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Homework: It’s what you do with it that counts.
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Posted 20 January 2012 - 08:47 AM
As the summer holidays draw to a close you can almost hear the collective groan of kids around the country. In part that could be the blisters caused by the new school shoes that they’re breaking in, or the prospect of having to go to bed/get up earlier. Part of it is also possibly the prospect of having regular homework again.
The debate for and against homework is as old as - well - homework itself. There does seem to have been a trend though in recent years of piling ever more extra-curricular work onto our children. Ironically, the increasing-homework trend seems to mirror the concern over the falling-educational-standards trend. So the question is, for primary-aged children at any rate, does homework really enhance their learning? The answer seems to be, to paraphrase a quote from ‘The Castle’, that it’s not the amount of homework you have, but rather what you do with it that counts!
“The research is unequivocal that there is no academic gain achieved by serving up homework in its current form,” says child and adolescent psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg.“It’s a bit like the modern-day equivalent of cod liver oil: given from habit because it’s simply assumed to be good for you.”
Dr Carr-Gregg asserts that the problem is the way in which homework is often currently given. “A lot of (homework) is totally irrelevant to kids lives,” he says. “It simply hijacks family time together for no good reason. The five words: “have you done your homework?” instigate arguments across the country, and research that I have done previously has indicated that a large percentage of children simply surf the net to copy and paste answers, or even get their parents to do it for them. There is no educational value in that.”
However Dr Carr-Gregg does support an appropriate amount and type of homework, citing the homework grid developed by Ian Lillico as a great example of where after-school tasks can aid learning. “This type of out of school work, as it’s called, is based on and involves activities such as baking a cake and taking a photograph of it, or playing a game of scrabble with Mum and Dad. Essentially it allows more positive family interaction and often encourages children to move more - definitely a good thing!”
Dr Caroline Walta, a former teacher and currently an academic co-ordinator with the faculty of education at La Trobe University, Shepparton, is a definite supporter of homework. “Homework is an opportunity for parents to participate in their children’s education,” she says. “Ideally it complements the classroom learning and it gives children the opportunity to set up good lifetime study habits.”
Like Carr-Gregg though, Dr Walta explains that to be effective, homework needs to be relevant for the children. “Setting effective homework is an extremely complex task for teachers,” she explains. “In setting homework, teachers need to consider the age and skill level of each student. The homework needs to be interesting, challenging and open ended and relevant to the curriculum. The homework then needs to be assessed and subject to feedback and teachers need to allow enough time during the school day to provide that feedback. Plus teachers also need to be able to communicate the homework policy to parents. Now they are all pretty big tasks!”
Examples of homework tasks that have worked for Dr Walta in her former role included nightly reading to increase children’s literacy and fluency, personalised spelling lists, issues of global concern, which gives children the ability to develop research skills and mathematics. But not all at once! “Homework should not take longer than a child’s natural enthusiasm can last,” says Dr Walta. “It should not become a burden for parents or their children.”
At the end of the day whether it’s a joy, a burden, or somewhere in between, homework is a fact of life for most school children.
But what is your view? Has your experience of homework been positive, negative, or somewhere in between?
Posted 20 January 2012 - 08:54 AM
I was lucky as a kid growing up, we didn't really have much homework, unitl we hit highschool & then, most of the homework was assignments anyway.
My mum has been a primary school teacher now for 38 years & the only year levels she feels it is appropriate for homework is from year 6 & upwards.
Posted 20 January 2012 - 09:03 AM
With 3 school age kids I've found it to be a terrible burden. The homework that I feel they need or benefit from (e.g. if they are struggling with a concept or very open opportunities to research or create something) is not the homework they usually get.
DH & I both work, and those evenings are precious family time where we can talk, have dinner or play a game. They shouldn't be time for nagging parents, sloppy work by tired children and general stress.
I have one child out of three who quite likes doing homework. We've had a few teachers who aren't overly concerned about homework completion and set interesting tasks but the majority have been very pushy about it being done even where they seem to gain nothing from it.
I always find the 'it will set them in good stead for uni' argument quite amusing. I found that being able to study what I wanted to study was the great motivator for uni, not many years of homework. And they can learn organisation skills from many other aspects of their lives - I don't think we have to rely on homework for that. Being forced to do what is usually boring work, after a long day at school, must be really tough and I don't think it encourages learning. I've had times where I've told my kids they need to get to bed and not read that night because they've been finishing off homework. That's just so wrong.
Posted 20 January 2012 - 09:04 AM
The homework needs to be interesting, challenging and open ended and relevant to the curriculum. The homework then needs to be assessed and subject to feedback and teachers need to allow enough time during the school day to provide that feedback.
This is the only type of homework I would have any time for, but launching into my child's third year of school, I've yet to see it. It has always fallen down somewhere - either irrelevent, not interesting, not challenging (eg, it's just makework), or - worst of all - there's no assessment and feedback on it.
And the 'homework grids' pretty much make me want to scrawl **** OFF over them in red crayon and send them back to school.
Maybe they're not being developed properly, but I've yet to see one that isn't a token attempt to cram unassessable makework into a kids' spare time in a way that doesn't take into account their interests and abilities.
And it's patronising in a sense - the assumption that the majority of children and parents can't come up with interesting ways to spend their evenings by themselves. The old argument that without some form of instruction 'some families wouldn't' doesn't wash, because they're generally not the ones who do the homework anyway.
And the more prescriptive ones are just ghastly - I don't need to be told to bake a cake when it's 30 degrees inside and I have no intention of turning the oven on. I don't need a six year old in hysterics because I won't let him set the table because he has fine motor problems and I'm in too much of a rush to deal with broken crockery. And I really don't need the school dictating what we do with our very precious family time. They don't know our dynamic - I do.
Posted 20 January 2012 - 09:31 AM
I'm opposed to anything but reading aloud and maybe a bit of spelling practice (LSCWC) until Year 6. If the child asks for other tasks then sure, or if they have wasted time asking them to finish in their own time is reasonable. If that's during recess and lunch or at home - whatever works for that child.
Project type work that the child is interested in from around Year 5 can be successful but grids and lists of tasks or photocopied mathematics sheets make me growly.
Caveat: These are my thoughts as a parent and a as teacher.
Posted 23 January 2012 - 01:12 PM
I was looking at school websites in northshore sydney and stmbled onto a Homework Survey -
2 out of 3 parents and kids find the load causes them distress and anxiety
I was SHOCKED that 9/10 spend over 1 hour a night on homework (10yos!) and a full 1/4 spent over 4 hours!!! WTF? I know Asians love their homework but 4 hours for a 10yo kid???
Posted 23 January 2012 - 01:29 PM
DS's school uses the homework grid.
My main gripe with the grid is that you are only given 4 nights in which to complete the tasks. DS does a sport one afternoon, he comes with me when DD1 does sport on another afternoon. One day of afterschool care and you are not left with a lot of time to complete the grid.
Its bloody hard with more than one child to adequately supervise their homework and ensure that everything else that needs doing in the 'witching hours' gets done.
Posted 23 January 2012 - 01:38 PM
And the 'homework grids' pretty much make me want to scrawl **** OFF over them in red crayon and send them back to school.
Absolutely this. We ignore that kind of 'homework'. I find it patronising to the point of insulting.
Set homework plays a minimal role in our house, because in my experience the homework is a waste of DD's time. She already does plenty of reading and researches different topics when they are of interest to her.
Posted 23 January 2012 - 02:02 PM
From my experience at my DDs (local public) school, the kids that actually do bring in their homework are the ones that are achieving at or above grade level, and they have parents that care about their education. These kids are also the ones that have the parents that bother to help out at school (even though some work or have young children to take care of). These kids also tend to respect their teachers, their peers and school property more. Sounds like an awful blanket statement, but I really do see this quite clearly during the times I help out in the classroom.
I don't agree with forcing an unwilling child to complete hours and hours of unnecessary homework, but seriously, if some poor "Asian" parent (how racist can this PP get? this is such a poor taste comment - and no, I'm not Asian in the slightest) is motivated enough to help their kids succeed at school by setting a bit of extra work, why is that such a bad thing? Why is it any of your business?
Parents should do for their kids whatever they think will help them succeed in the big bad world out there. If that means homework, then do that. If your child needs fine motor skill work, research some activities to help with that (lego, origami, building blocks, pattern blocks are a few that I can think of off the top of my head), write them down in a notebook and let your child's teacher know about it. If your child needs gross motor skill help, find a local sports team to join.
FWIW, I had my child helping me to bake cakes and set the table from about 3yo. So, if that came home as homework for my DD (she's in Kindy) and that was all, I would laugh my behind off. I would have her extrapolate from there and add up the total volume of liquids added to the flour or the total weights of each ingredient, and what the total prep time was, etc.
Posted 14 February 2012 - 12:05 PM
Lol, I read this post out of interest due to the fact that my 8yr old DS was complaining last night that "i wish they never invented homework". I am lucky enough to work part-time so I am able to take an interest in both my boys homework, I sit with them and help every afternoon. But then there are the days where we have Taekwondo (for said 8yr old DS) and soccer practise (for 6yr old DS) and then all semblance of order goes out the window due to a change in our routine for that day. Mostly I allow them to complete a small part each day, and we concentrate more on the home reading and sight words/spelling words. Homework does seem to be getting longer and more of a burden and some nights i would much rather we all sat down and just chatted about our day than having to stress over the "have to get the homework done" pressure. My 12 yr old DSS (who has just come to live with us) is struggling due to the fact that we are making him complete his homework, whereas his mum never encouraged it to be finished. The poor boy goes into high school next year and has no idea on how to even attempt his homework each day let alone the large amount he is getting already for year7 (we are in QLD). I do beleive that a small amount each night is fine for each child depending on age and year at school, however, there are days when we just decide to "give it a miss" in favour of going for a walk on the beach, or walking the dogs, going for a bike ride together. I prefer to try and balance things out for the kids a bit, a bit of healthy down time never hurt anyone!!
Posted 23 February 2013 - 07:05 PM
I too didn't get burdened with homework until I started yr 8. All of my little ones struggle with it as do I merely because I'm ultimately responsible for it being submitted. This gets me to thinking, it's really more a parents responsibility in the younger years. So then what is really is the point of it???
The other thing is what takes some kids 10 minutes can take another over an hour.........hardly fair.
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