My eldest started school in September. When we went to view schools one questions I always asked was, “What’s your homework policy?” I was adamant that I didn’t want her to go to a school that pressured them with homework. She is four. She doesn’t need that in her life and what’s more, I don’t need it in my life. In the end, we ended up sending her to a school that we never viewed or asked for. It’s a great school, but don’t get me started on the homework. 

There is literally shed loads of research on this topic. You can read about the link between homework and anxiety, or a comparison of homework loads in different countries in relation to levels of income and social inequality (spoiler: countries with lower incomes and higher social inequality have higher homework loads). There are studies linking homework and sleep disruption and a host of other research that suggests, pretty convincingly that there’s little benefit to be gained from homework for primary school kids and what benefit there might be is probably outweighed by the negative effects it can have.

All that aside, on a personal note, homework is a massive pain in my ass. Apart from the fact that the communication from the school regarding homework and expectations is woeful – Is it obligatory? How long do they have to do it? How much should we be helping them? – I’m simply drowning in it. Each week, my eldest has the following:

  • A homework sheet with 6-7 tasks surrounding the topic they’ve been covering in school. For example, ‘Can your child retell the story? What words can they use to describe the characters? Can they draw a picture of the story and write words to describe the scene?’
  • They have two phonics-based reading books that must be read each week.
  • They have a library story book that we should read with them.
  • They have to learn to read by sight individual words (10 at a time) that they are tested on each week until they pass those words and then move up.
  • They have a stapled pack of 4 sheets each focussing on a ‘sound’ / ‘letter’. They have to write a line of the letter and colour in the picture.

I can see the value in each one of these things but I can’t see the value in doing all of these things every week. The mornings (after breakfast and before school) seem to be the optimal time for Billie to focus on reading, or words, or sounds, or writing but between two kids, cereal everywhere, two adults getting ready for work, the last minute uniform ironing session and a shit-fit here and there, it’s not really optimal for me. After school, the last thing I want to do is sit her straight down to ‘work’ again and then by the time she’s had a snack and a rest, getting her to do anything is like knitting with spaghetti. Inevitably, it ends in bribery and the ensuing homework session is like getting blood from a very tired, grumpy stone.

At first, she was delighted to do homework. It was a novelty. It was grown up. It was the next step. It was exciting. Now though, it’s a chore just like brushing teeth and tidying the living room. It’s an exercise in ticking boxes and frankly, I’m done with it. They say the homework is not ‘obligatory’ but, you know, it is. No one has yet to put their head above the intimidating school parapet and say, “So, we’re not going to worry too much about homework. Hope that’s ok?” but I’m going to not just for the sake of mine and Billie’s sanity but, most importantly, for the sake of her love of learning.

She’s voracious in her appetite for learning. She loves language, she loves words. She loves creating stories and drawing pictures. She loves adding and counting and reading and no matter how ‘good’ she gets at those things, no matter how academic she is or isn’t, what’s important is that we cultivate a love of learning, an appetite for information. Pinning her down to the kitchen table and bribing her to learn with chocolate ice-cream, is not the way to do that.

I used to be a high-school teacher – English – and the homework policy was dictated by the school. I was told how much homework I had to set for each year group and even though I complied by this policy, I was painfully aware of how much homework they were getting every single night. I tried to make the homework as painless and useful as possible but after easing up a bit on my exam groups, I remember being told to ‘set more homework’ after their homework diaries had been checked. It made me question why I was setting it. If I was setting it to facilitate and support their learning then surely the amount would vary according to what we did and didn’t do in the classroom? Surely, as their teacher, I had the responsibility to set the homework I felt was necessary? That wasn’t the case though for me when I was teaching and it doesn’t seem to be the case for Billie’s school either.

Instead, it feels like homework is there to be more ‘habit forming’. It appears to be more about discipline than about learning. It feels like it’s designed to ‘get them used to it early on’ rather than to enhance their educational experiences. If that’s the case, then I’m calling bullshit. Nobody made me pay bills when I was four to ‘get me used to it’. No one left me alone in the house overnight as a small child so that I’d be ready for it when I was older. There are some things that small kids don’t need to do or to worry about and for me, homework is one of them.





  1. Claudette says:

    It’s an ongoing dilemma here too. By a certain age, some good study habits should be established but certainly not in the early years. I see my 8th grader with almost no homework noticing his very good marks slide a little. Why? He never had homework and doesn’t know how to study. (Mom telling him to review is received with mixed results). At the same time, he has fond memories of his early grades because he wasn’t bogged down by work. Sigh.


  2. Michelle says:

    I hate homework!!! I used to homeschool but this year, my two youngest (7th and 11th grade) went off to school. My oldest daughter graduated and is working. She’s on the spectrum so no college as of yet.

    My 7th grader alwats has homework. The first 2 months sucked. Last night I spent an hour riding his butt to get his math done. Its terrible they don’t let the kids do their work in class. I don’t get it.

    My oldest has a few classes with teachers who hate homework. She has some that don’t though. But at least some of the classes are more lax. She gets anxiety from it but it’s better than what my son has to deal with.

    I think it’s unrealistic to give kids homework. We leave our work at work. Why can’t they leave their school at school?


  3. beingbethanyrose says:

    I’m with you. I think it’s too much early on. Then spend all day at school, why should they then come home and spend another hour working, when they could be out playing. Socialising with their siblings. Relaxing.

    Our school also set homework online which infuriates me. In a world where I’m trying to reduce my kids screen time, why are you making them go on?

    It is obligatory though and other than a “have you got your log on details for the homework app?” Nothing more has ever been said to me.


  4. Emma says:

    I teach Year 4, and I talk to my children a lot about the ‘triangle of responsibility’- in terms of their academic progress, a third of the input comes from me, a third from help at home, and a third from them. The kids that get all three in equal measure are the ones that really fly. However, do I think they need to be doing reams and reams of extra work at home in order to get that ‘input’ there? No. I ask my children’s parents to read with them for fifteen minutes a day, practise their target times table in a five minute window daily and otherwise focus on having a nice evening together unwinding as a family and getting to bed at a decent hour ready for another day’s learning, I’ll take care of the rest. We also do a lot of work from an early age teaching the kids to love learning and understand why practising these key skills will be so useful for them, so it’s not usually hard for them to spend those twenty minutes on reading and maths at home – most of them incorporate it into a bedtime story or having an ongoing times table contest with siblings, with stickers on the fridge etc. Over the holidays, I send them home with a ‘Christmas/Easter/summer bucket list’ of things to do to really relax and recuperate, eg eat breakfast outdoors, climb a tree, plan and cook a meal for the whole family, take some old toys or books to the charity shop, send a postcard to an elderly family member or friend. In my experience, they need these bucket lists more over the holidays, and they always look forward to getting them and telling me what they’ve been up to on the first day back!


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