A celebration of parenting with Katrina Roe

Tag Archives: homework

In my last post I talked about my daughter’s athletics carnival.

That day she came home with a sticker that said ‘I ran in a race’.  Whoever is making those stickers is making a fortune because everybody there had one.  There was no ribbon for getting third in the longjump, but every kid got a sticker that said ‘I ran in a race.’

I realise that this is designed to put the emphasis on participation, rather than winning.  But I am not sure why we feel we have to reward kids for doing something that everybody has to do anyway.  We’ve created a culture where kids won’t do anything without being rewarded, even if that reward is just a sticker or our praise.  The obvious problem with that is that it creates a sense of entitlement, where they’re always looking for a reward, rather than a sense of achievement.  But it can also mean that they’re reluctant to try something they’re not so good at, because they’re looking for the gold star, rather than a chance to learn something.

Birdy has a natural ability for Maths, and she was put in a Maths group with some very bright kids.  But ever since she heard that her report card last year said she was ‘outstanding’ at Maths, she’s been trying to convince us that she’s hopeless at it, that it’s too hard, and that she needs to go down into a lower Maths group.
I have a bad mum confession to make, we didn’t get Caillie’s maths homework done last week.  No excuse, we just didn’t get to it.  So last night I said ‘You’ve got to do last week’s homework before we start this weeks.’  ‘Oh,’ she said, ‘but there’s no point, I won’t be able to get it marked.’  So I explained to her that the point of doing maths homework isn’t just to get the smiley face and the sticker, you’re actually meant to learn the stuff.  At which point she said it was too hard and she couldn’t do it.  So I sat down with her to supervise and when she finished I said, ‘See that wasn’t too hard’.  ‘Yes it was, it was way too complicated’.  And I said, ‘But you got every question right… How can it be too hard if you got every single question right?’.  Well, the reason she thought it was too hard was because she actually had to work out the answer.  She didn’t just know it immediately.  She’s used to it being easy and that makes her feel clever.  Hence she wants to go into a lower Maths group, so she can just know all the answers and feel like she’s clever.  And that’s the problem with giving kids gold stars all the time, that feeling is addictive.  They become more concerned with the reward, or the ‘clever feeling’ they get from the reward, than the learning outcome.
I’m a bit of a slave driver when I supervise homework.  I’m always saying, ‘Is that your best work?’. ‘That’s too messy, rub that out and do it again’.  But that’s because I’m a big believer in the idea that the best reward is the satisfaction of a job well done.  I would rather do half of it properly, than race through just to finish.  So the only reward Caillie gets from me is, ‘Good on you, you’ve finished it,’ or ‘That’s enough, you’ve worked well.’  But you know what, after we finished the exercise, and I pointed out that she got all those hard questions right, I told her it was time for a bath, and you’ll never believe what she said:  ‘Oh, No, mum!  Do I have to?  I want to do more homework!’
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My eldest daughter started kindy this year.  I’m very new at being a school parent and it’s been a steep learning curve for us all.  But now that we’re four months into the school year I think we’re finally starting to get the hang of doing homework.

I don’t think we ever had to do homework at such a young age.

I know we had to do the occasional project and I remember that we used to go home with spelling words to learn in the primary years, but we certainly didn’t have homework in kindy.

It can’t hurt to get into good habits of learning and being disciplined. 

I was talking about this with my husband.  He said he didn’t do any study at all in all his 13 years of school.  If he had assignments, he did them the night before.  He still struggles to be organised and disciplined and I think it’s held him back a little in some areas of his life.  So he certainly wants to see our children form good habits around study and discipline.

The other good thing about homework is that it gives parents a chance to see what their kids are learning and how they’re going with it.

My daughter just gets two pages to complete and they get the whole week to complete it.  Homework books come home on Monday and they have to be handed back in on Friday so it’s not too bad.

For first term we were really quite haphazard with doing homework.  The first time she brought back homework, Birdy was so excited she did it straight away.  But she was also sometimes diving in when I wasn’t able to supervise properly – like when I was cooking dinner or feeding the baby.  So sometimes she was starting it, but not finishing it, or working in pen and making mistakes and crossing them out, or not following the instructions properly – it was all over the place.

It all came to a head about two weeks ago. 

It was Friday morning and her homework still wasn’t finished.  She was supposed to be finishing it while she was eating breakfast.  I turned my back for five minutes and when I came back, she was cutting up bubble wrap and dipping it in blue paint to make a cloudy sky picture.  Very creative and all, but not getting the homework done!

That was when I thought: this just isn’t working!  Something has to change.

Birdy’s homework last week. To draw and label a farm animal.

Now we have a designated homework time.  Homework has to be done between 4pm and 5pm on Tuesday afternoon.  No play dates.  No TV.  No playing outside.  And either myself or my husband has to sit with her the entire time and supervise properly.  Not half supervising while talking on the phone or cooking dinner but really giving it our full attention.  So we tried it for the first time last week and the difference was amazing!  She still did all the work herself, but it was so much better, so much neater, and it was all finished in one easy sitting. Then when it was finished I said, “Well done, you can watch TV for half an hour now!”  So I hope we can stick with that routine and make homework easier for everyone.

Do you think kids get too much homework now?  Do you struggle to get them to complete it?  Do you think it’s a helpful skill for kids to learn to do homework, or is too much pressure on children and their parents?



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