To Homework or Not To Homework

I’m from a family of teachers and I was a real goody two shoes at school, always 100% for homework and following the rules. Before I had kids, I heard parents expressing doubts and concern over homework and how it took away from family time, and I was outraged – it’s homework! The teacher says you have to do it – you have to do it!

Guess what ? As with everything, now that I have my own children I find I have changed my mind (see also dummies, co-sleeping and over-reliance on screen-time for other mind changers.) My son is 6 and has just started 1st class (for those not in Ireland, this is his 3rd year in school) and the homework allocation seems to have really stepped up. One worksheet, one times table, one spelling list, one dolch list, one reading book – I think it’s supposed to amount to 30 minutes a night.

Myself and my husband both work full time, so it’s about 5.30 by the time we are all home together, around 6.30pm by the time food is prepared and eaten by which time I’m tired, my son is tired, my daughter’s tired. If we had a dog, it would be tired. We’re all tired. Nevertheless, we open up the homework with all the enthusiasm we can muster, which varies from night to night. What happens next varies depending, largely, on what kind of form my son is in. Unfortunately, it often results in stress and frustration , on all sides. There have been times when he gets upset to the point of tears, because he’s too tired and makes mistakes he feels he shouldn’t. My son also has an ADHD and ASD diagnosis; concentration is an issue, as are emotional meltdowns over small mistakes. We are, thankfully, at the moment experiencing a calm period with him : I don’t want to push him to do his homework if it’s going to be stressful for him. Just last week we were sitting together to look at something – and he started to cry and told me he was stupid. When we got his diagnosis the social care worker said, and it has stuck with me hard, ‘Don’t underestimate how stressful school is for him.’ I don’t want that to continue into the home environment for him. If he is trying his utmost 6 hours a day, I’d like him to be able to relax and take the pressure off at home.

It’s not just the fact of the homework itself but on a more practical level I am sometimes entirely baffled by what we are actually being asked to do.  The worksheets seem to be written in language penetrable only by primary school teachers and small children. But I suppose it is useful for us as parents to understand the methods being used in schools , different as they are from our own time. I’m also a little dubious about the learning outcome of some of the activities – after four days of reading the same book, I’m fairly sure my son is reciting it from memory, rather than actually reading it.

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On the other hand, I’m concerned that he does not fall behind, which with the ADHD diagnosis, is a concern. When I posed the question of homework on Twitter, a teacher responded that it is often an important communication link between school and home. Fair point, and not one I had really considered. It is important that at home we are engaged with what is happening at school , more than the occasional grunt in response to the standard ‘ What did you do at school today?’  I’ll admit that the swot in me is also slightly concerned about not doing what the teacher says; am I sending a bad message to my son by indicating that he doesn’t have to follow the rules?

I conducted an entirely comprehensive and scientific poll on Twitter asking if homework for the under 12s is pure evil or necessary. 66% said the under 12s shouldnt be doing homework, with 34% in favour. Not as conclusive as I would have thought, but still an indicator that people are generally not happy with it, or not in its current form anyway.

My son is six. Six is very small, really. I’m not going to put pressure on the limited time we have together in the evenings by forcing him to do something which is a cause of stress. If some days he is happy to do it, fine, if other days it is more stressful , then I’ll give him a pass. What I love to see, is when he picks up a pencil of his own free will and starts a new ‘project’ – we have had shark and bird projects, and now are moving on to science. I am so proud of him in those moments, and they demonstrate to him the real joy of learning , much more than repeating the same spelling list four days on the trot.

What do you think ? To Homework or Not To Homework ?

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29 comments

  1. Not To Homework. I think giving six-year-olds homework is ridiculous, and they should learn something from the massive mental health crisis amongst kids in the UK.

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  2. I am a teacher in secondary school. Six year olds should be encouraged to read a story as homework or take a nature walk with family. I see no point in excess at this stage. Especially for such a youngster as six. There is too much emphasis on box ticking at this stage.

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  3. i have a 7 and 8 year old. And I have to say that every school is different at giving Homework. With us, my kids both do Homework at school, as they have 1 hour for doing it. Sometimes some of it has to be finished at home, but so far, we have good experience with it. And I agree – too much Homework does noone any good! No matter the age…

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  4. I have an 8yr old who’s a bright spark, does times tables ‘for fun’ (yeah, I know!) and a 5yr old who’s far to busy being a unicorn to concern herself with all that ‘learning stuff’. With Smarty Pants I never really had to do much in the way of homework as they are given a sheet every week, divided into sections e.g Maths, Reading etc with a little ‘task’. Usually I’d read through and think, yes, he can do that, job done. With Little Miss Bubblebrain I actually find these a really useful way to know what I can be doing at home to help her get up to speed with what they’re studying in class. That might just be counting up in 3s or looking for shapes around the room at the moment but in her case I’d say homework is a good thing. However, like I said they get a homework sheet WEEKLY and it may have a project for them to be completed every fortnight which is very manageable. The idea of homework every night at their stage does seem like a bad idea as it’s not always possible time-wise and also they get so tired at school that they’re not able to concentrate on anything properly. #BrillBlogPosts

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  5. It’s difficult isn’t it. My 6 year old gets homework every two weeks. It’s not much but enough to impact our lives (and yes we both work full time too) especially with a 4 and a 2 year old running around. I encourage the things he loves (he races upstairs to do the maths on the computer) but am fairly easy about the other stuff. I think it’s good they get used to doing a little bit if they enjoy it, but forcing it too young if they find it hard is just detrimental. Getting them to read I think is the best thing then they can do it on their own and choose what they’re interested in (or not!)

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  6. Great question . I have twin nearly 6 yr olds . I don’t like the idea of sit down homework after school. Sure small things they can do like monitoring and recording the weather but academic work. They should do that at school . They are so tired when they get home . I don’t want to start battling over homework yet so am happy when less is more

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  7. alisonlonghurst · · Reply

    Well, you know my views! The point about the link between school and home just isn’t enough for me. That link can be created via info termly on what topics are being covered in your child’s class. The scenario you describe, with you working and your son’s special needs, makes me want to scream it out: how is this helping your son?! I really feel for you and him. I used to get so frustrated and it only ever leads to meltdowns, just at a time when everyone’s tired and has had enough. Then, when a cuddle and a story would be just the thing to calm everything down…they have to read x number of pages of a book from school AND then write a sentence or 2 about it in the dreaded reading record and THAT is a whole other blog! Alison x #brilliantblogposts

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  8. jermbarnes · · Reply

    we try and work with our 5 year old on stuff at night, but there are a lot of times we just don’t have time. Making anything mandatory after they just sat for 8 hours at school is ridiculous at that age #stayclassy

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  9. I agree – it can be a tough call. But, I would say no to homework for under 12s. YES to spending time reading and spending quality family time doing worthwhile activities like eating together, doing chores, playing games – these are learning activities too! Thanks for your post and ideas!

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  10. I don’t like the idea of such young children having homework, especially not every night when they need to find calm and relax with their family. I do however think it is a good idea for parents to stay connected with what they are learning and how they are doing with it. I think a good solution would be to set maybe an hours worth that can be done on a Saturday or Sunday for the following week. That way the evenings are free and at the weekends you could maybe just do 30 mins each day, not bad at all. xx #stayclassymama

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  11. goodness, something that is causing tears on an evening is just not worth it in my opinion. why do we feel the need to pressure our kids so much these days. age six is a time for fun learning, imo. homework can come later. id much rather read with my son or enjoy going for an evening walk and learning through doing. #KCACOLS

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  12. Homework has always been a bug bear of mine. We now have a routine we do it first thing saturday morning & then forget about it. Both children have 1 piece on the theme for that term & some spellings or timestables. I find having all the craft stuff required annoying but I’m used to ot now. #kcacols lifeinthemumslane

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  13. I’m still finding my way round the homework thing as my son has just started reception. Stuff gets sent home, but it’s never clear exactly how much we have to do, so I do a level we’re all comfortable with. It sounds like you have quite a lot to do now. I do know that my son is tired after school and there isn’t much time by the time you’ve had tea etc. I’m a bit of a swot too but I think you’re doing the right thing in gauging how appropriate it is to engage your son with homework depending on how he and the rest of the family are feeling. #kcacols

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  14. Alana - Burnished Chaos · · Reply

    I’m 100% against homework at this young age, in its current form anyway. My 7 yr old son gets two reading books and spellings to learn through the week and then a homework book to do every weekend. They want us to spend 30 minutes reading every night but we never have and never will, not with his school books anyway. We will read through each one once a week, other than that any reading is done with his own books or comics at home for fun, not because it’s mandatory, and he often reads to his little sister too. Time is so limited on a night and they have just spent all day in a classroom, by the time tea and bath is taken into account when are they actually meant to have any downtime and just be kids? Kids are placed under far too much pressure these days. I never had homework when I was in primary (other than spellings and times tables once a week) and I still achieved a masters degree. It’s all box ticking these days and meeting targets when it should be about making learning fun and getting them interested so that they will be more engaged and want to learn.
    Sorry, rant over 😁
    #KCACOLS

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  15. I don’t think it’s absolutely needed but I think it’s nice to have a small task a week. I don’t think they should have a number of pieces. Maybe some spellings to practise or a book to read – with parents writing in their planners etc. I don’t think there should be too much pressure. My niece/nephews have learning logs – this is a big colourful book of paper with a task sheet at the front full of different types of tasks such as drawings, writing, models etc all age appropriate and not an overly large list. Instead they give this out at the beginning of the term and have them hand it in at the end. They have to do a think 3 pieces (but they are very small and fun tasks and as I said age appropriate) but children do have the choice to do more if they wish. I think that’s a lovely idea. However they have homework too which I think is a little much. And their reading journals sometimes don’t even get checked, they just get asked do they need a new book sometimes! #KCACOLS

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  16. I am against homework for elementary/primary ages. The research has shown us that it doesn’t lead to any gains academically and instead causes stress and pressure on families and kids. I honestly believe that 30 minutes playing with Legos is more beneficial than the math worksheets my 1st grader gets. Thanks for this post and encouraging dialogue about this important topic!

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  17. I’m so pleased i don’t have to think about this yet. I don’t know what i think. it’s such a hard subject. Thanks so much for linking up at #KCACOLS. Hope you come back again next Sunday

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  18. I always did my homework, just like you. But tbh I don’t think I really had that much until secondary school. I am however ANTI HOMEWORK, I can’t see that I’ll be putting much focus and attention on it in the future with my son. I honestly think life is too short, we are all so busy as it is # stayclassymama

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  19. Really? Homework at six?! I’m surprised, I don’t remember doing homework until 11/12. I don’t really have an opinion as my son is still a baby, but I guess it depends on the child, if they like doing homework then let them but if it’s going to cause distress I find it pointless. They are going to grow up hating homework, should we not be making it fun? Well, as fun as homework can be. Thanks for sharing with #StayClassyMama!

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  20. My husband and I are hugely anti homework. I was like you at school and did it because I was told to do it. Now I think it seems silly and an added pressure on the child, it all seems aimed at grade scores for the school. I’m all for a little reading project, maybe a seasonal scrap book that they can do over time, but daily or weekly homework is inappropriate.
    #KCACOLS

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  21. […] pick was To Homework or Not To Homework by Beth over at MotherHub! I’m not at the homework stage with my son yet, he’s only […]

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  22. Him telling you he thought he was stupid is heart breaking 😦 I’m in the same boat as you, I thought I would have her writing her name before she started school, reading every night etc now I’m like oh my days SHE’S 6 leave her alone! lol I have a rather lassaiz-faire approach to homework which seems to be working well for us it goes – Anything to do with tests is completely ignored, no comment on the result either. Reading is encouraged every evening at no set time but depends how tired she is from school. Anything she is interested in (usually writing) we can spend most of the evening on in between tea and everything. She had a research thing last week and we were up past bedtime doing it because she enjoyed it so much. They are currently doing spelling tests in school and I have not wanted to pressure her so have ignored, her results went from 4/10 to 9/10 last week I’m sure the teacher must have thought she’d been doing the homework but she hadn’t. Also on that test, the first word was ‘here’ she got marked down one as she wrote ‘hear’ but she said she thought that was the hear the teacher meant. When I asked her if the teacher reads the word then puts it in a sentence she said no, so how can that be a wrong answer? The whole thing is ludicris. I’ve had primary teacher friends tell me also that all the topics are geared toward boys because it’s harder to peak their interest whereas the girls tend to be more compliant and will sit through things that they find boring. I would love to home school but haven’t got the confidence. I will get off my soapbox now sorry for the essay! #KCACOLS

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  23. Interesting post and I can see it from both sides. I was a teacher before I became a stay-at-home mum. One of my reasons for leaving teaching was the increased pressure to ensure all children were ticking the right boxes at the right time. Homework is another example of ticking boxes. As a teacher I would only set homework that was appropriate and needed. Homework has to serve a purpose and it has to be engaging. Quite often the setting of homework feels like another tick box exercise and not actually about the child in question. Oldest has been sent home with some really tedious homework that is of no use. For Primary School children I don’t think homework needs to be set. However, you do get parents that ask for homework to be set! Sorry I have waffled – in short no homework!

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  24. Absolutely no homework! If our kids are going to school for 7+ hours a day, I should hope they get their work done in that time. The most homework my kids ever got was in kindergarten, and it blew my mind!!

    I also hate assigned home reading, more because we read novels at night, and the mindless crap they send home is so boring. Haha

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  25. whowouldthinkthat · · Reply

    I realize I am fairly late in responding to this, but I just came across it now. I have to agree, homework at a young age seems crazy. This year I have been blessed with not a lot of homework for my two children (aged 9 and 5.) The only time my son has homework is if he didn’t finish it at school. The only thing my daughter brings home is short stories that takes less than 5 minutes to read. My son has had bigger homework assigments in the past at different schools and he would just get so upset about it. We’d work on a few problems, take a break, do a few more, take another break. 3 hours later, he might have been done.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Never too late to comment! It’s an ongoing battle

      Liked by 1 person

  26. respectofmyself · · Reply

    I am a Montessori teacher and homework should be only given for Senior Elementary. Homework should be short reading which is not just the book but includes literary everything you see from street signs to menus. It can be a little research work with presentation over a week prepared or practical life which includes work at home, a nature walk, cooking, art, etc..
    Why should we spoil the love of learning by combining it with a stressful experience at home? Alongside most parents don’t know how to help or are not the same language and do it wrong and therefore confuse the child. Giving homework for me is an excuse for the teacher you didn’t take the necessary time for individual teaching and as you said in your blog it just creates stress and discomfort for the entire family because the child doesn’t know yet how to learn independently. I hope my reply was helpful. Check out my blog. It’s still new but I will post from time to time some advice and free material.

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