Homework or Stresswork?

 

What was one thing you detested in your primary school days?

For me, it was the thought of having multiple homeworks to complete at home and worst was when each teacher expected us to submit  ALL the assignments the very next day! If you are reading this post am completely sure you had your own ingenious ways of getting your homework done. I realised no teacher was perturbed by all our groans and moans about the number of assignments already given by other teachers, who also expected us to complete and submit the next day.

Credits: http://favim.com/image/605743/
Credits: http://favim.com/image/605743/

What did you do in your primary school days to prevent those painful lashes from your failure to complete your home assignments?

I used to start the assignments in class and pray that a teacher misses his or her teaching period to enable the class complete their home assignments, of course with peer collaboration. It was really important especially if you are a slow learner and still yet to get a total grasp of the topic that was just taught in class and for which you are magically expected to understand with the expectation of completing an assignment and even submitting the next day.

My school required, a parent’s signature underneath the completed assignment or that was an automatic zero for you. I guess that was to ensure that parents had inputs in guiding their kids with their homework. I used to estimate the number of pages needed to complete the assignment if I mistakenly forgot about it, then make my mother sign with the promise I would complete it before the start of lessons for the day. My dad was certainly out of the question, he won’t be an accessory to “homework crime”.

I had a colleague who was also gifted with the skill of generating different dissimilar signatures. For those of us who genuinely forgot to complete our assignments, we would just complete them first thing in the morning in class and line our books up for her to sign. I guess no teacher found out.

Credits: http://www.lolhome.com/funny-picture-9979530815.html
Credits: http://www.lolhome.com/funny-picture-9979530815.html

Recently, a friend who is a bank worker with 3 kids told me of how tired she gets after work each day and the constant challenge of getting the kids to do their homework has resulted in she completing the assignments for them. She uses her left-hand because she is right-handed and intentionally answers some questions wrongly to make the assignment more believable to have been completed by a 4 or 5 year old. Another colleague also told me of how she had to wake up her 5 year old son up at 11pm just to get him to complete his homework.

One in six parents do all their kids homework.

Jasper Copping (The Telegraph, UK)

Is it all worth it? What is the essence of these homeworks and are they being achieved especially with both parents working full-time jobs? Are kids supposed to be blamed for their parent’s inability to get the time to guide them? These are the questions running through my mind now and am 100% sure most parents especially of very young kids have been grumbling about this for a while. Don’t get me wrong, am not against homeworks am just against how it is administered and the sort of limited time gien which I believe is a big deterrent to achieving its good purpose.

Credits: http://quotesgram.com/quotes-funny-school-homework/
Credits: http://quotesgram.com/quotes-funny-school-homework/

Why are homeworks given to kids?

According to Goldstein and Zentall on “The importance of homework in your child’s education”, the six purposes of homeworks are: 1) opportunity for kids to practice what has been taught in class, 2) opportunity to participate in learning tasks to improve their academic skills ie. reading, writing, spelling etc, 3) develop a child’s personal skills such as time management, 4) improve on parent-child relationship, 5) provide parent’s with insight into what their kids are studying at school and finally 6) assisting the school with achieving their goals to improve students’ achievement.

Homework is obviously very key not just for the child but also for the parents.

A quarter of those taking part in the survey said they considered the tasks their children were sent home with were too hard, while nearly two thirds admitted there have been times when they were unable to help because it was too taxing.

Jasper Copping (The Telegraph, UK)

In a 2007 research by Centre for Public Education in Edvantia, on the value of homework, very important results which are particularly useful for all parties involved revealed the following:

  • Homework provides more academic benefits to older students that to younger ones. The essence for young kids is not the number but the structure of the assignment. Just one assignment could be more beneficial than having multiples which might eventually stress the child out.
  • The essence of homework is defeated especially for kids from low-income backgrounds. Imagine parents who have little or no education, how are they expected to guide their kids? Answer might be to hire a study teacher but will they be able to afford it? What if they don’t have educated older siblings to assist?
  • Homeworks are also beneficial for kids with learning disabilities. Extra support and practice is needed to improve their academic skills.
  • They help prepare students prepare in advance for lessons yet to be taught in class.

Problems/ Challenges

Researchers from Stanford run a survey in 2014 on 4,317 students from high-performing schools in the upper-middle class and concluded on the following with regards to the impact of too much homework on students: it resulted in greater stress, poor health associated with sleep deprivations and reduction in time spent with family and friends and on extra curricular activities which are equally important for their development.

Credits: http://homedesign.stuartclarkephotography.com/funny-pictures-of-homework/
Credits: http://homedesign.stuartclarkephotography.com/funny-pictures-of-homework/

Personally, the question is how much homework is enough? What can be done to ensure that maximum benefits is achieved from homeworks?

Conclusion

We could go on and on debating on the positive and negative impacts of homeworks on kids. In my opinion, there is no blanket answer to all this but key to this is to consider the context and environment before reaching an effective solution.

In Ghana, due to the current economic conditions most couples find themselves employed in full time jobs and have to rely on home tutors, grandparents, older siblings, nannies etc to assist with their kids. On a typical day, a child has to wake up as early 4am or 5am depending on the traffic situation just for their parents to be able to beat traffic and also report to work in time at 8am. I don’t know what time school closes these days but let’s assume because of traffic and distance, child gets home around 7pm. They have to get some rest, eat supper, get their homework done and prepare for school the next day. Kids these days are operating on the same time schedule as their parents. Why won’t they be stressed?

Kids these days are operating on the same time schedule as their parents. Why won’t they be stressed?

OMT

In my opinion to be able to reap maximum benefits, I would proffer the below suggestions and hopefully the education experts can delve deeper and come out with solutions especially for the ghanaian educational system which already has its own issues:

Schools Should have a homework policy with time-tables made available to parents in advance for ease of planning. The ability of schools to have a schedule and shared with parents ahead of the school term might not totally solve the problem but would also be equally useful. Parents and guardians can plan ahead and also get the opportunity to make time for their kids.

Parents can also research on topics they have no knowledge of ahead of time to be adequately armed with information to guide their kids to get their homework done and not end up being tutored by their kids. It is the responsibility of the parents to differentiate between assisting and spoonfeeding a child to get his or her homework done.

Schools should be able to design individualised homeworks for each student and these should not form more than 10% of the child’s continuous assessment……..just my thoughts…………. Homeworks should ideally be a guide for the parents and teachers to know the kid’s strengths and weaknesses to be able to decide whether extra hours of tutoring is needed or special attention is needed. The argument is the current overloaded ghanaian syllabus would not permit this, but this would be a good opportunity to consider revising the syllabus to be more specific to encourage more outside the box thinking rather than the status quo of being rewarded for high marks which just encourages “chew, pour, pass and forget”.

Lastly less homework should be given to younger kids especially when the period to turn it over is short. I heard of a school that gives homework to kids and they are given a week for submission, won’t that be great if most schools adopted this practice?

The important point to note is that the child’s academic and personal development is not the sole responsibility of the educational system but parents are also equally to blame should anything go wrong.

Share your thoughts on how this current practice of overloading kids with assignments can be improved. What’s your opinion on homeworks given to young kids?

First published: 11 October 2016

 

 

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