Tonight I have reached my limit with homework. I absolutely hate it and see no reason for it to feature in my six year old’s world at all. After yet another evening of tears and tantrums due to the pressure he feels to complete it, when he’s already tired after a long day at school, I have decided enough is enough. As a family, we will no longer be a party to the madness that is homework.
I have always hated the concept of homework. Fortunately for me, when my older son was at both primary and secondary schools, he got very little. When Theo started in reception class, he had a sympathetic teacher who understood my homework concerns and never pushed us to complete it.
Since moving to London last summer and the subsequent change of schools that the move involved, I have encouraged him to complete the homework tasks set. I will admit that I did not want to rock the boat since we were new to the school. Instead I kept quiet about my homework concerns, knowing it is a contentious issue for everyone. Conversations I’ve had with teacher friends means I understand that it is often something that they don’t want to be involved with: it adds to their stresses of having to set the homework, mark it and deal with parents like myself, who have issues with it.
And as with many things, the blame is laid at the feet of the teachers and the schools when all they are doing is following government guidelines. So for Nicky Morgan and the other non-teacher bureaucrats within the Department of Education, I say this: I think it is bloody rude for you to dictate how I should spend time with my son when he is not at school. Neither yourselves, the school or his teacher would tolerate if I sent him to school with tasks to do during his lessons. Why should I have to spend such a huge amount of the limited time I have with him on an evening, doing school set tasks?
Homework disrupts our family and personal time by dictating how we spend that time. It reduces the level of spontaneity that we can enjoy as a family, as it eats into not only our evenings but weekends too. We can’t go to the park, visit museums or engage with Theo through activities he’s passionate about. One memorable creative task recently, of building a model classroom, took up an entire weekend. It wasn’t only the cutting and sticking, but finding and purchasing the necessary materials to be able to create the model. For us as a family, we turned this into a fun activity but I have parent friends with chronic health conditions who dread homework such as this. Not everyone has the energy, mental or manual dexterity to support their child with these, or other, kinds of activities. And let’s not talk about the financial cost of building small-scale model classrooms or other creative activities.
I am told that homework supports Theo’s learning of current school topics but I want to call bullshit on that statement. Homework dissuades him from wanting to learn, so doesn’t that make it counter-productive? For example, Theo used to love books and we used to spend a good 30 minutes before bed reading. We shared time bonding over The Twits, Harry Potter, Cat in the Hat and it was a lovely way for us to connect. As part of his homework schedule, we are supposed to spend 15 minutes reading from a set book from school each evening; he now has absolutely no desire to have a bed-time story. And this quelling of his desire to learn through forced activity saddens me more than anything.
My final point about homework for this blog post is that it sends the children the wrong message about work/life balance. In this country, as with many Western countries that prioritise work above all else, we have mental and physical health issues on the increase. Research directly points to it being a negative consequence of stress on our social, psychological and physical well-being. Yet even with these concerns, we tell children from the age of five that taking working home is not only necessary, but mandatory. We show them through example that family life is not a priority, nor is the need for rest and relaxation after a long day of learning or working.
I am no longer prepared to put my son through, so tonight I am emailing my son’s school to state we will no longer be doing his homework. Instead I will be spending that time supporting him with his hobbies and interests, helping him develop skills that aren’t taught in schools, and most of all I shall be prioritising time spent relaxing and resting.
Let’s all stand up together and say no to the homework madness.