Hate is probably too strong a word but in some respects I agree with the sentiment: the increase in children and teenagers who feel stressed about their homework in Adelaide certainly means that it warrants some reflection.
And in New South Wales some drastic action is being taken with some schools allowing parents to opt their children out of homework altogether.
The article, NSW primary schools allow parents to permanently excuse children from homework, raises issues about a lack of evidence showing any academic benefit between heavy loads of homework and success in school.
An intriguing quote in the article is in a letter to parents from Cambridge Park Public School in which it says the school, ‘recognises that parents are best placed to make decisions about whether or not their children have the capacity or time to complete homework.’
In my work with parents and students as a school psychologist in Adelaide, I have found that homework has caused major problems in day to day life.
Does it have to be this way?
Homework: a daily dose of stress
Ask any family with school aged children and most of them will tell you that homework is a source of conflict, stress and frustration in their household.
Families are often busy with multiple commitments, like work, sports and extra curricular activities, not to mention the infinite tasks associated with the day to day running of a family household.
Many kids need serious coaxing and cajoling to get their homework started, let alone finished, and parents are sometimes struggling to find the time, energy and know-how to help their children.
Should we just ban homework altogether?
Children’s learning doesn’t (and shouldn’t) stop when the school bell rings at three o’clock.
In fact, learning shouldn’t stop ever.
And, of course, homework has some value.
There are benefits to reviewing and consolidating new learning. The brain needs time and practice to move new information and skills from short-term to long-term memory, and setting homework is one way of assisting that process.
Also, homework can be a way to encourage kids to take responsibility for their learning, and to learn important life skills like self-motivation, time management and problem solving.
But homework sometimes ends up blowing out to be hours and hours of painstaking work for children who are becoming anxious about getting it all done.
Anxiety and stress, the enemies of learning
Nobody learns well when they’re anxious and stressed.
Many students I’ve worked with have learning, emotional or behavioural difficulties that make a day at school utterly exhausting, trying to keep up or keep it together.
When I work with teachers, I always ask them to consider minimising the amount of homework for these kids.
I try to help teachers to define the core skills of a topic. I ask them to think about the goals of the subject area and focus on the core skills the students need to learn.
By paring back to the essential learning, you can alleviate stress about the rest.
“Play is children’s work” – Jean Piaget
Most of all, from my perspective as a psychologist working in education, l think it’s essential that we give children some time to rest and relax.
Let’s let kids be kids.
Let’s allow them the free time to play and use their imagination and creativity to explore the world around them.
This is as important as any formal learning too.
Photo Asus eee pc being used for homework by openpad via Flickr.
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