It's only been a month since school started, and it has been the best back-to-school experience ever. I have one person to thank for that, and it's my 6-year-old daughter's teacher.
Last year, homework was the bane of our lives. My then-5-year-old had something to do every night. And there never seemed to be a good time to do it. Immediately after school is just mean, right? She'd already been in school for six hours and just wanted to have some downtime. Then it was time to eat. If we managed to get it done in that half-hour window after dinner and before bath, great. That didn't happen very often because family life doesn't often slot neatly into 30-minute segments. As soon as the tiredness hits, it's game over. I'm holding my hands up and admitting that around 50 percent of the time, we rushed through homework over breakfast. It definitely wasn't the perfect way to start the day.
So we began this school year, after seven blissful homework-free weeks, with some trepidation. She was a year older and we were prepared for more homework, not less. Then the Best Teacher Ever took on the class. Confession: I haven't even spoken to this woman yet. But I give her that title without a second's hesitation because she hates homework just as much as we do.
Actually, I don't know how she feels about homework. But I'm taking a wild guess and saying she's not a big fan, because so far, my daughter has received virtually none of it. Any assignments she is given are quick, simple and fun. None of it requires anything to be written down and handed in to be marked by her teacher. Forget writing spelling words over and over on a page, then trying to include them in "interesting" sentences. No science projects. No laborious math calculations. And as a result, no tears, no tantrums, no headaches trying to come up with 27 interesting sentences.
For many years, teachers have been calling for homework to be banned in primary schools, and many academics believe the system needs a major overhaul. John Hattie, professor of education at the University of Melbourne, sees no value in primary school homework whatsoever. In a BBC Radio 4 interview, he said, "We get over-obsessed with homework," pointing out that it "has an effect of around zero."
However, Hattie doesn't believe primary school homework should be scrapped altogether, because this can impact how parents judge the quality of the school. Instead of getting rid of homework, he suggests keeping it short and simple: "Five to 10 minutes has the same effect of one hour to two hours." Which is what every parent wants to hear. Something else they want to hear is, "The worst thing you can do with homework is give kids projects." Instead, we should be reinforcing what they've already learned in class.
Absolutely. Haven't we all watched our kid struggle with a homework project only to end up doing it for them? What, exactly, do they learn from that? If something's too difficult (or time-consuming or not interesting enough), is it OK to give up and let someone else do it for you? Ever tried making an igloo out of "household items?" Yeah — you don't want to.
If you think I'm just a lazy ass who can't be bothered doing homework with her kid, you're half right. I'm not a lazy ass. I get a kick out of spending time with my child and watching her learn. But I absolutely cannot be bothered doing homework with her. I don't believe it did anything to further her education last year. By comparison, I can see her reap the benefits of her new teacher's approach to learning. She's not in a stinking mood after school because she knows if we do any homework at all, it will be spelling out a word with rice instead of writing it multiple times in her workbook.
She's interested in it because it's different, fun and only takes a few minutes. She's not bored or restless, so she's not merely going through the motions until the torture is over. As a result, she's a happier child because we get to spend time after school doing stuff kids her age should be doing: riding her bike, running around the park or just chilling the hell out because yes, school is exhausting when you're 6 years old.
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