The Trouble with Homework

The children have been back to school roughly for a month and I have had a few people ask me recently about my view on homework and so I thought this month I would use it for the topic of my blog.

Before 2012 there were guidelines that schools had to follow, which I have listed below.

The rough guidelines for primary school children were:

  • Years 1 and 2: one hour per week

  • Years 3 and 4: 1.5 hours per week

  • Years 5 and 6: 30 minutes per day

The guidelines for secondary school children were:

  • Years 7 and 8: 45 to 90 minutes per day

  • Year 9: one to two hours per day

  • Years 10 and 11: 1.5 to 2.5 hours per day

These guidelines were scrapped by Michael Gove in 2012, giving Head teachers the freedom to decide how much homework they wished their pupils to complete. If you wish to find out your school’s view on homework, they may have devised a homework policy that you can have a copy of.

Although schools do not need to set homework, most will, even from an early age, as it does help to consolidate learning that the children have taken part in at school. For young children reading every day with an adult is very important, even if it is only for 10 minutes. I say this with first-hand experience of seeing children take steps forward in their progress from when I was a teacher. Spellings and maths also will be sent home quite often as the children grow slightly older.

For parents, many problems with homework seem to stem from 4 issues:

  • time;

  • parent’s ability to understand what needs to be done;

  • child’s ability to understand what needs to be done;

  • child’s lack of enthusiasm/refusal to do it.

Children may finish school at roughly 3pm but many parents are still working until 5/6pm, or even later. Some children are in after school clubs or have other clubs out of school to attend either in the evenings or at the weekend too. Fitting homework in can be tricky, especially when children are not keen to do it and try to find any excuse to wiggle their way out of it.

Some parents find it difficult to understand what the child actually has to do for the homework. Especially with maths, there are different ways to solve sums and parents can often look at it and think that’s not how I would do it and confuse the child when they try to help.

Not every child finds school easy and although homework should be matched to your child’s ability, just as it should be in school, homework can be challenging for children and if they didn’t fully understand the lesson teaching them how to do the homework, this can then make it even harder to complete at home. Quite often, if children are finding the homework too hard, and for some children too easy, it doesn’t help encourage enthusiasm for what they need to do at home, leaving parents in the difficult situation of trying to persuade their child that the homework needs to be done.

My first piece of advice I always give is that you need to work at your own child’s rate. It may feel like your patience is pushed to the limit but try to stay calm with your child if they are not keen to get it done. The earlier you can set a good homework routine the better. As soon as your school starts sending reading books home with your child, find 10 minutes a day to sit and look at the book with them. Remind your child they will be reading after their snack, or after tea, whenever is a good time for you. It could be first thing in the morning before they go to school. Remember quality, not quantity. It is better that you and your child have a good experience reading a couple of pages together well, playing games with the words, than rushing through a whole book that your child finds difficult to read. If they are confident and keen to read the whole book, great, but if not, don’t worry.

As your child gets older and the homework becomes more intense and there is more of it, if your child’s concentration is not very long, set your child small chunks of time to get a few bits done. It doesn’t all need to be done in one sitting. Especially at weekends, you want time as a family to get and do things together. Although you don’t want to leave everything until the last minute, split the homework up so it doesn’t feel like a whole day has been swallowed up simply arguing about the homework that needs to be done.

The homework also doesn’t all need to have correct answers! Children learn from mistakes and so if they have found a piece of homework hard to do, let the homework show that to their teacher. If you can help explain to your child how to do the homework giving a few examples at the beginning, then do, but if you too are finding it difficult, then let your child show and do what they can do.

If you and your child really are finding homework problematic at home, I really do encourage you to speak to the teacher. On many occasions I would meet with parents to find ways around the problems. If you do not talk with the teachers, they can’t try to help. As a parent, I have before written on the top of a maths sheet, ‘tried to complete this sheet but it was too difficult’. This way the teacher knows it has been attempted rather than ignored.

Unfortunately, I can’t see homework ever going away completely, especially at secondary school, so try to create a positive experience for your child right from their early days. Your child may struggle at spellings or their times tables, but it’s not the end of the world. However, them knowing that you are there to give them support will never be forgotten.

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