HOMEWORK – Not in my world!

As a teacher I’m not a fan of homework (if they work hard during class time) and as a parent I’m even less of a fan.  I think after spending six hours contained at desks, they should be out climbing trees, kicking balls, making cubbies, playing dress-ups – generally having fun (or even reading books… I’m an English teacher after all).

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From what I’ve read, the jury is out on the benefits of homework. Recent studies reveal a large amount of homework doesn’t equate with academic and tertiary success. Too often it is ‘busy work’ – repetitive activities, without much educational value, purely designed to occupy many long hours and rarely fostering critical or imaginative thinking. Too often it is generated by parental expectations – a pressure on teachers and parents that becomes a dreaded weekly or nightly chore.

Public and private schools alike dish it out. Beginning in infants’ school with a sheet or two to be completed by Friday, it expands to an hour or so in upper primary and by high school – students are expected to do an hour for each subject nightly. Uni and TAFE have assignments, work has overtime but in the real world there are no pointless tasks involving hours of work, purely for the sake of it.

Of course, homework is a necessity in senior high school, and I don’t resent marking students’ essays in their endless quest for excellence – that’s a given. But I am quite scarred by my own children’s homework experiences in infants and primary school. Year 5 was a strain for my son and traumatising for me. His projects were so frequent and difficult (more like Year 10 standard) parents rang around weekly, comparing notes and discussing the best approach to the assignment. Whenever I didn’t help him (and I was a very busy woman) he failed the project! I was a total wreck.

And my daughter’s Year 1 homework is branded indelibly on my mind. Her teacher was a kind and experienced woman who spoke convincingly at the Parent-Teacher Talk about her belief that reading aside, one sheet was adequate for this age – they were barely six. We all nodded, all except one parent – an enthusiastic mother, a zealot – who expressed a strong and vocal desire for more homework.

“My daughter finishes that sheet on Monday night!” she shouted across the room, while we other naughty parents flinched on our tiny chairs. “And she is sooo bored for the rest of the week…can we have a second sheet, for those motivated students who want extra work?”

Not usually a violent person, I wanted to throw a paperclip at her. The teacher demurred, waiting for other parents to intervene. No one spoke, myself included, it was late – the dinner hour – I was tired, I’d been at school teaching all day myself. I wanted to be out of there, I wanted food, wine and chocolate. Yet I didn’t want to be that lax parent who can’t be bothered with homework, whose daughter wasn’t remotely motivated about one homework sheet, let alone two.

The crazy homework-loving-mother insisted, the nice teacher conceded and what started out as optional extension homework for a few enthusiastic, diligent students, somehow became the expected norm. It was a big struggle doing those sheets every week, especially since my daughter only enjoyed colouring them in!

What are your thoughts on homework? Do you have motivated children who embrace their homework, or is it a nightly battle, a delicate combination of cajoling and threats to get it done by Friday?

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6 thoughts on “HOMEWORK – Not in my world!

  1. All homework is not equal. I think it’s useful to finish some classwork at home, if appropriate.
    I also think students aren’t given the opportunity to consolidate foundation maths and literacy concepts in current overcrowded curricula. Sadly the only time is at home. Practice in reading, writing, speaking and basic maths can exercise important parts of the brain, allowing more complex, lateral thinking. I like this interview with Dr Norman Doidge on learning and neuroplasticity –
    http://www.abc.net.au/7.30/content/2008/s2360105.htm
    Irrelevant homework? Too much homework? Boring homework? Projects at home? Waste of time. Crazy homework-loving-parents for the sake of it? Scary.

  2. Yes perhaps the overcrowded school day – especially in primary school – doesn’t allow for finishing off basic concepts…good point (I only really know about my subject – English!) Thanks for the link, will check it out 🙂

  3. When my kids are in primary school, I begin every year advising the teacher that my child is the child that will not complete any homework. I don’t mean home readers or reading, that is compulsory in my house. Thos meaningless pieces of paper go straight in the bin. I will go over spelling lists with them as we are driving around, or I will ask them how to spell certain words out of the blue.

    Most teachers are relieved that I don’t believe in homework. 95% of the 30 teachers my kids have had, in primary school, have admitted they set the homework because some parents request it. Year 6 is a different matter, as are projects in senior primary.

    I also disagree with the ridiculous amount of homework teachers tend to set in year 7 with the view of breaking them in and showing them what high school is all about. My yr 7 daughter is currently getting more homework than her older sister who is in year 12! Ridiculous!

  4. I hear you, Ash…you are right that most teachers don’t wish to set large amounts of homework because, not only does it stress kids and their parents, they have to mark it all! I too dislike the way poor little Year 7s are overloaded with homework – it’s enough that they’re in ‘big high school’ with its accompanying changes and stresses, without making them do hours of homework for each subject! 🙂

  5. I had some parents ask for extra homework when I was teaching Year Two. I devised an elaborate six week project which involved a lot of assistance from the parents. They never asked me again 😉

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