I hate it!
My kids go to a reasonable primary school too. The homework comes home and is optional. But is it? Well yes, it is because the instructions say it is but my inner school girl who got severely reprimanded for not handing in homework on time can’t live with this (I did it once and only once but the experience changed me permanently). If homework comes home surely it has to go back completed. Why are they sending it home if it’s optional? Why are they bothering?!?! ARRGGHHHH!
But also I can’t quite bring myself to send my child in without her homework done because I don’t want her to be the odd one out. I’ll be honest – there’s a guilt element here. Are you reading this teachers – parents feel guilty. You’re doing that – stop it!! OK, maybe not.
There are however schools out there where the homework is being sent home, it isn’t optional, and it’s being piled high. Teachers are sending it home with happy optimism, hoping to extend their pupils learning, harnessing the obvious resource that every child has, keen and interested parents who will sit with their child and help them through the questions partly because they want their child to learn but also because they want to know what their kids are learning. Up to date with where their poppets are at, parents will find extra curricula activities to enhance the learning even further, visiting relevant museums, watching documentaries and sharing their favourite books with their little ones. It will be beautiful. There will be bird song in the background. Angels will appear in the sky and chant as you dance round the kitchen making a snack to reward your little one who finished their homework in record time this week and is now drawing a picture of mummy and daddy on their wedding day.
This is what all the grown ups want to happen.
And why wouldn’t it?
Just the one small minor point that doesn’t seem to get taken into consideration when teachers set primary school children homework. There is a law of children that is set in stone and has been that way since the dawn of time. There is no breaking it. .
It’s what I am now calling THE LAW OF PARENTAL IRREVERENCE.
A child will happily complete a task if asked by any adult AS LONG AS THAT ADULT IS NOT THEIR PARENT.
As soon as their parent asks them to do something, even the smallest thing, it is a violation of their freedom and rights and liberty and prerogative and as such it is their right, ney their duty, to regress to toddler tantrum status and express themselves through the medium of humphing, and general brouhaha (yes that’s a real word and pretty much means what it sounds like!)
A task that their teacher sets them may take only 10 minutes in a classroom setting and they can complete it independently. However in a home setting, because of the Law of Parental Irreverence, it takes 2 hours, a motivational chat, at least one food bribe, a full blown shouting match, explaining the logic of how to get to the answer, simply telling them the answers and ends with one of you sobbing in the downstairs loo, normally the parent who is wracked with guilt.
As soon as you call an end to homework the Law of Parental Irreverence is reversed and your Angel reappears, does the dishes, performs an Aria from Carmen and packs their bags ready for the following day. Including the homework.
There are some big questions being asked about homework at the minute. Should kids even be getting homework is the most commonly asked one. Apparently there is no evidence to conclusively support it’s inclusion in our lives you will hear all the time. Weelllll…. there is and there isn’t. It really depends on how you look at that.
If you look at it as the parent taking the role of a tutor then no, there isn’t really any evidence that having somebody shout at a child on a regular basis to do their homework is helpful to their academic career! I recently wrote a blog on tutoring (Tutoring – the business of fear) which explores this type of relationship more fully but the fact that homework is coming out of school is good – at least it’s in line with the curricula. The Sutton Trust have done extensive research into the effect of homework and it doesn’t really start to make a difference to the child’s academic performance until they are at Secondary School. What the Sutton Trust found in the same data review that does make a difference to the child, a massive difference, is encouraging children to discover their own learning strategies – there is so much proof for this you could literally fill a whole library with it!
What we also know is that the old adage, Education begins at home, is true. The children of parents who are engaged in their child’s education do better in the long run. Whole grades better. That is proven.
So to recap, Primary School homework doesn’t make a difference to academic performance BUT engaging parents in a child’s education ensures that kids do better in the long term.
OK, I’m going to put this out there. Bear with me. I’m just a storyteller, and not an expert, but what if instead of sending home academic based homework that kids don’t want to do and causing massive arguments at home the primary schools kept that stuff and did it at school. Then they sent home some brilliant well thought out fun stuff that parents and kids could enjoy together, not with the objective of furthering a primary school child’s academic career but with the objective of nurturing a space between parent and child where learning can grow. To start with it will just seem like playing but eventually, when that child goes to high school, it will have grown into an academic playing field where homework and learning can flourish and thrive in the home instead of being a source of conflict.
If a 7 year old and a Dad have been sitting down once a week and having a blast doing ‘homework’ and Dad has had lot’s to offer to this process, when that 7 year old turns into a big bad 13 year old is it not more likely that they will turn straight to Dad if they start to struggle? Or will it even get that far? Will the Dad, having had so much fun doing homework with his baby and not really having accepted that they’re now nearly a grown up come and see what they’re up to? He may get thrown out of course, but he’s more likely to try if he hasn’t had years of arguments beforehand – surely?
I don’t know the answer. Nobody does. Everybody’s too scared to not do the homework just incase it’s their child that gets left behind. To say “we’re going to stop this” is going to be a very brave decision and probably won’t go down so well with those who come from cultures and families where Academia is high on the agenda, even though academic experts are telling us that this is not the way. However there are some of us who are literally just waiting for permission from the teacher. Having been good students ourselves we can’t act without that, even though we’re now adults!
Oh the drama. And it continues tomorrow when I go in to school and tell the teachers that we didn’t complete the homework because my child had turned into a Devil and I wanted my Angel back! But it’s OK because the homework is optional. Or is it….!!!!
ABOUT STORY STORKS
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SARAH CANTRILL is a woman on a mission to inspire every young child to become a reader for pleasure. She is the Artistic Director & Founder of STORY STORKS, a social enterprise that delivers interactive story workshops to early years children and their grown ups, that help kids to fall in love with stories and develop their early language skills meaning that they have an easier time of learning to read when the time is right. Infact 85% of the kids who come through STORY STORKS are right where they should be or ahead in terms of progression through the reading book scheme once they get to school and the ones who are behind are trying hard because they know that it’s worth it – that to read is to unlock a whole world of fun and adventure and learning and imagination and they might take a bit longer to get there but they’re determined that get there they will.