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Primary School Homework Pointless? 2006-11-29

Posted by clype in Articles of Interest, Scotland.

‘Homework for the under-tens is really a waste of our time’ — an article by Kristina Woolnough

A recent survey at my children’s primary school confirmed the polarised views: Some parents see homework as an opportunity to get fully involved in their child’s learning, to the extent of actually doing the work themselves. Others describe it as a gross intrusion on precious family time.

There is a considerable pressure to conform and perform in the homework arena, especially for competitive parents. If children won’t spend their evenings glued to their jotters, parents perceive this as a benchmark of their inadequacy.

In households where education means little, homework is irrelevant. It becomes another signpost for chaotic lifestyles and falling through the net, as the disengaged children of disengaged parents give paired reading and maths exercises a bodyswerve.

To help us all, ‘The Scottish Executive’ guidance for ‘The Parental Involvement Act’ offers “parent prompts” to help with “home learning”. These are patronising to parents who already talk to their children as if they are enquiring, intelligent beings, and are wasted on those who don’t.

The new Education Minister Mr.Hugh Henry has said that parents have a “big part to play” in delivering education. This is a dangerous strategy that appears designed to pass the educational buck from schools to parents.

Parents are not equipped to teach their children in the formal sense. We can be interested, enthusiastic and engaged in our children’s school lives. We can value learning, openly acknowledging that we are all learners. We can articulate to our children how much they teach us. But we are not teachers.

In our household, homework is the major conflict zone. From P1 onwards, every ounce of willpower has been applied to induce two out of three of our children to knuckle down. Children under ten should not have homework. They should be playing, preferably outside, as a move away from this unhealthy, pen-pushing and sedentary model of learning.

If a child is not old enough to be entirely responsible for his or her own homework, they shouldn’t be given it. Parents already have to cajole and compel their children to do all manner of tasks (to share, wash, dress, eat healthily, develop manners, be kind to others) for the sake of civilisation. Do we have to teach them to read and do long division too?

There are two great homework bugbears for every parent: projects, and a lack of marking by teachers. Both may reflect parental over-involvement.

How annoying is it to trawl local libraries and the internet for hours in the name of your child’s project, only to find the teacher doesn’t even mark it? The pupil, who merely copied out the sections of print-outs which its parent highlighted, glued in some nice pictures and did some fancy lettering for the cover page, is not bothered.

We “involved” parents are not interested in the merits of positive comments and peer review in class, nor do we care about “two stars and a wish”, courtesy of the fashionable “Assessment is for Learning” appraisal regimes.

We parents want a straightforward high grade for our efforts.



1. Red Fish Blue Fish, Corp. - 2009-03-02

Young children have great and wonderful minds that wander from earth to the outreaches of our galaxy (their imagination is that wide). You must understand the overall purpose of homework. Homework is suppose to provide two things: (1) to prepare the child/student for the next day’s lesson and (2) to review what the child has learned. Since we can agree that a little one’s mind can wander, the homework, as long as it is kept fun, creative and engaging, can serve as a catalyst for learning which is what a growing child craves. It also can serve as a great tool for parent involvement or quality time with your child. It prepares your child for the inevitable truth of lifelong learning at an early start. I do not feel that circling a red elmo who has three cookies instead of two is so bad. Or to color the small rectangles yellow and the big rectangles blue is so threatening. We even give internet homework where the child and their parent may have to look up together colorful birds of the rain forest (if that is our theme) and bring in a picture to share with their class….is that so boring?

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