By Tiana Vitlic
It’s no secret that busy parents struggle with daily house chores and managing family time, let alone having to assist their children to complete homework. For parents, this happens all too often as homework becomes a part of their daily routine.
A number of primary schools in New South Wales has implemented the option for parents to opt out of homework after taking into consideration the struggle parents face in taking the time to help their children. While the number of schools employing this option is minimal at present, there has been much debate on the matter.
Linda Couani, 41, is a mother of two daughters, aged 5 and 7, who attend a primary school in Sydney’s south-west. As a working mother, Mrs Couani is pleased to be able to opt out of homework.
“I find it very difficult to spend the time completing homework on a nightly basis. It takes away from family time, too,” she says, adding that homework should be limited to reading and revision.
“I think reading is important. I also think revising what the children have already learnt in school is a much better way to tackle learning at home. But this concept of bringing new work home and learning a whole new component is a joke.”
Mrs Couani’s youngest daughter, currently in kindergarten, receives homework that consists of a program called Mathletics, an iPad application called Reading Eggs, in addition to assigned home reading. Her older daughter, who is in the third grade, not only receives textbook exercises and assigned homework, she is also required to complete two assignments per term.
“The most recent assignment was to make a brochure on an Australian National Park and present it to the class on a USB stick. We spent quite a few hours working on that.”
She believes extra work can take its toll on young children.
“I don’t think it improves their academic performance. We should be able to go home at night and revise, not drain them with extra work,” she says.
However, some mothers disagree.
Manda Woods, 34, is a stay-at-home mother of three children, two of whom are Infants.
“When my first daughter started kindergarten, I thought it was way too much for such a young child,” she says. “There was a lot of pressure to learn the amount she was given each week, way too much in such a short time.”
“My daughter used to cry sometimes and say ‘Mum, it’s too much’. My heart broke when I heard this. But what was I to do? Not help her with the homework and watch her fall behind?”
Mrs Woods believes that with enough encouragement and persistence, completing set homework and assisting one’s children in understanding their work can pay off tremendously in the end.
“My daughter was put into a composite class the following year. She’s now top of her class. I find her much happier and eager to learn. I credit that to the amount of homework she received in her first two years. It may have been hard but it certainly paid off!”
In her opinion, any extra time children spend on homework can help with giving them confidence in their learning. She says her second daughter, who recently entered kindergarten, receives a significantly less amount of homework and should be given more.
“I heard that in the first three years of school, one day equals three days to a child. They must learn the basics and foundations of future learning, such as phonics, reading, and writing. In my view, homework is an extremely important factor in their primary education.”
Mrs Woods also places importance on maintaining a balance between homework and family time, as well as ensuring her children are “having fun and enjoying being kids”.
“If you spread it out, each minute spent with them helps. Time and effort equals success.”