Friday, 12 August 2011

Homework.....and why I believe it has no place in Primary Education

Today I wrote a letter to the Principal & Vice Principal of my children's Primary school.

A few years ago I wrote a VERY long piece to them about why I believed Primary school children should NOT be doing homework.

A new system was implemented and is now under review.  I jumped at the opportunity to once again state my position.

What makes me sad is I know that the majority of teachers everywhere are on my side so why is it that we are even having this argument?

Here is a copy of the letter I wrote today.

Dear (insert names of Principal & Vice Principal),
I believe home work has ABSOLUTELY NO place in primary school education.
I feel VERY strongly about this.

In the past I studied Early Childhood education.  And although I am no longer teaching,  alot of the principles I learnt about are a feature of my parenting.

I feel passionately about children and their welfare.  This will NEVER leave me.

My whole ethos as a parent revolves around slowing down childhood.

We live in a world spinning so fast with technological advances & information overload from so many avenues.

As adults we struggle to keep up.
Kids are amazing at keeping up.

But at what expense to their well being is it?

And is the information they are exposed to really appropriate for their mental & emotional maturity?
I think alot of the time the answer is no.

As a parent I watch as others juggle the transporting of children from school pick-up to a different activity- some each day , and some more than one on the same day.

Some are whisked off to do more school-like work at tutoring.

Some of these children are putting in LONGER days than a work day.  And they are not even teenagers. Some are not even in double figures. They are babes in the scheme of things.

And then these children come home only to be hassled to complete homework.

Why?  Of what benefit is it to their education?

Here-in lies the heart of the argument for me.

Education is about SO much more than academics.

For me education should be all about learning to LOVE learning.  Learning to LOVE asking questions.

Learning to acquire an appetite to find out MORE and to give people the skills to find out HOW to.

This should be the focus of the Primary years.

And to do this a child needs these things (a by no means exhaustive list) :

To feel happy.
To feel safe.
To feel valued.
To be able to rest.
To have friends.
To have time to play.
To have time to be read to.
To have time to socialise.
To have time to laugh.
To have time to hug someone they love.
To have time to do 'nothing' for a while.

In amongst the rush to encourage our children to 'be prepared' for life as a grown up, the meaning of homework has become blurred.  We now seem to see it as a means to get children 'prepared for high school'.  Only that has filtered down to little preps doing homework too….and so begins the fights & stress between parents and their children regarding 'getting the homework done'.

Research clearly shows that children are no more prepared for high school by having done homework  at primary school.

If it is indeed academic success parents are hoping for the Queensland Education Dept. review on Homework (1994) found that "Academic success has been associated with ‘safe, calm and quiet home environments in which adults have the time and energy to interact with children’." (follow the link here: .

We all know that homes where parents are fighting about homework are neither calm nor quiet! 

And the key part of that sentence is "time & energy to interact with children"- not…... "hound your child to get his/her homework done".

I understand that our school changed the whole approach to homework a couple of years back and integrated the new Work at Home system.

It was great to see such a progressive stance taken…..however I actually don't feel that much has changed.

I still see that in order to fulfil the homework Matrix my children would have to be sitting down for what I consider way too long in order to complete the tasks.  On the rare occasion that one of my children has completed the Matrix it takes AGES!!!!!!!
I just don't think they should be sitting down at a desk at home AT ALL!  They do enough of that at school.

They should be doing the things they already do when they get home, like:
Sitting with me and having a chat, going outside and playing in the sandpit or mud, playing with their brothers, making dinner,  relaxing, patting the dogs, riding their bike, playing their instrument, reading a book, RELAXING!

I know as their parent that they do MORE than enough in their everyday life to fulfil the Matrix requirements.  And you and I both know the true educational value in all of those things.

However I have not and I will not make them sit down and do homework.  They do enough.

And my kids in comparison to most at our school  do very little at all in terms of after school activities- and they go to bed a whole lot earlier too!

The team of teachers at our school are FANTASTIC, DEDICATED, DYNAMIC, PASSIONATE,  & KNOWLEDGABLE.  I consider myself lucky to have my children in amongst you all.

But when their school day is over I want them to just come home and enjoy being a CHILD without any more 'work'.

I hope to see that very very soon there will be a new homework system come into place at our school called "Go home and LOVE being a child."
We all know it doesn't last long enough!

And if not- be warned I will not EVER make any of my children do homework!

Yours sincerely (and hopefully),


  • LOVE
  • TIME
  • WINE (for the parent of course!)
  • COFFEE (ditto above)

Mix together all ingredients in any given ration on any given day.
Watch carefully so as ingredients don't boil over.

Most of all take the time to enjoy the recipe you created.

Today's tune is Jose Gonzalez playing The Nest:


  1. Ruth, I admire you so much! And I agree with you on every level. Your 5 little treasures are so lucky to have you as their Mama! And Jose Gonzalez - le sigh!!! Xxx ps. I hope they listen to you.

  2. I hope with all my heart that they listen to you. I'm a big advocate for slow childhood and giving children the chance to be children, to enjoy a happy childhood at their own pace, and agree with you on every level.

    This age is precious and to be cherished, not lost to the sight of a child slumped over a desk night and day for school. When is the time for family, friends, freedom to pursue their own interests, or do nothing at all?

    I agree that they do enough at school and have the view that the time that my children are at school is time for school work, but when they're home - that's our time. Our time alone that they will each choose to use in the way that is best for them.

    I will not ever make my children do homework either, and will be supporting them wholeheartedly if they choose not to do it. As well as hoping that homework will be cut from our primary school too.

  3. Oh Ruth, I am right there with you! I've never actually taken a stance on it though, partly because I have no faith that it will ever be abolished. Sad but true. However, we are lucky that, from talking to other parents, we seem to get considerably less homework than other schools, and certainly so in the early years.
    It is insane, when you think about it sanely, isn't it? And your letter puts it so succinctly, and honestly: '...when their school day is over I want them to just come home and enjoy being a CHILD without any more 'work'.

    Fair play to you! And I hope they listen. :-)

    Coincidence #111: I just recently pulled out an old blogpost of mine that you might enjoy. I am planning a wee Redwork piece using the first part of it, the Anon. quote, and I might just have to send it to you now! xxxx

  4. Excellent post, Ruth. I have heard of schools where the homework is doing some of the things you mention here:

    "Sitting with me and having a chat, going outside and playing in the sandpit or mud, playing with their brothers, making dinner, relaxing, patting the dogs, riding their bike, playing their instrument, reading a book, RELAXING!"

    - Injera
    I hope you get a positive response from your letter.

  5. Well written! Agree with every thing you've said. You have given your boys the gift of childhood. What a beautiful Mum, what lucky kids. X

  6. Fantastically written! Could not agree more.

  7. Man you rock!
    Your boys are the luckiest boys in the world, except for mine of course :)
    It is such a stupid waste of time to force to kids to do things like homework sheets. As my mum who taught primary for 30 years always says, 'never let school get in the way of your education.' She knows. You know too. xox

  8. Hi, I found you from Cat at BeLoverly and I am so glad I did! I agree wholeheartedly and guess what? I'm one of those primary school teachers who sets homework for their students. I teach Year 1/2 (6-8 Year olds) and it is our school culture that they practice reading and spelling words each night. It's not much, but as you say so many of these children are doing one or two activities after school EVERY night already, and homework takes it's toll on them and their families. Maybe one day I will feel strong enough to fight the deeply ingrained culture of our education system, but right now I'm still finding my feet in it.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts, I've read a few of your posts now and I'm really enjoying seeing the world from where you sit.

  9. Good on you, my totally brilliant, non-homeworking daughter! Or do all those hours 'teaching' Charley the dog in your cubby on the front verandah count?? I love Stella's mother's 'never let school get in the way of your education'.
    Teachers need to hear from you wise parents that you want your children to thrive and grow free of the demon homework.
    Great to see Queensland Ed. Dept. got it right.

  10. wow! i just discovered your blog through meet me at mikes. i love this post. and i so agree. i am so lucky to have 2 bright children who have easily grasped the concepts of reading and writing and i find homework a real chore for them. they love to read and draw and make their own "work" but they just do not like having to sit down and do the work from school. all this makes so much more sense to me now that i have read your thoughts. thanks so much. sandra x

  11. As a pant with a child heading to school next year, I had no idea there was so much homework these days.

    Can't imagine we will do much here other than reading.

  12. Thank you for sharing this Ruth. I am strongly in agreement, however after another ILP meeting where we ended up discussing the importance of building routine, I am feeling really frustrated that we aren't being listened too on this one... We will see where it ends up - but like you, I am not prepared to have battles that just leave us all feeling like rubbish... xx


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