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60 Minutes: Meet the family who are saying "no" to homework.

It’s the parenting model that children dream about.

It’s a scene that most parents know all too well: The tears and tantrums. The struggle to supervise. The vain attempts to keep everyone calm while a small war breaks out over coloured pencils.

Most parents would agree with father Scott Crew when he declares homework time a “constant battle”.

Not everyone would go as far as declaring that their kids should never do homework again – but that’s exactly what Adelaide parents Scott and Clare Crew have done.

On tonight’s 60 Minutes, the Crew family speaks about the controversial decision to ban homework in their house, and why ex-teacher Clare thinks it’s the best decision she’s ever made.

Clare Crew says banning homework in her house is the best decision she’s ever made.

Instead of nightly homework, the Crew’s three children – 7-year-old Neve, 6-year-old Dean and 3-year-old Jade – are allowed to mould their own leisure time.

“They are learning through play,” says Clare told 60 Minutes of her “free-range” after-school approach.

“They’re using their senses and they’re getting that time to recharge, ready for a new day of school tomorrow.

“We go to the playground, they move outside, they’re creating…you know, a strong brain through that movement. They’re getting messy, they’re using their senses. Helping me prepare dinner, if they feel like it. Interacting with our chickens! Doing a lot of learning through life experience.”

Clare and Scott Crew encourage their children to learn by doing – including helping out with the cooking.

The Crews argue that the statistics on homework speak for themselves.

The average Australian kids spends seven hours a week doing homework – 1.7 hours more than five years ago. That means less time spent sleeping, relaxing, socialising and playing sport. Recent surveys have suggested that as many as 71% of parents felt they weren’t spending enough time with their kids when they were forced to do homework during the week.

The Crew’s approach to homework is certainly controversial – but they aren’t the only ones embracing a more relaxed approach. Richard Black, a year two teacher at Melbourne’s The Knox School, has also given homework the flick.

Instead of traditional spelling lists, readers and times tables, Mr Black’s students are encouraged to ‘learn by doing’ at home – cooking a meal with their parents, taking the dog for a walk, or starting a special interest project on their favourite animal and reporting back to the class. Some students learn instruments. Others play board games.

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The average Australian kids spends seven hours a week doing homework.

“We’re trying to guide them towards their independent creation of tasks, and having children say, ‘Well, I need to work on how I measure, or how I know my measurements of kilograms and grams or millilitres and litres, if I cooked would that help?'” Mr Black told 60 Minutes. 

Professor Mike Horsley from the Central Queensland University couldn’t agree more with Mr Black’s methods. As the nation’s leading expert on the importance – or lack thereof – of homework for children under 12, Professor Horsley is a passionate advocate for giving kids more time to be kids.

“For many parents, they see homework as an accountability measure of the school,” Professor Horsley told 60 Minutes.

“They think, ‘Well, if the school is setting a lot more homework, then it must be a good school, because they’re very concerned with the students learning, or they want to build a bigger bridge between the school and the home.’ But the reality is, is that setting more homework will not improve kids’ performance on these tests in primary school.”

Professor Horsley’s opinion on homework is simple: “There should be less of it, and it should be of higher quality and teachers should plan it in a different way.”

Professor Horsley is a passionate advocate for giving kids more time to be kids.

When asked what advice they would give to parents struggling with the daily grind of homework, Clare Crew says the answer is simple:

“Most parents don’t realise they actually have a say in this,” she said.

“Part of that is that they just determine that if the school is setting homework, there must be some advantage to their child actually doing it. They’re not getting the memo that there’s potentially no academic benefit at all.

“They can set homework, but at the end of the day it’s our decision, and our children’s decision as to whether it is done.”

Do you make your kids do their homework?

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