Homework (Photo credit: niclindh)

I keep hearing my friends moan about the latest difficult project their primary school children have been set to do at home. The common comment is ‘We are going to have to spend all Sunday now trying to do this project because my son/daughter only told me about it on Friday.’ One project involved making a game about the town they lived in. Now my friend had told me she had no intention of spending too much time on the project but I met her one Sunday afternoon going round the town taking photos of it for the project. She said she has already spent about 2 hours taking photos and they now had to go home and print them out for the game not to mention write all the game rules and questions.

Another project involved making a Powerpoint presentation or a written project on the Egyptians. A different friend was stressing about this because she didn’t really know how to use Powerpoint. I told her to let her daughter just do a written project but my friend was adamant that she had to help her daughter do a Powerpoint presentation. Apparently last time she hadn’t helped her daughter, the teacher didn’t really recognise or praise her daughter’s hard work. Instead, a boy whose father had spent hours helping him to build a wooden aeroplane had got top marks. Herein lies the problem, teachers need to recognise and praise work done by the children on their own.  Research suggests that homework has a greater impact on school performance if children do it on their own (Cooper et al, 2000). Secondary school students need to be able to complete homework independently so this should be encouraged in primary school as well. Obviously, young children need help with reading and maths problems but by 7/8 years old, they should be allowed to complete homework on their own. This also allows the teacher to understand what level the children are working at.

The project that seemed the most ridiculous to me was one where the children of group of parents I know were asked to produce a mosaic. They had to draw a picture and cut it up into little pieces and then stick them together again so that it looked like a mosaic. Apparently, it took them hours and hours to try to piece the picture together again into a mosaic. In this instance, they did complain to the teacher.

My son hasn’t started school yet but I hope that when he does, I won’t get sucked in to spending hours doing projects for him. I know that it will be difficult to stop myself because I want him to produce good work and be recognised for it but I will try to remind myself that in the long-term he will benefit from doing his own homework.

My book  ‘Psychology for Parents: Birth to teens’ is on sale as an e-book on Amazon and Smashwords.com.