‘I despise homework more and more with each passing year’
Childhood is short and evenings should be for learning life skills and family time
It’s time for a homework revolution. Times have changed and yet we’re expected to continue parenting as if they haven’t
“Pleeaaase can I do my homework now,” my rather tired and emotional six-year-old asked at 7.30am earlier this week. “I want to be able to play when I come home,” he sobbed as I tried to explain that we didn’t know what the day’s homework was going to be yet and really getting dressed was the more pressing issue at this time.
But I knew how he felt. I’d seen his little face fall each afternoon as he made a beeline for the swings in the back garden while I tapped on the dining room table to remind him there was work to be done first.
More work to be done first, I should say, as obviously he had been in school all day. My energetic, excitable, superhero-loving dude, like all the rest of his little classmates, had been hard at work and learning loads while predominantly seated in the classroom. The afternoons, in his mind, were for getting bad guys and saving the world with his trusty side-kick and younger brother, the curly-haired dude.
It’s my 15th year of primary school homework. They say familiarity breeds contempt. I can absolutely vouch for that. I despise homework more and more with each passing year and nothing brightens my day like those rare occasions that a child announces he has secured a homework pass. In fact the very words make me positively emotional.
Each day the same battles and resistance take place as crestfallen children assume their position around the table and take out their books. Blue skies, rainy days, being tired from the day’s exertions – none of these things matter, because homework is part of school life. The research suggests it’s pointless but still we do it, because we always have.
Which is really not a good enough reason.
This summer I watched my children draw, colour and write stories and proudly show each other their creations. There were lots of strange looking monsters and tales featuring farts and poo because toilet humour features a lot in the world of boys. They read for pleasure and trips to the library were eagerly anticipated.
It’s so easy to incorporate the things which improve our children’s fine motor skills, encourage a love for reading and develop their imagination when it’s not piled on top of a day’s formal learning. I can’t imagine anyone saying to an adult who arrives home tired from a day at work “hey, do you know what you should do now, you should do even more work”. Nor would we be crazy enough to believe that might foster a love for one’s job. In fact I’m pretty sure we’d argue the opposite.
And I know I’m not alone in this thinking. The grumblings can be heard in the WhatsApp groups, escalated to sheer panic when the predictable question is posted “eh does anyone know exactly what they’re supposed to do for this project/book review/ fact search?” and some poor unsuspecting parent, still in work, becomes painfully aware of the fun and games that await them on their return home. Limited family time, completely taken over.
It’s evident in the eye-rolls at the school gate, when niceties are exchanged and the question posed about how back to school is going. “Homework” with a slow shake of the head is all that needs to be said. It’s a universal language.
And it’s apparent from the messages I receive from parents around the country who list it as the main source of arguments and frustrated outbursts in the afternoon as tired children rail against their parents. Some even told of how afterschool activities were not an option because of the time consuming nature of homework.
Because it’s not just a case of keeping to an allotted time. In many houses there are several children doing homework and everything takes longer when a battle of wills is involved. And with a need to review all and sign off – it’s like doing it twice.
Parents need to be involved in their children’s education. We need to know how they’re getting on and where they might need support. But surely copies or workbooks arriving home at the end of the week with a little note from teacher could solve that.
Education takes many forms. Childhood is short and evenings should be for learning life skills, family time and plain old fun. A little bit of time left over for some parental self-care too wouldn’t go amiss either.
It’s time for a homework revolution. Times have changed and yet we’re expected to continue parenting as if they haven’t. As Fr Ted might say himself, “Down with this sort of thing”.