We are a few weeks into the school year and the dreaded homework book has made its way home.
Homework is such a contentious issue and one that divides parents, teachers and policy makers. There has been research that indicates a correlation between academic performance and homework for older grades (7-12), but less so with younger grades. There are also a number of factors that impact this outcome, including student aptitude, attitude and amount/nature of homework.
Each school has their own homework policy, with some having far greater expectations than others. We have been fairly fortunate to do date, but homework expectations often depend on the year level and teachers.
After looking at the structure for my son’s grade 4 homework, I admit I’m not as terror stricken as I have been in the past. However, I will still be writing to the teacher for allowance to be made for my child to be excused from mandatory submission.
1. Kids’ brains get tired.
I think adults often underestimate how hard our kids work to stay focused at school. They have to listen to their teacher, absorb new information and apply that along with existing knowledge, not to mention remember the school rules and navigate social situations.
I know both my school-aged kids are often mentally fatigued when they get home. They groan at the very mention of homework, which is perfectly understandable. After all, when we get home from work, the last thing we want to do is think about is more work!
2. Kids need to be active and play.
As they work so hard focusing at school all day, kids are often a bundle of pent up physical energy after school. This may seem contrary to the point above, but mental fatigue is different to physical fatigue. After sitting at a desk for a good part of the day, they need to climb, run, jump and be loud. This isn’t only a physical outlet but also a sensory one.
All this activity aids development that helps with in-school learning. Playing cricket or handball helps coordination and gross motor skills, not to mention core strength which is required to sit up and pay attention for long periods. Playing lego or jacks helps with fine motor skills, which in turn helps with things like pencil grip.
3. Kids learn better when they are willing participants.
Let’s face it, for most kids homework is seen as a chore. And while they need to learn to do things that aren’t enjoyable, homework also needs to be beneficial. I know my 8 year old would prefer (and get more value from) reading a book, doing a word search or playing maths games on the computer than writing out rote timetables. Less arguments over homework means a less stressful home life.
4. Life is busy.
After school we have appointments, sports practice, instrument practice and family commitments to attend to. The kids like to catch up with friends. I like to catch up with friends! Then there are the unexpected things that crop up. Some days fit nicely into a structured routine, but others not so much. Who wants the pressure of grade 4 homework on top of that?!
5. Teachers are busy.
Most teachers I’ve spoken with on the topic of homework have admitted they don’t have time to fully mark each student’s homework. Usually it’s a completed/not completed appraisal. This year’s homework outline actually states: “the class teacher will sight completed work”. Not mark, not provide feedback. Sight. Presumably just so the homework completed box can be marked Y/N on each student’s report card! I understand the purpose of revision but with no meaningful input from the teacher, homework seems like an arbitrary exercise.
I know many parents will disagree with my views of homework – it’s a polarising subject. And I must reiterate that I’m not against the idea of children doing “work” outside of school. As mentioned in point 3, we do lots of reading and brainwork at home for fun. I expect my older son to do set homework to prepare him for high school. Much to his disappointment, I won’t be writing a note for that!
However, for my youngest son, if homework gets completed that’s great, if not, I won’t be loosing sleep over it. At the tender age of 8, I think my boy will get far more out of climbing trees and arguing with his brother over who’s turn it is to bat than sitting at the dining room table getting frustrated over maths problems.
He’s got plenty of time for that in the future.