Why we don't 'do' homework.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

I'm all for supporting children's education at home yet I find homework, in infants and primary school for the most part unnecessary beyond reading and the odd spellings or project.  It's bad enough that our children are swallowed into the system of full time formal education at such a tender age in comparison to many other places in the EU where the average starting age is 6-7 years of age.  Once in school they're usually there for around 6+ hours.  After school should be family time.  Time to reconcile the day with their family, to play, to chat and to relax.  Six and a half hours a day is plenty of time for children to be academic and adhere to structured learning.  I want my children to enjoy learning not to resent it.  When not being academic at home, a child is still learning emotionally, mentally and socially from their family which is just as important as academia if not more so at times.

So no, we don't make Things One and Two do homework.  We don't even make them do the schools mandatory home reading.  Why?  Because quite simply we don't have to.  Things One and Two have learned to adore reading through not being pushed and thus eagerly read because they want to, as opposed to having to, curiously as a result they're both high level readers. This is a far healthier attitude to reading and learning than being mandated to do something.  Likewise, as we never enforce homework, we find that often they take it upon themselves to do it anyway, because they want to.  They enjoy choosing to learn.  As they're not forced to do homework they structure their own learning at home, often found squirrelling away in their rooms independently writing their own stories or creating their own sums.  They're still practising what they've learned but in a far more constructive way as once again they're choosing what they do and how they do it.  Simply asking them about their day allows them to reflect on what they've learned and through talking about it they're re-enforcing their lessons.  Through trying to teach you what they've done, they also teach themselves.

Homework has no place in a young child's life.  They don't need extra academia they need to be a child. They need security, laughter, tickles, bed time stories, adventures, fresh air and conversation. To create, to perform, to indulge. Childhood is already far too short and too precious to be wasted.  The spawn gain far more from playing outside on the trampoline, creating their own songs and dances, playing cards or going conker hunting than they do from extra sums.  Giggling and silliness is far more nourishing to a child's well being than frustration and resentment.

Yet Thing One has managed to get to year 5 and Thing Two year two without us ever having a confrontation with their teachers or even so much as a conversation regarding the lack of homework they do.  Rather the teachers praise their thirst for learning, their uncannily good general knowledge, their problem solving skills, their attitude to working and the fact that both children are significantly and consistently over achieving.  They go to school to learn, and they love doing it and I'm positive that the distinction between home and school boosts this.  They're ready for school at the start of the day because of their break from it.  Because they've had their own time.

They're curious little souls and every conversation is riddled with their natural hunger for knowledge, they seem to naturally connect what they have learned to experiences outside of school, applying them to home life too.  They constantly ask questions and love to answer them too.

Science, nature, mathematics and literature are all around us, in nearly everything we do.  If you don't push them, they will find it there.  They will want to find it and enjoy doing so.

If they need reassurance or guidance on something they wish to know or to improve on, we work with them.  If they want to show us what they've been doing, they do.

Too much academics can exhaust and deplete their natural lust to learn.  School is for structured learning, home is for unstructured learning and support.

Granted if you have a child who is struggling at school, homework in small amounts may be beneficial in some eyes, yet what if taking home what they've spent all day trying to do creates a negative association with it?  they're already mentally exhausted from working hard all day and they're getting no time to recover.  No escape from it.  It becomes daunting, frustrating and puts them under an unfair level of pressure.

We as adults know ourselves how negatively consistently bringing work home with us can effect us and our mental health.  It can raise stress levels, effect our sleep, prevent us from finding enjoyment in things and make us short tempered.

So let the infants and junior children clock off at the end of their school day.  No overtime. Let them breath.  Let them rest.  Let them be.

& they will thrive.

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