The lessons children will never learn from homework

I’ve never really known how I felt about young children having homework. It’s a subject I’ve read a lot about and in principle, I’m not against it. Libby has been bringing a reading book home each day since starting school. We read those in the mornings before school because she can’t concentrate by the evening when she’s tired. And our 10 minutes together each morning has definitely improved her reading. But I think that’s enough.

The problem with homework

Libby has recently started to have a little bit more homework. Usually some basic maths or writing, always based on the things they’re learning at school. I’m not sure she gains as much from that as the reading, but it gives us a chance to monitor how she’s getting on with her learning. And at the moment, we’re spending about 20 minutes on it at the weekend, or five to ten minutes each evening if there’s a bit more to do. And I’m comfortable with that.

For me, the problem comes when homework starts to impact on children’s lives outside of school. Our ten or twenty minutes here and there are easy to fit in. But much more than that and we’d start to struggle. And the fact that children aren’t doing schoolwork doesn’t mean they’re not learning.

Whilst I accept that homework is always going to be a part of education, here's why I don't want my children to have too much of it.

Lessons that have to be lived

One evening a week, Libby goes to a drama class. The impact that class has had upon her as a person is much more noticeable than the change in her since starting school. She has gone from being a quiet, shy little girl who didn’t have the confidence to speak to people outside of the family, to a confident, self-assured and outspoken child. If she had too much homework, would I make her do that instead of the drama class that has shaped her personality in such a positive way? Of course not.

On another evening, Libby does rhythmic gymnastics. Since taking that class, she has gone from being somewhat uncoordinated due to her eyesight, to being able to balance along a beam. She can do a forward roll with no hands and she’s learning to do a bridge, a cartwheel and all sorts of other tricks. But most of all, she’s found a sport that she’s quite good at. So would I take her out of that class to do homework instead? No, because I think she learns more from the gymnastics class.

On another evening, Lia does ballet. She didn’t get on with rhythmic gymnastics but ballet is something she loves and she’s proud to take part. On alternate terms, Libby does art club at school. I noticed just this morning how immaculate her colouring is now. She’s creative, interested in art and happy to sit down and concentrate on a picture for hours on end. So would I stop the girls from going to these classes to fit in homework? I don’t think I would.

The weekends

So if the girls go to classes most evenings, what about the weekends? Well that’s the time we spend together as a family. We visit places of historical and cultural interest including National Trust properties. Seeing family and spending time outside are important to us as well. We all go swimming together and Libby has a swimming lesson. She can swim a length now and is starting to learn different strokes.

As we move towards summer, we’ll be going away for weekends. We’ve got plans to visit Warwick Castle and Alton Towers. We’re going to the Jurassic Coast to look for fossils and there will be plenty of weekends at the beach. Will I give up any of these things in favour of homework? Absolutely not.

Whilst I accept that homework is always going to be a part of education, here's why I don't want my children to have too much of it.

Downtime

As you can see, our lives are pretty full. But the girls are young, they need time to rest. They need time to play, run, ride their bikes and fight. They need to zone out in front of the television or cuddle up to read a story. And in reality, if they have too much homework, downtime is the thing that’s going to give.

Every week I read another article about children suffering from depression and mental health problems. The stress and pressure of being a child, or being a teenager. Trying to fit in and wanting to stand out. Keeping up with school work, socialising with their peers.

As parents, there is little we can do to protect children from these pressures. Even though I won’t push the girls into achieving good exam results as they get older, they will expect that of themselves. And the stress, pressure and work will be piled onto them at school.

So while they are young, I want them to enjoy life. Go to the classes they love, have days out with the family and short breaks to do amazing things. And most of all I want them to have that downtime to chill out, zone out and forget about expectations, peer pressure and learning. I want them to remember that while they’re children, life is about having fun. And that’s a lesson they will never learn from homework.

Whilst I accept that homework is always going to be a part of education, here's why I don't want my children to have too much of it.

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15 Comments

  1. March 27, 2017 / 7:37 am

    Brilliant post Nat! I’m wholeheartedly with you. I’m lucky because our school is good at understanding that kids need downtime & the homework isn’t overwhelming but I do resent it when it intrudes on our family time as they push them hard at school. Considering there are many countries where they would still only be playing in school at this age, I think there is a line!
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  2. March 27, 2017 / 8:26 am

    I totally agree. I see the volume and complexity of the homework my friends kids get and I genuinely don’t see how we would fit it in
    Marianne Hopwood recently posted…The Cream Tea debateMy Profile

  3. March 27, 2017 / 9:26 am

    You are absolutely right. I am not sure I remember having homework (other than reading) when I was Libby’s age. So much pressure on them from such a young age and I totally agree about their free time. It should be exactly that, their own.

    When I was growing up I was lucky enough to help with lambs being born and feeding them too. You can’t learn that from books – the emotion that comes with it and the will to help these creatures live after a difficult birth.
    I also used to have an amazing dressing up box – maybe this helped my creative and over active imagination, which I have now channeled into my blog and photography. You can’t be taught this sh*t. xx

  4. March 27, 2017 / 1:09 pm

    I agree so much with this post. And homework that starts with “design and make….” just sends shivers down my spine as I know I have to plan the weekend around fitting it in. Balance is definitely the key x

  5. March 27, 2017 / 1:59 pm

    Amen to that! It sounds like the amount of homework Libby has now fits in with everything else, so here’s hoping she doesn’t get any more! My boys only have one evening activity a week, so they tend to do theirs in the evenings. My daughter dances four evenings a week, so does some in the mornings and most of it at weekends. Sadly weekend family time has never really been a thing for us due to all the sport!
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  6. March 27, 2017 / 2:17 pm

    What’s even worse now is that children as young as just turned 7 are getting detentions for not doing homework! They have given it another name but that’s what it is. Reminds me we only did reading this week as we were away all weekend! I can see how it would benefit those who do not have any outside of school activities – but here is the same and the boys do loads!
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  7. March 27, 2017 / 8:26 pm

    I agree – there’s far too much pressure on young children these days. Our school doesn’t give much homework, and I’m very happy with that. It sounds as though your girls have lovely, full, fun lives already!

  8. March 27, 2017 / 9:40 pm

    Brilliant post! Children definitely need time to just be children, how else are they going to have time to relax and recharge their batteries?! Learning doesn’t just happen in schools or with ‘homework’, it can be done every day wherever they are from reading signs, counting insects found under a rock, searching for fossils, home work is not really needed. x
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  9. March 27, 2017 / 11:11 pm

    I agree with you. The notion of “homework” is always applied loosely to ALL kids, the assumption that they are all the same, same learning ability, same interests etc. It doesn’t take into consideration that what’s 10 minutes for some may be an hour for others and then homework becomes demoralising and just plain unmanageable for everyone involved. Some kids need to switch off completely when they come home, they need a longer down time and so I don’t really believe that homework benefits everyone.
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  10. March 28, 2017 / 1:54 pm

    Brilliant post! My daughter’s school is pretty laid-back about homework, but there’s so much pressure from Ofsted to show they are setting it. Now she’s in Year 3 it is starting to bite a bit, and when she’s tired from the school day I want her to be able to relax after school and at weekends and, as you said, learn things in other ways. Other than a bit of reading I don’t think homework should be set in primary school.

  11. March 28, 2017 / 5:32 pm

    Alice only has a reading book at the moment and to be honest I hadn’t really seen this as homework, as reading is something we’ve always done. I think all the classes your girls are doing are teaching them so much and are so valuable. I definitely won’t be changing what we do as a family next year when homework kicks in x
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  12. March 29, 2017 / 5:30 pm

    Completely agree! Just having fun and some free time is so important for all kids. It’s one of the reasons we ended up homeschooling our son, he had huge amounts of homework at just 4 years old and the school weren’t happy if it was missed. So much learning is done through play.

  13. March 29, 2017 / 10:53 pm

    I read this post earlier this week but didn’t get a chance to comment. I found myself nodding along to this post – I couldn’t agree with you more. Why Children need homework at the ages 4,5,6 and even 7 is beyond me. Lets go out and explore, meet peoples, see places, discover things I believe this is so much more important. Great post x

  14. April 4, 2017 / 1:55 pm

    Love this and I completely agree with you. There is so much that children learn from doing things like the classes your girls do, from getting out and about and having family time and they also need downtime too. I don’t remember having any real homework in primary school and I don’t really understand why children can’t be children outside of school hours. I don’t mind the small amount that Jessica has from school – she loves to sit and read and I enjoy listening to her and the 15 minutes or so that it takes to do whatever is in her home learning book is fine. Is there really any need to have much more than that when they’re young? The trouble is it has the potential too to make learning a chore when it needn’t be that way.
    Louise (Little Hearts, Big Love) recently posted…#365daysofgratitude – Week 13My Profile

    • monsterid April 7, 2017 / 6:56 pm

      Thank you Louise. I’m glad Jessica isn’t getting too much homework. I think we probably need to spend a little longer reading with Libby each morning but I won’t be doing more than that. I agree about it being a chore, that’s the last thing I want.
      Nat.x

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