Thursday, March 5, 2015

Overloaded Homework + Stress = a major Meltdown

Before DinoBoy started his Primary 3 journey this year we already anticipated that there will be loads more of homework and things to do; with the additional Science subject and the other subjects being more challenging than in Primary 1 and 2, plus there will be more classmates then before; 40+ as compared to 30+.  An additioal of 10+ students may not seem too many for some but not in DinoBoy's case.

We have talked and discussed about how to handle too much routine work, too many noisy classmates, too much things going in the classroom at the same time, having lesser time to slack or relax then before etc.  We thought we were all prepared to tackle Primary 3 challenges but the day my 8+ year old went berserk, yes BERSERK! because he felt so overwhelmed and stressed up with home work, we know we must do something to ensure this primary school journey flies by as breezy as possible for him.  

To start off, we weren't joking when we say there's going to be busy schedule in Primary 3, besides ending school later @ 2.30pm on Mondays and Tuesdays, he has the following;

- Supplementary classes on Mondays @ 2.30pm to 3.30pm and Tuesday @ 2.30pm to 4.30pm in Term 1.
- Wushu training on Wednesdays for school team training and Thursdays for CCA activities @ 2pm to 4pm.

So far there were homework but the load is still ok and he managed to finish them during the time he's in student care centre, that leaves me to go through both English and Chinese weekly spelling list within the hour when we are at home, I made it a point to ensure that every thing are finished before 9.30pm.  Some nights we were even able to do a few pages of assessment books, other nights we simply just laze around the house before hitting the sack at 1030pm.

The first day, first week then first month of school went on peacefully. Then came February, which is a short month but shorter because the lunar new year holiday which starts on 19 February 2015, this means there no school from Wednesday 18 February 2015 till Friday 20 February 2015. I guess the teachers were all trying to make up for the lost time on these days because a week prior to that there was a significant increase of school work!

Doing homework on eChinese website

On that particular unfortunate day, DinoBoy had 7 home work to finish, these includes copying of a Chinese compo passage, corrections for Chinese spelling, Maths & English, 2 - 3 pages of English and Chinese worksheets.  On top of that there is also the English spelling practice paper given by Ms R, his student care centre's form teacher.  I am sure DinoBoy has been handling his homework load quite well, but on that day it appears that everything seems to be too much for him to handle.  Plus that day being a Friday, the "last day of the week", it sort of added some pressure to the urgency to finish the work by the given time frame; which is by 6pm that day.

At that moment, he broke down....  He started to scream and shout in the classroom, scaring the hell out of every one, tore up the English spelling practice paper not once but TWICE in his fit of anger.  When Ms R tried to calm him down he was kicking, fighting her with all his might and screaming out loud "I have so many work to do!  I have no time to finish them today!  Later at home I have to finish the assessment books my Mum gives me!!  Tomorrow I don't have time to do it because I have class at Teacher Elizabeth's and swimming!! I will not have time to do it!!!!"

My poor little boy totally lost it... he lost all his sense of logic and rationale thinking and exploded...

No one has told him that he has to finish all the home work by TODAY, the class was told to try to finish it before the day ends, if can't then finish it at home so that they can enjoy their weekend and the upcoming Chinese New Year.  Neither did I tell him that morning or even the day before that we MUST revise his work by doing some practices in the assessment book(s).  Even though I drew up our home revision timetable last year, we never actually follow it strictly.  It has always been ad-hoc decision at that moment whether to let him do assessment books or not as this will depend on the time left after doing his school work & spelling.

That night we sat down and had a talk.  I told him that I know he felt bogged down by the amount of homework but this is how the school work will be from this year onward.  He wasn't happy about it at all, I guess I will too if I am in his shoes.

We talked about Stress, what is it and how it comes about and how it affects a person.  When some one feels threaten or is in a state of panic the body's defense system kicks in by making you go into "Fight, Flight or Freeze" reaction.  I explained to him that what he did in class earlier was his body's way of dealing with the overwhelmed feeling he is experiencing.  And since this is the first time, his body reacted naturally, releasing the pressure by screaming and shouting - which is the Fight reaction.

Now that he experienced that dreadful thing call Stress, we have to work on keeping it at bay and preventing this episode from happening again.  We also have to deal with this Homework issue so that he can work on them in a calmer and rationale way.

Here's what I suggest he try to do the next time homework load is a lot again;
Step 1 Take a deep breathe (more if need to) to calm mind and body
Step 2 Take a minute or so to study the homework list
Step 3 Label the work with 1, 2 & 3; 
#1 - the easiest and takes shorter time to finish; such as spelling corrections and #3 - requires longer time to finish; such as compositions or Maths worksheet.
Step 4 Start doing the homework according to the numbering, taking a short breather in between.

I hope he can remember these simple steps and tackle his school work in a more balanced state of mind and I'm keeping my fingers crossed that such episodes will not happen again.  I am also hoping that there will not be any after school supplementary lessons for the rest of the year but I think that's highly unlikely.  I have no intention of withdrawing him out from Wushu because he's passionate about it and is happy to be back into the school team again this year after the coach took him out of the team mid last year due to his undesired behaviour and attitude.

In the mean time, I will try not to pressure him unnecessarily, revision at home will still have to continue but may have to move one session to Sunday.  I know he may not be happy (I know I am not in favour of it myself) because Sunday is really our ONLY rest day, but really, time is not enough to use!  On the other hand, more outdoor play time for him, both as a form of exercise and also a chance for him to set free his mind and body after being cooped up in school for most of the week.  Time to dust off the cobwebs from our badminton rackets!  

At the end of the day, we know we have to constantly adjust ourselves and our schedule to accommodate the ever changing activities in school.  I know we can do it and survive the school days!

Photo Credit


  1. I expected the stress levels to heighten for our kids at PSLE but seems like they are facing stress at school so much earlier than I imagined. Got to teach Sophie stress management and time management when she's in primary one.

    1. Basically P1 & P2 are nursery time, means little or no homework to aid them in transition fm K2 to P1. Its at P3 that there is a significant jump in work and learning in school so really have to prep our children for this and monitor closely.

  2. We have had some homework battles in our house that are still talked about by the neighbors!