Should we scrap school homework? Or are we as parents making a big deal out of nothing?
I remember being in primary school in the 1980s and finishing off high school in the early 1990s, receiving homework; perhaps not every day but we received homework. Homework back then was about doing the odd assignment, completing a worksheet or two, writing an essay or doing a few math sums. Most importantly we had time for play. Some form of punishment was given for incomplete homework. But homework back then was minimal with almost no parental involvement. Teachers taught in class. With that background, I was all set on kids getting homework.
As a parent of school going kids in this era, I now find myself having contradictory stance about homework. On the one hand I want it scrapped and on the other hand I find myself checking their homework diaries, signing their completed homework and reminding them to do it. I do the latter because I feel it is my responsibility as a parent to see that the homework is done. I also don’t want my children to be labeled as the lazy kids who don’t do their homework.
Truth is; the amount of homework that kids get is mind boggling. My eldest daughter’s homework has increased tremendously now that she is in Grade 5. As an educator himself at a different school, my husband gives his pupils homework on the odd occasion. But he does not give them any over weekends. His view on the homework issue is straightforward – too much homework prevents the child from being a child. He also knows that not all children are fortunate enough to have the support structures at home to assist with homework.
My daughter will receive homework every day of the week as well as weekends. Besides homework, additional time must be set aside to prepare for an oral and completing assignments. Not to mention time to study for a test or exam and the stress that goes with it. Of which all requires parental involvement. The grandparents are also assisting with the homework.
As working parents, we are tired when we get home. We need to prepare dinner, pack things for the next day and still assist with homework. That is asking too much.
Homework has become a word that I’m not very fond of these days. Just the thought of it tires me; it has become unpleasant and stressful for us as parents and for my daughter. Although she is very willing to do her homework; we can see that it exhausts her especially when she must study for a test on top of it. Thus causing the stress levels to increase.
The amount of homework given has diminished quality family time after school and weekends. Kids spend approximately 6 ½ hours at school and parents 8 hours at work. Add in another hour or for some two hours stuck in traffic that makes it almost 10 hours away from home. This takes away a lot of time during the day. Therefore family time in the evenings are important to us. But with the amount of homework given – quality family time has gone out by the window. Even conversations in the evening will now revolve around homework. We encourage her to do all her homework on a Friday afternoon. For her to have the Saturday and Sunday free; that’s to say if she does not have a test to study for over the weekend.
The point is my child is still just a child and time is valuable to her too; to do things that she loves. But spending the bulk of her valuable time on homework; takes away that time she could’ve spent on playing outside or doing a craft that she enjoys.
So the tip of the iceberg came one Wednesday in April. My daughter came home with 58 math sums to complete as well as homework for her other subjects. Completion and submission of these sums were for the following day. When asked why she had such a lot of homework; she indicated that due to a fun day that they had at school her teacher couldn’t complete all the work in class and therefore they had to do it at home.
This resulted in her starting with her homework the minute she arrived at home that day, leaving no time for play. My husband and I assisted with homework causing a delay in family dinner time. As these math sums were quite challenging; it took longer to complete as she had to concentrate on her calculations. That night; my poor child was up till after 20h00 with homework – totally exhausted and giving big yawns every few seconds.
I was ranting and raving like a bull seeing red and ready to attack. I aimed my anger and frustrations at the wrong people – my family. With still 8 or so sums to complete, I told her to close her books and get into bed. I could not allow my child to be tortured by another calculation. She looked haggard with her concentration levels being at its lowest or should I say nonexistent. The tears started rolling as she stressed about getting a demerit for incomplete homework. So both my husband and I assured her that I will be the one who will explain to her teacher why she couldn’t complete all her homework.
Still fuming and rightfully so – I had every reason to be. My husband told me not to email the teacher in the state of mind that I was in. When you are angry, your choice of words and sentence structure are based on emotions. I wanted the teacher to focus on the content of the email and not the tone – so I decided to send it the next morning after sleeping on it.
Of course, I sent the first draft to my husband to get his view on it – he could relate as a parent but as he is a teacher too; getting his insight on the structure and wording of the email was valuable.
I addressed the email in an amicable way to the teacher but I copied the HOD and the principal in. I made it clear that we have serious concerns with regards to the homework policy. In no way was this a personal attack on the teacher. We requested that serious attention be given to this matter. Lastly we asked for the policy to be reviewed and discussed in their grade meetings.
Turns out that we weren’t the only parents complaining. Parents who had the same concerns wrote emails as well. They reviewed and made adjustments to the homework policy. Homework has decreased significantly. It is now given in moderation.
As parents we are certainly not undermining the amount of work teachers put in every day. On the contrary, teachers are under enormous stress to complete what is set out in the curriculum. However, teachers and school management need to understand our position as parents too; we only want what is best for the positive development outcomes of our kids and at the moment overloading them with homework has a negative effect.
In 2015, Sun Valley Primary in Fish Hoek implemented a no-homework policy and redesigned the way they teach at the school as it turned out giving homework to pupils showed no real benefit. So if certain schools can implement a no-homework policy, why not all. Research has also shown that loading kids with homework does not actually help with their academic performance, it leads to counter-productivity and actually creates a negative attitude towards school work as it takes away quality free time.
Should homework be scrapped completely? Does it serve a purpose and how effective is it? Are kids taught responsibility by loading them with homework? Is the load burning them out? Please send me your views on this; I would like to hear from you.
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