SPARK Schools Offer Homework Alternative

Homework – Is it Really Useful?

There has been much debate in the South African media recently about the usefulness of homework – especially for primary school children – with the argument that homework offers little or no benefits to young children and can, in fact, lead to unnecessary stress and anxiety amongst young students and their parents.
Some think that giving homework to primary school children is an important part of their learning and helps them to practice things like spelling and handwriting.
They also feel that it helps to teach children how to work on their own and be disciplined with themselves – both skills that are useful later in life – and it also allows parents to get involved in their children’s learning.
Others think that giving homework to children – especially at primary school – is not necessary as it puts too much pressure on them and occupies time that could be better used to do other activities like reading, playing sport or a musical instrument, or helping with tasks in and around the home.

Things that help children learn important skills such as working in a team, being creative, asking questions and helping others.

Another argument is that sometimes parents try to help with homework and, if they have been taught differently, it can end up being confusing for the child or the parent can also end up doing too much of the work themselves.
SPARK Schools is of the opinion that because their scholars participate in an extended instructional day, they have ample opportunity to practice academic skills and therefore, as of January 2018, homework now consists of a conversational prompt that allows parents and scholars to discuss what the child is learning at school and how they are making use of core values and social-emotional tools.
Says SPARK Schools’ Head of Schools Bailey Thomson Blake:  “We believe that this redesigned homework will lead to closer parent engagement with the school and deeper relationships between scholars and parents.”

Some recent questions parents and scholars have discussed include:

  • Think about what you learned in maths yesterday. If you were the maths teacher, how would you teach the same lesson to your students?
  • Reading can introduce us to new characters and settings. Tell me about a person or place you have recently read about.
  • Tell me about your best friend at school. How did you become friends and what do you like most about spending time with them?
  • What are three ways you have shown responsibility for your actions at home or at school this week?
  • If you had R100 to donate to someone in need, what person or cause would you give to and why?

One very happy parent is Kuhle Dimbaza who recently posted on the school’s Facebook page that she often felt she was teaching rather than revising and that by the time she got home from work, her son was tired, she was tired and it was putting a strain on their relationship. Dimbaza added: “Teachers are quite capable of determining if a child understands the concepts taught or not and when my son started lagging in maths he came home with a revision sheet for that subject.
Why should he get homework for subjects that he is flying in?”

Blake reiterates: “Because some parents may still want their child to practice academic skills at home, they can request worksheets or homework packs from their child’s teacher directly.”

Whether homework is a good or a bad thing is not a new argument and it is likely it will still be debated about in 20 years time. But judging from feedback to the media, it would appear that many South African parents and, in fact, teachers feel that formal homework – especially for primary school children, needs to be reassesed and revised and replaced by other activities that will teach the child important life skills.
As one father pointed out, pupils in Finland are assigned very little homework and yet they remain one of the most educationally successful countries in the world.
If you are interested in learning more about SPARK’s teaching methodology and our approach to learning, visit our SPARK Schools learning model page.

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