Newsletter 56 Homework


"The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires" William A. Ward

In a survey conducted by AskKids in USA 43 percent of parents admitted to having done their kids’ homework.

MG reported that “International research demonstrates that, within limits, there is a positive correlation between the amount of homework done and learner achievement. Much research supports the “10-minute rule”, the commonly accepted practice of assigning 10 minutes of homework a day for each grade level. For example, under this system, grade one learners would receive 10 minutes of homework a day, whereas grade five learners would get 50 minutes of homework, and so on. In addition, learners should devote 10 minutes to reading. Grade R learners should therefore receive no homework at all, according to this rule. Yet, many schools exceed these recommendations or do not count assigned reading in the time limit.”

What kids really think about homework? Dana Villamagna, Toca Magazine Writer asked kids what they think about homework, kids candidly shared their views;

  • Rose: Third-grader gives up gymnastics because of homework stress
  • In third grade, Rose, age 9, typically completed about 30 minutes of language homework every evening, in addition to computer-based work and some math practice.
  • “I think they gave us a little too much,” she said.
  • With newly extended school hours at her North Carolina school, Rose’s days became so stressful that she decided to give up gymnastics in order to have more time to complete homework.
  • “I felt really nervous and wasn’t really thinking as much as I usually do,” she recalled.
  • Rose’s mom said parents petitioned the school to reduce homework loads when the district extended the school day, but the request failed.
  • I felt really nervous and wasn’t really thinking as much as I usually do.
  • Izzy: “Flipped” classroom changes homework time
  • Some schools are taking the “flipped” approach to homework, which means that kids watch their teacher’s lessons at home via computer in the evening and then use classroom time to ask questions, practice skills and build on what they’ve learned.
  • “(Homework time) is almost like one-on-one time with my teacher,” said Izzy, age 12, who attends a private school in New Jersey where math and science are taught via flipped classroom.
  • Will: Completes homework as soon as he can to get more play time
  • Whether in a flipped or traditional environment, pragmatic kids like Will, age 11, take a get-it-done approach to homework.
  • “I like everything about homework,” says Will, who is entering sixth grade in a Texas public school. Will said his fifth-grade teacher only required students to take home work that they didn’t complete during school, which helped him to stay on task. While he often finished his work at school and then had no homework, Will completed any homework as soon as he got home so that he was free to play.
  • I like everything about homework.
  • Stella: Sixth-grader tries to support struggling classmates
  • Yet even kids who mind homework don’t know that today’s typical workload doesn’t suit many students’ personal learning style or after-school schedule. As a sixth-grader, Stella always completed her homework, but she had classmates who struggled to do so, including one homework-averse kid that she advised often.
  • “I always say to him, you’re really smart. You just need to be like me and get your homework done and then you can get better grades,” she said.
  • Stella’s teacher gave students a weekly homework plan that allows them to choose when to complete the homework, any time before Friday. She chose to finish it all on Monday so she could have time for her own interests the rest of the week.

Kid-style wisdom

  • Indeed, most of the kids interviewed for this article spontaneously mentioned that they do homework as early and quickly as possible so they can have more time to play. Given enough time, kids will often make, create, pretend, read and invent their way into the most engaged learning.
  • “Homework persists in part because of adults’ distrust of children and how they’ll spend their time if given a choice,” said Kohn.
  • The NEA suggests that schools include parents, teachers and kids when setting a school’s homework policy, and practical, kid-style wisdom may be just what’s needed to change the world of homework.
  • “Homework would be OK if we didn’t have so much of it,” says Stella.
  • Some kids breeze through it. For others, it's a daily struggle. Where does your kid fit in?

News24 ran a survey about homework asking parents their views.

"My Grade 1 daughter does 1.5 hours of homework a day..."

  • "My son has had homework ever since he was 3 years old. We sit for about 1-2 hours at the kitchen counter trying to tackle it. After that he is so exhausted. This is creating such a negative attitude towards school for him at such a tender age."
  • "It is ridiculous for a child aged 4 to have reading, maths etc every day. It is too much."
  • "My child, who is in grade 1, has tonsillitis, so I insisted he stayed home from school today. He was devastated because he didn't want to miss a whole lot of class work that he would have to catch up on for homework. It's crazy."
  • "My son is 5 years old. Grade R. He gets homework every single day. Its absolutely ridiculous. We are working parents who get home after 6 every day and to sit with him and do, not just homework but speeches, spelling, maths and building of projects, it’s just too much."
  • "My son is at an all-boys private school. From the prep school, through to his current Grade 8 year, he has been taught to remain focused in class... He has seldom had homework, has time to take part in a variety of sports both in and out of school and has time on the weekends to enjoy life. He is an A student and loves school. My daughter is at an all-girls private school. Since Grade 3 she has received an inordinate amount of homework each day… with her spending up to 3 hours on some week days completing homework. She struggles at school, struggles to remain focused in class and is not enjoying her school day nearly half as much as my son is. Her marks are average. It doesn't make sense."
  • "My daughter was in a mainstream school and homework was a nightmare, her marks were poor and it was all too much. I moved her to an Impak school with minimum homework and the change has been remarkable. From a 40% average to a 74% average."
  • "The homework they give to children is too much really. My daughters are in grade 4 and grade 10 and they spend 3 to 5 hours on homework. Each teacher gives the kids bout 1 hour worth of home work, so if they have 4 teachers that day, then it's really bad."

Here is a selection of other comments:

  • "Life is tough. School should be tough to prepare students for life."
  • "Homework teaches discipline & the ability to work on your own. The sooner the lesson is learned the easier it will be in university & when having to think for yourself in the business environment. It also teaches time management and the ability to research and not rely on being spoon fed! Homework allows to help the parent to work and understand how their child is coping whereas just getting feedback via reports from school does not give a clear indication if the child is coping."
  • "Let our kids be carefree while they are little... this is their time to be free and to play as much as possible. Happy childhood makes happy adults and a better society."
  • "If all they are doing is learning, playing sport, coming home to do homework, then dinner, bath and bed. Where is the fun time? Where is the time for them to reflect on what they’ve learnt?"
  • "Kids need to be kids again. Play outside, kick ball, get a hobby!"
  • "More homework equals less imagination and free thinking."
  • "I am a medical doctor with two university degrees. I got this far because I had time to play as a child."
  • "The entire education system needs to be reviewed. Creating such huge homework burdens for children at such young ages is unrealistic and puts them completely off learning. Isn't the purpose of school to instill a love of learning, lifelong learning in our children - rather than making learning a chore and a detested activity?"
  • "[There’s] Never time to have quality time with kids after school. Rush, have lunch immediately, start homework. It will be so great just to listen to their daily activities. #homeworkmustfall"
  • "As working parents, our children sometimes don't get enough sleep due to homework only being completed after 6pm and then everyone is cranky so I don't see any benefit... It also takes away from quality time with parents when we have to fight over homework instead of just relaxing together."
  • "Homework makes my children miserable. It causes fighting at home and in turn a major dislike for school. I am a working parent and don't get time to just enjoy my kids during the week."
  • "I come home at 8pm and my child must still be up waiting for me to do homework that lasts hours and this child is expected to wake up fresh and ready to be productive the following day?"
  • "My child is I Gr 1 this year and he is swamped with homework every day. As a working mother that gets home at 5 it takes some nights till 8oclock to do homework and that's just the work he needs help with. It’s too much, he is already stressed out and he is 6. They cannot be expected to do all of his workload at his age."
  • "The homework given is unrealistic and many times require parent intervention. Projects are the worst because you can clearly see the child did not do the project, so what are we actually teaching our children? We are not equipping them to be leaders, risk takers, driven and goal orientated."
  • "Parents who cannot help their kids with homework only assist them further into the abyss, which is why it must be done at school."
  • "Some parents work till late and must still cook and do homework as well. Some of the parents went to school during Bantu education era and can't even answer the questions they come home with, if you don't have internet you are doomed."
  • "Homework perpetuates the inequality between literate and illiterate families, and sets kids with parents with limited education up for failure."
  • "Homework is a crutch for under-performing teachers."
  • "Many teachers seem to think that forcing a child to do large amounts of homework can replace proper tuition and skills transfer inside the classroom. My wife a grade 12 math teacher rarely give homework and her pupils are stars!! We need an education revolution."
  • "As a high school teacher I already struggle to complete the curriculum as prescribed by the Department of Education. There is not enough time in class to do sufficient exercises to reinforce the topic. Without homework you rush through work without enough exercises and quality time spent on the topic. Yet we are still expected to produce results."
  • "Teachers also find it difficult to keep up with the quantity of work, and cannot spend too much time on the children who struggle. Children have hardly learned to read properly and counting and basic sums, but they are doing work sums, fractions, multiplication... and this is grade 1 and 2. Too much too soon."
  • "Children spend 5 to 6 hours a day at primary school. If they can't learn everything they need to learn in that time, then there is something seriously wrong with the education system."
  • "Finland has no homework up until end high school, and they have the highest performing pupils."
  • "My daughter spends so much time doing homework completing everything because teacher said so, but when I ask her did teacher check it, she says no. The teacher is too busy and didn't have time. So then, what is the point?"
  • "No parent is qualified to assist with a child's homework. Increase the hours in the school day to incorporate sporting activities and supervised study time with extra help in problem areas. The school day can end at 4pm and the child then goes home to a homework free environment without additional mental fatigue. The next school day starts with a fresh, unstressed brain that can absorb information far more readily."
  • "Homework should be used to assist struggling students only and not to be imposed as a mandatory activity for all."
  • "Don't scrap homework, instead reduce quantity and enhance quality."
  • "Only math and science homework should be given. There is a concept behind these subjects and they are practice-makes-perfect subjects. All other subjects work well with assignments."
  • "It would be much better if they would rather be given practical tasks to present in class where they will still learn discipline, become responsible and follow instructions. I believe that has the same purpose as homework."
  • "I think homework should be project based. After learners have covered a section of work, they can show their overall understanding by answering a question that's related to the work covered. They do this in the form of a project that is for marks. And educator is able to tell how much the students understood, by how well they well they produce their work."
  • "We started homeschooling in middle of 2014. We use a GDE approved curriculum. All work can easily be completed by 2 pm. Kids are happier, less stress in the house and more time for sport and other activities. Kids read a lot more and learn without being forced."
  • "Education should be about preparing kids with life skills, not just academic focus."
  • "I don't think doing homework adds any value that will prepare the child to enter adulthood. I can still remember all the theory I have learnt at both primary and high school. I cannot say it added value in my adult hood. I think there are other skills more vital that's adds value and enhances the preparation of adult hood. Conflict handling, learning to compromise, to communicate at various levels, how to budget, emotional intelligence is but a few. One positive thing, and probably the only great thing I have learnt from my school years is punctuality."
  • "Children should spend the afternoons reading, researching, helping with chores, learning to cook, playing sport, attending music or dance classes, walking the dog, volunteering at a shelter, the list is endless. Life is an education in itself."

A lot has been said and can still be said about homework. Is homework a good practice? How much is enough? Why are parents stressed by the homework of their children?

My contribution is based on the (1) purpose of homework (2) the purpose of schooling. Let me deal with the latter first;

  • The core purpose of schooling is to implement the national curriculum
  • For this to happen the learner and teacher meets in the enterprise of learning and teaching
  • Both learner and teacher is instrumental to the enterprise
  • Homework has the tendency to compromise this fundamental principle and purpose of being
  • A learner without homework the following day may result in truancy, unhappiness and a subsequent discipline matter – depending on how teachers deal with not having completed homework – BE AWARE OF AN OUTDATED VIEW AND ITS IMPACT ON LEARNING & TEACHING. BE INCLUSIVE!

The purpose of homework is to extend the learning opportunity of learners by creating another opportunity to practice and consolidate. In most cases teachers give homework to complete the curriculum because there is not enough time in class. Another practice is to give assessment tasks with assessment instructions and the rubric to complete at home – this is the one that get parents creeping up the wall.

Let me share this story with you. A parent called in to a radio talk show about homework and explains to the audience how she sat down the whole of last night to complete her son’s project and the “nerve of the teacher” to give her a C for all her effort. 

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