“Our internet isn’t working at home.”
“I forgot the paper at school.”
“I didn’t have time to do my homework.”
“Our power went off last night.”
“I didn’t understand what I was supposed to do.”
“My mom went to visit her friend and I had to go with her, then we came home late.”
“I was tired after school, and my mom said I could rest and not do my homework yesterday.”
My personal favourite…“I forgot.”
From the time our children start ‘big school,’ they are assigned homework almost every day, up until university. Let’s face it, even as adults we take work home with us. It doesn’t end!
As an upper primary teacher for the last ten years, I confess that assigning and marking homework is definitely my least favourite task. I can’t even count the number of strategies, structures, and philosophies of homework I have used over the years. All with the aim of trying to get the balance right for my students AND parents. Homework feels like a constant uphill battle for everyone involved.
One of the debates in educational philosophies over the last few years revolves around the benefits of daily homework tasks; ‘Is homework necessary?’ Finland, one of the world’s leaders in educational pedagogy (teaching and learning) has abolished homework in their schools. However, in Botswana homework is part of our academic culture.
So how do we deal with the trials and tribulations that come with homework?
As teachers, we just have to suck it up! But parent involvement can go a long way to supporting the process. I spoke to parents, teachers, and Principals of schools to get their tips on how they try to get the balance right in supporting the process…
Giselle Rocha, a working mum of 2 children at Northside School finds the balance by ‘stealing time’ at school to do homework with her children. Every day, during lunch you’ll find either Gisele or her husband with the kids on the benches. They’ll be having lunch and doing homework while waiting for their afternoon activities to start. Once they’ve done what they can, the parents go back to work and their kids do their activities. “It’s very hard but possible. Time has to be made.” – Gisele
Speaking to Angela Warick, Deputy Head of Thornhill Primary School, we agreed that the challenges with homework stem from the generation of both parents working. Angela emphasizes the benefits of children “creating a habit” by doing their homework responsibly and timeously. Parents should support their children in establishing routines and processes for homework that includes the parents being involved too.
A couple of years ago the Academy of Toddlers in Phakalane experienced the same challenges regarding homework. With the increased number of students not completing homework tasks, they adopted a new approach. The school day has been extended by 2 hours for students to attend voluntary, supervised homework. All class teachers work until 4 pm Monday to Thursday to avail themselves for those 2 hours to students for “Preparation Of Work” time. It’s a free after-school programme that parents sign their children up for. Mr Naicker is one of the Directors of the school. He says that “The world has changed. Homework seems to be an inconvenience for parents and it was a constant battle.” That’s why they changed their approach as a school, and it’s working wonderfully.
Teachers’ responses to some frequently asked questions…
“Should I be checking and correcting my child’s homework?”
My suggestion: Yes and No. You should be checking that your child is doing their homework every day. By all accounts, this does not mean that you have to sit next to your child and police them through the completion of the tasks. However, ensure that work has been done and support your child by encouraging them to do their homework. Commend them for completing the tasks, and reprimand them for slacking. Discuss any mistakes you pick up with your child. They can make corrections on the side or below the incorrect answers. If you’re really concerned about that piece of work, write a note for your child’s teacher to see. They’ll appreciate the feedback.
“We’re both working parents and often get home late and don’t always have time or energy to check my child’s homework. What can I do?”
It’s a balancing act in today’s society with our busy and rushed lives. We know it’s not easy, but the reality is, you have to make time. “Practice spelling words, reading aloud, bonds or times tables in the car on the way to school.”- Angela Warwick
My suggestions: If you aren’t able to sit down with your child to work through homework, then you need to instill a culture of routine, independence, and responsibility within your home. Have rules, just like your parents did – homework first, then play. Get your child to leave their homework out for you to look through either before bed or before school in the morning. On weekends try to dedicate half an hour to go through what your child did in class and for homework. Come up with a strategy that works for you and your family. It is important.
“What educational websites or apps can I use to give my child extra practice?”
Have a look at readtheory.org, mathplayground.com, ixl.com, and abcya.com. They are all pretty good websites to use. The Ixl app can be downloaded too once you sign up. They’re user-friendly and can be used according to the child’s grade level. – Anonymous teacher at Northside School.
My suggestions: Educational apps and website can work wonders for children who need extra practice and consolidate their learning. Be aware though, that access to websites and devices should be given responsibly. As parents you also need to remember that there is such a thing as too much screen time; don’t let your child sit on their device all afternoon. 30 minutes is enough.