Read this article and felt compelled to respond to it in the comments section. Got a bit big so thought I’d do a post, having not done one in a while.
As a kid I hated doing my homework and could never see the point of it. It was a real battle for my parents to get me to get it done, and even then I’d aim to get the lowest acceptable result.
As a teacher I learned to hate homework all over again. I was criticised by some parents on the times when I didn’t set homework and criticised by other equally irate parents on the days I did. Evenings were lost due to marking it and adding a suitable level of commentary that kept parents happy. Homework is supposed to be a means of telling the teacher how much of the subject the child understands and so can plan the follow-on lesson accordingly. Badly done, or missing homework could simply be down to forgetfulness or some distraction at home. Fantastic homework could be a result of the parents doing it for them. Not a useful method then, and I have marked homework with the full spectrum of ‘help’ (from none-at-all to here-let-me-do-it-for-you).
Now, as a parent, I’m hating it all over again. Getting the kids to do homework they don’t want to do, set by teachers who never wanted to set it or mark it and through it all still wondering what the point of it all is.
As parents we are encouraged to help with the homework, but do you get them to do it, or do it right? If they’re sitting there, not knowing what they’re supposed to be doing and I help them, at what point am I doing the teacher’s job for them. Understanding the task, okay, I have no problem helping with that. Comprehending the subject matter, well surely they’ve been doing that in class hence the supposedly related homework. Okay, so you’ve no idea how do draw a medieval castle, let’s go to the library, let’s look it up on google. What’s this bit called? What did they use it for? And now I’m teaching a history lesson and should have started cooking tea 40 minutes ago. The end result? A few sheets of wasted paper with a tiny castle drawn in the middle, and the finished product stuck in the homework book along with a comprehensive explanation as to what was done by the child and what ‘help’ was provided.
Not every child has the benefit of having two ex-teacher parents who have the time or resources to provide any level of assistance and so setting homework that requires such a high level of participation (regardless of the child’s ability) is not beneficial to anyone (except perhaps the parents who do it for their kids).
Looking back, the best homework I ever had to do or set or mark or help with, were the ‘pop-quiz’ style ones where there is the minimum of writing to be done by the child and a narrow margin of interpretation for the teacher in marking (i.e. the answer to question 4 is ‘blue’ or at least a colour that’s blueish).
Of course, I’m referring to primary school age where the greater part of labelling a castle is centred around letter formation and ‘finger spaces’. By middle or secondary school age it is a given that few parents know the first thing about whatever it is that 1,500 words need to be written about or the value of x and y.