I teach the children in my care at school the National Curriculum. More than that, I teach them the School Curriculum, whereby we teach the children to become respectful, mature, thoughtful, appreciative and well-rounded human beings. For most, in this respect, we just build on what their parents teach them at home. Nurturing decent human beings is a combined effort. And so must developing knowledgeable children be.
We spend 6(ish) hours a day, 5 days a week, 39 weeks a year in the company of the children in our schools. And in that time, we have to teach them to read, to write, be fluent in the language of mathematics, to master all of these skills, and then teach them all of the other subjects, personal and interpersonal skills as well. To say it is a challenge is an understatement. And this is why we need the two- way support of parents.
We can teach the children to read and to enjoy books, but it’s the relaxed family time reading together and sharing books that fosters the true love of reading. We can teach the children maths skills, but it’s using maths in real life situations at home where they truly master them. We can send carefully thought out homework to reinforce what we have learned in school, but we can’t sit down with children at the kitchen table and do it for them.
I know it is my job to do the teaching. I know, being a mother of a year 2 child, how the demands of everyday life make homework an inconvenience. I know that I often remember that we haven’t done our reading just as I am starting to prepare the dinner, so we end up reading over the hob while I cook. But I also know that T’s teacher has set the homework for a reason. He’s developing a good work ethic; he’s making sure T regularly reinforces what he has been learning; he’s making sure that we share stories together and talk about the books that we read.
Homework, from the point of view of both teachers and parents, gets a very mixed press. It takes time to plan, to explain, to do at home, to mark. Some love it, some hate it. Many help their children to do it, some cast their eye over a finished task, some don’t bother, some make excuses. Whatever your view of it, surely it’s worth the inconvenience? It’s there for a reason: to help your child to learn.
I understand that, in practical terms, it’s hard to find the time. But when I hear of a parent who has barely ever heard their child read, it makes me want to weep. Sharing books, sharing homework, working together: they are all ways to bridge the gap between home and school. You ask your child what they have done at school – you get the answer “nothing much.” Every child does it at one time or another. But surely the homework gives you an answer? If nothing else, it’s a way for parents and children to start talking. Some need that: they need a way in to a conversation.
For those, like MNQTH and I, who dutifully listen to reading, practise spellings and work our way through homework: thank you. And for those who don’t, a plea: please do. At the very least, share a book and read a bedtime story. Help your child to love reading. Teach them to want to learn, as we endeavour to do. Help them to learn that life brings responsibilities and challenges. Help them to realise that sometimes they have to do things they don’t necessarily want to do, but there is a reason behind their doing them. And, regardless of your own experiences of school, background, education or job choice, if you do the homework together, you never know, you might learn something new too.
Please help. It really does make a difference.
PS. I’m pretty good at maths and have been teaching it well for 16 years. But T taught me something new this week when doing his homework – the Bar Model will be making an appearance in my classroom very soon!