Many people still hold strong and opposing views about whether homework is a totally unacceptable imposition on home life or if it does indeed add value to a child’s education.
I’m of the opinion that as we aren’t likely to go down the road of France and ban it anytime soon, we should certainly keep the debate alive and continue to ask pertinent questions about the efficacy of homework; in general as well as with specific examples.
From the many conversations I have with children, parents and teachers it seems to me that homework has so often become the ‘elephant in the room’. This elephant has taken up residence in so many schools without anyone knowing the date it arrived, who invited it or why it is still there at all.
It is recognisable insofar as its features remain the same: Elephants have big ears, a trunk and never forgets things: homework is about a reading book, spellings or learning logs. It goes home on a Tuesday/Weds/ Friday and that’s it really. That’s what the elephant in our school does. It’s always been that way and no-one wants to upset an elephant, do they?
Who owns the elephant? Does it belong equally to the school, parents and children?
What are its main characteristics and what effect is it having on children and families?
What would happen if we asked our elephant to leave? People might notice – but for how long? Who would care?
I think the question we should really ask is: Are there alternatives to the elephant?
It is true that elephants are intelligent creatures so we might, after careful thought, want our elephant to stay. But what if we considered inviting some alternatives to come and work with us for a while? And if we monitored the effect these had on children’s motivation and learning outcomes we would start to understand what this homework thing is all about – well maybe.
What about these for alternatives to the elephant?:
Chimpanzee - The impressive intellectual abilities of these animals have long fascinated humans. They can make and use tools, hunt collectively, and are capable of advanced problem-solving.
Dolphin - extremely social animals. They have their own language to communicate. They have incredibly powerful brains and aesthetic sensibilities – they also never sleep.
Rat - highly intelligent if much-maligned animal. It is highly skilled in abilities to find shortcuts, loopholes and escape routes – a quick learner if ever there was one.
Parrot - widely recognised as smart birds. They can do many wonderful things with their stunning beaks. A parrot can mimic human words, understand the meanings, can remember many words and make sentences.
Pigeon: - has a great memory. They are able to recognise themselves in the mirror, can remember hundreds of different images/photos and learn routes to their home from long distances.
Octopus – considered one of the smartest creatures in the sea although there is still much we don’t know: scientists are constantly discovering new and impressive octopus abilities. They play, solve problems, navigate through mazes and have a respectable short-term memory.
Which of these skills do we want for children?
Why not make a start by talking to and about your elephant? Who knows - you might end up asking it to pack its trunk and leave..
Our digital download - Let’s Think Homework offer some alternatives - meant to stimulate the debate in your school about whether homework exist at all - and if so what should it be?