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Homework: How much is too much or too soon?

Confession: I Hate Homework

homework how much is too much

I hate homework. I hate it more as a parent than I did as a student (and trust me, I wasn’t a fan of it then either). I’d even say I hate it more than my children do now. HATE it. Yet, I still attempt to enforce it at home.

Though, when I say “attempt to enforce”, I mean – I remind my kid to do it. I tell him when it’s due. But I don’t sit next to him and make him do it. Sometimes it’s just too hard to muster the conviction to make it sound like I really believe he should do it.

Because I don’t.

Homework In The First Years Of School

I don’t believe that piles of homework, especially in early years of primary school, are actually beneficial. In prep my son was sent home with work that was so hard he couldn’t even read the question, let alone attempt to answer it. Homework just made him feel stressed and inadequate. Which meant I felt stressed and inadequate, because I didn’t know how to help him. There were many tears – from both of us – over homework.

My daughter started primary school on Tuesday and in her first five days of school has had homework THREE TIMES. The first two pieces were described as “optional”, but yesterday she brought home an official looking “homework book” and informed me she would need to bring it home every day – which seems pretty intense for Prep!

Admittedly I thought it was cute when my son was given homework on his first day of school too, but the novelty has thoroughly worn off in our household.

It just seems like too much, too soon. Especially when there is debate over whether or not homework is actually beneficial in the early years of primary school.

The Issue Isn’t Teachers

I understand that it’s not just coming from the teachers. I spoke to my son’s Grade 2 teacher last year about what I thought was an unreasonable workload. She said if she didn’t assign large amounts of work some parents would complain that it’s not enough.

There are also teachers who give homework, even if they don’t personally agree with it, because it’s the standard set by the school.

So, we end up with teachers are assigning more homework than they personally feel is appropriate, and parents like me enforcing it even though I don’t agree with it, and children doing the homework – even though they certainly aren’t happy about it.

It seems like a broken system.

What Is The Solution?

I really do think we need to take some of the pressure off young children. Everyone would agree that stress and anxiety do not make for a positive learning environment.

I also think the style of homework set for younger children should be more play based or experiential learning – rather than endless worksheets. And keep the volumes of work small. Children already spend so much time in class, they understandably get burnt out and need some down time when they get home.

A friend said:

As a teacher and parent, for most students I wouldn’t ever set more than 10 minutes of reading, under year 4 level. However if they need extra assistance with spelling or maths, then I’d encourage parents to spend a few minutes helping them with that.

Which sounds perfectly reasonable to me.

And then maybe parents who do want to extend their child’s learning, and have their child doing extra work at home absolutely can choose to do that themselves. There are endless downloadable work sheets and activities online. Or they talk to their child’s teacher about maybe assigning them extra work, but not the whole classroom. Maybe homework is beneficial for enthusiastic individuals, but I feel like all this pressure is not good for my children.

What do you think? How much homework is appropriate in the early years of school?

About Rachel Stewart

Rachel is the founder of Parenting Central Australia. She is raising two children, boy and girl, with her partner.She has a background in early childhood education, but right now is content to be a stay at home mum.She is passionate about birthing rights, breastfeeding and mental health. She enjoys crafting, drinking coffee (sometimes wine) and spending a little too much time on Facebook.

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52 comments

  1. Claire Campton

    I think it’s perfectly acceptable to tell the school that your child won’t be doing home work. Sure, read to them each night, work on any areas that your child is struggling in, but home work every night, as a matter of course? No way!

  2. Naomi Burgess

    My daughter got no homework in the first year of school (kindy here) just readers. In year 1 she got homework sent home on Monday and had to do 3 of the 6 short items by Friday. One was always a physical activity, another always based on her reader so could be done in a few minutes after her reading. It never took long and if it wasn’t done, it wasn’t a big issue.

  3. Eiryn Miles

    We get phonics, tricky words and a key chain of basic words. Phonics is basically draw a picture to match that sound. Tricky words is just looking at the word together and trying to memorize it. The key chain you can keep for as long as it takes your child to confidently learn it.

    The teachers had an hour long meeting with hand outs to talk parents through it.

    It’s just reinforcing what is taught in class.

    I would say – communication with the teacher is key to how much stress results from homework.

    • Roslyn Tilley

      And how many parents will do this homework with their children?????

    • Eiryn Miles

      We have started doing a bit on our drive home after school. “What sound did you learn today?” “Ssss” “So what starts with ssss?” Then when I read bedtime story, “What letter is this? What sound does it make?” I guess, it’s fit it in when you can. Bath time: Ssssoap.

      Every parent is different, we all have different time constraints, and it becomes hard as a parent to do everything – teach life skills such as cooking, cleaning, manners, emotions, safe bodies, as well as participate in their education, and also allow children to be children and just play…

      But I think we live in a time when schools need to pack so much into their curriculum in order to produce young people with the necessary abilities to compete in a workforce that is worldwide and often cheaper offshore – we have to give teachers fair go and reinforce the basics at home, participate in reinforcing learning at home so they can maximise their in-class teaching.

      So, I can’t answer wholsesale how many parents will; but I know that I will, and I know most of the parents of my acquaintance and family are. I know my parents did with myself and my siblings.

  4. Alyce Dunstan

    My son’s teacher has said there’ll be no homework in term 1, but maybe the occasional project.

  5. Kerrie King

    Mine had readers when they were little, the the work sheet home Monday return Friday.
    Then not a lot in older yrs as you need home time, and that was their down fall. High school, college mega homework each subjects, and my kids were not ready for it…. Speak to the teacher, don’t stop homework, see if there is some other system that doesn’t stress your kid, cause I can say it will be extremely harder in higher levels of learning if you don’t

  6. Melissa Sorini

    Agree. Homework in FYOS is bullshit. They wanted my five year old to write and present his own speeches. The only problem? He could barely read or write. Urgh.

    • Parenting Central

      YES! How is that supposed to work?!?!

    • Melissa Sorini

      It didn’t. I basically “wrote” his speeches and who knows what the fuck he actually said in class. LOL. Lucky he’s a chatterbox so I’m sure he had no problem ad-libbing the whole thing. A totally painful and pointless exercise that I refused to do after the first few weeks. I am not anti-homework, but it needs to be age appropriate.

  7. Amy Ahearn

    I hate homework. I think young kids are exhausted enough so I question the value, tbh.

  8. Janna Clerke

    my kids will not bedoing homework for at least a few year. let kids be kids

  9. Lisa Plunkett

    I liked the level of homework my daughter got last year (Year 2). Help around the house, do something active, do something creative, do something to relax, read your home reader, some spelling, prepare for news/show and tell. 🙂

  10. Carole Hosking

    Stupidity, there should be no homework, what are they trying to do..

  11. Tory Warren

    I don’t remember getting homework as a kid. I got school projects which they would tell us to work on over the course of weeks instead but no homework apart from reading a chapter of a book or something. Feels like kids are getting so much more now!

  12. Ellen McNally

    If they dont know what to do, it gets sent back here. Whether they are 5 or 15. Homework is revision only.

  13. Helen King

    That is bizarre – so early in the year, and in prep too (don’t they go through a process for the first few weeks, on the day off / half days to find out where each child is at, or is that just my kids’ school?) Poor girl – that’s just wrong.

  14. Roslyn Tilley

    Ban all primary school homework…..too much else can be educational at home and surrounds!!!

  15. Elle Ski

    Wowsers! My child is in grade one and has never had homework. What a contrast! 📚🎓

  16. Dani Netherclift

    No way! What possible value does it have for a prep child? Just give them their readers!

  17. Denise White

    Totally unreasonable and way too much pressure put on the poor child that she ends in tears

  18. Lauren Elise Threadgate

    It baffles me how we can, on one hand, have so much data available to us about the significance of learning through play, and then on the other have schools doing what feels like their best to ensure kids don’t get enough time for it

  19. Natasha Ferguson

    Agree that it’s all about the style. So far we’ve only had 15 mins of reading each night for Miss T. We’ll see what happens this year!

  20. Kate Shelby

    Its ridiculous. Its also a lot of pressure on the parent. We are trying to squeeze so much in.

    Do the math. If you work full time & use one day in your weekend’s to do swimming lessons/sport, housework and homework you only have 4-5 days PER MONTH of freedom.

    I’m sorry but I’m sick and tired of our children being conditioned that any spare time should be used for more “work”. It sickens me!

    3 pages of homework + maths revision, spelling words every night, sight words & home reading every night. I have 3 kids, when do we get to enjoy each other?

  21. Ellen McNally

    And lets not forget those parents who think more is needed to succeed, despite the significant research showing this not to be accurate for the most, in the younger years

  22. Melissa Sorini

    Preschool in daycare is even better 😉

  23. Michelle Leanne Barrington

    My child’s school doesn’t set homework and we would not be doing it if it was set. My daughter is in Year 4 and I am teacher. People just need to speak up. Don’t efforce something you don’t believe in. It is very simple. Kids work hard at school all day. The time outside of school is for family and extra curricular activities.

  24. Eiryn Miles

    My daughter is in reception.

    Her daily homework is:
    Phonics
    Tricky words
    Number rings
    Skip counting
    Adding and subtracting
    Readers
    Once a week she also has to prepare a short presentation for the class in line with what they’re currently learning in school (last term was what people do for employment, ie firemen, policemen, drs, this term it’s on emotions ie what makes you happy.)

    She enjoys it, and it doesn’t take long to do, often she wants to keep going after we’re done, or wants to do activites as a bedtime stalling technique (read another book, give me some numbers to add together, let’s count by 10s).

    Is it too much?

    I think we live in a time where we are competing globally for employment, where the curriculum at school has expanded beyond what can be contained in a day, and where other countries are out-educating us on a frightening scale.

    I think teachers have a huge challenge as a result, and need parents to be partners in educating their children which means reinforcing the learning from the classroom outside of school hours, to help their child keep up with the pace the classroom is moving at.

    I think the homework my daughter is doing helps her. I think the ability to take the learning outside the classroom and into the home and everyday life also helps her see its real world application.

    I also think it sends a good, positive message for her when I know what she’s done at school and spend time helping her at home.

    I also think school incorporates a lot of learning play, and that there’s a lot of time left in the afternoon and evening for play time and down time.

    But this is my first year at school – so we’ll have to see how we go and how homework develops.

  25. Lizzie Dodd

    My Grade 1 gets homework & I would happily tell him (& the teacher) that he doesn’t have to do it & get him outside playing instead (unless it was something he should’ve done in class already or needs extra help with) but my son is such a stickler for the rules & pleasing the teacher etc that it would do his poor little sensitive brain in 🙁 So we do the homework…

    • Parenting Central

      This is where I am at often with my kids as well. They’re both little rule followers. So even if they moan and groan about doing the homework, they get quite stressed about not doing it as well. They don’t want to do the homework, but they don’t want to go against their teacher either. Even if I’m saying “You don’t have to do this.”

    • Parenting Central

      Darn compliant children. lol

    • Lizzie Dodd

      Also if it’s something they need to have done, by the next class say, it can put them at a disadvantage for that lesson. Another difficulty for our anxious ones…

  26. Hayley Warner

    I can’t cite the article, but I read that there was little to no benefit doing homework in primary school. And I don’t think it’s that useful in our house, but my big kids still do it. I think reading should still be done though.

    • Parenting Central

      I’ve read a few things suggesting that there’s no benefit for younger children.

      Though I agree reading is important, we do a lot of reading outside of homework anyway. <3

  27. Bron Maxabella

    It’s definitely a broken system.

  28. Sarah Bishop Gibbons

    I would rather they had no homework! However having said that my son (yr 5) is currently doing quite a cool project where he has to draw a map which is including all sorts on interesting thinking 😁

    • Parenting Central

      I do like the idea of occasional projects. My son had a fun project a few weeks ago where he had to research a natural landmark, make a model of it, and do a oral presentation about it. Hes in grade 3 so he could do most of it himself, with some help on the crafting from me. But he found it interesting. Rather than just an hour of work sheets and spelling words a night.

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