Dwelling on injustices, bad behaviour and modern day dilemmas.

Shelley Bridgeman: My beef with homework

Do kids get given too much homework? Photo / Thinkstock
Do kids get given too much homework? Photo / Thinkstock

One full week without homework was bliss. I hadn't realised what a bad vibe it created in our household until my ten-year-old had five consecutive after-school days without it. There was no need to shout "have you done your homework?" from the kitchen - usually at least twice to check she wasn't fibbing the first time she answered.

Her typical Year Six homework comprises five components including: a maths work sheet, Mathletics on the computer, 15 spelling words, reading comprehension sheet and 15-minutes of reading. Sometimes it includes working on a project such as writing a speech or researching a unit of enquiry.

It strikes me as quite a lot of work for a young girl. Luckily she whizzes through it fairly quickly. She estimates she devotes 15 minutes daily from Monday through to Thursday to it (not counting the 15 minutes she must spend reading). So that's half-an-hour of homework each day. It could easily take longer if she became stuck on a particular problem or if she was a child who took a less efficient approach to it.

My beef with homework is twofold. Firstly, my daughter attends school from 8.30am until 3pm Monday to Friday which totals nearly 36 hours weekly. That's a really big chunk of time. It surely wouldn't be difficult to allocate just one hour somewhere in there for the children to make a really good start on their homework - meaning the speedy ones might get through it all during school hours and those with a more considered approach would still have less work to do at home than they normally do.

Secondly, if your child has a sport or activity after school there's not a lot of time left even for the essentials of living without adding homework to the mix. Between hockey practice and pony-riding, in winter there are three days a week that my daughter isn't home until 5.15pm at the earliest. It's hard enough for her to get fed, showered and changed by bedtime (and, ideally, squeeze in some piano practice) without having to manage homework as well. I've lost count of the days she's had to do her spelling in the car on the way to school.

As I said earlier, the brief absence of homework made our evenings feel luxurious. They were unhurried and convivial rather than a mad rush to check off all the essentials. I'm in no position to say that homework should be banned. Presumably it's an important part of an education and presumably it is instilling good independent study habits for when homework plays a bigger role.

Fellow mothers have told me of schools that extend the school day so homework is completed on site. That wouldn't suit us either as it would seriously infringe on available daylight hours to devote to sports and outdoor activities. So what's the answer? I'm not certain but if we accept that homework is a necessary evil then perhaps limiting it to just two nights a week rather than four would take some of the pressure off family life in the evenings.

What's your view on homework? Is it good, bad or a necessary evil? How much homework does your child do each day? How does he or she fit it into a busy schedule?

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Dwelling on injustices, bad behaviour and modern day dilemmas.

Shelley Bridgeman is a truck-driving, supermarket-going, horse-riding mother-of-one who is still married to her first husband. As a Herald online blogger, she specialises in First World Problems and delves fearlessly into the minutiae of daily life. Twice a week, she shares her perspective on a pressing current issue and invites readers to add their ten cents’ worth to the debate.

Read more by Shelley Bridgeman

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