Homework … help!

Today I find myself in the unusual position of railing against homework at my daughter’s primary school while simultaneously in an argument with my teenager about the value of revision. Unsurprisingly I have a million questions: ‘Do my teenagers hate homework because they were made to do it an early age?’ ‘Do teachers ‘like’ homework?’ ‘Do parents like homework?’ are some.  All the primary school teachers I’ve asked say they only give homework because parents expect it, yet all the parents I talk to say it causes arguments at home and they don’t want it.

Some parents tell me it’s too hard for their children.  Others it’s too easy and doesn’t relate to what they’re doing in class.  Some parents want to spend quality time remembering with their children what they did on the weekend and helping them express it clearly in a written or artistic form.  Others are upset their child spent last weekend with their former partners new partner, while both biological parents worked.

I got to this point today when a parent posted in my kinder daughters school ‘underground facebook group’ asking if anyone has this weeks yr2 spelling words.  I had to ask more about this because of the angst I experienced 10 or so years ago strongly encouraging my sons to practise their spelling words. I wanted to know if they still use the “look, say, cover, write, check” method of learning to spell.  My boys and I had so much fun making up stories with those spelling words, seeing what we could do with 10 or 20 simple words. Or should I say, I had fun, the boys were more interested in quickly writing the words out in a column so they could go play in the treehouse.

They always did well in the spelling test at the end of the week, of course they did.  They wrote the words out every day, they were stuck in their heads on Friday.  The problem is they can’t spell them now, well one of them can – he’s a natural speller. In two weeks one will start his year 11 exams, in preparation for his final year of school. I’m not exactly sure what contribution those yr2 arguments about homework will have on his final results, but I do know that I’m being much more relaxed with his little sister and I’m very grateful she doesn’t really have homework yet.

I’m trying to emphasise revision now for all my children, in an interesting way. No busy work please, let’s talk about what you did in school today; what did you learn, what can you teach me?  My little one and I talk about her upcoming news items and plan ahead for the letter of the week in a playful way.  I wonder at what point planning for news becomes less playful and why?

I’m still learning and I’d really like to hear what you think.  What do you love and what do you hate about homework?  Can you help me and my children with your ideas about learning at home please?


10 thoughts on “Homework … help!

  1. Homework needs to have a purpose, not just homework for the sake of having homework. Kids who learn to do a little each night get into the habit, so later in high school when they have to focus independently they are more capable of doing so.

    In primary school, if parents take the time to sit with their child to do the work and make it a positive experience, the kids are generally happier doing it. Like when it changes from a parent reading to a child to the child reading to a parent and they are so pleased with themselves.

    Sometimes homework is taken too far with teachers or parents expecting kids to do homework that doesn’t serve a purpose other than filling in the required amount of time. This is when it can become a very negative experience 😦

    Homework needs to be purposeful varied or kids get bored!

    In high school if a kid does 10 minutes revision of each subject per day, it helps them to remember the work. If there’s something they don’t understand, they recognise this quickly and can remedy this by talking to their parents or teacher, leading to an enhanced understanding of the coursework. Then when it comes to examination time they are more confident and could achieve greater marks.

    A friend’s child (now at uni) told me how she organised her time. In primary school she was in an opportunity class for years 5-6. In this class she was taught time management and study techniques. She took these techniques with her throughout her schooling and is using them at uni. She revises each lesson and makes summaries on a daily basis. Each weekend she reads through her notes and makes further summaries, filing them in separate folders. When it comes to test time she reads through the most revised edition. If there’s something she can’t really remember she goes to her other summary, then to her notes from the lessons. This girl achieved fantastic marks in every subject she attempted at school. At uni she is achieving an HD average!

    All I need to do now is teach my children to do this and be happy about it 🙂

  2. Advice from The Innovative Educator: Don’t… give kids a “second shift” of work when they leave school.
    I couldn’t agree more. You’ve controlled what students do all day. Let them have freedom to live and apply knowledge in the real world at night. Let them run around and get exercise. Allow them to discover, explore, and develop their passions. Let them rest, relax, or be alone. In short, they’ve put in their day. Let them be who they want to be and do what they want to do when they leave. Socol says it this way, allow them the opportunity to extend their world, rather than extending yours. http://theinnovativeeducator.blogspot.com/2011/08/back-to-school-dos-and-donts.html
    My personal opinion is get them to read, view, watch, play games, search for information they wish to share, encourage them to find things to do that they enjoy so they can learn to understand themselves…Cheers

  3. Family time is more important than homework. In Primary school, students should read their chapter book each night, do some maths…all with their mum and dad beside them doing similar activities. I think a musical instrument is more important than doing further “literacy” and “numeracy” at home. I am an HT admin and i teach vis arts from yr 7 to 12. I have found that the homework that gets done without threat of detention are things such as” 1901- who in your family was alive then? What country/ culture were they from? What good stories do your family have about that time? ” these create the most awesome discussions…then i relate to Federation in Australia, what my grandmother did, who could vote….we do numeracy based on this….work out how old that person would be today…no cheating as each person has a different date. What was Australia’s culture/ history…now lets look at some artworks to see their historical context. Lets recontextualise these now as to how we today see them.” great lesson today. Those students who didn’t do their homework in the other class had found out their family history by next lesson. Conversations at home about school open the kids up to relationships which is really the most important thing we can teach students in this digital age.

  4. I can see that bringing some small piece of homework home might help build a bridge between school and home, encourage good study habits and reinforce what’s being taught in class, HOWEVER, it doesn’t do any of these things well.

    One of our main hurdles is firstly getting my Yr2 son to focus long enough amidst the activity of our home to do his homework.

    Last year we had one book and it covered everything, that worked quite well. It had a clear beginning and end. This year we have activities written in the back and front of an exercise book, reading, mathletics online, news, and sometimes another activity to complete. It’s too confusing for me to keep on top of let alone a seven year old. And then times that by three! One book would go some way to minimising the stress. I would add though that the homework book was not at all challenging.

    Seven does seem awfully young to expect homework be completed independently especially since he has difficulty focusing on getting dressed in the morning!

  5. Our school, through the Student Council, conducted a survey on homework, to create a homework policy for the school. This was done when my child was in kindy. I didn’t fill in the survey, as I hadn’t at that stage experienced the homework that I now have to endure with my child.

    Now – as Kellie wrote, we have an exercise book with 7 different things to complete on a weekly basis, (spelling 3 times a week, maths times table 3 times a week, home reading daily, an exercise weekly, news weekly, mathletics weekly, maths book – maths mentals weekly).

    As a working parent, I am struggling to get all these pieces complete. I sat with my child for over an hour today & she couldn’t / wouldn’t write 5 sentences from 5 spelling words. AN HOUR!! She’s 7, and obviously finds it hard to focus. There were tears – her, frustration – me. I tried so many different ways to get her to do this homework & nothing seemed to work, until eventually we got there.

    I even rang the teacher 2 weeks ago, and discussed the homework issued, as my child just wasn’t finishing it. The teacher was “punishing” her by keeping her in at lunch, on Fridays & she would complete it then. That “punishment” wasn’t working, as my child said she actually liked doing it then. So the teacher had a word to all the class & now punishment for failure to complete homework is being kept in at lunch 3 times.

    What’s the answer? I don’t know, but I dread when we actually go into primary school.

    & I have a child in kindy too, so it’s only going to get worse 😦

  6. Kelly,

    Wide, independent reading + hobbies and sports should be what students ‘do’ at home. Setting H/W is a nonsense IMHO but educating young people (and their parents) about the importance of ‘learning’ in areas of their own interest is under-valued.


  7. “Scatterbrain” (2003) is the third general collection of science fiction writer Larry Niven’s works, following “N-Space” and “Playgrounds of the Mind”. This volume contains 26 works of various kinds, from speculative articles and humorous essays to science fiction short stories and extracts from his novels, all previously published in previous works, except for the introduction and epilogue, in which Niven describes “What I tell librarians”.

    Summing up a talk he once made to a convention of librarians: “If there were only one thing you could teach a child, it ought to be this: to play with his [or her] mind“. He then further elaborated that we should encourage students “… to make up his [or her] own homework”.

  8. Thanks to all for your contributions. The picture I’m getting is there is no ‘one size fits all’. If I needed proof of this, today when I mentioned to another kindy parent that I use library toys to practise times tables because we have to count all the 36 or 48 pieces before we borrow and return, she said; numbers are ok, it’s words we need to work on”.

    I feel better armed now to have the homework discussion with teachers, school leaders and P&c. I hope the discussion, when I next have it, has evolved a little from the one I had 5 years ago. I’m heartened by the comments above from respected educators. I think we are progressing. Thanks!

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