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Is Homework Beneficial

Is Homework Beneficial?

With the return back to school recently I have seen lots of heated debates over the topic of homework. I have read heartbreaking accounts of children struggling to focus on homework tasks after a busy school day. This results in stress at home before returning to school with homework incomplete and children being punished by missing break time - to complete the homework!

We are obsessed that if something isn't pen to paper a child isn't learning. We overload. Dishing this and that out. Sending work home and expecting it back completed in just 2/3 days. Some school will happily keep children in during break time to miss their little bit of freedom and their snack while they do their homework with the teacher instead? 

Taking away from a child their 15 minutes to have a little play for incomplete homework? Their time to move around, inhale the fresh air and chase their friends. Taking away that precious time that they crave to move around. Taking away time that gives them the break they need to come back to class and focus on the next set tasks you have planned. Their emotions toyed with at they hear their peers outside playing contently. It's just a full cycle of setting them up to fail.

This isn't about teaching the children a lesson. Learning to do things that don't engage or excite them or else there are consequences. The only lesson here is for us. That things need to change.

I have read about headteachers reassuring parents that their child is coming home with this amount of homework (in year 2) to prepare them for senior school?! How does this prepare children for something that may face in 4 years time? How does this help them in the here and now? Does setting homework prepare them or simply take away precious time that they could be using to develop other skills that are essential for their futures? 

Would you hold a newborn baby in a position to walk and leave them to it to prepare them for walking when they are 4? It may sound extreme but once you start to see it from the view of a child you can really see how damaging all this can be.  

We are so focused on the future that we miss the here and now. 

Does homework hurt more than it helps?

Schedules are busier than ever before. Lives are fast paced. We run around like headless chickens trying to meet the demands at work and then come home to start again with our families. Nothing ever just stops. It's as if we have completely lost how to just be present in the current moment and live spontaneously. Everything follows a routine. Get this done by this time. Leave there no later than.... Do this before that. Remember this. Our minds are full. All. The. Time. 

Is Homework Beneficial?

Our children have a busy day at school too. Predominately pen to paper, sitting at a desk being spoken to for a good 4-5 hours a day. Movements are limited. Choice is very limited and the freedom to do as they please quite simply isn't allowed. Some schools even tell children how to spend their time on the playground - by giving them set games or equipment that they have no choice but to play. 

We are stopping children being children. We are taking away their innocence and making them conform far too much. Their ambition and burning desire to imagine, to explore and discover is dying because we simply don't give them enough time to just be the children that they are. 

Professor John Hattie, discovered that primary school homework has a negligible effect (most homework set has little to no impact on a student’s overall learning). 
Quite often when there is an ambition to raise educational standards, many professionals think that a way forward is to increase the amount of homework sent home. They believe that home learning will give the required boost to get to where they need to be. But is this really the case? Yes home learning is important but is this really the right sort of home learning for the families that are apart of our school community?

Is Homework Beneficial?

By sending out homework we share with parents what is expected. This can cause lots of friction at home particularly when parents are putting pressure onto the children to do tasks that they either can't grasp or don't want to do. It can cause friction within the family unit - making the little time they have together on an evening tense. In this environment we are making the children have a negative attitude towards homework. It's something they have to force themselves to do to avoid the punishment and exclusion at school rather than happily doing something they wholeheartedly enjoy.

Some parents can take over homework tasks too with the best intentions at heart but what does this show the child? I can do it better than you, so I will do it. 
We get parents who don't quite teach it how the children are learning at school which can create confusion. 

Some students have a chaotic home life with would prevent them from being able to focus on their work too. Some may not have the correct resources or materials. Is this taken into account?

We oversea that a child spontaneously writing a letter to their friend isn't using skills they have been learning in the classroom. That picking up a book and making predictions about what happens next and dissecting a word to be able to read it correctly isn't practising what they've been doing in literacy. That joining Mum at the supermarket and weighing fruit and vegetables, grasping weight won't help support their work in Numeracy. That playing with dolls and imagining scenarios wont help them in their story telling. 

Children are learning all the time. They are sponges. Taking away a little something with each experience they have when they are engaged and enjoying what they are doing. 
Just because a child isn't putting pen to paper doesn't mean that they are exploring concepts that will go on to help them build on their learning at school. 

Some children enjoy clubs outside of school which can eat up a few evenings. Dishing out homework too could mean they don't get an evening free. 

The only home learning we should be sending home is encouraging family time. Encouraging children to go outside and dance in the rain, to draw pictures, to run through fields without a care in the world.  
If you insist on sending something home for the children to do, that homework must be engaging, and meaningful for the child. Or what's the point? 

I was over the moon a couple of years ago to receive a letter home from my daughters school sharing with us that they had been reviewing how they did homework and had decided to introduced a whole new framework to tie in with all topic work. 

Instead of having a set task each week to complete, we were sent home a project book. It comes home at the beginning of term sharing their topic in class. It outlines what they would be learning in all areas of the curriculum and we have several weeks to explore the topic ourselves - whatever way we pleased. 

It encouraged us to visit places, to use the laptop to research. To visit the library to find books. create junk models, pictures and paintings. Homework that could be completely led by the child. Whatever part of the topic your child wanted to explore and learn more about - they can. 

In the last week of term, the project books would go back into school and be shared during circle time. Children would present their artwork, their findings and creations to their friends. There is now a buzz again. The children are excited about homework, because they can put their own stamp on things. (The framework if you're interested by the way is called - Cornerstones). 

It's not just the children to consider with regards to homework either. Teachers are leaving the classrooms at an alarming rate, because of the pressures they face. How much extra time does marking and planning homework take up?

Take some time to reflect on the way you tackle homework. If you have children staying in to miss break to complete homework see the bigger picture. What can you do to make these children excited about homework? Lets start appreciating the real struggles these children are facing. Could your school tackle homework in a more practical way that encourages quality family time and fun?

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