Homework, a habit worth challenging!

It may seem simplistic to say that the problem with the concept of homework is that it comes directly from the notion of learning as ‘work’; but this is a notion that we believe our lifelong learners of today simply don’t need. At BIS we are about loving learning, whether at school or at home, and recently it seems other Australian schools have begun to adopt a similar approach.

Thoughts of homework is one of those primary school memories that makes most parents and children shudder. We have all either been on the end of that pencil frantically scribbling away, or trying to support the frantic little child holding the pencil. Either way, it is a memory that stays in our body and mind that is rarely associated with anything but drudgery and tiredness; the worst way to feel about learning!

The problem with assigning formal homework can be broken down into some key concerns:

  • Children need time to connect their body, their imagination, their families and friends
  • Homework, by definition, defines school learning as ‘work’ never ‘play’
  • Parents are not teachers!

Children need time to connect their body, their imagination, their families and friends

Our concrete world child needs time and space to be able to explore the world around them and to imagine the world in their minds. Their wee bodies are always constricting to cope with shared spaces and shared rule systems, and it is only when they get home that they can breathe and release that pressure. Homework, like constantly scheduled after-school activities, deprives children of this freedom.

At BIS we make sure that our students have plenty of opportunity to move and stretch in their classroom environment but we also know that once school is over that is when they really need to ‘yahoo!’, and most days our after-school playground is filled with families doing just that!

Homework, by definition, defines school learning as ‘work’ never ‘play’

All too often children experience the end of playtime with their parents due to the demands of ‘work’; whether in the home or in the office. The association of school and learning as being a child’s ‘work’ happens very quickly, as the adults around them refer to the need to ‘get their work done’ before they can relax or go out to play. By taking away play even more from the already exhausted child, the concept of homework supports and maintains the insidious notion of learning as ‘work’.

At BIS we know that home learning is just as important as school-based learning! Spending time with friends and family; caring for and playing with pets; playing with their imagination in quiet moments; cooking, cleaning and playing with toys all provide opportunities for growth and new knowledge. Each of these will help a child form their attitude towards learning, creative thinking, communication and problem solving, as well as ensuring the health of their minds and bodies. For these reasons, during their first 4 years at BIS we only ask that our students’ home learning be about developing a love of reading, writing and numbers through moments of shared learning together.

Parents are not professional teachers!

We know that learning can’t always be fun. Primary-aged children have to gradually learn the process of working through difficult and challenging learning breakthroughs; and they do this with support from their Teaching Teams. Homework has often been seen as the mechanism by which to stimulate this type of support structure at home. However, unlike teaching staff, parents are rarely given the training or tools required to really help their child. Watching Mr Incredible struggle with just such a challenge, I was struck with how often parents must find themselves in this dilemma.

At BIS we ensure that we support our parents with lots of opportunities to learn about our teaching model, and we share regular updates on the themes for each term’s focus, along with home-based learning that your can explore together. Our teachers are also eager to talk and share at their twice-yearly 45 minute sessions with each family. We want to help you to skill you up, just in case you want to work with your child at home.

Extending your child’s learning into their home context helps them to build new associations and to see the opportunities for joyful learning both at home or at school; but formal homework is not needed to achieve this. We know that your child has to get ready for their transition to high school, and a gradual introduction to homework is therefore part of the last two years of their time at BIS. Prior to this, our home learning is centred around reading regularly together and working on number facts. The only rule is: never, ever make it painful! We don’t want your child to ever feel dread – we want them to love their learning and for it to be about excitement and joy.

Jen Haynes

Principal@bis.qld.edu.au