I saw an ad for tonight’s current affairs special on Today Tonight.
All about homework and the drain it is putting on family’s life, the raging debate over whether it is ruining schools, and how some schools are banning it.
As a teacher who has a wide range of international teaching experience, I thought I would jump out and offer my, can I say, my expert opinion.
First of all, can I start by saying there is a lot more that is ruining schools then too much homework, but I am writing a post not a novel, so we will stick to the homework debate.
My thoughts are purely based on my experience as a teacher, no scientific evidence or research. As I am a primary (elementary) school teacher, my opinion is based on this level of education.
There is always the cry “What about the research?”
You know sometimes the research can cloud good old fashioned judgement; what we see with our own eyes and what we experience and so inherently know to be true.
My Thoughts on Homework
I hate it.
Yep. If I could make the rules I would eradicate it.
Because it is a drain, it bears little relevance, and produces tiny results compared to the horror it lays upon everyone.
Let me go through this carefully as there are some parts of homework that need to be done, particularly in the high school years when students have to cram all those facts in their brains in order to get the results they need to go to tertiary education.
As I said the demise of the education system is not all related to homework.
The Drain on Teacher Resources
From my experience, homework takes a good 15 minutes out of my teaching day every day (Yes, with an overpacked curriculum this is a LOT).
And that is just the follow up.
Where’s your homework? Why haven’t you done it? How could you let the dog eat it? Have you got a note from Mum? Why is it so scrunched up that I can’t read it? Do you think you could write neater than this has I can’t read it? Why have you missed all these questions?
“I didn’t know the answer Miss. There was no one to help me. It’s been ages since Mum and Dad have done trigonometry, they had no idea. I had sports practice. Mum had to work late. I was so tired. What’s the point? I couldn’t be bothered. The dog ate it.”
Back and forth back and forth.
And there is the checking of it. To be honest the marking of homework is a gigantic pain in my arse. I don’t have time for it with all the marking I have to do just of the student’s work from the five subjects I teach them during the day.
Then there is all the planning, recording, reporting, individualized learning and behavioural programs, extra-curricular activities, attending meetings, and phoning up Sue’s mum to ask why she won’t do her homework, and begging her to please just follow the school rules, whether you find it pointless or not, and help Sue to at least try to do it.
Ugh so moving on from the gigantic pain in the arse it is to me, what about to the students.
The Drain on Student’s Motivation and Ability to Take in Yet Another Thing
They have sat still in their seats all day (okay so maybe that is a stretch) mostly learning stuff they have no interest in.
They have had to pull out and practice everything they know about discipline, good manners, concentrating, staying on task, listening, speaking and knowing when not to speak, walking in a straight line, putting their heads down and work work work.
If they are lucky and finish all their work and make good choices they will have two blocks of up to 40 minutes each to go and play outside. This is after they sit down for 15 minutes to eat.
They have so much to learn and do during the day that by the end of it their little brains are fried and they are exhausted.
Imagine you coming home after a restrictive full day at
prison work, to only come home to more of the same work.
You wouldn’t cope. You’d be unmotivated, frustrated, and have a severely limited ability to think.
Not only that you’d be pissed because all you want to do is go outside and run off some steam with your mates; play with those you love, your barbies, your toys; practice the guitar that you are so passionate about and talented at; or go to Little Athletics because you have a dream to be the fastest runner in all of Australia.
But you can’t do that because the next day at school your teacher will have her stern face on and her finger waggling because you put your dreams before work. Work you’d done already at school, that you didn’t care about then or now.
And to be honest the teacher doesn’t care either she is just wiggling that finger because she has been told to, just like all the other teachers that came before her when the ancient teaching system began and has remained frozen since.
Do you get much out of you at the end of a long day, especially when you’ve just come from a job you hate?
And adults are older and better equipped to cope. (I know it’s called wine)
Let’s face it most kids don’t like school. We have to be honest here; you are not going to get much out of a tired and frustrated child.
The Drain on Family Time
You see your child for an hour maybe before school and then when they return home?
Well that all depends on your work schedule and their extra-curricular schedule, but it couldn’t be much more than a couple of hours. And in that time there is showering to be done, cleaning and cooking. Doesn’t leave much time for family time.
That little bit of time you have left is gifted to homework.
Battles ensue and you’re all left frustrated and annoyed that you can’t just have quality time after a long day.
You remember how much you hated homework and how pointless you thought it was. You’re left battling to keep this quiet so your children learn to follow the rules and do what ever they have to do to get a good education.
We are giving away precious time with our babies for homework. Something that comes at the end of the day when they are tired, overworked, unmotivated and are struggling to connect with relevance– probably the number one thing that helps us to learn.
The New Homework Project
When do we give our brains and our lives time to breathe?
I think that should be the homework
“You have a new project for homework tonight and every night. It’s called ‘Play, Follow your Dreams and Let yourself Breathe’
From now on, you must spend every night talking with Mum and Dad about anything you like, playing with your toys, taking one step towards that dream of yours, and then sit in a quiet space on your own, close your eyes and breathe.
I’m not going to check in on you that you have done it, because I believe you will. ”
But what about Practice and Study for a Good Education?
Here we go, that research thing again.(Says a lot for school education doesn’t it that we have to do it after school because we didn’t get it right at school?)
Children need to practice what they have learned during the day.
Ahem, here comes that novel. Most of what they learn in school is totally irrelevant as to how to live a happy, balanced and fulfilled life. What I outlined in my homework project above does.
But yes, there are some things that definitely need to be learned and practiced – like reading, writing and ‘rithmetic. You know them, the three R’s, except one starts with A (see it’s not just homework that is the problem with schools)
And of course life skills. You know that stuff that goes on around you every day.
The stuff your children need to be interacting and engaged with. Not a sheet of paper that has them writing out the definition of a conjunctive verb. (Thank Christ, you say, because you don’t even know what that is. It sounds like a festering eye disease)
Parents we do Need Your Help with Your Child’s Education
Yes parents, your children do need to be learning at home.
This is a given and should be happening from the moment they are born. It is not something that is done from 9am-3pm Mon – Fri and then for 30 mins of an evening during
argument homework time.
It is an ongoing process.
The best thing that you can ever do with your children to help them learn and get a good education is the following. Follow this and you shouldn’t ever have to worry about homework.
1. Read with them every single night from the day they are born. Make it a special night-time ritual. Talk to them about the story, the picture, and the characters. What do they think will happen next? Get them to guess the final rhyming word in the sentence. Inspire in them a love of reading. You want them reading every single night until the day they are old and wrinkly and on their way to the next life.
2. Involve them in everyday activities with you that involve math. Randomly count things together, cook together and talk about volume and amounts, talk about length, speed, and all those maths things that happen constantly around you. These don’t have to necessarily be scheduled “work” activities, just random stuff that you talk about together.
3. Foster in them a love of learning and a curiosity of the world. We all know the constant why questions children have; they drive us nuts. Quit complaining about it and think about the alternative- a life of school homework- and answer those questions. Tell your child what a great question it is, “I like your thinking,” “how can we find the answer“. They are going to be asking you questions about things they are interested in and so will want to learn the answers– ah now we are talking about a good school system!
4. Don’t give your child the answers. Encourage them to think of the solutions. When they come up with a solution, tell them why you think it is a great one. Even if it is not, let them know how much you love the fact that they are thinking of a way to solve a problem and then give them some guidance as to how we could probably solve it in a better way together. Again this is just random off the cuff, life learning. No scheduled time, but you got to be doing it every day as it arises.
5. Encourage them to follow their dreams and live their passions. Do not make them miss their practice and their dream-following for homework (I did not say that!) Find a way to make it work. Encourage them every day to take that step forward and to believe and you walk the dream with them. That will give you the treasured family time.
Children will forget the homework, but they will never forget how you inspired them to live their dreams and how you taught them to be thoughtful, inquisitive, intelligent, independent, and creative human beings.
It all comes down to just living and learning from life. Nothing will prepare them more for it.
I am a teacher yes. I know with the views that I have I probably shouldn’t be. I don’t plan on it for much longer and maybe now I won’t get anymore work 🙂
I don’t believe in the system, and I feel so ineffective within it. I feel that I do more damage than good.
Maybe one day society may come to realize that evolution is a given. We can no longer run our schools like they were 50 years ago, because life doesn’t run like that anymore.
Kalyra starts school next year and I am a little scared, but at the same time, I know that I am doing my homework with her now so we don’t have to worry about it too much in the future.
Let’s hope that more schools have banned it by then.
What are your thoughts on homework?