Forget Homework, Let Kids Be Kids

A teacher’s take on homework…

Hands up if you loved doing homework when you were a kid… Nobody? Fair enough. Homework stinks, but it is so cemented in our idea of what children do that it seems to be here to stay. Somewhere, many years ago, some absolute liar spread the rumour that getting kids to do uninspiring worksheets on their own time, will improve their learning. Let me present some reasons why homework should be outlawed.

Firstly, kids these days are constantly busy, moving from one organised activity or event to the next and their days are planned to the minute. Take a class of 20 five-year-olds that I surveyed. Every single one of them stated that they partake in some form of ‘organised’ activity outside of school weekly, on a school day (ie. After school, Monday-Friday). 17/20 students participate in an organised sport weekly, outside of school on a school day (eg. basketball, football, swimming). Half of the students said they engaged in more than one organised activity weekly, outside of school on a school day (eg. Some combinations of instrumental music lessons, dance classes, tutoring, sport, art classes). Remember, THESE KIDS ARE FIVE!

Not only do we then deal with the obvious stress and exhaustion for coping at such a young age, with such busy schedules, but we’re forgetting a key point – letting kids be kids. A typical day might go something like 7am wake up, breakfast, brush teeth, get dressed, 8am-4pm school, 4pm home, afternoon tea, 4:30 swimming lesson, 5:30 dinner, 6pm homework, 7pm shower, 7:30 bed. I reiterate… This is a five-year-old’s schedule, so imagine what that of an eight-year-old or 14-year-old might look like.

Kids need time for playing with friends, and just as important is having time to play alone and be creative and use their imaginations. And what about some downtime to perhaps relax and watch some TV or do a drawing? We can’t forget that homework actually puts pressure on parents too, that are trying to juggle assisting their child with their homework (alongside everything else the child is doing), plus worrying about their own lives, jobs, finances, cooking dinner, keeping a tidy home, operating their chauffeur service and so on!

So, how can anything that makes children anxious, takes away the opportunities for them to experience regular ‘kid stuff’, all while giving them a negative experience of learning ever be considered a good thing? Oh, and here’s the kicker – teachers hate homework too because it takes an awful lot of our time away from doing things that actually improve student learning such as planning lessons, giving students feedback on their learning and actually teaching!

When done properly, I will admit that homework can be a valuable experience and create links between home and school whilst reinforcing and extending the child’s learning experiences. Homework can foster lifelong learning and study habits, responsibility for one’s own learning and develop organisation and time management skills.

Homework must be balanced with the range of home obligations, out of school recreational and social activity, cultural and family events and so on. Kids already spend most of their waking hours doing school work and much of the rest of their time is already planned. Homework becomes a chore, the dreaded elephant in the room and leads to stress, exhaustion and most negatively, it makes children hate learning and hate school. Parents always seem to think there is either too much homework or not enough and teachers can never please anyone. So what do we do about it? Don’t ask me. You didn’t expect me of offer solutions did you… I just felt like airing my grievance!

So, what do YOU think of the dreaded H-word?

 

 –  Teachling <WordPress> <Tumblr>

 More from Teachling:
An Australian teacher’s take on America’s Common Core…
A teacher’s take on positive thoughts and how kids let negative thoughts consume them…
A teacher’s take on independence and helicopter parents…

Image source
http://cdn.parenting.kidspot.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/hateshomework-600×420.jpg

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8 thoughts on “Forget Homework, Let Kids Be Kids

  1. Yes, I think you’re probably right – certainly for primary-age children. This is the kind of policy that breed learned helplessness in later life. Children need time to find themselves outside formal education hours. However, the biggest block here is parents – there would be an outcry if we scrapped homework. I can see that it does have its uses; maybe the solution would be to specify a certain number of HW to be set per term, as and when there was something useful to be done, rather than mechanic ally for the sake of it? In the U.K. the website Showmyhomework is becoming something of another cross to bear…

    • Hi there, I agree with your comment about parents. The same seems to apply with vitually every area of education. Everyone is an education ‘expert’ because everyone has been to school! That’s how it appears, at least. People think whatever experience of school they had as students is the right way. Parents are suspicious of approaches that don’t match their experiences 30 years ago, so yes, homework was a major part of their schooling so why would we ever change it?…

  2. I’ve been trying to experiment with homework that encourages parents to spend time with their kids doing an activity — last week my assignment was to go outside and go stargazing together (we are studying space). I have yet to get feedback from the parents about this type of assignment, but I’m hoping it will be positive when I do!

    I agree with what you’ve written in this post and think it’s really important to think about what we are giving for homework. I know there is a ton of research that shows that the only real benefit of doing homework in the early grades is teaching kids how to do homework and that the academic benefits are actually very minimal.

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