19 October 2016

Dear friend,

I am here today to make a confession as a mum and as a teacher. I hate homework. Homework has been the cause of many an argument in my house and my boys are still in primary school. My attitude is very much, '...well I don't think they should have homework anyway...' which drives my poor husband mad as he is quite right, it doesn't actually matter what I think, they have to do it! But it's been bugging me for ages...

Why do my boys have to do homework?

Let's make this perfectly clear from the start,

There is no education research to suggest that homework is beneficial for Primary school students educational success! 

I dont remember as a child having to do homework (apart from learning tables and lists of spellings) we were encouraged to read and my mum took us to the library every week. I don't recall any other homework being given until I reached secondary school. However, in the last period of educational policy there seems to have been a swing towards more and more homework being encouraged.

My son (aged 10) receives 4 pieces of homework a week, these can include, maths (usually a set of sums with multiple choice answers) Grammar, Comprehension, English (learning vocabulary) and geography or history.

Sunday evening and here comes the phrase all parents dread to hear...

Oh  no! I forgot to do my homework. 

Yep, come on, I know you've done it too. You are having such a great weekend you forget all about the homework! Panic ensues, arguments begin, everyone blaming everyone else. Then rush, to get it done! And who exactly is doing the homework, the children or the parents?

I know some parents who have completed their children's homework, most notably a father who entered an online maths competition for his 10 year old son and won.

Homework puts children and parents under pressure.

We now have a rule that the big lad works for 20-30 minutes every evening after dinner. That doesn't seem like a lot of time out of the day and you probably think; What is she complaining about?  But this homework hangs over us like a black cloud all week.

Firstly he kept forgetting to bring his homework folder home. (His autism means he has problems with self organisation.) We got a bag to put it in to try and help. He left the bag at school. We copied the homework from his friend.

He forgot his bag again. Hubby and I got shouty at each other for not remembering to remind him. The big lad cried. Hubby stormed off in a strop and came back with said homework bag (luckily the cleaners were in school)...

Homework causes conflict! 

Secondly, I have issues with the type of homework. I firmly believe that homework should be about reinforcing learning done in school not introducing new concepts but building on prior learning. It should be interesting and open. I can't see the benefit of my child rote learning a bunch of facts that he won't remember in a month when he could be having real experiences.It could of course be argued that engaged teachers will set high interest homework. But I would rather busy teachers concentrated on developing interesting, challenging and high quality lessons.

Sometimes life happens;  there's a birthday party, we go out for the day...
We forgot to learn a stupid list of facts but we did visit an ancient city and look at it's architecture or go to a museum and see the skeleton of a T-Rex or visit our family or spend an afternoon walking on the beach together or just cuddled and talked...
Aren't they also really valuable learning experiences?

Low interest homework causes children to disengage with learning. 

What happens on evenings when my boys have DJ lessons or football? How do we bloody fit it all in? Managing the family timetable is getting increasingly tricky even with technology allowing us to share calendars.

Homework means less time for extra curricular activities which are vital to children's health and well being.

On days when I work we eat dinner together and have maybe an hour as a family before bed. Half of that time is now spent on homework.  Want to go for a beach walk after dinner, want to watch some crap program together on TV or play a board game (we love that) well not until homework is finished. I hate homework... 

Homework reduces family time. 

Here's what the research says:

  • In general, homework has substantial benefits at the high school level, with decreased benefits for middle school students and little benefit for elementary students (Cooper, 1989; Cooper et al., 2006).
  • While assigning homework may have academic benefits, it can also cut into important personal and family time (Cooper et al., 2006).
  • Assigning too much homework can result in poor performance (Fern├índez-Alonso et al., 2015).
  • A student’s ability to complete homework may depend on factors that are outside their control (Cooper et al., 2006; OECD, 2014; Eren & Henderson, 2011).

Taken from edutopua article :  Research trends why homework should be balanced.

I loved this letter from Brandy Young an elementary school teacher in Texas. This letter was placed on FB and went viral. It obviously struck a chord with a lot of parents.

I wish my boys would come home with a letter like this!

Did you know that 1 in 4 young people are suffering from mental health problems. 

Is it anything to do with the amount of pressure that we are putting our young people under to achieve? Or the tiny amount of family time we have together? Or that less children are participating in extra curricular activities? I would bet on the answer being yes...

I want primary school children to be allowed to be kids. I want them to investigate the world with wonder and interest. To play out with friends and come home with dirty knees and grubby faces. To join a group, learn to dance, play an instrument or take part in sport. To spend valuable time with their families and friends. To learn through play, investigation and action. To grow into well rounded individuals.

 Let's make this perfectly clear,

There is no education research to suggest that homework is beneficial for Primary school students educational success! 

Let kids be kids. Ditch the homework!

Do you hate homework? How much homework do your kids get?

I am very pleased that my new school has a no homework policy for the younger children. 

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