By Rebecca Sullivan
February 24, 2015
Kids hate homework. Parents hate homework. Teachers hate unfinished homework. Homework probably even hates itself.
|Like many Aussie kids, this guy is battling with|
his homework. Source: Getty Images
Homework is the cause of many suburban screaming matches and thousands of grey hairs. Many parents feel like they’re going through school a second time around as they sit down with their children each night and help with their homework.
The average Australian 15-year-old spends six hours a week doing their homework, according to the OECD. And a recent Australian Childhood Foundation survey found that 71 per cent of Australian parents feel like they don’t spend enough quality time with their children, because they spend too much time running the household or helping with homework.
Now several education experts are urging parents to stop helping. They say it will give their kids more independence, give parents back their free time and help reduce the number of homework-related arguments at home.
Homework Actually Isn't That Beneficial
There is extensive research proving that homework has little academic benefit, says associate professor of educational psychology at the University of Sydney and author of Reforming Homework, Richard Walker.
“There isn’t much academic benefit in homework for primary school children. There are some benefits for junior school students and around 50 per cent of senior high school students show some benefit when it comes to academic achievement. But not for primary school kids,” he said.
Psychologist Dr Michael Carr-Gregg agrees: “Homework provides absolutely no academic benefit for younger students. But parents are demanding it in larger and larger doses, despite the fact that it does nothing. It’s a different ballgame in secondary school, but not in primary school.”
But research does show that doing homework helps kids develop “self-directed learning skills”--in other words, initiative, independence and confidence.
Also, homework helps to solidify a sense of belonging and autonomy. It gives kids a sense of control over their lives.
|Homework has minimal academic benefits for|
primary school children. Source: Getty Images
Why Getting Too Involved Does More Harm than Good
Associate Professor Walker says this sense of autonomy is taken away when parents get too involved in homework help.
“If parents are over controlling and interfering then that really has a negative effect,” he said.
“Some involvement is good for self-directed learning, but if they get too involved and the kid loses their autonomy, then it becomes a problem. I think parents have to pull back.”
He says many parents are exerting too much of what he calls “emotional labour”.
“Parents are often tired after a long day at work and having to put in the emotional labour to assist their kids with homework can be quite a burden.”
How Parents Can Take a Step Back
Education expert from yourtutor.com.au, Ciaran Smyth, says parents shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help.
“You don’t have to be the ultimate expert in everything. Children need to put their hands up for help and parents also need to ask for help. There’s no reason to be stuck. Use your resources — teachers, tutors — just ask.”
Online tutoring services such as yourtutor.com — where students can seek help from accredited teachers in a live typed chat from 3pm after school — can help take the pressure off parents.
“I’ve seen so many arguments between parents and children about homework. By removing the burden of having to be the homework help the whole time, parents can reduce the number of arguments, the tension and the bad feelings that come from having to hound your kid all the time.”
If someone else is doing the hard yards helping out with homework, that leaves parents free to do other things and spend more quality (read: argument-free) time with their children, Mr Smyth said.
|Parents who get too involved in their child’s homework are|
doing more harm than good. Source: Getty Images
What Should Kids Do Instead of Homework?
Given the lack of evidence to support the academic benefits of homework in primary school, Dr Michael Carr-Gregg says primary schools should stop giving kids traditional homework exercises and instead equip them with important life skills.
Some schools are already getting on board.
St Michael’s Grammar in Melbourne asks students to play board games such as Scrabble with an adult and photograph the board as proof.
“Or they choose and cook a recipe for dinner and photograph the results — all of which helps with literacy and important life skills,” Dr Carr-Gregg said.
“These are much more pleasant family interactions than homework. Childhood is hard enough as it is without putting the stress of homework on them.”
Dr Carr-Gregg urges parents to “rise up against the tyranny of primary school homework”
“I’m frustrated that schools aren’t responding to the research. I would be putting it on the parents to educate the schools about what is the current thinking around homework. Homework is not being set correctly at the moment. It’s very poorly coordinated.
“If the school is consistently not receptive to the idea, I would write over my kid’s homework, ‘Sleep was more important, I gave them permission to do this’. I really do want parents to act as their kids’ advocates.”