Tuesday, August 31, 2010


OK, parents, teachers, both....homework...discuss!

This one really does my head in.
I do not understand.
It does not compute.

Let me try to explain my confusion and frustration.

I was a primary school teacher for 13 years.
Homework was one of the banes of my existence.
As a teacher I had to set it, collect it, correct it and report on it.
Because that's what teachers do?
Ahhh *ahem* NOT a good enough reason.
So as I became a little more experienced and confident I began to speak up at staff meetings.
I had a few other teachers in my camp, but not many.
I pushed for reading, and learning number facts and spelling to be the only work needed to be done at home.
And when I had very young grades, this was all I would set.
But who was most upset by this?
Because their little darlings would be 'left behind', 'wouldn't know how to do homework when they got to higher grades', 'needed the discipline'.
Purlease....discipline? We're talking early childhood.
That to me is like teaching your two year old how to cook dinner because they'll need to know when they leave day in the ridiculously distant future!
And if you can't learn to start doing something when the time is right, something is wrong.
Homework is not necessary AT ALL in primary school...full stop...or as the Americans say...period (but that always makes me wince).
Anyway, I blame the out of control homework setting on overzealous teachers trying to impress and appease overzealous parents.
Can we can all just settle down a little people?
Drop the zealousness and let kids be kids.

I have heard parents complain that they won't know what their children are learning if they don't get homework. Show me a classroom where the door isn't always open for you to pop in and have a look through the kids books and work and I'll say that's a valid point.

I've also heard parents express their concern about getting the terminology wrong with their children. The kids tell their parents they're doing it wrong and arguments ensue. Things have changed a lot since they were at school and parents often don't know how to 'teach' at home, nor should they have to.

This ranty post was brought about by the conversation I had with some other mums before school this morning.

For the past week we have had Roger (the class pirate bear for boys) . We had to show him a good time, document it, then return him to school this morning. The girls take Delta the Princess bear home and the little girl who had Delta for the week was looking through the scrapbook outside the classroom. That's when the complaining about homework and projects began.  This is Prep, and so far we have had three projects this year.

Look, to be perfectly honest, I quite like them. Doing the projects that is. But that's not the point. I'm doing them, not my boy, because he can't yet. They've all been excellent ideas and interesting learning opportunities. But it's an added extra that most families find difficult.

So I ask you. Who is homework really for?
I don't believe it benefits children.
But I'm ready for the barrage of comments disagreeing with me.
Go on...hit me with it!


  1. I've got a daughter in prep (she's repeated) and last year her homework was 3 pages worth of really hard work for a newbie.

    This year it's down to practicing her words, a little math, find-a-words and or colouring in the objects that begin with the letter of the week. Easy stuff and she's happy to work on it by herself most nights.

    I like the idea of homework at home so that I know a bit of what she's learning but too much at an early age is crazy as we're already reading two books a night (daily book plus the weekly booster book) and doing our reading words (sets of 12 words we have to learn with up to 12 sets a year)

    So yes, sometimes too much homework is bad but it's good in many ways to know where your children are with their learning.

    Still holding out my opinion until grade 3 when the serious homework sets in :( boo.

    I like the class bear project though. Wish my daughter's class had something like that.

    Great post and I hope it brings up lots of discussion

  2. I agree with you Thea. Homework in the form of projects is futile when everyone knows that the parents end up doing most of the work.

    I do believe reading and maths revision is imperative a few days a week, not necessarily every day.

    My 9 yr old just did a project on Egypt which he was excited about. He had some books to use for research, but also needed the internet and that's where my gripe comes in. While he is more than capable of searching and finding what he needed, I will not (at his age) allow him to do web searches without supervision. So while he could do the necessary work, I still needed to make time to sit with him and supervise while he found what he needed... You just can't win sometimes!

  3. As far as I'm concerned, Homework should only be the work from that day/week that you did not complete, so you take it home to complete it. Homework.

    Giving extra work to be done at home is making the parents the teachers. Kids go to school to be taught, at school, by teachers.

    My child shuldn't have to miss out on learning because I'm too stupid to answer their questions. Because I am not a teacher.

  4. MMBB I love you!!! As a teacher often homework was simply what hadn't been completed at school that day, but then parents who had efficient workers would complain that they didn't get homework and that the kids were "bored" after school (ummm, go climb a tree!) and the kids who mucked around all day wouldn't do it anyway as often the parents didn't help them at home.

    Other times when the school said homework was compulsory i did the spelling, number facts and reading (appropriate time limits for different grades) and I had mixed responses. Most were happy, others distraught. One family removed their child from the school as "how was she going to get into university without good study skills". She was in Year 3!!!!!

    Thea, no matter what a teacher does for homework its wrong for some families. I just hope that when P gets to school its basic facts. Let them do heavy stuff at University!

  5. Thea, I am so glad to read this from you, a teacher.

    I was ranting about this exact same issue on AMB the other day.

    Olivia (6, in a composite year 1/2 class of 12 students) gets approx. 30 mins of homework a night.

    2 readers, 12 words to read and spell by rote, and some maths.

    Olivia is an average child of average ability in an average government school.


    She is exhausted by the end of a school day and just wants to PLAY.

    I have expressed my concern over the amount of homework to her very competant teacher, who tells me that it is simply what is required to ensure that children do not "fall behind".

    But why am I presented with that pressure?

    Why is it that Olivia's school day is filled with "fun" stuff such as dance and craft, and then I have to organise the "boring" stuff with her at home?


    (I should also add that I was an average student at an average government primary school myself. I did not ever get set any homework, ever.I loved school. I ended up at uni with a honours degree. No homework, ever.)

  6. Homework is also the bane of my existence. I feel apart from reading, homework should be abolished. Families are time-poor and cuts into quality time. If you have a child with learning difficulties or other conditions, it cuts into even more time and makes home life a battlefield. Instead, kids should have the afternoons free to play a sport or enjoy a hobby (even if it's just a playdate with friends or kicking a ball around the park), helping parents prepare dinner, getting some exercise, and helping to look after pets or whatever. What do others think? Parents may then have time to help out in class more often, and the kids may enjoy their school life more.

  7. It's really interesting how things differ. Last year Girl Child was on a Kindy (first year of formal schooling) class. Homework was readers and alphabet cards until Term 2 when they got spelling words as well. Oh, they did a project on their family tree as well.

    This year in a 1/2 class at the same school, they have readers. Nothing else. Maybe this term they will get spelling or something but maybe not.

    I'm in class generally 2 hours a week so I do see what they are learning (in literacy anyway). I think kids need time to be kids.

    That said Boy Child starts high school next year and I worry about him coping with homework from several different subjects when he really hasn't ever been given much.

    Ummm... I think I might be in the fence with this one.

  8. All this is still ahead of me. But I think this is a question to store away for asking when we're choosing schools. Because when my daughter comes home from school (in years to come) and we want to spend some family time together in the evening, we'll want to do things like have fun, chat, relax, read and talk about her day. Not be stressing out about projects due!

    Why are we so insistent on making our kids grow up so fast? Let them play!

  9. A topic close to my heart Thea.

    I am teacher and a Mum. I loathe homework for so, so many reasons.

    School is a long day. Kids work and play hard at school, lets face it play is part of their work.
    Children learn at their own pace and in their own time. Pushing them does not set them up for future success, it sets them up for stress and anxiety.

    My son in grade five has above average reading and perception as well as higher than average critical thinking skills. He does not do, nor has he ever done homework - apart from daily reading, some spelling and basic maths facts.

    My daughter in grade 3 is the same. Spelling, reading, some times tables. That's it. 5 minutes max.

    Their school has a no homework policy. It is one of the things I like about the school. Staff there agree kids have enough to do after school without homework...Like, you know play outside, relax, watch a bit of TV... sport etc. SOme children are in after school care and may not be home until after 6pm some nights. When we come home from work we like to relax and unwind a little, what makes anyone think a child who has been at school for 6 or more hours a day does not want the same?

    A child at home drawing, playing, reading, being on the computer, building lego, running outside... it's all learning.

    Homework does not give parents a real idea of where their child is at at school... it gives them an idea of how well they can recite maths facts and recognise high frequency words on a sheet, or in a memory type game etc. It does not give even a slight insight to how they are really going. School and learning is so much more than that.

    Homework is often set for the parents sake and not the child's. So why is it set at all?

    The job of an early childhood or even an upper primary teacher is not to prepare the child for high school. Just as it is not the high school teacher's job to prepare students for higher education or work.

    It is the job of teachers to support, encourage, observe, plan for the child where they are right now and to carefully and skilfully scaffold further learning with increasing complexity and really, 6.5 hours a day should be enough.

    By the time a child reaches high school they should have the (supported) organisational skills, and emotional and intellectual maturity to be able to take on board homework.

    I was an average student in a range of schools... including on rather hippy school where I think all we did was run around outside and plant veggies! I went to an under achieving high school and did very little homework at all, even in years 11 and 12, and I still managed to get a uni degree!

    Homework... nope. Not for me!

  10. Thea, you know my thoughts on this - homework is a BIG waste of time. I struggle to get my class to read at home, let alone do the homework some parents ask for. Let kids be kids - when it's time to do homework, they will be ready for it cos they will be ready developmentally also. I want them to read every night and learn their times tables. If that's not enough, parents can organize their own bloody homework!!!!


  11. As a nanny to two school aged girls (Years 2 and 3), I must say, I HATE the moment at around 4pm when I have to say to them, "OK girls, time to come and do your maths homework". Every single afternoon, the reply is, "AWWWW do we have to!?!? Can't we have five more minutes to play?!" I wish I could say yes to more play time!

    They're smart girls and homework for them is a breeze. They could probably do it while sitting in front of the TV if I let them. It's so easy for them that it just feels like a complete waste of time. They'd much rather be sitting on the couch reading the latest Go Girl book or doing some drawing, which I think is probably much more beneficial than maths homework anyway!

    There are plenty of hours in the school day, they can work hard then and use their time at home to PLAY.

    Great post x

  12. Fantastic post, Thea. Couldn't agree more with everything you said. xx

  13. Great post, Thea. I've never agreed with homework in general apart from take home readers and maybe 10 mins of quick number or word based work.

    Jade x

  14. My Yr 3 son sat down and did 40 minutes of homework the other night - and still hadn't finished it! And half the time he comes home with stuff he says he hasn't learnt yet. I thought perhaps he wasn't paying attention in class, but it seems others are finding the same thing.

    I think, when you're 8, it's just too much. These kids don't get time to just be kids, and it's so frustrating for the parents.

    Thankfully, they stopped the Kindy homework when my 6yo started until Term 3 at least! And then, it was pretty quick and very easy, and the 6yo quite enjoyed it. But the 8yo's homework is laborious.

    I have a friend whose two sons go to a school that gets great results (in Perth) and they have a no homework policy.

    Great post, hon. Could go on for ages...but won't bore you!

  15. IF my child is struggling or "falling behind" I will help them at home.
    IF my child is doing fine I'm not going to hassle them with homework.


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