The few hours between the finish of the school day and putting your kids to bed can be the most chaotic ones in the entire day. Whether you work and have them in after school care, or if you stay at home or work from home and pick them up, you'll know just how cramped the time can be.
In amongst all the things a family has to juggle at that end of the day – cooking, after school activities, chores, dinner, bathing – many of us find pressure to squeeze in time for homework.
A recent OECD report found Australian children have the fifth highest amount of homework in the world.
Getting your kids to want to do their homework can be like pulling teeth anyway. They can even feel like it is a punishment preventing them from doing things they like doing on their own time – coming home mentally tired only to have to do more school work.
There have been many studies into the worth of homework, and researchers have found that for primary school students, there is often little or no value to homework. In fact principals have revealed the main reason kids are set homework is because of parental demand for it.
In New South Wales, some schools have banned homework, while in Victoria, the education department is reviewing homework. What you might not know is that homework is not compulsory, and you can negotiate with your school how much you are willing for your kids to do. So if it's too much, push back!
I found the intrusion into our extremely limited and precious family time to be the worst aspect of homework. Modern families are time poor and everything is a rush… quality time is like liquid gold and taking some of it away and devoting it to an eminently pointless activity is frustrating.
An Adelaide family appeared on 60 Minutes on Sunday night revealing their controversial decision to ban homework for their children – instead insisting they play outside and help cook dinner after school. Scott and Claire Crew (she is a former school teacher) said they preferred their six and seven-year-old children gain life experience and "grow strong brains" that way.
I'm with them! My kids have after school activities that keep them – and me – very busy. My 10-year-old is a cub scout and when she isn't at her weekly meeting or off on camping trips, she is completing projects of her own accord that are educational and teach life skills in order to gain badges. She also plays netball and has learned a lot in the last few years about teamwork.
My eight-year-old does calisthenics – a dance sport where she competes as part of a team doing various routines. As well as being good for fitness, this has been great for her social skills and confidence as none of the girls on her team go to her school. It's teaching her resilience and to work with others.
When they aren't doing after school activities, they are outside playing with neighbourhood kids. Climbing trees, riding bikes, rollerskating, skateboarding, scooting. All of those things we're constantly being told our kids don't do enough of… my kids are doing. They also have chores and help with dinner.
I'd rather they were doing these these things than sitting inside colouring in worksheets to rack up mandatory homework time every afternoon. Of course if they want to do art and craft projects, they can, and we have quality time doing these activities together.
All of these things my kids do is still learning. Hands-on life skills that come with cooking, or learning to tie a knot, or riding a bike, or figuring out how to knit something that they will never get from a boring work sheet. The education that comes from practical skills rather than theory should never be discounted.
I'm much happier with this balance, so I made a decision not to enforce homework unless there was a clear value to it. Helping my kids read is fine, for example – they often get me to help them out with unfamiliar and difficult words. Wasting hours filling out worksheets that should have been completed in class is not.