Homework – Yes or No?

“But Mama – Why do we get homework?” asked my boy for the umpteenth time. Over time, I had come to dread this question as what followed was convincing, negotiating, bargaining, and finally threatening – majorly out of frustration of not being able to get my son to complete all the work given by his teachers – to complete his homework.

The final weapon screamed out were the forbidden words, “You better listen to me. You have to complete your homework or else...” I wanted him to do well. I wanted his teachers to praise him for completing his work and write positive remarks in his notebook. Homework was also a means to keep him occupied after school. It kept me updated with what he was being taught in class. I also felt that it helped him revise, remember, and recall what was taught in class.

It took me a while to realise that hishomework became more about me and very little about my boy. A teacher myself, I blindly followed the school norm of giving some homework to my students.

This was no extra-ordinary day and nothing extra-ordinary happened to help me see things from his perspective. In fact, it was just another day; my son was back from afterschool cricket training. He was tired and hungry. A quick shower and an early dinner, he was ready to hit his bed, when I reminded him of his impending homework. He looked at his books and his tired eyes asked me the question again, “Mama why do we get homework?” For some reason, I stopped short of my regular replies and for the first time, I saw his agony. For the first time, I saw the battle within him – to keep aside the experiences he had during his cricket practice and replace them with those of homework and all this when his body, mind, and soul just wanted to sleep and dream about being the world’s best cricketer.

This time I decided to resolve the homework situation a bit differently. I asked him whether he wanted to do his homework. He replied in the negative. Then I asked him how his teacher would react on seeing his incomplete work. He thought for a while and said, “She would not like it and would probably put in an incomplete remark in my book or make me miss my sports or music class.” I asked him, whether he was okay with that and would be willing to bear these consequences bravely. He thought for a while and said, “Mama, maybe you could write a note in my diary and get me excused from doing my home work just this once.” To which I said that I would prefer to keep that for a very important occasion. He then thought for a while and said, “I am tired right now, but I could get up early tomorrow morning and complete my work.” The matter was resolved in minutes.

For so long, homework had been my responsibility. The only reason my son completed his homework was because I made him complete it. A shift of responsibility took place after I handled the situation differently. He now knew that he would have to face consequences for not completing his work. He had to decide whether to face consequences or be safe. He learnt the power of decision making and developed a sense of ownership and responsibility.

Later, that night my feeling of victory turned into a feeling of guilt as I realised what I had done. I had taught my son to bow down to authority, to fear the consequences laid down by their teacher. Instead of teaching him the other benefits of homework, I had successfully installed compliance arising out of fear.

This episode changed my perspective toward homework. It now became part of life – long learning for my child and my students. It was no longer an activity on the have-to-do list. As a mother, I focused on making homework time interesting and fun for my child. It became a family time, where all of us sat together and together we prepared for the next day. I became liberal and occasionally let my son ‘not do his homework’.

As a teacher, focus of homework shifted from regular drill and practice exercises to fun yet challenging activities and project work. I paid attention to the look and feel of the worksheets. I avoided black and white boring, to-the-point worksheets and brought in colourful worksheets which had a blend of drill and practice questions and fun questions.

Slowly and steadily the children started asking for more homework. I also saw their interest levels rising and their level of understanding too. Homework thus became ‘the most wanted’ activity for my students.

Comments

nmohanamurali's picture

Yes it is always acceptable to do a work provided the person who has to do it feels the necessity. Secondly , it is a human tendency that anything thrust upon would have a negative reaction. Hence we have to encourage children to understand the necessity responsibly. Good strategy. MOHANAMURALI

nrawal's picture

How you look at the thing ....makes all the difference. Your positive approach to deal with the ' ghost of home work ' is very good and all parents and teachers must adopt it .
I feel home-work is a part of learning strategy ..... when child does home work sincerely he/she gets the time to revise what is learnt in the class that day and if there is a requirement to re- learn anything then that can be handled next day itself and not get over burdened before the exams.

phelinelephant's picture

Another golden example of learning from a child - something we forget often and mistakenly think that the young ones are to be always taught by us and the role can't be reversed

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