Monday, 24 September 2018

Dear Teacher, your homework is ruining our weekends

Dear Teacher,

I don’t want to fail my daughter and I don’t want to feel I am failing as a mum, but it can’t be right for homework to cause so much distress for our family? I want another way, a better way, a way where learning is fun. So if I start sending in a letter week after week saying the cat ate the homework please trust I am thinking of my daughter’s mental health as well as my own. It is not laziness or forgetfulness and I am not critical of your methods, but this homework thing really isn’t working for us.

A young child writing with lots of pencils


This weekend has seen yet another occasion where my daughter has cried and shouted for hours because of the homework set by school. I don’t believe that is helpful to her education or to my relationship with my daughter.

Why was she crying? The task for this weekend was to create a self portrait and surround it with writing to say interesting facts about herself. There were two major barriers to completing this homework: my eldest is a perfectionist who isn’t very good at art and she has low self esteem. We also had the additional challenge of encouraging her to sit and do homework on her birthday weekend when there were extra distractions in the house.

It started well, M loves art and Granny took her to Hobbycraft so she could buy fun things to complete her self portrait with. The problem started as soon as she put pencil to paper, the face shape she drew wasn’t the shape she wanted. She loves art, but for her the best type of art is process art where she can just enjoy drawing, painting, sticking etc without having to worry about the end result. By asking her to draw a self portrait that’s not just saying the end result needs to look like a face, but her face. Like pretty much every 6 year old in the country she is not capable of creating a portrait that is a mirror image of her face, and I don’t believe the school expects one, but, dear teacher, you have asked her to create a self portrait so a mirror image is what she feels she should create.

I spent some time showing her portraits by Picasso and other “modern art”. I tried explaining that self portraits can be more of a reflection of how she feels about herself and that now we have cameras there is no reason a portrait needs to look like real life, but she didn't agree. I tried suggesting that she could take a photograph of herself and we would get it printed out, but she was fixated on what she felt she had to do.

After several attempts, tears and shouting we have ended up with a face which could be considered half finished, but it has hair, eyes and mouth so I feel that with the addition of the required text it will tick the box of the homework. Because you see that’s all I aim for, ticking a box so she doesn’t get a black mark against her name, so her report card doesn’t have a negative on it.

How much more enjoyable is it when we spend a few hours at the table creating art for pleasure? How many more skills does she learn on those occasions? And how much does it help develop her creativity and love of art? 

Sisters sitting at a table drawing

I know she needs to practice to write, draw and read and there are occasions she is happy to sit down and focus on the work, but more often it is a painful experience for us both. It makes me feel a failure as a mother. With the expectation that our child reads allowed to us every night, practices their handwriting in joined up writing, learn spellings, complete the projects and uses the school apps it’s a huge pressure on our time together and I know we get much less homework than other schools. 

I only have M half of the time. That should mean I do half of the homework, but it is often the case that I seem more worried about ensuring the reading and handwriting practice is completed. But having her half the time means I only have a small amount of time with M each week. I want her to play, I want her to read the books she chooses, I want her to cook if she wants to, to watch TV, to have fun with me and her sister, I want to go out to places the will enjoy and learn as a byproduct. But homework (and the accompanying tears and tantrums) end up taking priority. 

With two, soon to be three, children it can be hard to find the one on one time with M that her homework needs. I really resent that the majority of one on one time I do have with my eldest daughter is spent arguing over homework. Even if the homework was a pleasurable experience it’s not really the lasting memories I want her to have of me. 

I would be happy for M to complete the homework on her own, but most of the time I have to be there because she needs to ask questions and have advice. Then of course reading aloud is pointless without an adult listening. She much prefers to read to herself anyway and will spend a whole day with her nose in a book if allowed, but she will rarely take the time to ask us about the words she doesn’t understand when that’s the case. I know it’s important and I am keen to listen when she wants to do it, but that often ends up being at 9pm, a time she should be sleeping and I should be working.

I fully support the importance of learning at home as well as school, but I have started to wonder the consequences of refusing to complete the homework set by the school. 

Best wishes

A grumpy mum

A girl sitting in a reading corner fully absorbed in a book


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6 comments

  1. Ahh! We used to have battles every weekend with my youngest about doing homework. It used to fill me with dread. There was no getting out of it though. If she didn't do it at home she would do it at school in detention which she preferred.

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    1. I think M might prefer to do it in at school instead, she doesn't really enjoy playtimes.

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  2. We have battles every weekend with James over homework. Now he's in year two we get homework book on a Thursday to complete for Monday plus a spelling sheet on a Monday to learn for the Friday plus reading book every day

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    1. That really isn't long enough to avoid putting so much pressure on them

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  3. It's the weekly spellings that annoy me the most. Our youngest granddaughter is 5 (yr 1) - I do school pick up 3 days a week. 5 year olds do not want to sit writing lists of words ever night. Nor do they need a spelling test every Friday. It may not matter if they get some wrong, but it matters to her - a little perfectionist. This week's examples - cleaner, neater, reader. Her 9 year old sister is fine, well organized, and whizzes through her work, but it's too much for younger children. Having put my own kids through school & uni I understand the system, but it's ridiculous asking so much of younger ones.

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    1. Those are harder spellings than my daughter has in year 2! I think it is absolutely harder on the perfectionists, as much as I try and convince her it's trying that's the important thing she gets so worked up

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