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US students get no-homework weekend to recharge

High school seniors are struggling to stay on top of their homework, social lives and college applications simultaneously. Source: Shutterstock.
High school seniors are struggling to stay on top of their homework, social lives and college applications simultaneously. Source: Shutterstock.

October, the month of falling autumnal leaves, toffee apples, trick or treating, and just about everything pumpkin-flavoured. Fond memories of curling up by the fire or donning your scariest makeup may ensue, but not for the majority of high school seniors.

Most seniors spend October drowning in their college applications.

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It can be hard to find the time to enjoy senior year, let alone to stay on top of the mounting piles of homework set. Some schools in the Washington area have cottoned on to this. And in the spirit of students’ well-being these schools are implementing a totally homework-free weekend.

“It’s like a pause button,” said Sarah Elbeshbishi, 17-year-old senior at Watkins Mill High School. “It just gives us a little more time.” Elbeshbishi’s school had their break last weekend.

Elbeshbishi takes International Baccalaureate classes as well as juggling being Class President and Editor-in-Chief of the school newspaper.

“Everyone I know is trying to find any smidgen of time to work on college applications,” said Kelly Simonson, a 17-year-old senior at Poolesville High who is taking six Advanced Placement classes.

Poolesville High will not set any homework for this coming weekend.

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It isn’t just Washington schools that are providing this much-needed weekend. The concept dates back to 2008. Nationally, dozens of US schools have had these weekends in the past.

Denise Pope, a senior lecturer at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Education has worked tirelessly to make them a reality. Pope has worked with schools all over the US to make these breaks a more common occurrence, through nonprofit organisation Challenge Success.

“It makes a big difference,” Pope claimed, speaking to The Washington Post.

“These kids never have a weekend where they don’t have work, and all of the sudden you’re giving them Friday and Saturday and Sunday.”

Whilst the break is a welcome relief to many pupils, most students don’t have the weekend “free”. The absence of homework merely makes way for coursework and college applications.

“It does lessen the load,” Simonson said

“I really like homework-free weekends. I just don’t consider them entirely free.”

Alan Goodwin, principal of Walt Whitman High in Bethesda, feels the weekends don’t work in practice. His school tried the free weekend system 12 years ago and found it didn’t really work for them.

The material still needed to be covered so it had to be squeezed into the week. Naturally, this just resulted in an overload of homework which ended up filtering into the weekend anyway. He said there was also little evidence that students had used it to apply for colleges anyway.

“It created its own stress,” Goodwin claimed.

Watkins Mill principal Carol Goddard urged her pupils to take timeout a few weeks ago.

“They’re exhausted and frustrated, and you name it,” she said. “It’s kind of a reprieve, if you will.”

Kate Heald, coordinator of the school’s college and career centre, said “it gives them time to catch up and maybe even relax and recharge, which is just as important.”

However pupils decide to spend their homework-free weekend, it will no doubt be a blessing to many. Whether or not they will actually manage not to do any homework is another matter!

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