10 Facts About Primary School Homework That All Parents Should Know.

Welcome to my next blog in my new series “Current issues a primary school teacher faces”. In this blog I focus on homework from the perspective of a teacher and convey 10 of my concerns with homework which many parents may not be aware of.

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Homework tasks are varied a lot between schools. Some schools have policies regarding how much homework is given while others are dependent on the classroom teacher. There may be set tasks for the week or fortnight for all classes in the grade or each class might operate quite separately. Whatever the set up, most teachers share the same concerns regarding it. Below is a list of 10 concerns that I have as a teacher that I would like to share with you all.

1. Homework is given to satisfy parents

Most parents still believe that the education system is the same as what it was when they went to school. They are happy with what they learnt at school and hope that their child gets the same type of education that they did. With anything, as time goes on, things change as we begin to know more about that subject. We know so much more about the optimum learning environments and how children learn compared to ten years ago. I do not believe that traditional homework fits into our new understanding about children’s learning. Some parents however, still want homework as they believe it is an important aspect of education.

2. Marking homework takes precious time away from the learning.

If homework is set, the expectation is that it should be marked. If children have spent time working on something that the teacher has given, it is only right that the teacher sights it. When does the teacher do this? There are two ways that this usually is done. Either as a whole class or after school has finished. I see a problem with both, to be honest. If it is marked during class time, it cuts into the precious learning time of the students. If it is done after school, it cuts into precious planning time of the teacher. Teachers need this valuable time to ensure that the next learning experiences in their classrooms are meaningful and targeted to their students’ needs.

3. Homework can not be targeted to each child

Teachers can not be expected to set homework tasks that are specific to each child. The learning experiences that are specific to each child are done in the classroom under the instruction of the teacher. Many homework tasks are quite pointless to some children as they find the tasks too easy or too difficult. What is the point of homework in the model of “one size suits all”?

4. Parents requesting more homework

Children in today’s primary school work harder than ever before. Every minute needs to be accounted for. I find it hard to fathom that parents request more homework when their child is already working a 6 hour day, completing many after school activities and completing set homework tasks. When do the children have time to play outside in an unstructured format or help with the family chores?

5. Homework can turn into busy work

Homework tasks tend to be revision of learnt concepts. Revision is important if it has a purpose. EG Need to know multiplication facts to answer a mathematics problem. If children are churning through pages and pages of information for no real meaningful purpose they will forget the information as quick as they have learnt it.

5. The relationship with the learning inside the classroom

Many parents believe that homework gives an insight into what is happening in the classroom. This may be true in some cases but most tasks are set due to them being easy to mark, the child can complete it independently and the tasks can be completed within 30 minutes. I believe parents can support the learning that is happening in the classroom through better, more meaningful ways. Borrow a novel that you can read with your child, that has content related to what they are learning about or take them on your own excursion on the weekend to a place that will support the topic they are learning about. Most teachers give out a term overview so you will know ahead of time what they will be focusing on.

6. Homework for the whole family

I have heard of many parents expressing their hatred when it comes to homework. The main reason is because it causes so much stress in their family due to the child not wanting to do it or the child getting frustrated with a parent because they cant understand what to do or the lack of time to complete homework. Is this really the atmosphere we want in our homes at night after not seeing each other all day? What benefit is homework really bringing to the families of our students?

 7. What is important for homework

Children need to be encouraged to read and have a love of learning. If your child is particularly interested in a topic, they will develop more skills by conducting their own research into it then completing set tasks that are not linked with anything else. If your child is having difficulty with a concept, consider how to make the learning experience meaningful and your child will develop quickly. Your child needs to have a variety of experiences. This is what should be important.

8. Question the amount of homework

As a teacher I would LOVE parents to come and negotiate the amount of homework given to their child. Schools generally have a basic format per grade that satisfies parents and teachers. Discussing the amount of homework in Primary school gives you more control about how your child will be set up for the year. I believe reading every night and working on a personal project should be enough for all 5 - 12 year olds.

9. Preparing for Highschool

Many parents want their child to have a lot of homework in the upper grades in order to prepare them for high school. We need to think about what is the purpose of education. Is it to always be preparing for the next stage of education or developing children’s concepts in the present? We need to give children plenty of opportunities to develop their own skills and understanding of the world and I do not believe that a large amount of homework supports this notion.

10. Let the teachers do the teaching

Time and time again I hear parents complaining about not knowing how to teach a particular concept to their child that has come up in their homework, as the method that they have been taught at school is no longer focused on in the 21st century classroom. Although homework should be revision, many children still need parents to help answer tasks. As a teacher, I would prefer to set reading tasks and a special project that the child is interested in for homework and leave the teaching to me in the classroom.

Many teachers view homework differently. I believe it is time that parents take a stand against ridiculously large amounts of homework that does not benefit their child. As a teacher and parent I worry about the busyness of our lives and I want children to be able to be children. They have their whole lives to be adults so why are we pushing so much onto them at a young age. Let us focus on giving our children meaningful learning experiences and not piles and piles of busy work.

I would love everyone to share my blog to encourage parents and teachers to ensure that our children have time to be children.

Please leave your comments as I would love to hear your thoughts on homework in primary school.

Until next time …

Kelly Pisani

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