Middleagedmum.com: the homework police

When my oldest teen started secondary school, I signed up to take part in the online parents forum. It’s supposed to be a space where governors, teachers and parents can discuss educational matters and share information, which on the whole is what it’s used for. But occasionally it veers into what I call “middle class professional parent” territory. I have never posted on it,  but like to dip in and take a look from time to time, in the way you follow annoying people on Twitter, or blogs written by people who only ever post pictures of themselves in “kooky” outfits.

Middle class professional parents are experts in all child related topics. They are nutritionists, psychologists and often doctors, but their specialist subject is education. Despite the fact they may be an interior designer, or work in the city, they know far more than their children’s teachers, or even head teacher, about how and what should be taught. And they are not afraid to say – usually in front of all the other parents and teachers on a forum, or in a whole school/year meeting. Their extensive educational knowledge will however, only be relevant to how their own child should be taught, as they are very clearly so much brighter than all the other children – some might even say gifted, or they may have a syndrome – NO middle class child is EVER just a little bit thick.

When I opened up an email from the forum this week, the latest subject being discussed was homework. Admittedly the school’s homework policy is not always adhered to and it seems to be pretty much down to the individual teachers as to whether it is set, or marked. Which is annoying if you have nagged your child all weekend and then ended up doing it for them! (BTW I got an A for my art last week)  But hello, it doesn’t take long to work out which ones are strict about it (RE) and which ones don’t give a toss (maths), so it’s not rocket science to work out which subjects to nag about!

Quite frankly I gave up nagging my son in year 9, when I wrote in his homework diary “as no’one ever checks this, I am not going to bother nagging anymore, as I am tired when I come in from work and as long as he is doing ok in school I don’t really care about homework.” I didn’t get any feedback, so figured we could just get on with our lives. From then on then on after school he went out with his friends, played sport and PS3 and had a life, and I got on with mine.

So when I read the MCPP’s comments about how their children simply don’t get enough homework (apparantley the homework policy says they should get fours hours a week) I had to restrain myself from posting a sarky reply! Who are these people who think their kids should be constantly working and have no social life? What were they doing when they were 14, cos I cant remember ever having any homework. In the 70’s it was all about hanging about spotting the boy you fancied and watching Crossroads!

Teenagers have so much pressure to succeed and get good results, some parents seem to forget that spending time with friends, fitting in and developing social skills are as important (if not more sometimes) as getting A*s in all three sciences. But say this to the kind of parent that fills every waking hour of their kids lives with mind expanding activities and they will look at you as if you have been behind the bike sheds smoking skunk.

So here’s a word of advice if your child has just started secondary school and you are stressing about homework. If you think your child is a genius, struggling to keep up, or somewhere in the middle, give everyone a bit of a break. Next time you feel a nag about homework coming on, go and buy a packet of biscuits, switch on Come Dine with Me and snuggle up on the sofa together. Before you know it, they will have gone to uni and you’ll wonder what all the fuss was about – and there will be no-one to nag them there!

 

16 Comments

  • ruth says:

    I love this sage advice! I have stopped nagging about home work too, everyone needs a break from work including children.

  • Becky says:

    I so so so agree with you. Kids should be having fun after school – they do more than enough work in school – why are they having to do more outside of school ? it’s madness. I went to boarding school where homework was just an extension of classes – we had to do 2 hours a night. Did it do me any good – well I got reasonable results but really I’d rather have been outside playing and I don’t think it would really have made any difference to where I have ended up.

    My son – aged 9 – is more than willing to do his homework, it just takes him ages with all the standard procrastination that goes on – but really I’d rather he be down the park whilst the weather is nice, or playing with his brother and friends. It’s so much more important than studying, learning to be a social being and learning to enjoy life. The sad thing is that every teacher that Jacob has had so far has said that they are against homework but have to give it. Both my boys are at an IB International School and the stress and pressure is far far less than at the British School, which I took my oldest son out of for just that reason – but still I don’t think they should be doing homework at all – no matter how fun it is. I have resolved to not bother about it too much – he gets done what he gets done and what doesn’t get done doesn’t matter.

    Every parent that I speak to stresses about homework – it seems that it is more about testing how good the parent is at getting the children to do something they don’t want to do than teaching the children anything !!!! Abolish it is what I say – my boys are on the sofa with chocolate spread on toast watching cartoons as we speak – I think I’ll go and join them !!!!

  • Caroline says:

    Oh I did enjoy this! For years I thought all my friends children were geniuses (because their parents told me they were). One fellow parent/friend who was my daughter’s teacher even had the nerve to tell me that my child was just ‘very average’ in a class of ‘very gifted’ children. Five years later my daughter was diagnosed with dyslexia (and yes I did ask them and they made me feel pushy) and Irlen Syndrome. All these years on, I’ve realised the other children are just normal. Just like my two.

  • Jane says:

    Oh readers I love you – lets start an abolish homework campaign, meanwhile I’m off to Beckys to sit on the sofa with chocolate spread on toast.

    And Esmerelda, I didnt get any A levels or a maths o level and loved art school!

    Jx

  • Hannah says:

    completely agree with you about the amount of homework (and the pointlessness of much of it) but at least I’d expect children to get some homework in secondary schools – my daughters are in KS1 in a London primary (state, non-church) that places a ridiculous emphasis on regular homework – far beyond the standard reading & spellings. The kids hate homework, I hate homework and I imagine the teachers hate homework and yet, if ever it is missed, a fair proportion of parents are up in arms about it. The worst are the creative projects (‘Build a classical Greek temple using recycled materials’ – I kid ye not…) – as if a six year old can manage that type of construction/art project without heavy involvement from parents who, quite frankly, have better things to do with their time and their children.

  • Esmeralda says:

    I backed off in year 7 just like you – because I thought he ought to start taking responsibility (especially having been invited to join the National Association of Unbelievably Gifted and Horribly Talented Youth – remember them? No wonder parents get above themselves with the encouragement of labels like that.)

    Maybe it is sage advice, because nagging doesn’t do any good. Maybe not. My son has acquired no discernible Love of Learning, no A*s and if he manages to squeak into Art School it will be on the quality rather than the quantity of his portfolio. But he seems like a nice bloke and hugs me occasionally. Would he be off to Oxbridge if I had paid a public school to kick his arse for me for the last five years? Or done it myself? Who knows?

  • Louise says:

    Did you see Room 101? Homework got put in Room 101, by Fern Britten, so that’s where it is if any teacher asks….

    I don’t have kids, and thought it just as well as I don’t think I could manage the homework!! I also didn’t get o level Maths and only got 1 a level (in art and taken the year I took the rest of my o levels)but got to Art school and had a ball. I am amazed at the homework projects I see on kitchen tables on Sunday afternoon’s at friends houses and have taken god daughters sketching in the British museum to help with art folders to help get into secondary school!! I don’t remember my parents ever looking at any homework let alone being involved in it……

  • Marian says:

    I live in the Netherlands and in secundary school it is normal to do one and a half or two hours of homework each day, also in weekends. My son goes to school from 8.30 till 15.30 or sometimes 16.30. He hates schoolwork and although I am a teacher I hate schoolwork too. For two or three years it influenced the relation between my son and me. I was always nagging and didn’t see my lovely boy anymore but only his attitude towards school and homework. At the age of 19 he still didn’t pass his exames (maybe this year!) but we are more relaxed about it and I am happy to say I learnt in time to love my son for what he is; a lovely, kind and friendly boy, my child.

  • debby(m) in germany says:

    It’s the parents, it’s the parents, yes it’s the parents!
    I live in Germany where my daughter attends a state-run school for mentally handicapped children. The vast majority of the kids are non-verbal and their ‘lessons’ involve a lot of basal touchy-feely stuff, but the fitter kids have ‘proper’ lessons in German and maths – and their parents are baying for homework (and I do mean ‘baying’, they’re making an awful fuss about it). Whilst I appreciate that our children need more repetition than average to get information to ‘sit’, they have a very long school day – although we live in one of Germany’s largest cities, our school is nearly an hour away on public transport, so that’s a school day plus 2 hours for a start – and are nearly all in some form of therapy (speech, physio) after school. It’s hard enough to find simple ganes and play time without a therapeutic background anyway, the thought of homework on top of all that makes me teeth hurt!

  • jill says:

    oooo i can smell pushy parents somewhere! I know friends of my daughter who attend, ballet, gym, music, drama, singing, and extra maths classes after school as well as early morning swimming lessons before school! They are never free to come round for tea and a DVD, which is a shame as my daughter would love to see them and ‘chill out’. These parents make me feel a bad mother because we DO watch Come Dine With Me and Escape to the Country always goes down well with a cup of tea and a cake! One Chinese girl wasn’t allowed to go on a residential trip because she was not allowed to miss her extra maths and music lessons! She may grow up to go to Oxford and play at the Royal Albert Hall, but the question must be asked at what price? Childhood is fleeting. Enjoy them while you can. You have been warned!

  • Isabelle says:

    I tried to do as little homework as possible at school and simply sailed by listening in lessons. Worked for me!

  • Anna says:

    I have nddded along with this post and the comments until my neck hurt. My children go to school in a very affluent part of west London (we don’t live there – we couldn’t possibly afford it). My children are only inyears 2 & 4 – we mentioned in our last parent/teacher meeting that the children seem to get rather a lot of homework, the teacher looked amused and told us we were the only ones not to ask for more!!! I also believe that my kids should just have time to play when not at school – maybe even get bored!! I am frequently gasped at because the children don’t do any structured after school activities. I will be very happy if they do well academically but just as happy if they just enjoy school and emerge well adjusted, happy young people.

  • Jane says:

    I’d love to hear from some teachers on this, as I suspect they feel like we do, but are compelled to set homework, otherwise the MCPP’s would be up in arms!!

    Jx

  • emma says:

    As a teacher I can honestly say that I hate homework and think most of it is a waste of time – especially with cut and paste from the internet. The odd essay and memorising stuff for the occasional test is OK, but in my opinion the most valuable thing children could be doing at home after school is reading. Next would be playing a sport they enjoyed. I also think kids who love music should be encouraged to learn an instrument if possible.

  • My son is now in Year 10 but when he first started secondary school homework was indeed a big deal. This was because when I went to parents evening and asked why he was constantly hovering at a C grade the teachers invariably said ‘it’s because his homework isn’t of a high enough quality’. So all through Year 8 I monitored it but our relationship became so strained I had to weigh up what was worse. Of course the relationship won and now he is in year 10 he has matured enough to know that homework needs a modicum of effort if he wants to raise his grade.

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