As both a parent and a teacher I have always debated the value of homework. There have been a few things this week that have happened that have swung my viewpoint.
On Tuesday evening I casually asked my son, you know the one being treated for leukaemia if he had any homework. His reply was, “Yes, but it doesn’t have to be in until next week, I’ll do it on Sunday afternoon”. On one hand, I’m proud that he is able to manage his time well enough and can put aside time when he will feel more refreshed to tackle it. On the other hand, I feel sidelined that precious family time at the weekend is being eaten in to by school work. I, of course, did not say this to him as I want him to respect education and his teachers, however, I cannot help but feel less and less supportive of the endless homework tasks which intrude our personal lives.
As a parent, it is our responsibility to nurture our child’s physical, emotional, social and cognitive abilities by helping them develop and hone the knowledge and skills they need to reach developmental milestones and progress further. This can be achieved through directed modelling, teaching and guidance and as a product of our inherent values, behaviour and lifestyle. I believe that as parents, we should support and encourage a love of learning and curiosity in the world around us through exploration and enquiry.
I have seen and experienced that the relentless setting of homework can obliterate this desire to learn, instead of replacing it with immense stress and pressure for the child and the family.
I met with a young man today who was concerned about an argument he had with his Mum the previous evening; the trigger was that he was unable to access the homework he had been set. I saw a post from an exasperated parent on Facebook asking for help about a Year 7 Science homework. Another parent in the supermarket asking how he can help his son who consistently has meltdowns about his homework tasks not being good enough – but why? Because he sees his 5-year-old peers take in pieces of art clearly designed and made by the parents. For him, his attempt on his own just doesn’t quite look as good no matter what his parents say.
I have worked with families where there are 2 adults and 4 children living in a two-bedroom flat – where can they complete homework? Families with no access to paper let alone resources to make a Tudor House. Families where both parents work who want to spend time enjoying their children rather than completing sterile and useless MyMaths tasks, or those plain and dull worksheets which are given purely to tick a box.
Homework is killing our children’s love of learning. Are we not meant to be preparing our children for the world of work? What other occupation, apart from teaching, are you expected to complete work beyond your hours of work? Yet, we expect our young children to do this. This concept of homework is even more difficult for children who are on the autistic spectrum to comprehend – school work should be completed at school right?
As a parent and a teacher, I tow the line about homework but I am becoming increasingly opposed to it. I am more than happy to go through spellings or times tables in the car or whilst we are out for a walk. If my children show interest in a particular topic or issue we will discuss it or research it in more depth. We will talk about political and social issues, we will write letters and stories that have meaning, we will draw a beautiful image representing the day we have had. This is far more meaningful than trying to recreate a Tudor House.
I do believe that work beyond the classroom becomes relevant and important as children embark on their GCSE and A Levels. Children do need to develop skills of research and inquiry for further study and success in the workplace. I also believe that there is an argument for determined practice but this needs to be driven from within and a desire to learn and succeed; not a product of relentless persuasion from a parent. Children do need to develop skills of time management and meeting deadlines and this can be mastered in time, as they approach adulthood and independence. Imagine the enthusiasm if the concept of home learning and individual inquiry started at 14 years old rather than 4 years old. Unfortunately, by the time children reach GCSE, homework has become an arduous task with little meaning or benefit. It is purely a task which has to be endured; there is no investment or passion.
Let our kids be kids when they are not at school. Let our kids explore the world around them. Let them simply enjoy time with their friends and their families.
We need to remove the unnecessary pressure and stress of homework. We need to allow children to enjoy and relish the precious time they have beyond the classroom. We need to liberate our children to enjoy the fun and freedom in life.