Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Should kids have homework?

I was so saddened recently to hear that Tricky will be having homework set this year.

In year one.

I don't mean sharing a book with parents and siblings before bed - which has been shown to have a clear correlation to increased developmental outcomes, both emotional and academic - but worksheets and the like - which research shows has no academic benefit, particularly for children in lower primary school.

I keep being told that I should start preparing my child for highschool because he'll have lots of homework then. The kid hasn't even lost his first tooth yet and homework policy at schools around the country is dictating that he should be starting to knuckle down and get in the habit for something that won't be starting for another six years. Can he not just be a child for a while? Is the six hours at school a day not enough?

My argument was shot down recently by someone who used the old "failing to prepare is preparing to fail" argument and said by opting out of homework for my five year old I was disadvantaging him by not preparing him for highschool.

Prepare, prepare, prepare. It's all I hear.

Just so we're clear, we are talking about getting FIVE YEAR OLDS ready for highschool? Right. I think that can wait. Some countries, that have far greater average academic performance than Australia, don't even send their kids to school until they are SEVEN! There is plenty of time to teach our children study skills, but the time for them to play and be little is evaporating before our eyes.

Then the second he gets to highschool, if it was anything like my highschool, every day someone will mention preparing for university. What if he doesn't want to go to university? What if he wants to drive trucks, or be a carpenter, or join the circus? I remember my friends and I were at times terrified of not getting a high enough tertiary entrance score because it meant we'd never get in to uni which meant we'd never get a "good job" which meant we'd become homeless and we'd die alone and unhappy. A little extreme, but this is exactly how our teenage brains interpreted the pressure to get a first round uni offer.

I'm not against giving kids the tools they need in life, in fact I'd argue that I'm about giving them more tools, but why are we so fixated on preparing them for only one portion of their lives? Can we not cater to the whole child who will become a whole adult, not just a working robot? Someone who has relationships. A family. Interests. A fucking life!?

In the copious amounts of therapy that I've had (and believe me, it's a lot), I've learned that creating a balance between the big things in your life, the things that make you YOU, is imperative. Not just for the good times, but for the bad times - if your identity is based around one aspect of your life, like your career, and that one thing ceases to exist, well, you can be pretty fucked.

If I am my job, then who am I if my position is made redundant? Am I still worthy? Do I have enough of everything else in life, or has the loss of one sector annihilated my entire sense of self?

I don't want that for me (it was hard enough thinking it in highschool) and I certainly don't want that for my kids. I want them to know that life is more than just test results and careers. It's about love, and passion, and fun, and sadness, and heartache, and spirit, and playfulness, and family, and friends, too.

I don't want my child to come home and do more work.

I want my child to come home and pretend - to prepare his mind for creative thinking.

I want my child to come home and bake - to prepare him to cook when he leaves home.

I want my child to come home and play sport - to prepare his body for a healthy life that isn't just sitting down all day.

I want my child to come home and relax - to prepare him to find a work life balance.

I want my child to come home and be with his family - to prepare him to be with his own family.

I want my child to come home and socialise - to prepare him for all the different relationships he'll have over his lifetime.

So I bring back the saying here, again: To fail to prepare is to prepare to fail. By preparing our children to succeed at only one aspect of their lives... we are preparing them to fail at others.

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