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Because we love you to argue at home with your children

Boy doing homework

Ahhhh, homework. There are many different opinions on homework. Should kids have it, should they not, should it be optional, how much should they have, what should it be, are my kids too young for it. The list goes on. There are reasons both for and against homework that have sound arguments, but as with any debate, it’s often somewhere between that the best ideas lay. It’s also worth noting that opinions also differ between primary school and secondary school aged children.

The 'should kids have homework' debate is just one aspect of the topic. The other is that, assuming you are actually doing it, what’s the best way to manage it and how can you be successful at implementing it.

Homework is often sent home with your kids on school days and generally speaking the older the child, the more homework they receive. Homework is often subject based with tasks, worksheets and assessments, projects all of which should be similar to what the kids would be doing in the classroom.

girl doing homework on bed

Let’s Argue

Some arguments for having homework include:

  • there isn’t enough time to cover all the work in class time

  • doing more work at home will improve their academic ability

  • it can be a good life skill and develops important study skills

  • it can help interaction between parents and their children

  • helps consolidate classroom learning

Whilst arguments against homework include:

  • it can be stressful

  • there isn’t enough time at home, particularly for those who have extra-curricular activities, other commitments. Maybe a home life for some kids is difficult and just getting through a day is hard enough

  • kids are tired after a full day of school

  • it can cause tension and arguments in the home

  • it doesn’t improve learning enough to be worth doing

  • it’s just busy work

  • it’s because teachers are too lazy to get it done in class time.

Unfortunately many schools have rigid homework policies put in place at an administrative level that teachers have to abide by even if they don’t agree with them. Such as the amount of time each year level should be spending on their homework. Interestingly, as a teacher I would have some parents come in and complain to me that their child wasn’t getting enough homework and the flip side of parents who said there was too much homework. Can’t please all the people all the time.

Dad helping son with homework

Homework Basics

Homework in primary school really shouldn’t be more than 20 mins a day. Whatever it is, it should be something that doesn’t need to be taught. Parents can’t be expected to teach content that they may not have the time or skills to do properly.

It should be work that consolidates work the student already knows how to do. Ideally homework should always partly consist of reading. Reading, reading, reading, THE single most important skill your child needs. Around reading hinges everything.

Even if there isn’t some ‘homework’ activity that doesn’t specifically state reading, it needs to be done every day.

Another suitable homework activity is practising spelling words they might have to learn and is often so they can be tested on them later in the week to see if they have done so. Some maths activities are also useful if it is a concept a child is already familiar with and should focus on mental maths skills.

Boys doing homework

Projects In Primary School

From time to time your kids might come home with a project, like an information report display on their chosen animal. You know the sort. Massive coloured bits of cardboard with pictures and bits of writing stuck all over it that teachers hang up around their classrooms. Now, this kind of work does have its pros, but it is also fraught with a number of issues.

Firstly, this is an activity that a child, particularly in lower grades cannot do it by themselves effectively. As a single dad you might have work, be juggling multiple kids who all need help, or have a co-parenting situation where the children aren’t with you the whole time, meaning you don’t have enough time for such things. If a parent doesn’t have the time to commit to it then it’s likely your kid’s project isn’t going to live up to the expectations of your child, the teacher or the rest of the class.

Now if a parent can spend the time, great! fabulous! An excellent opportunity to have quality time, demonstrate learning, and producing something with your child is highly rewarding, but sadly this is not always possible.

Something that always bothered me with this kind of activity is when walking into a Grade 2 classroom and seeing all of these projects up on the wall. Some of them would be immaculate works of art, or professional presentations that look like something from a big corporation business proposal with beautiful full colour glossy pictures and word processed text. Whilst others looked like, well, looked like a seven year old Grade 2 child had actually done it. Imagine how those children feel who bring in their own projects, hand written, a little shabby looking with pale photocopied pictures awkwardly glued together when they look around the room. They see what is essentially a professional piece of work constructed by an adult possibly with little or no input from the child involved.

But another incredibly important thing here is that this piece of work should in no way be graded, and under no circumstances should such a grade contribute in any way to an assessment grade or be included on a report. After all, isn’t it the child being assessed not the parent. Seems unfair to give a parent an ‘A’ which is passed off as a kid’s work, but I’ve seen it happen.

It’s worth asking to see the school’s homework policy so you have an understanding of the expectation guidelines in case you have concerns that you wish to raise.

Personally, I tried to make homework optional because I know some home lifestyles are busy and believe there were so many other important things kids could be doing instead. As well as basic reading, spelling and maths activities they could complete, I often used to send home homework activities like ‘tidy you bedroom’ or ‘help cook dinner’ which parents used to love.

Teenagers doing homework in the kitchen

The Older They Get

By the time your child reaches Secondary School, homework gets ramped up with different teachers for different subjects all weighing in on what needs to be done to support their given area. I’m more of a fan of homework in Secondary over Primary as the older a student gets the more likely they can work independently.

Without going into too much detail there is a lot of research that shows the effect of homework on academics. It can be tricky to nail down an absolute rule because of how and what is tested, there are too many variables.

But the general feel is that homework has very little impact on academic achievement in primary school aged children but some improvements in secondary school. If you’re interested in reading more on this topic there is some great work by Professor John Hattie in his book visible learning.

young girl doing homework

Deal With It

Strategies for dealing with homework:

Try to timetable homework in to become part of daily routine. Allow your child to come home and have some downtime, afternoon tea, a break. It is then a good time to have kids do their homework before attending to other ‘free time’ activities and dinner. After dinner it is bit too late for primary school aged kids to do homework, but you’ll find teenagers will prefer this time, which is ok as they are likely to go to bed later. Work in with your own routines.

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