Early learning – Effectiveness of homework in early years
With our increasingly busy lifestyle, balancing school, work and family life has become even more of a juggle for today’s modern family.
Profile: What are the current trends with regards to homework?
Peter: The trends I am most interested in are the views of our parent body. Last year we did a survey of our parents to determine what they thought about homework and the results surprised us. They felt it potentially took away from their family time. They didn’t want to be overloaded and they didn’t want to spend hours working through each child’s homework. In response, we reviewed our homework policy and are very conscious about how much homework we give for each class, particularly in the early primary years. Some parents noted that there are other activities that could be done at home, such as helping around the house and doing things with family and we need to demonstrate our sensitivity to this.
Profile: What does the latest research tell us about the benefits of homework in primary school?
Peter: We have to be careful when we look at different studies and the controversy they contribute to. We must to be mindful about who is doing the research and what barrow they are pushing. One thing that is becoming increasingly clear is that there is limited benefit from doing homework in early primary years.
The most significant research we have has been the informal research of generations of teachers who would tell us that the most beneficial ‘homework’ is daily reading to our children, thereby modelling good reading and most importantly enjoying books together. The second most beneficial ‘homework’ is daily hearing our children read because instant feedback has a huge impact on learning. Adding one probing question about the text will exponentially enhance the learning experience.
Do you think our increasingly busy lifestyle has changed the way we respond to homework?
Peter: Absolutely. We are time poor with a rich supply of after school activities that beckon. There are many family situations that mean only one parent is available in the evenings. Dinner, bath-time, bedtime and getting ready for the busy day tomorrow take up much of the evening and exhausted parents, juggling the demands of jobs and family, don’t need extra. It takes a village to raise a child and few of us live in a village nowadays. Homework can become another chore and add to a family’s stress load. At that point we defeat, what I believe to be a main goal of education; to develop a life-long love of learning.
Profile: How has social media affected the amount of time children are spending on homework?
Peter: There are many well-documented and publicised problems with children being involved with social media and, in fact, all media. Robbing our children of valuable time when they could be doing a range of other activities is clearly a concern. Time for outdoor activities, involvement in sport, enjoying books, playing games, building, creating, daydreaming, family and homework is impacted by hours spent on social media, playing video games or watching TV etc.
What we may not take into consideration is the impact, on homework, of not participating in these other activities.
Children who don’t get outside or don’t engage in strenuous activities may lose physical fitness which will impact brain fitness.
Vocabulary development suffers when children don’t read widely or converse regularly with adults.
Playing games, building and creating things sharpen problem solving skills.
Another consideration is that overloaded parents may use social media to unwind from their busy day which will impact their availability to supervise homework.
Of course, for some children, social media means they can access homework help from friends or teachers and not have to wait till the next day.