There's was a story this week about a mother who informed her child's school that they were 'done with homework'. Quite a bold move to make.
Whilst in this specific situation it sounds like there should be some questions asked about the academic system they live in (no 10 year old needs two hours of homework a night), I worry that the backlash against homework for kids is going a bit too far.
I'm not saying children should have homework for homework's sake - we all know what kind of random tasks I'm talking about here. That doesn't benefit anyone - not the child, the parents and certainly not the teachers who are overworked as it is. But there are some benefits to giving children homework.
- Understanding (or lack of) - Homework can give a child and parent the opportunity to see if they've really understood what was taught that day. The school day can go quite quickly. If you consider the average lesson in a primary school is probably about half an hour, in a class of 30 (or maybe more) a child will have very little one-on-one time for the teacher to answer any questions or explain in more detail. Homework allows them to see if they have fully understood or need to work on it a little more.
- Independence - The right kind of homework can give a child the chance to build some independence. Putting in to action the lessons from the day or week, use their imagination to expand their learning, finding their own solutions to a problem but knowing when to ask for help. Isn't that a good thing?
- Application of learning - Homework gives the child a chance to apply what they've been learning and put it into practice. Maybe expand on what they've learned, using different situations and examples, ideally in real life situations. It's one thing knowing their times tables, but isn't it helpful to understand the times in every day life they might need to use them?
- Parental insight - I'm pretty sure that I'm not the only parent who gets minimal information from their child about what happened during the school day. Unless they've been on an exciting trip or had wet play (end of the world!) the most I'll find out is who he swapped Pokemon cards with. I want to know what he is learning. I want to know if he's being challenged enough or too much. I'm his parent!
- Bonding - Ok, that might sound a bit touchy feely and unrealistic, but I do believe that it can be a good opportunity to spend time with a child. Talk about things in more detail, put them into real life contexts. This is a way to understand not only which subjects they enjoy or hate, but also which ones they flourish in. Waiting until a five minute parents' evening session might be a bit late to find out this information.
Homework shouldn't be about testing a child. It shouldn't be positioned in a way that puts unnecessary pressure or stress on them. Nor should it take all hours of the evening, stripping them from the chance to relax, have fun or just be a child.
But the right kind of homework, in the right amounts, can really be rewarding. So let's not mark down our teachers for trying help our children reap these rewards.