“The dog ate my homework” (yes someone did once say this to me), “I left it at home”, “I wasn’t there that day” – as a teacher, I have heard a few excuses in my time about not completing homework. For many students, teachers and parents, homework isn’t always fun and isn’t necessarily something that any of these groups of people want to set, do or help with. I’m sorry to say, however, that there’s definitely a point to (most) of it and it is something that students at both primary and secondary schools should be doing (T&C’s apply).
The homework debate is one of those issues that comes to the fore every few years. Recently, it’s re-emerged through the policies of a small but growing number of WA primary schools who have made a ‘no homework’ policy within their schools. They have chosen to preference play, relaxing and reading after the school day rather than ‘homework’.
This decision has been made with the belief that primary school aged children do not have any benefit from completing homework, that recharging their batteries and family time is more important at this stage in life. Some schools have even argued it is detrimental because it gets in the way of family time.
And you know what? I see where they are coming from. I have a daughter who started primary school this year and the batteries are definitely low when she comes home each night. When she gets home she eats, plays with her sister and sometimes just sits down. She is knackered. But give her an hour and she asks to read her reader, wants to do ‘Reading Eggs’ an online literacy program or practice something she has learnt at school that day- a dance, maths, some Japanese.
And in my definition, this is homework. It is work that my daughter has learnt parts in class, that she then also does outside of school hours (some has been specifically assigned to do at home but some hasn’t). It is also something that is inclusive of us - she shares her learning with us and it becomes our ‘family time’.
In my opinion as a mother and as a teacher, the problem lies with the definition. According to the Collins Dictionary “homework is school work that teachers give to pupils to do at home in the evening or at the weekend.” This definition, for many, brings up negative connotations because it is viewed as something that seems unnecessary, inauthentic and purposeless.