The homework conversation 19

Tuesday evening is parents evening for the boys and I am going to have to have THAT conversation about homework again.  What conversation are you thinking…. Well at five and six, I just do not see the need for my boys to do homework.

I want my children to learn by play, not to be forced to do homework unwilling.  When you look back to your childhood, can you remember doing homework at Primary school?  I cannot.  Homework was something that happened to me in Senior school and I am keen to keep my boys childhoods just that, childhoods.  I do not feel the need to hot house them, or to force them to learn unless they are falling behind their peers.


My boys spend all day at school and when they come home I would rather use this time with them to play, go to the park, read books, have baths and have family time together.  I love the fact that we can go to the park or walk in the woods if the weather is good and that they can go out and play independently.  They learn more spending time as a family, than they do from forced and uninteresting homework.  My boys cook with me, where we discuss measurements, where food comes from and they are dab hands at measuring and mixing Yorkshire Pudding batter.  They are learning life skills and making memories  just by playing and spending time with their me.

Last year Maxi’s class had to make a castle and he felt under pressure to comply (as he is my eager to please child), so he made it on his own pretty much, but many of the children went to school with very impressive castles even some made out of wood, which no five year old would be capable of on their own. Who was this homework for, me or Maxi?

Surely we should make the most of the precious after school time with our children, we should have fun rather than join the hoards of comparative parents trying to turn their children in to over achievers.  The UK has one of the earliest start in to mainstream education unlike Finland where children do not start till they are seven.  Reading Heather’s account of the Finnish schooling system had me wanting to pack my thermals and relocate.

What is your stance on homework?

19 thoughts on “The homework conversation

  • Louise

    I totally agree with you and I can’t remember doing homework until high school either. A friend of mine’s 10 yr old boy has a ridiculous amount of homework (he’s in middle school) and spends time on it every evening as well as weekends, which is crazy at this age! My boys don’t get as much, but it still really affects the time they have available to play or for us to do things together.

  • Kelloggsville

    I’ve never agreed with the pressure on primary school children. I think some homework is useful to bring child and parent together in focused learning. By some I mean the odd worksheet or cut out numbers game once in a while. I’m so against SATS in primary school I could spit fire and have written so my letters, fallen out with the head teacher and governing body over it. Having a crying scared child because of pressure placed on them by the school when they are so young is ridiculous. They need to chill at home, play. But many children don’t get automatic support and normal development opportunities at home, sometimes the school need to try and help parents to help their child (which is different to a child watching a father build a castle! Ps my daughters castle was a fairly crappy toilet tube affair built by her!!)

  • claire

    I agree with you completely, for us its a real problem actually finding the time for the boy to do it as half the week he doesn’t even get home from the childminders till 6 o’clock. At four years old I find it incredible that each night he has 3 different pieces of homework. Far, far, too much and I think its having a detrimental effect on his enjoyment of learning. I will be having the same conversation. I think half of the problem is that they don’t teach them properly at school and a lot of the emphasis is on the parents to do the teaching for them. A controversial point I know.

  • Kate

    Whilst mine do get homework, it is not extensive. We don’t do much more than 10 mins – they read their reading books to us and take a few minutes to do their spellings which they do 5 days a week. At the weekend, they get a maths sheet – which are normally games for them to play. Monkey actually chose to do his maths sheet over anything else on Saturday and completed it in precisely 2 minutes. I don’t feel they miss out on anything by doing the homework, and if we can’t do it, we don’t. School recommends reading 4 nights a week and we often do it 5 or 6 times. They also give suggestions at the year group meetings of games to play with them to help reading, writing and numeracy but honestly, they are things we do with them anyway.

  • Wendy

    I totally agree with you. I taught KS2 and found it more than a nuisance. On parents evening there were two camps those who thought there was too much and those who thought there was not enough or it was too easy. I used it to “consolidate learning” as they say. Didn’t give anything that we hadn’t learnt about already. I would’ve rather parent and child read together not as a chore but for the fun of it. Primary school has got far too pressurised and the fun has gone for the most part. Good luck with your conversation.

    I didn’t get hw until senior school but remember practising times tables at juniors.

  • Midlife Singlemum

    I think art and design projects to do at home are totally unfair. When the time comes, however, I think I would like DD to have a little something to do for homework each evening – even just 10 minutes worth. I didn’t have homework until secondary school and it was a big shock. I never really learnt the discipline of working in the evening – which most professional careers require.

  • northernmum

    I never did homework before secondary school. These are little kids we are talking about ones that live and breathe education in all they do and see; they dont need to be sat down and ‘made’ to do stuff.

    And yes the competitive parenting at this level is obscene – it is like some parents are making up for the fact they didnt have homework in infants!

    We chose a school that doesnt do homework but sends home optional reading and asks for support from the families – that suits me just fine,

    J x

  • Curly Mum

    I think homework is great, but that’s because my daughter’s (she’s 5) school gives good homework that she enjoys. Mostly she just chooses a book for us to read together. Sometimes she brings home worksheets which usually involve drawing or writing a couple of sentences. This week she has to write a bit about the changes she sees around her in autumn. Her homework is never anything that will take more than about 10 minutes every now and then, and she enjoys it. If it got too serious, I wouldn’t be happy.

    I think we (this country) pile so much pressure on children and young people academically that it is actually often detrimental to their development. I was a bright child, and as such my father and my school pushed me to reach my potential. I worked hard, but it was stressed through my whole education how important this work was, or how this exam would affect my whole life, etc. By the time I reached my teens, when the exams actually did begin to matter a bit, I was burnt out. I didn’t care any more, because I saw then that in the greater scheme of things those past things hadn’t really meant anything and I had put myself through a lot of stress to do them. It was, weirdly, falling pregnant at 15 that made me do well in my final exams, because I wanted to be able to get a good job to take care of my baby. I think I wouldn’t have bothered if I hadn’t had her.

    My sister-in-law is in school now, and I see her stressed in the same way I was. I tell her to calm down and not worry, that the school will try to stress her out working too hard, but that she should just do her best and not forget to have fun along the way. If things don’t turn out quite the way she plans, there’ll be another way, there are always other options. Probably not the advice a school would want me to give, but she invariably comes away from our conversations feeling happier, calmer, and more like the wonderful, funny young lady that she is, rather than the stresspot her work would make her.

    I got into a bit of a rant there, I do apologise. In short, I agree with you and I would have the same stance as you if my daughter was given homework that she didn’t enjoy/took a chunk out of our evening as a family.

  • hausfrau

    I had to do reading, spelling and times tables as homework when I was in Primary School. Generally speaking my girls did the same from the moment they started school. Sadly not all parents provide support for their children at home, and schools struggle with children for whom they are the only source of learning. Homework in Secondary School would come as a dreadful shock if children had never had the discipline of doing some sort of homework in Primary!
    SATS are about testing the school, not the child. The first thing the secondary schools do is test their year 7s to see what they’ve got! And, as with any exam, the results are always becoming irrelevant because of the next one. University is interestd in A levels and want to know about GCSEs, they take no interest in SAT results.
    I think my advice would be do the things that seem relevant, don’t do the homework for them – whatever you think other parents are doing! – and try to remain calm about the whole thing. You getting stressed may well result in the children getting stressed.

  • cass@frugalfamily

    I’m in two minds about this one at the minute. As you know, I do homework with my two but it’s nothing like the homework that you or some of the other commenters get.

    We are asked by the school to spend time with our children reading although this is not set as homework as such. Last year when my 6 year old was struggling with his reading, he was selected for a one to one reading course which costs the school around a thousand pounds – the main reason he was selected over others who were struggling was that the teacher knew we would provide lots of additional support at home whereas the other children who were considered would probably not have got this so would not have got as much benefit from the program.

    I enjoy homework with my two – Johnny gets around 20 minutes of numeracy homework a week and that usually reinforces what he’s learned at school that week and Beth gets between 30 and 45 minutes a week. Hers is usually internet based and involves her taking some time to research something which she loves doing. I have no problem doing that with them but I’m sure I’d feel differently if they were getting homework like building castles or getting things to do each night. We do ours once a week on a Sunday afternoon – usually after Sunday Dinner while Simon washes the pots.

  • cass@frugalfamily

    I forgot to say, not many mums are as great as you – a lot of children we know will come straight in from school and be planted in front of the TV or given the XBox or Wii to play on. You’re a fab example and always make me want to do more with my two – might even join you in one of your trips to the park with a flask of hot chocolate one of these days ;-D

  • Hannah@HomeBaked

    I think it’s great that you’re prepared to challenge the teacher and what s/he sends home and even better that you’re blogging about it publically – I think it’s an important thing for people to realise that the education is the responsibility of parents even if it is deferred to schools so if you’re not happy about something then speak up!

    I remember homework being introduced when I was in primary and it was mostly designed to encourage family activity and discussion in preparation for work the following week.

    The competitive parent thing is so silly but I can also see why people feel they need to do it – just like Maxi, not wanting to disappoint or be left out. There’s also that fear of a black mark in your file from schools. Parents carry so much guilt already and if they can avoid negative attention or see an opportunity to gain brownie points then they’ll take it.

    Unfortunately there are a lot of things not right with our education system in this country. Until there is a radical overhaul, I don’t see it improving 🙁

    Play is so important. What lucky boys you have!

  • Susan Mann

    I had homework at primary school, I learned the times tables and did reading, it wasn’t a great deal but it was some. I think Homework is good but as long as it only takes about 15 mins max. It helps you understand what they are learning and see how they are getting one. I know I teach them things daily but school is different. I think you are right it is important for children to play and school is for learning. I do feel that the homework is a bit much. I was going to post on this this week too. I will do . Good post and you are such a great mum. Playing is just as important as learning xx

  • becky

    Thanks for linking to britmums carnival will be ive on tues. great debate to open For my view I think homework gives me a clue as to how hes doing and where he is at but fo rhim its just more of the same that he has done all day at school. We would hate to have to come home nad work again so why do it ot the kids

  • Alias grace anon for good reason sorry

    Apart from reading I think all homework for children is BAD. It leads to tears, tantrums and tiredness. (This is from age 11 when my daughter finally did get proper homework and she was sometimes up until 11 trying to get it done and fit in dinner never mind and rest and relaxation, it was horrendus – I took her out after that year and taught her at home very successfully in a very unregimented atmosphere but that’s another story.)

    Teachers like to tell you that parents need to be involved but what they don’t explain is that you are expected to do their job! My daughter used to need her book changed every day but she got it done every week. So I ignored the school and we did our own thing because we enjoyed it. Parents trust teachers to teach their children; in my experience that simply didn’t happen well enough. My parents didn’t teach me anything formally and I didn’t have homework. I took and passed the 11 plus and went to grammar school but we weren’t tutored for the exam or even told about it before hand. We certainly didn’t have tons of pressure and the load of homework children get now. My parents were told not to interfere as they would get it wrong, so they didn’t. Fortunately, we got taught IN school so we didn’t have to play catch up outside of school. There is a lot of waffle about partnerships being spoken about in schools but very little in the way of teaching.

    Teachers worry children about results of SATs and make them feel anxious. They want good results because they are being judged. Most teachers in my experience don’t even like children and I went to university with several students who said they were going to teach as they couldn’t think what else to do. Children of a young age are in school for 7 hours and most of that is supposedly teaching time. Yet they are meant to come home and do more. You would think teachers could manage to teach them something in that time wouldn’t you? Adults who work in most jobs for just one hour more and not having to do that! We would be outraged if our free time was not our own. It doesn’t work out either, because children are tired, stressed and very possibly don’t know what they are doing – yet that should be the teachers job to find that out not ours. In the first year of secondary school my daughters maths book was left entirely unmarked. She developed a near phobic attitude to maths. Anyway, at primary school there is a long way to go, it’s the marathon that counts not the sprint. It is important to work with children not against them. Homework is alienating for them and us their parents.

    I had a very lax approach while my daughter was at home, she basically did what she liked (there were thing she liked very much and others not at all). She even taught herself German, because she wanted to. She got GCSEs and A Levels and is in her final year of university on target for a first. She hopes to get funding to do a masters. It’s a long haul and it is totally unnecessary to push children towards burn out. My daughter’s school didn’t care that she excelled in English and did nothing to encourage her. They provided no help for her dire maths. They would rather she got the bare minimum to make the grade in everything rather than helping her to excel in the the area she did. Essentially at home, she packed up maths for a while and read lots of books. Later on she went back to maths in her own time and got her GCSE.

    I hated the bossy nature of teachers who boss the parents by bossing your child and they do it in front of the children. They are frequently poorly equipped for the job. All I would advice is to let your children enjoy their childhood in whatever way that means for them. One of the primary school mothers was a Cambridge graduate and she was the most unpushiest mother going. She just genuinely wanted what was best for her children.

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