I have always had a bit of a love/hate relationship with homework in the context of my own life. Whilst I confess to being a bit of a “learning” junkie, constantly on the lookout for the next course I would love to do or skill I want to learn, when it comes down to the nitty gritty of studying, the anticipation (and the purchasing of new stationery!) is often much more exciting than the actual learning.
But when it comes to my children’s homework, it is much more of an unbalanced relationship, definitely veering towards the “hate” end of the scale. While I can see the benefits of homework for older children, I feel that at ages eight and, even more so, five, it is just a little too much. And this is only exacerbated (at least from my perspective) by the fact that the one-on-one time I have with the children is so limited.
Most days of the week, my children don’t get home until 6pm, having gone to various sports clubs, after school clubs and Brownies. By that point they are exhausted. And yes I could say no to the sports clubs and Brownies but I think they are just as important as the academic side of school. And, in any event, they would still have to be out of the house until that time most days due to my husband and I working.
So, when they get home, they are exhausted – and starving. All they want to do is eat and chill and I can’t say I blame them. Suggesting that they might want to read their book with me, practise their spellings or do some research for their latest project is very rarely met with any enthusiasm – I confess on either their part or mine.
That leaves the weekend. The one time neither my husband nor I are working and we get to have some family time together – after the swimming lessons and the birthday parties! This should be a nice, relaxing time, when we get to do fun things or just relax and recover from the hectic week. But no, a quarter of that time (ie Saturday morning if we are feeling super organised or Sunday afternoon if not) is spent doing the Battle of the Homework. Neither of them want to it and so it usually ends up with some form of bribery, followed by me losing my patience with at least one of them. Not exactly “quality family time”.
And it turns out that they don’t teach things like they did in my day. I have had to learn the phonics alphabet and I have no idea the method they use to teach them how to do long-division – certainly not how I was taught to do it.
So if I do help Sophie with her maths I risk confusing her with different methodology but if I don’t help she gets disheartened that she can’t do it. And I nearly lodged a formal complaint about the online maths homework the other day because the instructions were clearly ambiguous!!
And it’s not just the weekly homework but the blumin’ “power project” my daughter gets given each half term (and I suspect, with dread, my five year old son will soon be presented with). Yes, we are given several weeks to work on these projects. Yes, there are lots of different ways they can complete them. Yes, it is great for them to learn about Mayan culture, China and cavemen. But with the limited time we have to tackle homework, adding this into the mix just pushes us over the edge.
And it is not a project they can do alone. I try really hard to limit the help I give Sophie as I am a strong believer in it being their own work. But she can’t go visit a cave on her own (or pay for it!) and although she is getting to the stage of being able to use the internet on her own for research, we have only just really reached that stage. And although having a suggestion of what to do with our weekends, like visit an air museum, can be useful, I do feel slightly dictated to.
I am sure though that as they get older and hit secondary school, I will be all for homework. I want them to do well at school and understand that homework is an important part of that. But by that age, although I will of course offer the suitable encouragement, it will be their responsibility to make sure it is done, and they will be old enough to take that responsibility. They will also be able to cope with a longer day and the extra demands homework places on them.
But time goes so quickly and their childhood flies by and so the last thing I want to be doing is spending our time together during these precious years losing my patience with them over their homework.
Particularly when I think that there are equally important activities they should be doing at this age that are a lot more fun for all involved!
I may well be wrong and not pushing my children further in their studies at this age may not be the best for them in the long-run. And perhaps when the 11+ is raising its ugly head I will live to rue my current philosophy but right now I want them to enjoy a more carefree childhood… But right now I best go encourage Sophie to create a model of a Mayan pyramid!