Should Schools be Giving Homework?

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. via Katherine on Pinterest

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.

should schools be giving homework

The dreaded homework

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.

Being relevant.

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.

Your Turn to Share Tips:

What are your thoughts on homework?

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  • Laura Roberts

    YES!!!with you one hundred per cent!!!!
    There is an interesting doco that is out called Race To Nowhere. Very interesting points. Also read work from Alfie Kohn – get rid or grading altogether! And about putting creativity back into everything we do – you can’t go past Sir Ken Robinson! Love your work Caz!!


    • Caz

      I’m going to have to check out those. Thanks for the recommendations. Grading is another thing that absolutely fires me up. Dealing with that in the States was horrible!!


  • Kelly Exeter

    Brilliant – brilliant post Caz. I love the way you think.


    • Caz

      Thanks Kelly!


  • Toushka Lee

    my son turns 4 this month.
    He goes to a pre-school here in India and gets homework at the end of the week. He loves it. But it’s all new to him.
    I like it because it lets me know what he’s up to at school and I get to watch how he applies that.
    I don’t think there should be homework every night. But I think without homework, some parents would have no idea what their kids are doing at school – that’s not the school’s fault, that’s the parent’s.
    Sometimes homework is just some crap print-off that is badly written and photocopied 700 times to faded.
    I think homework should stay, but I think it needs to evolve.


    • Caz

      I think it is a little bit the school’s fault as well. Schools and parents need to work together more. Easy to say. I think there are better ways to do this then homework. A lot of the time what their homework is does not really reflect what they are doing at school or is a very small sample.
      At my old school at the States we had a webpage where we would list what we were doing every week in each subject. It was quick, easy and a good communication tool. Homework should be less and more tailored. Reading, communciating and interacting with family, following their own dreams, adn resting. They will benefit so much more for life from these things


  • cath@leafjournals

    Caz, I’m going to bookmark this article and pull it out on the first day my Munchkin gets ‘proper’ homework. We’re already having issues regarding readers, and we’re only 6 weeks into Prep. ARRGH! Yet, he LOVES books (he has already been caught walking down the street with his nose in one), he’s interested in learning, we count and measure all the time. We can even get him to practice his writing if it’s by translating Viking runes into English! (I am about to become an expert on this, I can see…)

    I know that all he needs at the end of the day is just time to be himself. I know how hard it is for him sit still and concentrate – he can’t even do it at mealtimes!

    Thanks for putting a teacher’s voice behind my arguments. 😀


    • Caz

      I worry about stories like this when I hear a child’s enthusiasm for learning being boxed in by school policies and rules- most of which are ineffective. It is very hard for young children to sit still for long periods of time, especially with the life we lead these days.


      • cath@leafjournals

        I thought I should add this, because I’m actually really happy with my son’s school and their homework policies. I’m just worried about my child! We’ve deliberately chosen a school which runs a Discovery Learning program, so I don’t think he has to sit for long periods of time, at least not on those mornings. He just can’t sit still for more than about 5 minutes! There is some basic “homework” such as readers, counting games and occasionally some fun activities like collecting things that start with a certain letter. We’re also supposed to be helping the kids with their writing at home, but at the moment, I’m just happy he’s drawing for the first time in ages. I’m finding even getting him to do these 5-10 minutes of learning activity hard at the moment.


  • Vic

    I feel so happy reading this! So refreshing! Thank you.

    I read a great article on trialling ‘real life homework’ that the school set instead of formal spelling, maths, etc… it was getting involved in home life, as you’ve suggested. They need to tick off, things like family time, helping with chores (setting the table for dinner, cooking, putting washing away), tidying their room, keeping a journal, helping with shopping/unpacking shopping, finding things in the garden, playing, making cubbies.

    I would love our childrens school to do something like that… engage in real life!

    Your students are lucky to have you as their teacher!


    • Caz

      Thank you Vic
      They will learn so much more by doing the activities that are engaging them in the ways they will truly use the skills. And schools can’t really set up a cooking class or take them shopping so the time that they can do this at home should be kept free.


  • Maria Tedeschi (Mum's Word))

    Caz I wrote an article a few years ago on Web Child about getting rid of homework. I totally agree with you.

    Most teachers I spoke to said they didn’t need homework to know how a child was faring academically. They get that information from classroom activities.

    So homework really is there for the parents.

    The other interesting point made was if homework could be tailored then it might be more useful.

    You make spades of sense in this post.

    And if you want your kids to cement what they learnt at school that day, ensure they get the sleep they need. Sleep helps the brain process the information; not cramming.

    School can’t provide every experience or opportunity I want for my child. Fair enough. But at least give me the time after school to fill in the gaps. Like you said Caz, Little Athletics, cooking a meal, whatever.

    Just give me back my child.

    My 8 year old is getting into Harry Potter. So I negotiated with the school that he can read his Harry Potter books instead of reading the readers they send home (he’s already reached independent reader level).

    I could go on and on but I won’t.

    Love & stuff
    Mrs M


    • Caz

      Great points Maria. It is often said that homework is there for the parents, which is again a really ineffective way of doing things, especially since parents aren’t the formally trained educators.
      If parents want to know how their children are doing in school and what they are learning there are much better ways. For one, talking to their child about it and secondly having a way that teachers communicate this to parents in a quick and easy format.
      Time to become more efficient


  • Lisa Wood

    Everything you have written confirms why we are homeschooling. Learning at school is a waste of time – they are there to learn what the government thinks they need to learn.
    But really do we use anything in real life that was drummed into us from going to school? Nope.
    We used to hate homework with our five boys (when they were at school) and they would do anything to get out of it. We even did the five nights homework in one big block so we would not have to look at it again 🙂
    Now that our boys are learning by choice they are remembering a lot more, and are interested in exploring what they love.
    Our oldest – who never ever studied at high school, and only just made it through with his grades is now doing so well in the Navy. Why? Because he wants to! He is now getting close to 100% on most of his exams – and is completing his projects a week in advance – again becasue he wants to be in the Navy!
    Why cant schools teach what our children want to learn? Then everyone would be happy 🙂



    • Caz

      So much of what children learn in school is a waste. I often catch myself while I am teaching from asking the children, “Why am I teaching you this? It is so irrelvant!” But instead we keep on teaching and stuffing.
      All the stuff we really need for life schools don’t teach us. They don’t have time.
      I think you are spot on to say they are remembering more as they are choosing what they learn. It’s all about what is relevant. The brain can only take in so much, it will always take in what is relevant to you above other things. Its a survival thing really.
      Thanks for sharing your positive experiences with homeschooling


  • Janine Fitzpatrick

    I’ve been trying to write a blog post on this for weeks now – I couldn’t agree with you more. My eldest daughter (15) goes to a school that pushes homework from day one of year seven to an unreasonable point. I cannot see any benefit to it – the kids are stressed, my daughter cut out all her extracurricular activities except for once a week playing flute in a local band and playing in a soccer team during winter because she couldn’t cope with anything else given the amount of homework. It impacts on our family life trying to fit assignments etc into the weekends. Because the high school has such an emphasis on it the feeder primary school ramps up the homework in year 6 to “prepare” them for high school it’s just a nightmare. So far this week – we delayed leaving on a trip to Sydney to get the majority of a design project finished, then wrote a four minute speech to go with the two ads we’d designed in the car on the way home from Sydney (for Miss 15) then came home and built a windmill and completed a three-page analysis on said windmill (for Miss 12) and now we are gearing up for the Antarctic project. Should we be more organised? Yes. But the reality is with two working parents and two kids that are incredibly tired after bus journeys too and from school it’s bloody difficult to fit in. I need to stop now I could rant on for hours.


    • Caz

      My gosh she sounds way busier than me!! That is just so ridiculous. Why do we feel that the more we cram into our brains the more intelligent we will be. If they cut out so much of the crap from the daily curriculum there is more time for these creative projects in class and then home time can be more about family and me time. Why should our lives be dominated by school work 24/7. I think we’ve got it so messed up. I think they are also not understanding that the way society is now most families to survive have to have two working parents. That places such a huge burden on family life. Why should all spare time be taken up with more work. Homeschooling is looking better to me every day 🙂


  • Martine@themodernparent

    Great post Caz. Wat annoys me most about homework in primary levels, is that it appears to be homework for homework sake. There is no real relevance to what they are doing in class. My boys get a book that has a set of questions on literacy and a set on numeracy every week…same layout different questions. If they must do homework I would prefer it to be a fun extension of what they are doing in class or a long term researc project that helps to teach them effective time management skills. My eldest is in grade 6 and as he is preparing for high school (with a few learning difficulties and a visual impairment) there are some skills I am trying to bring him up to speed on that normal homework doesnt cater for. I have told his teachers that these will take priority as
    there is only so much that can be done at home so I would prefer to make it more relevant to his needs. (thankfully she is supportive of that) Oh and I must not however let my children read your post…..they dont need any help with excuses! 🙂


    • Caz

      IT really is homework for homework’s sake which is the most ridiculous reason to do anything. I think it should be a priority for all kids if there is homework to be tailored to their needs and what they enjoy.
      Yes, don’t let your children read this post because then the battle will be much fierceer. If only I could make the rules!


  • Jen

    My son’s in grade 5 so we’ve been contending with homework for 5-6 years. I’m a sole parent working most days so we don’t get home until nearly 6pm. We’re both tired from the day so I don’t push the set homework agenda too much. I get him to do what he has to do which varies year-to-year and teacher-to-teacher.

    I do the learning thing with him in addition to that by incorporating maths into whatever I can etc. There’s also things he loves to do like writing stories, making games, and his new love of growing plants which I’d much rather he do because he enjoys it.

    And the nights that he or I have after work activities on, there’s not even time to do homework. And then there’s music practise etc etc.

    So no, additional homework from school – let’s get rid of it.


  • Jill

    Caz. A very nice rant. I have felt all that angst too. But now I feel none of it. We are homeschooling traveling and learning. It feels so great to bypass all the stress and beurocracy and cut straight to the learning. And more importantly, the love of learning. Looking forward to your move on from teaching!!


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