We had a letter home from school the other day asking for feedback about homework. One of the questions was 'Do you feel your child has sufficient homework?' What bothered me was the implicit suggestion contained within the question - talk about a closed question! Do I think my child has sufficient homework, well actually, I happen to think that my child has way too much homework, now you're asking.
Quite frankly, the 'Additional Comments' box was far too small for what I wanted to write, but I managed to squeeze in the salient points. There's no way I was going to miss the opportunity to have my views recorded somewhere, even if it seems I'm in the minority (at least at this school.)
Currently, my daughter has a poem to learn off by heart every term and she has topic homework every holiday. Each week, she is expected to complete English, Maths and read a book. She is 6 and she's in Year 2. I have issues both with the amount of homework given and the learning outcomes attached to these.
It isn't clear to me why she has to learn a poem, what the benefits are to her education or indeed why she's being asked to learn it.
The topic homework is baffling. I don't understand the need for it, it's given out to the children with no explanation attached to it at all - often the language contained comes straight from the National Curriculum guidelines and therefore needs some deciphering from me before we can even attempt it.
Frequently it lacks any obvious connection with their current learning. I'm sure this isn't the case, but I would like a great deal more information about the whys and whats of this homework than I've had so far. Having said that, the topic homework is the one activity that my daughter enjoys doing and is enthusiastic about, so I value it for that reason.
I believe that homework should only be issued if it has intrinsic benefits to the child's learning.
By default, it need not therefore be issued every week. If homework becomes a chore at age 6, what are we letting ourselves in for in the future? I don't like the messages we are sending to our children - that learning is 'just something that has to be done'.
Don't get me wrong, I value education very highly indeed and I try to make sure that my daughter doesn't see her homework in a negative way. In fact, she's extremely conscientious about doing it most of the time.
However, I don't push it if she's not in the mood as it becomes self defeating and I don't want her to have negative associations with learning. I have to admit that we don't really bother with the poem and I'm not at all worried about her reading, so if she would rather read a book of her own choice from home or the library, I'm happy to let her get on with that and we find ways of covering the school book.
At this point I have to disagree with the author Jacqueline Wilson who seems to believe that children in the UK aren't taught spelling in school. Her argument seems to be that the quality of children's spelling has fallen markedly over the last decade.
Well, I can assure her that children are taught spelling in school - my daughter has spellings to learn every week. Personally, I don't think it's spelling that's the issue, I think it's knowing how and when to use language appropriately. I don't think the education system is currently acknowledging the world that children inhabit now.
The growth of social media means that children are exposed to a whole range of language and usage. What they need to be taught are the tools and skills to understand when and how to use language appropriately and to have confidence in language.
The reason I don't think this is taught is because policy is designed by people who have never been exposed to the complexities of this rapid growth and don't have any understanding themselves of it's ramifications.
You only have to look at the mess some politicians and councillors get themselves into because they haven't grasped the implications of this instant society.
I believe that discussing the paucity of spelling is at best a distraction and at worst handing it all on a plate to the conservative politicians who wish to take our education system back to some mythical golden age of learning that only ever benefitted the few.
After reading this, you won't be surprised to read also that I fundamentally disagree with pretty much everything Michael Gove proposes in terms of education. What I fear will happen is that there will be more and more value placed on quantity rather than quality if he is allowed to have his way.
I know of some primary schools calling in their Year 6 children over Easter to revise for the new grammar test, and parents allowing this to happen.
I'm appalled and worried that we're heading along the road of facts, facts, facts. Equally I worry that the culture of tick boxing is alive and flourishing and I can't see how either of these situations will possibly benefit any child at all.
The worst part about all of this for me is the fact that my little girl frequently wakes up and cries because she doesn't want to go to school at 6 years old - this makes me feel so sad.
Iona is a mum of two and enjoys writing both on the blog and freelancing. She's generally pretty keen on being a mummy too and spending the odd moment having a really good think.
Blogs at: Redpeffer