Should homework be banned?

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The trouble with homework

I was going to write about something totally different today, but three events occurred simultaneously yesterday evening, prompting this post instead. They all relate to homework: not necessarily ‘expat’, but definitely ‘child’.

Firstly, I was in the midst of the everyday battle of persuading my daughter to complete her homework. She gets rather a lot. Then I have to remind her to actually hand it in. Unsurprisingly, she often forgets – she’s just 11 years old and a little disorganised. Yet, when she’s worked hard to do her homework, and does remember to hand it in, it doesn’t get marked! There’s no feedback for her to encourage her to continue doing homework, And, as she says, “what was the point of doing it?” And the cycle starts again. She is penalised if she doesn’t hand in homework, but not rewarded when she does. It drives me crazy. We both hate homework time and we both get very stressed.

Do you do your child’s homework for them?

In the middle of all this, a journalist contacted me on my Facebook page with this question:

“I’m writing an article about parents who feel under pressure to help their children with their homework project / artwork as they know everyone else’s child will be getting help. Have you been tempted to do this? If so, I’d love to hear from you.”

Once I’d picked my jaw up off the floor (and stopped swearing) I replied:

“Thank you for visiting my page.  In answer to your question, no, I have never done my daughter’s work for her, but I’ve been around enough parents who do. It stands out a mile and the teachers recognise this. Besides, I don’t succumb to peer pressure. And neither does my daughter. It fails the children – how on earth are they supposed to learn if mum or dad do everything for them?

I know of several people who coached their children heavily to get through the 11+ [exam] in the UK, and now their children are struggling with the school work. I understand the parents then have to do their homework for them. Doesn’t bode well for their [child’s] future, does it?”

I left it there, discretion being the better part of valour and all that. But it is an issue that really makes my blood boil.

What is the point of parents doing their child’s homework for them? Seriously, what does the child gain from it? It’s just a way of the parents gaining some bizarre oneupmanship over others, “Oh yes, my little Johnny got top marks for his English today” translates as “I got an ‘A’ for little Johnny’s homework”. I’ve actually overheard a parent say, “I got an ‘A’ for Agatha’s art project, but my husband only got a ‘B’ for her maths, ha ha!”

Does it ever stop? Are the UK’s GCSE projects being completed by parents? And is this why results were ‘too high’ until this year? There was a dramatic fall in pass rates in 2012, widely reported in the British press.

The UK is at some point, re-introducing an exam for sixteen year olds similar to what we in the ‘old days’ called ‘O’ Levels; an intense few weeks of exams, with no project work involved. This will throw the parent-homework-completers off course, won’t it? I believe the iGCSE follows a similar set up. Although I have to admit that we’re quite a long way from these exams so I haven’t kept track of all the changes, as we have no idea which way education will change for my daughter.

Anyway, that’s my rant about that over (for now!)

Finally, I picked up on the following news story on my Twitter feed which, considering the previous two experiences, I thought a marvellous idea!

France considers ban on homework. Should the U.S.?

By Dana Macario via France considers ban on homework. Should the U.S.? – TODAYMoms

Many kids (and parents) in the U.S. would love to see homework become a relic of the past, much like walking to school in the snow uphill – both ways. While a homework-free society remains a mere dream here, students in France may soon bid adieu to homework if French President, Francois Hollande, has his way.

France 24 reports that while discussing education reforms, Hollande said, “Work should be done at school, rather than at home.” His goal is to help equalize the playing field for students who don’t have family support at home to help with homework.

In order to compensate for the lack of homework, he proposed requiring kids to spend more time at school during the week. While students in France only attend school four days a week, they typically don’t get out of school until 5 or 6 p.m. Hollande’s proposing adding another half-day of school to that schedule.

Although Hollande is looking to level the playing field for kids who don’t have family willing and able to help out with homework, that may not be necessary, as many think the value of homework is over-rated. Over the years, numerous studies have come out, questioning the effectiveness of homework.

In this year’s back-to-school series, looked at several of those studies. One of the more recent ones showed that kids who did more homework actually performed worse on standardized tests. Additionally, Stanford University professor Denise Pope told that high-achieving students with lots of homework could actually suffer mentally and physically as a result. Parents sometimes worry that burdensome homework loads make it harder for kids to participate in extra-curricular activities and after-school jobs, which help them become more well-rounded.

While some schools have scaled back on the amount of homework, most are still regularly passing out assignments, to the dismay of students (and some parents and educators).

Would you support an all-out ban on homework or do you think it’s a valuable tool for kids?

Dana Macario is a Seattle-area mom who would have loved a ban on homework when she was in high school.

What a fantastic idea! I do hope it takes off worldwide – it will make everyday life so much more pleasant for everyone.

In my opinion, schools should be able to teach children everything they need to know within school hours. I don’t recall having huge amounts of homework back in the 1970s. Mind you, it wasn’t a great school, but still…!

What do you think about homework? A necessary evil or something vitally important. And would you ever admit to doing your child’s homework for them?

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  1. Thanks for that thought provoking post.
    As most parents I do complain about homework. Children are so tired after a day at school. They like having some extra curricular activities and reduces time for homework while adding to the tiredness! And then there is trying to fit in some family time too! With four children including two who are under 4, homework is often just another hassle…
    But then to ban it altogether ? A lot of children need the one to one interaction in order to learn. I just wonder in what measure it’s realistic to expect school to provide this, as time consuming as it is, for every single child, in classes of an average of 20 to 30 children, and this every single day?
    Maybe what is given as homework should be given more carefull thought and planning. I am all for art but that’s something that can be done at school. And parents could do with some help, guidelines? Keys? To how they’re expected to help their children. Maths particularly seem to be taught in a completely different way than they were when we were children. Our children are learning much cleverer methods, I think, to solve maths problems. But then we know nothing about these methods they’re taught. The first time DD1 came back with divisions to do “like our teacher showed us” which wasn’t what Mummy and Daddy knew, “I can’t remember but it wasn’t like that”.
    That apart I must say I am not too unhappy with the sort of homework my children are given in their school. In keystage 2 they have homework given on Friday for Wednesday so it’s down to us if they work everyday or if we try to fit it in on a couple of days. So far it’s been manageable, and even the maths to do on Mathletics which I was complaining about at first… I still need time to think about it but it’s got advantages.
    So, to ban homework, no. To make it manageable both for parents and children, yes.

    1. Hello and welcome! Thank you so much for your well thought out comments, they’re really valuable and totally valid.

      This subject twanged a chord with me (as you probably gathered!) because we’ve been through some different schooling systems, and each one seems to have a different approach to homework. Not to mention a different set of expectations each time.

      As well as that, there are different methods and vocabulary relating to Maths and English – it’s all a big headache really! I think it’s tough when the child moves schools because as well as trying to fit in, learn new languages and new subjects, there’s also a hugely different approach to learning. As for the maths – I haven’t a hope!

      My 11 year old daughter has gone into Middle School a year early, and the work they are doing is equivalent, on occasion, to something a 14 or 15 year old in the UK State system would do. So it’s a painful process for all of us right now!

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