Monday, 26 November 2012

Homework; Necessary, Or Not?

I think homework for children is getting out of hand. In fact, it actually pisses me off when I hear of children as young as 5, 6 and 7 getting at least an hour's homework to do every night then again at weekends, when it's often much more. What are (or aren't) children doing in school that warrants so much work to do when they're at home? Has the curriculum become so full that there isn't enough time for each lesson to be taught properly? Or are children spending too much time on breaks, playing outside, doing PE, sitting watching DVD's, listening to a lecture in assembly, than actually learning? I honestly don't know - my experience of schools is slightly different to the norm I guess, as Amy has never been given a huge amount of homework. She gets the odd paper to complete occasionally, but it's very rare. I don't agree with a young child spending anymore time than a maximum of half an hour on homework, and even then I feel it's often unnecessary. A few spellings is obviously helpful, as are some equations, but having to spend hours at weekends sitting at the kitchen table scribbling notes, doing sums, revising for a test, is just absolutely ludicrous at such a young age in my opinion.

I'm not a teacher and wouldn't want to be one. I realise in many instances they can't win. Some parents demand more homework for their children, some parents say it's too much. I imagine teachers have a hard time trying to get the balance right. But when your child is taken away from actually being a 'child' and made to work on school projects during their weekends, I simply can't get my head around it. I'm not so obstinate that I don't think kids should be given homework at all, but kids need to be kids; they need to learn to socialise and play, to be outdoors, spending time with friends and family and building up those priceless and precious memories. I'm all for banning homework actually, at least until the child reaches double figures, i.e. 10 years old. And then it should be limited to the bare minimum. I think this discussion could go on for ever to be honest, because some children need homework and some don't. Those struggling probably need to do extra activities outside school, while the ones at the other end of the scale might not need to do as much revision. But if our child is particularly gifted and excelling in certain subjects, don't we want to push them further to get that A grade? Is there an age when children should be given homework? How much is too much? How much is not enough? And why is it so necessary that homework be given every night and at weekends, sometimes totalling up to several hours, when the child is in school all week anyway?

I'd like to give credit to the following people for inspiring me to write this post:
Jax Blunt - Home Educator

33 comments:

  1. It's a really tricky one and I don't profess to know anything about it, but this is my view.

    I remember being absolutely astounded when I did a french exchange at 14 years old and discovered that they went to school from 8 till 5, and also saturday mornings. I don't know what happens in the rest of Europe.

    I'm guessing that there are two choices - teach kids everything they need to learn at school in order for them to be at the right level on the curriculum or le,t them do part of that work at home. Of course, to do it at school would require more pay for teachers. Ha...what a laugh...as if that's ever going to happen.

    I don't know what the answer is. We all want educated children, but I agree with you that if that comes at the cost of education at home, it isn't a good thing.

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    1. I remember the French exchange, Elaine and also remember being shocked that they went into school on Saturday morning's. Maybe our kids should be at school longer - perhaps not weekends, but definitely during the week.

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  2. I never had homework, apart from learning a few spellings, until I went to Secondary school, and teachers concentrated on the 3 Rs - it worked for our generation and I think it would work for kids now. Having worked in education for 20+ years I can honestly say I think standards in schools has slipped, teachers have too many stupid targets to achieve instead of being allowed to concentrate on actually 'teaching' the pupils, especially in primary schools - there are too many kids reaching secondary school who can't acturally read, write or add up! I'll get off me soap box now.

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    1. Of course it would work. All these ridiculous ofsted rules have taken over and teachers have their hands tied. School's are obsessed with stats. I totally agree with every thing you've said here.

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  3. If I'm honest I think if you decide to send your children to school and be part of the current education system then I believe in homework. Homework is not for the children but for the parents. It's not about the children doing work they did not get to do at school but for parents to learn and work with their children, reinforcing what they did at school. Many parents do not take part in their children's education and this is a way to encourage it. Now if you argue about the formality of the education system itself and how children learn then that is a completely different argument for me.

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    1. I'm with you on the bit where you say parents being encouraging, but parents aren't qualified teachers - well, you know what I mean I'm sure. But I've always been under the impression the homework is for the kids... What about the parents who just leave their kids to it - isn't that defeating the object of your argument?

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  4. Here's my experience in France - children under 11 go to school from 9-12 and 2-5, so 6 hours a day with 2 breaks. And only 4 days a week. So say 20 hours school a week. Probably shorter than the UK?

    The problem with this is that after age 6 they do have homework. We've experienced this done well and done badly (2 different schools). In our children's first school, an hour of spellings to learn would turn up on a Thursday night, and they would be tested on them the next day (Friday). The spellings had clearly not even been touched on in class. We thought it was disgraceful and ridiculous, terrible for morale and a bad example of how to learn. Our children go to bed at 7pm, so by the time they've done homework, eaten and had a shower they had no time to relax in the evenings. The teacher assured us it was normal. For that and a number of other reasons we changed schools.

    The second school is much better. Homework (for my 7 year old) comes on a Tuesday night (to be completed during Wednesday) and on a Friday night (to be done over the weekend). I'd say there's 30-60 minutes each time. Spelling, grammar, maths, reading. But the work has already been covered in class, it's usually revision.

    I didn't have homework until 11, so this is a new experience for me, but actually I enjoy sitting with my daughter, having a chance to see what she is doing in school and spending some time helping her. We've found a good rhythm to fitting it in, even if she's not always so keen. It's particularly important for us as she's working in French, so I like to see how she is doing and we try to make it fun.

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    1. Making it fun can also make it interesting and a pastime you can enjoy together. I don't remember getting homework until I started senior school aged 11 and then it wasn't much. We worked hard in school and until we were doing exams, homework to such an extent wasn't necessary.

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  5. it is an interesting argument...working in education now---i will say that most days we give time for students to do their homework, or if they dont do the work in class they have to do it for homework so the ones that have a lot bring it on themselves...at least in my classes...of course i have high schoolers so there is a certain level of responsibility expected...

    i remember being astounded at the amount my kids had at a young age...and there were nights i just sent a note saying they had spent enough time on it and that was enough...

    i think there is a certain amount though necessary if for no other reason than to have the parents on the same page with what is being taught...because it should be a partnership...and to give students the ability to practice...math for instance they get the equivalent of about 45 minutes a day in math...now take away time for behavior issues in class or what not and it diminishes rather quickly...

    i did chuckle with elaine...as a teacher this year i make less than i did my first year coming out of college...it is a shame i could probably make more working for a day care...without the expectation to teach them something...

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    1. You see, I'm not onto this concept about it being a partnership. The learning is for the children. But what I find difficult to appreciate on this is that many parents don't bother supervising their children whilst they're doing homework, they just leave to it. This therefore isn't a partnership. It's taking away time for a young child to be a young child.

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  6. I've had a homework rant in the past. I would have to say that since we've been living in England (June this year) it has been a lot better than the situation in Italy. My kids have had to seriously study from age 6. Last year my son did the first year of high school in Italy, and he had hours of homework every night (and he was only 11 years old!). You do wonder what they do at school.

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    1. Hours of homework at night is so silly. That would have me going into school and asking what on earth they are doing at school that so much work needs to be done at home.

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  7. Fab debate. I agree homework is for the parents when the children are young. When my eldest started in Reception he was bringing home weekend homework! It didn't take long to complete, and is usually play-oriented, but obviously needed a parent to sit and go through it with him. I guess it gets the child into the routine of homework but seems a little excessive at 4 years of age! In year 1 he still gets weekend homework and is starting to do it more independently but still needs to be reminded about it and needs a little assistance. It is a lot for him though with reading, spellings, numbers etc that he gets checked on every week too! I think free play is still really important at this age so make sure he has plenty of that too.

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    1. You do have to find a balance don't you. Our children should have the freedom to play - I've been brought up perhaps a little old-school where children learn at school and play at home. They can always play and learn at the same time, it doesn't need to be completely regimented.

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  8. Great post. I think it's a really tricky subject. I'm totally behind homework, even at a young age, but agree that 1 hour is a long time for such young kids.
    For me I think it's something that needs to gradually build up, maybe just a sheet or 2 to start with up until they hit 8 or 9 and then start to prepare them for high school by slowly building up the amount of homework they get and the difficulty.

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    1. I think that would be much better than sending children in Reception and Year 1 home with wads of homework. They don't have the concentration after school and most really don't need to have it either. At 4, 5, 6 and 7 years old they should be playing when they've been at school all day - not coming home to another hour or two of work.

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  9. Both my children are now in differnet schools, one is still in primary/junior. She has always had some spellings and reading to do, once she hit yr 4 they would get the occasional project to work on, and from yr 5 on they has some maths as well as the reading and spellings.
    My son is now in yr 8, he has different amounts every day, 2 one day and 3 the next and so on through the week. Occasionally he'll get a big project added to that as well, but they are expected to do at least 30mins on each subject set.
    By the time this has been done on a day with 3 subjects there isn't much time to do anything else, he enjoys his gym club, and is expected to do chores around the house for pocket money. But by the time we've had gym or an afterschool club and then homework followed by dinner there is no time for chores or even social family time as its bed time.
    I agree that there are times when children are given too much and it should be balanced more and built up slowly.

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    1. I think year 5 and year 8 it's to be expected. But it is a shame that homework is cutting into family time which is so precious.

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  10. I agree with you that little ones shouldn't be required to do homework. As you say, it would be better if they start getting it from around the age of 10. I know that with my 16 year old, having homework has helped him get into the routine of studying for exams. He has a good work ethic which was helped along because of the homework. Although, again... it wouldn't have been necessary until after the age of 10!

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    1. I guess at 16 it's expected; exams and revision are important for them and even I wouldn't begrudge homework then! But I didn't study at home, I was pretty useless in school actually which is probably why I feel the way I do now!

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  11. As a teacher (currently unemployed) I can comment from my side if that is ok. All schools have a homework policy my last schools for my year group (y2) was homework set once a week and due in a week later this homework should be a phonics activity, maths activity, literacy activity and occasional topic work. the children were also expected to read every single night for at least 10 minutes.

    I hated this policy these children were 6 years old and the only bit I agreed with was reading regularly and some sort of maths - I often sent home a game.

    By doing the amount expected of me I found it hard to keep track of who had and who hadn't done it, mark it along with the crazy marking policy in my school and actually find something meaningful to send home.

    When I was at primary school we had to read and learn our tables - we also had to do a project of our choice every (old) term.

    So I think you will find that a lot of teachers think there is too much homework but the powers above are setting the rules!

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    1. Thank you for giving your side, this is really appreciated and adds a great discussion. I have the utmost respect for the teachers at Amy's school - it's a special school and some of the children are quite demanding to say the least. What they do to support these children is immense. I realise it is the powers-that-be who set the rules and I feel for teachers - my sister is a teacher - because I imagine they find it hard to get that balance right.

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  12. Good post, I think the answer is we all do what we can and as much as we feel our kids can sensibly absorb. I reading spelling and tables with the younger ones and expect the older ones to do their own work and I don't do it every night as taking them to clubs and activities also takes so much of my evening up. What ever your approach they all get to read and write in the end!

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    1. This is the problem nowadays isn't it, children are missing out on clubs and spending quality time socialising because of all this homework, most of which is quite unnecessary in my opinion.

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  13. Thanks for the mention first of all. About homework... I didn't get any until secondary school and then it was a big shock. I don't think I ever got over it tbh. I think it's all a matter of degree. Almost every fulfilling job when you are an adult comes with lifelong homework. You may as well get used to the responsibility when you are young. On the other hand, your days shouldn't be bogged down by it when you are so young and also need to play a lot. I also think the parent has a responsibility to help the child get the homework done early so that it doesn't hang over them for the whole weekend or holiday.

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    1. I think I get your logic! But I do stand by my opinion that such young children don't need homework. I really do agree that kids should do their homework early if they do have it, and not let it hang over them all weekend.

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  14. My eldest has just turned 7 (year 2) and been getting homework since year 1. She gets math and literacy homework set on a Friday, to be handed in on the following Wednesday. The math takes most of Saturday morning and we do the literacy on the Sunday afternoon. If we don't do it then, its so hard to get her to do it after school on the Monday and Tuesday night. Plus she has a reading diary and set targets.

    To be honest, it's getting a bit much. If a family event occurs or she is too tired, I'm happy for her not do it, but her dad is a bit more eager for her to get it completed.

    I believe in some parent home participation, but she also needs some time out, family time and time to develop her own interests. I'd hate for all this homework to put her off school at such a young age.

    What to do?

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    1. Wow, that's quite a lot of homework isn't it. It really shouldn't eat into family time. Children should be doing enough work at school without needing to bring it home.

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  15. It's ridiculous - when are the kids supposed to make a life for themselves? And Unis and employers are saying that kids leave school with lots of bits of paper and no common sense for leading life! But I suppose I would think like that - I'm a home educator too. (You can read all about us here http://rossmountney.wordpress.com) The interesting thing is that it's home educators who are proving that kids really don't need to do all this stuff in order to become educated, gain qualifications, and move forward to a busy and productive life - as ours and other home educated friends did!

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  16. Thanks for leaving your link, Ross. When Amy was struggling at mainstream school, I started to ponder home education but I'm she would have had to have a full-time tutor - could have been expensive! Her main issue however, is poor social skills and going to school helps with that. I realised when she'd finally left mainstream school and started in the special school where every child is disabled and has a condition such as autism, that she was in the right place and I also realised how little mainstream education did for her. Home ed works for some but it wouldn't have been suitable for Amy.

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  17. Yes - I understand it doesn't suit everyone - just like school really! So glad you found the right place for her to be. x

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  18. I totally agree that homework has gotten ridiculous. The school has our children for long enough each day. Children still need time to just be a kid--to have a childhood. Even play is a learning experience. There is too much pressure on people these days, including children!

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