Less homework, please

As the iVillage mums limp towards the finish line of term 2, we're fist-pumping the air over the news that a Sydney school has drastically cut back on student's homework to free children up for some quality family time instead.

It sounds like a dream, doesn't it. No nagging and bribing arrive home, have a snack and then spend time bonding instead of entering into homework negotiations such as, "Do all your words and one Mathletics task or NO X-Box!".

St Charles Primary School in Waverly recently swapped formal homework for 'lifestyle tasks'. Children are encouraged to do something physical, help out around the house, read, tell their parents about something they've learned and so on. This concept of non-homework is the brainchild of former NSW school principal Ian Lillico who is now a speaker and advocate for boy's education in Australia. In his book Homework & the Homework Grid he encourages educators to broaden the definition of homework so home life is less stressful and homework less time-consuming.

Some parents push schools to set homework, believing it helps support their child's education. However schools are being forced to look at alternatives due to an influx of parent complaints about how much homework children have and how time consuming it is. It's an ongoing debate, even dividing parents.

A Sydney dad recently took his ex-wife to Federal Court, asking that they force her to ensure their daughter completes her homework when in her care. However the judge said he was reluctant to make a ruling on it, saying it was 'undesirable micromanaging.' The mum told she doesn't think their daughter should be forced to do homework at either house, saying, "I have trouble getting (the child) to take homework, projects and her (musical instrument) - to her father's place to complete and practice."


Acting principal of St Charles, Hilary Cameron told Fairfax media 90 per cent of teachers and 80 per cent of parents at his school are in favour of less homework for kids. ''The activities gifted families with family time, which is the way it should be,'' she said.

Research shows traditional homework is limited in its benefits to primary school children. Education expert Professor John Hattie says, ''For too many students, homework reinforces that they cannot learn by themselves, and that they cannot do the school work."

Rachael Sowden is the spokeswoman for the NSW Federation of Parents and Citizens Associations. She says she's happy her son's primary school at Uralla Central School has adopted this system. She says, ''For a busy family it does make it easier."

So forward this to article to your child's school and cross your fingers. Soon setting the table for dinner and having a chat could be considered homework. It will be a nice change from trying to help them 'bust a number' or helping them write speeches about Australian icons. As fun as that is...