Why I'm Giving Homework The Finger

03/10/2017 11:58
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We're not long into a new school year and already I'm feeling the strain.

Me and the Hubs have constant negotiations about who is dropping off and picking up from school and the childminders. Throw in work for both us, after school activity clubs, tea time, bath time, oh and don't forget the reading Boo must do five times a week, the spelling practise, family time at weekends, and it's fair to say WE are knackered and we are the grown ups. Imagine how a six year old feels!

Let's face it, for a six year old that is a lot. It's an early start and a late finish. You need a lot of stamina and concentration to get through the day. This is what we are asking of our young primary school children. But it doesn't stop there, that's not all we are demanding. There is also HOMEWORK! My girl Boo (who has just gone into year two) is expected to read five times a week and practise spellings and do a piece of set homework a week. And I'm the first to say it's too much!

It's too much for her and it's too much for me. Boo is an enthusiastic learner and when I can see on her face the tiredness and the lack of will I know it's time to worry. I'm talking about a girl who self directs her learning, she reads independently far more than the school instructs because she ENJOYS it. She loves nothing more than sitting at the table and writing her own stories. There's been times I've gone upstairs to say goodnight and she's happily tucked up in bed practising French. WTF! These things are great, I encourage it, I don't push it. She does these things because she's enjoying them. It's feeding her thirst for knowledge and she's challenging herself. But it seems these things don't count because they haven't been prescribed by the school, because they haven't been evidenced, and they can't be measured.

In 2012 Michael Grove scraped the government homework guidelines which stated 5-7 years olds should do one hour of homework a week and instead gave schools greater freedom to set their own homework policies. So I'm baffled that five years on, many schools still set homework that equates to an hour a week if not more. It makes me wonder, what is homework? Is it not the request to read five times a week which must be logged in the reading record book? Is it not the time spent practising spelling that is sent home from school to further support learning? Because in my experience these tasks alone take more than an hour a week.

School homework policies appear to be ignoring the reality of the child, the parents and the teachers. They don't reflect the reality of modern parenting and acknowledge the difficulty in finding the time, especially when such young children require a great deal of support (in addition to the other learning tasks we support them with daily). They don't reflect the needs of the child. Should a six year old child attend breakfast club, spend all day trying hard at school, attend an activity club, come home for tea, practice some spellings, have a play, have a bath, do some reading.... when is there time for additional homework? Will they enjoy it? Judging by the look on my child's face I seriously doubt it! Neither do school homework policies reflect the needs of the teachers. In a climate where we face a shortage of teachers due to the additional pressures they face, do we really need to overload them further with marking homework for five and six year olds? It's quite telling when 91% of teachers feel that less time should be spent on marking and feedback (The Workload Challenge)

These policies appear to ignore the learning opportunities within the family home that cannot be evidenced or measured. They do not see the times Boo has witnessed her father working from home updating a spreadsheet and she has expressed a genuine curiosity. They don't know that Dad has sat there and explained Excel and she has excitedly created a class register where she has practised spelling the names of her classmates and marked who is having packed lunch or school dinner. It's during activities like this she is learning and she's having fun...when she has the energy and the will to do so.

Schools have such a wonderful opportunity to engage young minds. It's a sad time when learning becomes a chore for all those involved, the child, the parent and the teacher.

So right now, whilst Boo is still very young Homework can f*ck off. I'm not going to allow it to infringe on precious family time. Nor will I let it create additional stress within the family home due to the last minute panic that we must get it done. I will not let it turn a genuine love of learning into a resentment because my six year old is overwhelmed and too tired.

What are your thoughts on homework for five and six year olds?

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