Homework?  But it’s the holidays.

Should children be forced by their parents to do homework during the summer holidays?  Workingmums.co.uk. carried out a survey and discovered parents disagreed about the ‘H’ question.  What’s the best approach?

Should children be forced by their parents to do homework during the summer holidays?  Workingmums.co.uk. carried out a survey and discovered parents disagreed about the ‘H’ question.  What’s the best approach?

Our survey said
We asked ”Will you make your child do homework over the summer holidays?”  A quarter of the people who took part in our poll gave a resounding ‘no’ to homework over the holidays.  They said their youngsters should have a complete break during the long vacation.  But nearly four out of 10 (39%) said they would ask their offspring to do ‘a bit, otherwise they forget what they’ve learnt’.  And nearly one third (30%) said they would definitely be making their children do homework  because ‘it’s important they don’t struggle when the new term starts’.

Wall to wall acitivities lined up to entertain your children? Or a chance to loll around and do nothing?  Our survey showed parents had very different ideas about how their offspring should spend the long summer holidays.  If your child has been doing SATs or GCSEs it ‘s probably tempting to let them relax completely from academic studies during the holidays in recognition of their hard work and effort at school.  But is a complete break a good idea?
Experienced primary school teacher Kevin Godby told Workingmums.co.uk: ”I think the holidays should be a chance to try new things – after all, it is meant to be a break from routine.  Having said that, most people, and especially children, need some structure.  Homework can be part of that.  My own Year 3 teacher used to say before every holiday, ‘read something every day even it’s only a comic’, which is good advice.  However, it would be unreasonable to nag your child to read every day if he or she never sees you reading.”
Several parents who took part in our survey mentioned the benefits of reading. One parent said: ”Children learn a lot through play.  I would not give my child homework during the holidays.  Just as long as they read a good book every night, that should be fine.”

What about children who aren’t academically minded?
”Very young children and children who find academic work a struggle will probably have had enough by July,” says Godby, ”so encourage them to do things they enjoy.  This is key to good mental health, so the sooner they find out what ‘floats their boat’ the better.  There are lots of types of intelligence such as creative, social, emotional and physical which are undervalued in schools but which will be useful later on in life.”  

Play which benefits learning
* Lego and Plasticine stimulate creative imagination – this will be useful when they go back to school and have to write stories
* Themed walks.  Buy a book of walks covering the area near where you live.  Make your child ‘leader’ and ask them to take you round the sights and point out any interesting historic detail. 
* Board games on a rainy day.  Your child will be having so much fun they won’t realise they are learning new vocabulary or practising their mental arithmetic.  Have a summer-long league of board games and get your child to construct a league table and design a trophy for the winner. 
*  Play shops with younger children – they will learn about the value of coins and how to add and subtract to give the correct change.  If the newsagent isn’t too crowded, get your child to buy his or her own comic.  This helps numeracy skills and confidence.
* Make a scrapbook/journal of what you did during the holidays. 

Homework which is useful
If you don’t want your child to do absolutely nothing during the holidays, pinpoint some areas where they could do with more consolidation in their knowledge.  Scrutinise their report for comments from teachers who recommend more work on certain topics, and, ask your child where they think they have gaps in their knowledge.  if they identify areas themselves, they are more likely to be keen to do some work on them.  If they’re relaxed at home without the impending pressure of an exam, their previous difficulties in understanding a subject may be overcome.
Learning times tables is ’a very useful skill’, says Godby. ”So much number work can’t be done without this crucial knowledge.” But don’t expect your child to learn all of them – that would be a turn-off.

Boredom is good
Having nothing planned is good for youngsters.  Godby said: ”Children need to learn how to occupy themselves without recourse to adults to tell them what to do – when they have learned what being bored feels like, they can develop the inner resources to deal with it.  They won’t do this if they are always having to do something useful, such as homework.  Sometimes day-dreaming is fine.”

Know your child
If your child is the type who is naturally curious and spends a lot of time reading and chatting about things, you may feel you don’t need to nudge them towards books during the holidays.  But why not nudge them a little out of their comfort zone?  After all, learning isn’t all between the pages of books.  Get them to try a new sport perhaps – what about trampolining? Or look for a new activity – a drama course to encourage them to make new friends in a completely different environment.

What about the new term?
When pupils return to school they will be assessed and given work appropriate to their level, says Godby.  ”Their knowledge will be lying dormant ready to re-emerge,” he says.  ”I don’t buy into the opinion that they need a complete break, but reasonable parents will have a house with activities and games and provide some experiences for them to learn from.  If they do literally nothing, then shame on the parents!”

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