I wrote in the past about my views on British education and its differences from the American brand. The main gist was that under the right conditions, British system looks somewhat superior, but in the state educational environment on grammar school level, I don’t see much of a difference. I kept forgetting to mention one issue that always bothered me, and now it is sort of coming to a head.
Throughout her two and a half years at a state grammar school in London, Kimmy has been given homework only on Fridays, to be turned in on the following Friday. Most of the time, she can breeze through an entire assignment in 15 minutes.
15 minutes of homework a week.
My memory is failing me here, but I am pretty sure that even in the first and second grades in a New Jersey public elementary school she had daily homework assignments, something not too taxing but aimed at reinforcing what was recently learned and at developing a habit of independent work on the course material.
Without such a habit, she is getting to the point where she resists doing her homework even when she knows that she can easily complete it. It’s boring, it’s a waste of time, and all that. And since homework has never been established in school as an important part of the studying process, whenever she gets to something that she cannot easily do within the assignment, she dismisses it as unimportant.
We are pretty relaxed about maintaining any sort of study regimen for our kids, but we always did plenty of extra-curricular studying with them. Kimmy has fun with that. I always held that I did not particularly care about the quality of school instruction on the elementary school level, because it is more important what you do with the kids that age at home, IMHO. But, nevertheless, I’d like the school at least to refrain from instilling bad habits and negative attitude in my child.
So, Natasha has long been supplementing any extra-curricular learning activities with exercises directly related to Kimmy’s current school subjects. We privately expressed our disdain with the homework practices, but Kimmy has always been near the top of her class in all subjects, so there was not a reason for a real concern.
Now she started acting out against homework. She is ok with doing things with Natasha, but not ok with doing her once-weekly school assignments.
We either need to find a way to seamlessly incorporate the actual homework into the stuff Natasha does with her on the side, or to force her to spend a set amount of time on homework every day to work her into a more rigid structure of studies. Which is going to be really silly – stretching those 15 minutes over the course of a week. (It will probably be more strictly-regimented overall studies, both homework and the fun stuff on the side, which has a clear danger of making the latter less fun.) In either case, I feel we’ll be treating the symptoms rather than than the cause of the problem.
I am more than a bit put off by this. Becky, who may have not been much challenged in her elementary school years in New Jersey, but who always had some homework to complete, never had this type of a problem…
I fully recognize that this post can be seen as a negative generalization of the British education approach, a generalization based on a highly-unscientific observational sample of a single school. I admit that I have no knowledge as to whether Fridays-only homework is a standard practice in state British grammar schools. Anyone reading this, whose child goes to a state grammar school in the UK where homework occurs daily, I would greatly appreciate a shout to help me properly qualify my statements.
Expat schooling notes