Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Overachievers, Part II

I love when the books I read, especially nonfiction books, pertain to my daily life. This afternoon I learned that my 7-year-old niece has about an hour of homework each night - in first grade! Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't think I had homework in first grade. Maybe a project here and there, but every night?

I told my sister-in-law about The Overachievers, and how, in the end, I think all the homework (I'm talking about busy-work homework, not math skills, sentence structure and things you just need to know), the grades, the numerous activities, don't matter so much. As long as you strive to do your best and develop important social skills, you can succeed in life.

And not only is this hour of first-grade homework each night affecting the student, but the parent also has to sit with him or her and help out. Which they should. But add on two, three or four more kids, and that's a lot of time taken away from family time, play time, or as they get older, bed time. My sister-in-law did make a good point though. The homework is only going to increase from here, so she's glad my niece is learning the discipline of doing homework now, even if it is first grade.

Another portion of the book I found very interesting had to do with sleep habits of teenagers. Robbins fills in all the facts very well, but in general, a teenager needs more sleep than a younger child or an adult. In addition, teenagers naturally stay awake later. However, high schools start around 7:30. So, teens are staying up late to get their homework done - or just because hormonal imbalances make it hard for them to fall asleep earlier than 11 p.m. - and still have to rise before the sun. I was proud when Robbins called out Edina and Minneapolis school districts as systems that changed their high school start times by an hour. What did they discover? After some time, they were left with happier, less moody, healthier kids who were participating in class and getting their homework done on time.

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