out of it. I know that's not the case with many teachers, but you have to recognize that it does happen.

    I'll end with: Endless piles of homework, even mentally stimulating work, are not a positive thing. Just as people propose that kids have a limit on tv and computer use maybe we should also be arguing that kids shouldn't have to do hours and hours of homework every night of the week as well.

    The takeaway: Teachers, and even homework itself, are not the problem. The problem is large amounts of work that impede on the student's ability to do other things. Homework is a necessary (IMO) component of education and needs to be treated as such. Current arguments against homework seem to revolve around the fact that states mandate what to teach, but, to my knowledge, there are no regulations on what is acceptable homework. Might as well add homework reform to the list of things that need to be done.

  36. Re: Anonymous @ 10:23

    How can you say:
    I do think children/teens are given WAY to much homework but I don't necessarily think it's a contributing factor in obesity.

    Now, TV/video games… definitely contributes.


    Sitting doing nothing physical is sitting doing nothing physical. I don't think there's anything magical about doing homework that makes it healthier physically than watching television.

    This is in part, what my last comment was trying to speak to. You can't blame one thing for obesity and not something that, to the body, is a virtually identical task.

  37. Jeffrey Campbell said…

    Wow. I can see where ALL of you are coming from, but it's apparent you missed the blogger's point. Especially Abbie. You have anger issues which ought not exist in a teacher of children.

    And pray tell, Jeffrey Campbell, what have you done to change school lunches besides posting on a blog?

    It's so nice to sit behind a monitor and point fingers but remember:
    When you point one finger, there are four more pointing back at you.

  38. People like "Jack" and "Jeff Campbell" are why I left teaching. Parents are a huge problem in school systems and why teachers are often hindered in teaching. Blaming teachers who have a lot more to deal with in terms of parental expectations (hellicopter parenting needs to stop), lack of support from the school administrations, more students with behavioral and emotional issues (especially in lower middle class and urban school systems) than 20 years ago is not making the problem better. It's making it worse.

    Homework is often the cause of lessons not being completed in class because teachers spend such an exorbitant amount of time disciplining. Instead of blaming teachers for obesity because we have to teach to curriculum and then assign homework for reinforcement in order to comply with state and district curriculum mandates, why dont you volunteer as a classroom assistant, mentor, homework coach et al?

    It's one thing to sit here, point fingers and place blame and another to take action. Once again, blogging and commenting does not equal positive action.

    –Former elementary school teacher in the New Haven, CT public school system.

  39. I do not agree with "Jack" on this issue. I am currently a sophomore at a school where academics are very important. However homework does not to take all night to do, even if you are in all honors or AP classes. There is time that one could fit into their schedule to exercise.

  40. Obesity and inactivity. YES! There are also correlations between inactivity (sitting on their duffs) and asthma. Kids need to move, play, and drive us parents insane. It is what they are wired to do. Eventually, when they are 18 (or so), we will give up trying to control them and they will go off on their own! LOL Seriously, homework in elementary school is unnecessary. I graduated back in 1987. Seriously, we did not have homework… until maybe the 4th or 5th grade. Then we had maybe a few math problems to do, or a few definitions to look up. Nothing significant.

  41. I disagree that homework is a cause of Obesity. Homework is a necessity for our kids today. And as far as Video Games, Why can't the Video Game industry come out with games that could help the kids learn about eating correctly and being healthier? I mean think of it. They already have the WII which has the workout games and stuff. I mean I do agree that kids spend too much time in front of a game system, but why can't the game systems be used to the adults advantage? Of course before that can come to fruition The parents and adults have to be on board. I mean Parents today have just gotten lazy. They care about feeding their kids, but Like Jamie Oliver said it is all the wrong things. I mean what happened to the Good ole days where Pizza and Mickey Dee's was a treat to the kids when they did something Good? Now it has become a Lifestyle to eat fast food.

    I am a 35 year old male who just found out I have a Risk of Osteoporosis. Poor Nutrition, Not exercising, and failure to eat the right foods as well as my medication that I have to take for epilepsy are all the causes of my issues. I just did a lifestyle change. I started working out and am trying to eat healthier so I can try to prevent the onset of osteoporosis and possibly reverse the bone loss in my Pelvic region. I have never worked out a day in my life, so for me to get up and start weightlifting and getting healthier kinda makes me go Ugh, but I realize if I do not start today My problems will only get worse.

  42. "Way to value education." From what I see with my 2nd grader, homework in no equals education. Homework more often resembles busy work and serves no real purpose in the education of children. Every night, my second grader is expected to do a math packet, ranging from 2-4 sheets, he has to read a chapter of his reading group book and answer 3-5 essay questions about it. Then, he also has to practice his spelling list and his math facts. After he has finished all that, he has extra handwriting assignments because his school doesn't teach handwriting and his is terrible. Despite not teaching, they will grade on it next year so his teacher and I implemented a plan to help him actually write legibly (it hasn't been very successful and now he is learning typing for a 504 plan, as well).

    When I was in second grade, we did spelling and maybe reading. 10 or 15 minutes a night as opposed to the hour or more he spends each night.

  43. Gary Taubes showed a great deal of evidence to support the conclusion that obesity is a hormonal disorder and not caused by gluttony and sloth. Does a child grow because they eat more? No, they eat more because they're growing. Likewise with adolescent growth spurts. Exercise has many benefits, but unless weight loss is more important to you than being healthy, running yourself ragged to "burn calories" is pointless. Human beings are not closed thermodynamic systems!

  44. If I had been given 2-3 hours of homework in middle and high school then maybe I would have learned proper study habits and not failed out of college.

  45. I can only speak from personal experience with our 4th grader. When 4th grade hit and the homework ramped up to a ridiculous level I distinctly remember saying that it was too bad our son wouldn't be able to play outside as much with our neighbor kid (who is in 3rd grade). After turning him away so many times saying we weren't done with homework (which has been as much as 4-5 hours in one night), he just stopped coming by to see if our son could play. I have heard the 10 minute per grade level rule which has sometimes been what we've seen but that's only if you don't include the music homework and required amount of reading time (ours is 20 minutes). BTW, I'm not against reading but I don't understand the minutes/night reading requirement. I don't think it encourages children to become lifelong lovers of reading. They read only the amount that is required and then put the book down. It's taken me years to get our son to the point that he will keep reading just to find out what happens next in the story. But, that's another story of it's own.

    I think homework does contribute to a sedentary life for kids but is not the only thing. There are many factors and plenty of blame to spread around (don't just blame the parents).

  46. I have worked in schools for 17 years and never seen homework be at ridiculous levels unless an older student refused to do anything in class and was in danger of failing, so they were trying to catch up.

    I believe that the homework issue varies from state to state, and even district to district. However it's up to parents to make it known if they feel the homework is negatively impacting their child. When my son was in grade 1 his teacher was assigning ridiculous amounts every night and we finally told her we would do 15 minutes-no more.

    If a child is taking extraordinarily long to do something that takes the other kids only a few minutes, one might want to consider that perhaps they are struggling because of other reasons, such as learning disabilities.

    As far as it contributing to obesity, I don't believe so.

  47. I agree that children (and adults) should not be sedentary. The human body was designed to move, and we need to move around for good health.

    There are countries where kids spend a lot more time studying than here in the US, though. Japan comes to mind, and they don't have the levels of obesity there that we do here.

    I would posit that the problem is what the kid is doing while sitting at the kitchen table or on their bedroom floor doing homework. I'd be willing to bet at least some of that time is spent snacking, just like kids do while playing games and watching TV.

    Recent studies on weight loss all point to food being more important than exercise in the struggle to achieve and maintain an appropriate weight. Exercise is necessary for overall health, but it's still calories in/calories out. There's a whole racing category for heavy marathoners and triathletes, which ought to tell everyone something. A six-mile training run followed by a 2,000 calorie breakfast is going to lead to a strong, but still fat, body.

    Homework is not a direct cause of childhood obesity. It can be a powerful indirect cause, though, if it encourages a child to sit around munching potato chips and Oreos instead of getting out in the sunshine and being the active human being nature/God intended. Thoughtful parenting can help a child develop appropriate habits (no snacking!) and priorities in this regard. And if the amount of homework is so oppressive that no time for fun and activity can be carved out of a typical day, Mom and Dad need to have a little talk with the teacher or the school administrators.

  48. I do see where the guest blogger is coming from. I rather do anything but homework, especially when it’s sunny outside. I have brothers and sisters still in the school system and I know that some kids do get a lot of homework while others don’t. One of my sisters is in 6th grade and she hardly ever has any homework due to her diligence at school and uses any free time to get in some extra studying so she doesn’t have to take it home with her. While my other sister is in 2nd grade and does get a fair amount of homework, sometimes I even think too much, but her teacher gives the class time to work on their homework during the day. My sister just gets distracted and ends up having to take it home with her. My mom always feels bad and lets her play outside when it’s nice out and still light and then she has to come in and do her homework. My brother is in high school and he get plenty of homework but chooses not to do it half the time. He rather be playing a pickup game of soccer or basketball when it’s nice or if the weather is bad he will sit in front of his X-box or PS3.
    I am studying to be a teacher and I have learned that it is not necessarily the amount of homework that is being assigned; it is how wisely the child uses the time they are given to get homework done. I do think that some children are assigned entirely too much homework (200 math problems due the next day is insane…and she happens to have a math learning disability!) while other children should be assigned more homework.
    I am currently studying abroad in Norway, and they have a different outlook on education and health. Children have school outside at least one a week, where the teachers are to teach that days lessons outside while giving them ample time to play and explore. I personally think this is a great idea and would love to be able to teach some of my future classes outside. I love being outside and I find it easier to focus on what I am reading or doing my math homework. Norway's obesity rates are very low, and those who are obese tend to be immigrants. I think we could learn something from them….let our children explore outside while using the opportunity to encourage them to think critically in what they are interested in.

  49. When I first read this post I didn't think an attack was being made on teachers. I thought the poster was trying to say that sitting and doing homework could contribute to obesity because it was one more thing kids were doing while being sedentary.

    I have found the comments very interesting. I think that kids spend an insane amount of time in school, only to come home and do more school. However, I can see that when you have 30-35 kids in your class and you are unable to get through your lesson because of discipline issues or focusing issues or any other issues that may arise, you need to send that work home. I have never thought of homework as contributing to kids being sedentary, and thus overweight. I don't think it plays a very big role. I would think that the biggest cause of obesity would be what the kids are eating and the fact that they spend the majority of their time sitting (at school and at home).

    A lot of commenters also said that we should put more blame on the parents. It seems easy to say that parents need to stop feeding their kids junk and get them moving. The majority of those who are obese come from lower income families, where both parents work, sometimes more than one job. It is cheaper and less time consuming to buy unhealthy food. You are able to get a lot more "junk" for $2, anywhere, than you are healthier options, and if $2 is all you have to use to eat, which one would you choose? It seems like the biggest change for obese kids, those that come from lower income families, will have to be at school, where they spend the majority of their days.

    Obviously obesity is a HUGE issue. I would assume there is going to need to be a whole lot of cooperation, (schools, government, community, parents, etc) in order to make a change big enough to get people healthy, lengthen their life span and increase their quality of life.

  50. While I don't think homework is inherently a bad thing, I agree about there being too much of it. When I was in middle school I had 3-4 hours of homework a night, and in high school it was closer to 6-7 because each teacher felt a need to assign about an hour's worth a night. For 4 years I was lucky if I got more than 5 hrs of sleep during the school year because I was always up all night doing homework. And then when I DID have free time, I was so exhausted from all the work, lack of sleep and stress, the only thing I felt like doing was just sitting in front of the tv. I probably could've slacked a bit and let my grades suffer like other kids did, but then I wouldn't have the career I have now. Stress and lack of sleep are also linked to this issue, maybe more than the act of doing homework itself.

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