I have a problem with homework No 1

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Is this scene familiar to anyone?

This is the first of a couple of blog posts I plan to write about homework. In this one, I shall comment on the amount children are expected to complete. It’s the one thing that has troubled me about Helen’s first year at school.

At the beginning of the school year, my wife and I were told that we should ideally read with Helen for about 20 minutes each night. School books came home and we fulfilled our obligations and read them with our daughter.

Interestingly, any resistance to reading at home came in the early days when the books were easier. Needless to say, as Helen neared the end of the school year the books became increasingly challenging. The story lines were more complex and interesting. She actually found this stimulating and you could see her really enjoying the stories and commenting on them.

As her reading improved, I noticed that notes were coming home suggesting she also practice writing various key words. We duly complied, but cut back on the reading to compensate for this. As a four and latterly five year old, we didn’t want her to be burdened with work after school.

Then there were suggestions as to maths homework we could be doing. Added to this, we were supposed to be logging on to a Virtual Learning Platform so she could practice various skills on line.

As an aside, I find the concept of teaching reception aged kids IT skills hilarious. Have you met any?? They probably know more than their teachers! I digress, forgive me.

Towards the end of term I was beginning to get a bit concerned about all this. These were reception aged children being sent home with reading, writing, mathematics and IT homework.

I’m afraid I drew the line. So long as Helen did some homework and I could see progress, I was happy. Some days I even made up my own homework. After her birthday I made her write thank you letters and a note was duly made in Helen’s homework record that she had done “writing practice”. I mean come on, I wasn’t going to make the kid write thank you notes and do homework on top of this.

This all worries me. It seems like too much at too young-an-age. I know worse is to come. A few months ago I found myself in a room with a group of parents with teenaged kids. I was somewhat taken aback to learn that their offspring are expected to complete two hours of home study a night. When I was that age it was an hour a night and that seems much more reasonable.

What do you think? Are our youngsters under too much pressure to do homework? Should we leave them alone to play? Or are you all in favour of this approach?


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19 thoughts on “I have a problem with homework No 1”

  1. it’s not just infants, it gets worse as they get older, for example my son’s aged 11-14 school ran from 7.30am to 2.10pm, he was then expected to stay at homework club till 5pm or to do it at home. If I left him in homework club, he would be shattered, grumpy and as miserable as sin when he got home, if I allowed him to do homework at home, he would refuse and arguing with a teenager isn’t fun.
    I’ve got 5 children and child no 3&4 didn’t do homework as they had all their sporting activities after school to focus on. I’m also a teacher and don’t believe in setting homework, it should be done as class work during lesson time where a qualified person (teacher and classroom assistant) are there to support and not parents who for example learnt things very differently than their kids do today.

    1. You raise a very interesting point. You have several children so how they must all fit in their homework with appropriate support form you…well I just don’t know. I only have the two and quite how I’ll fit in assisting them both in future leaves me stressed enough! Educators have to be aware of the stresses on families. Homework just adds to it.

  2. Wow! I think homework is good but certainly not to be set as a standard daily for kids of reception age. I am a parent of 4 year old twin girls and a 9 year old boy. I am also a kindergarten teacher and a blogger in Nigeria. I have blogged about issues of homework too as over the years I have had to research on its usefulness depending on age level. I find from experience that it is mostly useful for kids at reception when the teacher has identified a need for it to which the parent will be helped and notified on the duration and how to go about. As kids get older, from grades 1 up, it is important as consistent practice is important to sharpen or refine skills. However, the duration is important and must only be given after the teachers have fully exhausted the length and breadth of the concept taught. See my short blog post on this too. http://thelearningcraft.blogspot.com/2012/08/when-homework-takes-center-stage.html?m=1

    1. I will be checking out your blog Rhoda. It sounds fascinating.

      Thanks for commenting. I like your approach; homework should be used but not overbearing and only once teachers have exhausted the subject taught.

  3. Insane amounts for primary school children.

    I recall at secondary school being expected to do around 2 hours a night, but it didn’t take me that long, maybe an hour. I can’t say I worked that hard for GCSEs. At my 6th form it was private so everyone (including down to 11yo) had 2 hours of prep. Personally I think this type of thing is better – 2 hours is a bit extreme and would never happen in state schools because noone would want to take the sessions, and it would interfere with out of school clubs and family time, but I found the structured time where everyone sat down together and worked was a good idea.

    Overall, I think if children are being taught properly in schools, and have enough activities and discussion, informal interests out of school, then that should be sufficient until they’re at secondary school. Yes weekly maths and spellings tests, but much more than that, parents just aren’t taught the same methods as now in schools.

    1. Yes, it seems that kids are under massive pressure and us as parents have to police it. You’re quite right though, the methods to teach Helen are massively different to when I was at school. I think they’re better…but there is too much reliance on homework.

  4. Hi John, I’m a Dad and a Primary School Teacher. Homework is a big problem at the moment, especially for young children.

    As a parent I am of course keen to do whatever I can for my children but I also know the value of childhood and the lack of pressures that should come with it.

    As a teacher I know we are under ever increasing pressure to teach more and more during the school day. The New Curriculum, that is currently just coming in, is pushing more and more work down to younger and younger children. I guess to help with the workload in school and the pressures on teachers from their Headteachers, teachers are relying more and more on homework.

    1. Very interesting to get your insight Tom. I get the impression that what you’re saying is correct; teachers are under ever increasing pressure and this is passed on to parents and the children themselves. It just seems wrong to piling on so much pressure at such a young age.

  5. I agree that the homework is too much for such young children. My son has to write an A4 side full of writing after he has read each book,ootherwise he has to complete it in his school reward time. We have had so many tears each week because of it. However, I do know many teachers that do not want to give the children all this homework and would prefer them to play as children should. But whole school and government policies mean that this amount of homework is given. Also, you would not believe how many parents complain that their child is not getting enough homework when less is given. Some even complain about this now.

    1. Thanks for dropping by Bek. Sounds like your son’s school is stricter than my daughter’s. Interesting point you raise about parents complaining when there’s less homework. It’s not something I’ve encountered but no doubt I will at some point.

  6. I have just written a post on whether children should do homework in the school holidays!!
    Personally I have found that my son, who is just about to go into year 3, has hardly any homework; every Friday he would be sent home with one task, be it Maths, English or Science. The given task needed to be completed by the following Wednesday. He was also given a book to read at his own pace which isn`t policed like I have heard at other schools. Because of this I have implemented a homework regime and started using an on-line learning programme as detailed in my blog post.
    I do find it worrying how the level of homework sent home differs from school to school.

    1. Hi Jeni. Thanks for commenting. Great minds think alike. My second homework-focused post is about whether kids should do homework over the holidays. I’ll let you know when it’s gone live.

  7. Mummy Whiskers

    I have to admit I have no experience of this yet but that sounds a lot, shouldn’t they be doing most of that in school?! #MMWBH

  8. There are some pressures with school and with the amounts my lot get home, they can be sitting at the table from 30mins to an hour each evening doing homework. Then once thats done, reading is required. Its tiring and tough for them. Personally I think anything more than 30mins is too much, as they’ve already had a full day of schooling. So after that 30mins, its playtime!! Thanks so much for linking up with #MMWBH x

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