I was just reading 'Is Homework Worth the Hassle?' on the BBC news website and it reminded me how much I hate the concept of homework, as directed by schools. As a home schooling mum you could be forgiven for thinking I am anti establishment. But I'm not. Each case for attending/not attending school should be considered on an individual basis, and that is why when given the opportunity to try out a brand, spanking new secondary school in our local area we gave it a shot. One form entry, nice and small and a good gentle introduction back into the mainstream.
As much as we loved being at home together and enjoyed the outdoor life and freedom to set our own course, there is always that element of doubt about the end goal, can I do what needs to be done to ensure my son achieves his potential. So I handed him over to people I trusted to undertake that task.
The alarm bells first started ringing when we attended a meeting of parents as an introduction to the school. The freedom of expression in the way I dressed that I had come to love in my role as a home ed mum was the first thing that came under the spotlight. Apparently, having been taken aside by another parent, Union Jack Doctor Martens immediately labelled me as a racist. I had quite a collection of DM's back then and thought myself, in my other life, to be on point in my choice of footwear. They went on Ebay the next day and I stuck to the Lime, pink and floral selection from then on.
During this meeting the deputy head (who I grew to dislike with a passion I didn't know I was capable of) was driving home the inclusion policy, 'Inclusion, Inclusion, Inclusion' he chanted over and over. And then when asked what the school's policy was, and what they would do about any children who were very, very 'naughty' he said they would be out on their ear....'exclusion'... he bellowed. Hmmm?
And so we began. From Monday to Wednesday the children had compulsory extra curricula activities which meant the school day ended anytime between 5-6pm, we were told that they wouldn't have homework on those evenings. They lied. It became clear that the teachers didn't know the school's policy on homework. I found myself reminding them from time to time. They also had a policy about not having 'whole class' detentions, again this was something I had to remind them about. My son had detention 3 times in his first 2 weeks because other people were 'playing up'.
We spent a term at this school and during that time my son who enjoyed reading and had a passion for History did very little to follow his own interests and hobbies. He was tired, pale, and had more coughs and colds than he'd had in about 5 years. There was no time for family life in the evenings, it became a never ending round of eat, homework and bed.
If you follow social media you may have seen the message that went viral from a Texan teacher, who wrote to parents saying:
"After much research this summer, I am trying something new. I ask that you spend your evenings doing things that are proven to correlate with student success. Eat dinner as a family, read together, play outside, and get your children to bed early."
I whole heartedly agree with this teacher. You need time as a family to talk, because learning to talk to each other is what can save you great heartache during those teenage years. In a society that appears to be breeding a new generation of anti-socialism through excessive engagement with multimedia (another blog here) communication of the verbal kind is getting little enough practice as it is.
My son was given the opportunity to spend time pursuing and actively engaging in his own interests; fair enough he had the time as he didn't attend school for most of his educational career, but give the other kids a chance to do the same outside of school hours. Goodness only knows what they might discover about themselves or for themselves.